For a few of the past 139 years that the American Public Health Association has held annual meetings, it has sponsored a 5K run to support wellness and bring attention to the importance of exercise in public health. It may seem that a game would be ill-suited for such a venerable institution (it was created in 1872!), but this year instead of sponsoring a 5K and with the support of Shinobi Labs, the APHA is hosting a health contest and game. The contest will be based on Shinobi Labs’ recently released app, Mobile Adventure Walks, which provides a fun and engaging way to get players on their feet.
The app sets out to achieve similar goals to those of many projects in gamification of health, make exercise “sticky” and engaging. “We believe that the key to engaging this audience is to create a fun experience that people enjoy and think of as a new category that is not ‘exercise’ or ‘fitness’ related,” said Julie Price, CEO of Shinobi Labs. Through Mobile Adventure Walks, players will enjoy themselves and end up exercising just by accident. Many “quantified-self” fitness related devices, such as the Fitbit, concentrate on data and statistics, but Shinobi Labs concentrates on something else: fun. “Through our collective experience and research, we have found the biggest need is motivation not knowledge, analysis, or recommendation.”
The app itself is pretty straightforward. There are two options at the outset, “Take a Walk” and “Create a Walk”. By selecting “Take a Walk,” the player is introduced to a map with a listing of Adventure Walks in the area. By walking to different points and answering questions about the sights around you, you earn Explorer Points. It seems like the point system isn’t completely fleshed out yet, as they aren’t yet related to anything outside of the current walk. Also the app was tested in the Bay Area, so there is already a high concentration of routes around San Francisco and in a few other major cities around the US, but the number is growing.
One of the really great features is that even if there are no walks in your area, the app provides a straightforward method of creating them. You walk the path and select areas to ask the players questions and then fill out the correct answer and false options (the trickier the better). As more people use the app, more will also create adventures out of their favorite walks in the area, creating the chance to spread virally.
If you are ready to get walking, Mobile Adventure Walks is already available on Apple’s App Store. Also, check back for more info on the contest featuring the app at APHA’s annual expo later this month.
Outside of the fun and fitness, Mobile Adventure Walks also has a less tangible, more intrinsic benefit to psychological health. Julie Price told us, “in testing, we found that when playing, people enjoyed the connectivity to their environment; they said they felt like they were stopping to smell the roses.” Certainly something we could all use a little bit more of.