Zombies, Run! makers to launch spy-themed walking app

By Jonah Comstock
09:59 am

screenshot-4in-2-1London, UK-based Six to Start, the creators of runaway hit fitness game Zombies, Run! announced this week they are creating a new game that will use the same gamified, story-centric approach as Zombies, Run! but without the zombies -- or the running.

Tentatively titled "The Walk," the game will be a spy thriller and it will be focused on getting people to move more and generally be more active. It's being sponsored by the British Department of Health and the National Health Service (NHS) in London.

"The working title of this app is 'The Walk,'" co-founder and chief creative officer Adrian Hon of Six to Start said at the Games For Health conference in Boston. "It does what it says on the tin. You are going to walk more with this app and it's going to be fun. It's very different from Zombies, Run! It started out being 'Zombies, Walk!' but then we realized that didn't make any sense whatsoever."

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Zombies, Run! is a fitness app which incorporates an audiobook with the phone's GPS and accelerometer to present the user with an interactive narrative, which both entertains them during their run and, during certain "zombie chase" segments, specifically encourages the user to pick up the pace.

Naomi Alderman, the head writer on both Zombies, Run! and The Walk, said the new game is also told in second person. The user is given a package to carry on a train from Inverness to Edinburgh, but terrorists bomb the train and set off an EMP that knocks out all cars, so the hero has to walk to deliver the package -- while being pursued by both the terrorists and the police.

"Instead of focusing on your daily -- or a couple of times a week -- bout of exercise, this is something that will track what you're doing throughout the day and encourage you to go a little bit further," Alderman said. "In the same way that with a great game or a great TV show you might go 'Oh, just one more episode, just one more chapter before bed.' We want people to be saying 'Just one more walk around the block before I get home. I just want to hear the next bit of this.'"

The app will be sold commercially even though it's government sponsored. Hon and Alderman said that charging for an app (Zombies, Run! is $8) motivates users to value it and makes them more likely to use it.

Zombies, Run! launched a year ago as a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter. The app now has half a million downloads, according to the company, several spin-off apps, and a major update the company refers to as a "second season." Hon said that encouraging users to think of the product more like a TV show than a health app is a good way to encourage long-term usage.

"Story's the biggest difference between this game and the other games that exist on the AppStore," he said. "We want to make a game people will play again and again, not just for weeks but for months. And there's not that many habits we do that often except, maybe, watching soap operas and watching TV."

In keeping with that philosophy, the company is going to begin releasing regular weekly updates to the story.

Hon and Alderman announced a few additional bits of news at the conference. Hon announced that ZombieLink, the back-end of Zombies, Run! where users can look at statistics from their runs (including tracking the progress of the virtual zombies behind them), will introduce a social component, so users can friend one another and share statistics.

In addition, according to Hon, the University of Texas and the American Heart Association will run a randomized control trial of Zombies, Run! in the fall to "find out whether it actually improves health," according to Hon.


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