Jan 22, 2013

Post-apocalyptic Fitness: Running from Zombies

Removing the Monotony from Exercise

Exercising can be monotonous but, working behind a desk all day, it's something I need to do. If I have something that engages my mind, it makes exercise an enjoyable experience for me.  This is why I typically listen to something that I find interesting, usually talk radio, podcasts, or an audio book. I bought a new app for my iPhone over the holidays that makes going for a walk or run a more immersive experience. That app is Zombies, Run!

A Game and an Unfolding Story

Zombie's, Run! is an app that brings gamification to running or walking, and makes it truly a fun experience. It's as much a story as it is a game. In fact, it's a very compelling story that you take part in. Here is the gist of it.
  1. You live in world where a disease of some sort has broken out and turned people to zombies. Those who get bit by zombies are doomed to become zombie's yourself.
  2. You are Runner 5. Your helicopter was shot down near Able Township, a small fortified town where the citizens are protected by walls that keep zombies out.
  3. Because the township needs supplies, runners are sent out to retrieve those supplies, occasionally encountering the zombies that roam the surrounding wilderness. Running is a way of survival.
  4. Runners also have other missions, such as drawing zombie's away or saving someone stranded in the wilderness.
When you start your walk or run, you start the app up and start a mission. The story unfolds in short segments, interspersed with your music (from the playlist of your choice). The story is told, not with a narrator, but as if others are talking to you on a radio or in person. You really feel like you are an integral part of this post-apocalyptic world.  In between each song, you'll get more of the story for that mission, and all along the way, you'll collect virtual supplies for Able Township. You spend a couple of minutes after you're done exercising distributing supplies to different buildings in your town. This builds up the town and unlocks more missions.
Every now and then zombies will chase you and you'll hear them getting closer. You have to speed up for a little while to escape the zombie's. If you get caught, you drop supplies. (Actually dying or becoming a zombie would cut all of the fun a little short, after all.)

After the mission is complete, if you are still exercising, the app switches into "radio mode", where two guys from the town play DJ between the songs on your playlist.

The Good

  1. Zombie's, Run! makes walking or running truly fun and interesting. The story is well written and the actors do a good job.There's a lot of mystery behind your character, Runner 5: who you are and how you ended up in Able Township.
  2. Escaping zombies, fulfilling missions, and building up your town to unlock further missions are motivating factors to exercise.
  3. Being able to listen to your own music between plot segments is a nice feature.
  4. The app syncs with RunKeeper, which I use a lot. This allows me to keep all my walking or running in RunKeeper, whether I log it with Zombie's, Run! or RunKeeper.

The Bad

  1. Like any app, there are occasional bugs. Every now and then all audio will stop. If I tap the Pause button and then the Resume button, it starts the audio back up.
  2. The options for playing your music are limited to a playlist of your choosing. You cannot choose an artist, an album, or a custom list of songs. This is not a big deal, however, as creating a playlist  just for your run or walk is easy on the iPhone.
  3. The zombies don't chase much, at least for as long as I've tried it. There have been a couple of times, I never encountered zombies at all. However, I've only completed five missions so the frequency may pick up over time.
Overall, I really like using Zombie's, Run! It makes exercise a fun, immersing experience, where you're part of interesting story.

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