The zombies are coming! RUN!

This post is the third in a series that will be for a graduate course called Theory and Audience Analysis. For the course, I will be posting weekly questions and follow-up analysis about the various readings we are assigned. This post evaluates an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) after being introduced to the concept in Jane McGonigal’s “Reality is Broken.”

The London-based company Six to Start is in the development process of new ARG called “Zombies, Run!” It’s described as “an ultra-immersive running game for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android.”

The premise: You are a survivalist during a zombie apocalypse. Not only are you running for your life, but as you run you must collect items to help you to continue to survive. The application keeps track of these virtual items that you collect (as well as monitors your running distance, time and calories burned). Voice prompts and sound effects guide and motivate you as you run. The game doesn’t end when your run does. There is also a detailed story that will unravel as you earn new clues and information, and an interface that lets you determine how the supplies you have collected are used to better help the other remaining survivors. Developers are also working on implementing a social component to the game.

Zombies, Run! is still in the development phase with an expected release date in early 2012. It’s an interesting idea, especially with the recent boom and relevance of zombies in popular culture (films like Dawn of the Dead, books like Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, shows like AMC’s Walking Dead). Why not zombie inspired exercise?

In fact, Zombies have already been proved motivation tools for runners like here and here. People are already using phone applications like Nike+ to track statistics and keep motivated with their running. Zombies, Run! could appeal to a whole new bunch of people who want more than just a pace tracker or need more motivation than a Facebook post. As someone who definitely needs some motivation to get out the door for a run and is usually deterred by the boring repetition of running whether it’s outside or on a treadmill, I am actually curious to try this app. Maybe what I’ve always really needed to get into tip-top shape is a pack of zombies chasing after me?

I do think the audio prompts might get tiring after a while, and Zombie noises in your ears could be unnerving to some – I certainly wouldn’t want to play while running at night.

Judging by how quickly Zombies, Run! was able to exceed its goal of $12,500 on Kickstarter (an online fundraising tool that helps independent projects get start-up funds), there is definitely excitement for this application. The Six to Start developers also seem eager to implement users’ suggestions on design and game features, which is a definite recipe for successful implementation of a new game/app.

I admit to thinking Jane McGonigal was a bit crazy when she said ARGs could be a solution to obesity, but if Zombies, Run! takes off – it might not end obesity – but it could certainly have positive results with helping people get in shape.

Initial source info: ARG Networks
View trailer:

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