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injects fun into fi tness, says Ward, is Zombies, Run! Designed by company Six to Start and compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Windows Phone, this ‘running game and audio adventure’ casts the player as ‘Runner 5’ in an post-apocalyptic world populated by zombies. Responding to orders and other voice recordings delivered through headphones (including the rattling groans of approaching zombies), you must navigate the world outside your ‘base’ to collect supplies while also staying alive. “It’s brilliant,” says Ward. “I mean, what’s going to make you run further or quicker than being chased by zombies?” But while having fun is important,


there’s more to gamifi cation than entertainment, says Catlett: “Consumers want control, particularly in a time of constant uncertainty. Giving them a way to track progress, understand setbacks and feel a sense of accomplishment is something a successful gaming concept can deliver on.”


Intrinsic benefi ts Rewards are another facet of gaming that can be a great motivator, although Catlett warns that these cannot be a substitute for a meaningful experience. This is borne out by Nexercise, a hugely successful smartphone app that rewards physical activity with free or discounted merchandise, from energy bars to discounts on massages (see below). “The rewards offer fun, extrinsic motivation, but they’re not what keep most active users engaged,” says co-founder Greg


“PROPERLY LEVERAGED, TECHNOLOGY LIKE OURS CAN HELP THE FITNESS INDUSTRY POSITIVELY INFLUENCE THE LIVES OF MILLIONS”


Coleman. “The physical rewards are only available in the US and UK, but we’re also seeing high rates of adoption in Latin America, where rewards are not available, which tells us a lot of people are responding to the intrinsic benefi ts.” And while real-world rewards such as


cash, discounts or other giveaways are undoubtedly more attention-grabbing, virtual rewards – such as badges on a player’s profi le or their name on a leaderboard – can be just as effective at infl uencing behaviour, says Ward. In fact, social interaction and recognition are a key part of what makes fi tness gaming work. “One of the fundamental principles of gaming is that you don’t do it by yourself,” says Catlett. “You’re competing or collaborating with others and that can really drive you to do more than you might have done on your own.” But beware: if you don’t get the competitive elements of a game right, the results can actually be the opposite of what’s desired. “Leaderboards can be extremely demotivating if the top score is so high you can never get near it,” observes Stuart Dyson, founder of


BodyBook (see p52). “On BodyBook, every time a player looks at the leaderboard they’re taken to their own position on the board, so their focus is not the top-scorer but the player directly above them. The results can also be fi ltered so only their own friends feature on the board, and on some challenges we re-set the board every month so a new player can be top.”


Although getting to grips with the


fi ner nuances of gaming psychology may prove to be a learning curve, there’s no doubt among the experts that this is a trend the fi tness industry simply can’t ignore. “I don’t know how long the term ‘gamifi cation’ will be the cool buzzword, but I do believe that if you can motivate a person to perform a specifi c action, you will always be relevant – and if you can motivate people to perform actions in large numbers, you can change the world,” says Coleman. “Properly leveraged, technology like ours can help the fi tness industry to positively infl uence the lives of millions of people.” We take a closer look at just a few innovative examples of fi tness gaming.


NEXERCISE www.nexercise.com


What is it? A free app for iPhone and Android that rewards exercise with wellness-related prizes and coupons. Users choose an activity such as running, sports or working out at the gym; the app then uses sensors built into the phone to verify activity has taken place. The more someone works out, the more points – and rewards – they earn.


Key features? As well as earning rewards, Nexercise users can compete against each other; the app also automatically uploads users’ achievements to Facebook and Twitter.


How does it make money? Through reward partners (who pay to provide prizes), advertising sales and custom features that users pay extra for.


Where is it available? The app is downloadable all over the world in English or Spanish, although rewards are only available in the US and UK.


How successful is it? Both the iPhone and Android versions have a 4.5-star rating and user numbers are in the six-fi gure range.


How can health clubs benefi t? Simply encouraging members to download Nexercise has the potential to increase member engagement, says co-founder, president and COO Greg Coleman, while becoming reward partners could enable health and fi tness clubs both to attract new customers and drive gym usage.


More exercise leads to more points – and therefore greater rewards


october 2012 © cybertrek 2012


Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital


51


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