Gamification of fitness is nothing particularly new with the likes of Nike+, Striiv and Fitocracy. However, a leader from the gaming industry has began to delve into foray with its new startup, Fitness Interactive Experience. Founded by Mike Tinney, former president of the online game company CCP Games North America (the makers of MMOG EVE Online), the Atlanta-based company plans to launch its first title, UtiliFit in a closed beta test in December and will open the beta-testing next January.
While the startup currently consists of only three full time employee and eight part-timers, Tinney is supported by a diverse advisory team with Tim Church; a national expert on exercise and preventative medicine, Reynir Hardarsson; founder of CCP and Monte Cook; a well-known role-playing game designer who once worked on Dungeons & Dragons.
Tinney explains that UtiliFit will be an activity-based game that helps people be less sedentary by encouraging users in taking small steps toward being more active. In addition to a scoring system to record one’s own progress, it ranks the score competitively against your friends, if you wishes to do so. He further explains that users can also choose to cooperate with their friends and sums up the system as akin to a massively multiplayer online game meets cross-fit training. Tinney believes that consistent and quality goal achievement is necessary to improve people’s willingness to exercise and that video games’ addictive qualities can help achieve that.
Based on Tinney’s explanation and by observing other fitness gamification titles, there is a formula to be taken from video games that will be essential for the success of this gamified system.
1. Progression to Mastery
The game system should enable a sense of gradual progression to achieve mastery for the users. It is important that the challenges would increase in difficultly as players progress. However, the earlier part of the game should be easy enough for novice users to bring on board. In turn, each task being completed would steadily motivate them to accomplish more in the long run.
2. Score System
There should be a scoring system in place within the fitness gamification title. The score system would provide users as a way to keep track of their progress being made while also be providing the developers vital statistics in observing their user’s behavior in order to pivot the game design when necessary.
3. Social Interaction
The inclusion of social interaction capability within the game is key to ensuring the engagement and longevity of the title. Despite the wide variety of user motivations and goals such as those of Bartle’s four player types, the average individual is more keen on socializing with others. Whether it is cooperate with others in completing a fitness task or to compete with friends based on scores and achievements, it is inherent that social interaction provides a more engaging game environment.
While the development of fitness gamification has a long way more to go, it remains to be seen what other patterns that would prove to be a key component in designing and making a successful gamified fitness title. Although the details of the game design and interaction system of UtiliFit remains to be seen, Tinney and his team seems to be on the right track by keeping in mind of the lessons learn from other fitness gamification titles and the game industry as well.