Gamification of Health

Running is tough.

Oops, I meant to say that it’s tough if you’re unmotivated and unfit, like me.

With cases of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity on the rise in developing and developed countries, gamification companies have decided to take matters into their hands. ‘Nike Run,’ ‘Zombie, Run!’, ‘Sworkit,’ and ‘Superhero Workout,’ are all examples of gamified applications that promote exercise amongst users. Through the inculcation of fun storylines, reward systems and set goals, these exercise applications seek to motivate people to engage in more physical activity and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

‘Zombie, Run!’ and “Nike+” are two apps designed to carry out the same function. Yet, they utilise different aspects of gamification to motivate people. ‘Zombie, Run!’ has an intriguing storyline, in which the user is immersed into a post-apocalyptic world in which zombies roam about. The user has to run to escape from zombies, and the pre-set downloaded zombie run sequences are designed such that the user has to run faster at specific time intervals. The exciting storyline keeps the user actively engaged and allows for the user to keep playing the game. Whereas “Nike+’ utilised challenges and leaderboards to engage runners, before Nike decided to revamp the application and remove these functions, that is.

Nexercise, on the other hand, incentivises users by dangling extrinsic rewards such as gift cards at places like Home Depot/Sephora in their application NexTrack. Through completing their exercises, users gain points which are then exchanged for the material rewards. However, this proved to be ineffective in the long run as people started to gravitate towards other applications, and Nexercise shut down NexTrack in 2016. Clearly, extrinsic rewards alone are insufficient in keeping the users around. A good balance and mix of both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards is required to make sure that the game is effective in accomplishing its task in the long run. However, it can be safely said that many people are climbing onboard with the whole notion of gamified health applications, as seen from the growing popularity of it.

Written by: Wong Shu Ning (TJC Intern)

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