Gamification of 'Zombies, Run!'

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.

This may sound like an excerpt from a typical post-apocalypse novel but it is actually the setting for the application, “Zombies, Run!” The application throws players into a new world where zombies have taken over the world and they have to run for their survival. The application is split into different seasons and further broken down into chapters which lasts for typically 18-30mins (depending on the runners’ preference for their run duration). Each chapter has a different setting and story that links up the story for the entire season.

It incorporates different aspects of gamification to provide incentives for people to get off the couch and put on their running shoes.

Isn’t it just a run? How is that fun?


Over the course of the run, runners are rewarded with virtual items they pick up along the way such as “A mobile phone”, “First aid kit” and “Batteries”. These random rewards keep runners on their feet, rewarding them for every few hundreds of metres that they have ran.

Runners are also awarded with achievement badges and artefacts which they can view in their profile. While this may not seem much for most runners, achievements do serve as one of the biggest incentives for gamers of the ‘achievers’ persona. (Yes, that’s me)

Wow. This seems real.


The plot of the game may seem to be something out of the world, but the verbal narratives keep such thoughts away from runners. Efficient usage of voice and music elements keep runners immersed in the world of “Zombie Runs!” Each chapter ends off with a preview of the next, teasing and tempting runners to continue their run just to unravel the next part of the plot (Been there, done that).

Zombies! What else did you expect?


The application cleverly employs the use of zombies throughout the entire gameplay, in the narrative and even during the runs themselves. The groaning voices of zombies can be heard while they chase after runners during the runs; triggered based on the storyline or simply a random event. Runners are expected to increase their pace or face losing the items that have collected thus far. The extra danger incentive pushes runners that bit further during their runs.

(Too bad though, this game doesn’t allow us to actually kill the zombies like other zombie games. I would love to shoot their heads off instead so I can take a break instead of sprinting.)

Farmville? Try zombie-ville!


The application adds on a ‘town-building’ feature using the items collected. Instead of building farming plots and stables, runners build infrastructure necessary for survival, much like the buildings we see in Sims.

However, this feature is a stand-alone feature that does not value add to the original running experience. But it still goes in line with the game, allowing players to feel as though they are indeed defending against the hordes of zombies in the game.

Jog, sprint, find the airdrop!


The application has undergone many changes and upgrades since its early days, with up to 5 seasons worth of stories and different gameplay modes, such as airdrop, supply, radio and training runs. It combines running with game features, giving real objectives to runners on airdrop modes, casual runs on supply and radio modes and lastly for the hardcore runners, the training modes.

Radio mode stands as one of my favourite, with the 2 Radio DJs talking about anything under the sun such as survival tips and punny jokes. The radio mode operates just like a real radio station, allowing runners to listen to their own music playlist, injecting with stories in between songs. The quirky comments and interaction between the 2 Radio DJs never fail to amuse me while I complete my runs.

But, I just want to know how much I ran.


With GPS functions incorporated, “Zombies, Run!” is also a run tracker, allowing fervent runners to track their distance completed, running speed and their running routes. The running performance of runners are presented (in voice) to runners at the end of every run in the game. This timely feedback keep runners on track on their training plan or simply just makes them feel good for sweating it off for the past 30minutes.

“Zombies, Run!” is a perfect illustration of gamification, employing game-like features that transform mundane daily tasks into something more interesting, in this case, making your runs a more exciting journeys filled with rewards and zombies.

“Zombies, Run!” has managed to drag me out of the house and make me continue my run for that few more minutes. The Zombie storyline is a great fit for me as I have always loved sci-fi and apocalypse themed plots. I would highly recommend the Radio Mode for anyone who isn’t that much of a fan of stories but would like that extra jab in between your songs.

What are you waiting for, put on your running gear and run away from zombies!

By Ser Ming

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