Need inspiration to move more? How about a game…
Recently, gaming has taken a slight detour from its usual methodology. Instead of gamers being huddled up behind their screens or hunched over their smartphones, AR (augmented reality) games have paved the way for a new way to engage with technology and the real world.
Pokémon Go has become a global sensation after its release in early July, with millions of people addicted, so much so that the number one problem the developers face, was their servers crashing. Pokémon Go however, has had a surprising side effect: people seem to be moving more, and people are noticing it.
Gamers are roaming the streets of their cities hunting wild Pokémon, collecting supplies at Pokéstops and dueling rival teams at gyms. Through the guise of their smartphones gamers are becoming virtual Pokémon hunters, collectors and duelers by physically engaging with their environment.
Pokémon Go sums it up best: “Get on your feet and step outside to find and catch wild Pokémon. Explore cities and towns where you live—and even around the globe—to capture as many Pokémon as you can. As you walk through the real world, your smartphone will vibrate to let you know you’re near a Pokémon.”
Jawbone asserts that users of their activity trackers, who also mentioned using Pokémon Go, got 62.5% more steps on average than usual in the first weekend of the game’s release.
Although Pokémon Go is a global phenomenon, it is not the first of its kind. Niantic, originally part of Google, first released their AR MMOG (augmented-reality massively multiplayer online location-based game) Ingress in 2012. Since then it has become a global phenomenon.
It too relies heavily on the player to physically traverse their community in search of portals, which belong to two competing factions. Portals are usually places of cultural significance, like public art, landmarks and monuments. Gameplay consists of capturing these portals for your faction, and linking them to other portals of the same faction to create virtual triangular control fields to gain MU (mind units) or areas under your faction’s control.
This fascinating game has a great science fiction backstory with a continuous open narrative. Its reliance to physically explore your city reiterates the potential AR games have to inspire healthier and more active communities and to move away from stagnant, sedentary gaming experiences.
Zombies, Run! is yet another captivating AR game, specifically made for those that need some motivation for walking more, jogging or running. The AR game was co-developed by Six to Start and Naomi Alderman and released in 2012. Soon after its initial release it became the highest-grossing Health & Fitness app on Apple’s App Store, and has been praised for its engaging and immersive storyline. It also has brought a lot of attention to the genre of mobile health applications, garnering admiration from academics for its ability to make running more enjoyable.
“Run in the Real World. Become a Hero in Another. Only a few have survived the zombie epidemic. You are a Runner en-route to one of humanity’s last remaining outposts. They need your help to gather supplies, rescue survivors, and defend their home. And you have another mission — one they don’t know about…” – Zombies, Run!
The story is primarily centred around Abel Township, a small outpost in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Players embody the character “Runner 5”, through a series of missions during which they run, collect items, help the town to survive, and uncover mysteries, some even unbeknownst to the narrator.
AR games might have an unexpected, unintentional side effect: making people walk more and shining a light on the clear synergy between AR games and fitness tracking. So if you are in search of some inspiration to either walk more or rediscover your fitness tracker download one of these games (Pokémon Go is not available in South Africa yet) and see how your step count increases.