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Aug302012

September / October 2012

Video games have been around for a long time. Almost everyone understands them in the traditional sense—with consoles, controllers, quests, points and heightened status levels during continual play.

But what happens when you start with the concept of a fitness game, sprinkle in the power of technologies like the iPhone, and then mix in social networking elements? You get Fitocracy.com, a social game that allows users to track, improve and expand their real-life physical fitness.

Game On

Users start by creating a free account, then they create a virtual “workout buddy” system by following other users. Offline, users complete real-life workouts, and then return to Fitocracy to track and earn points for their activities. Points show up immediately via a progress bar at the bottom of the computer screen, and add up with time and continued effort.

Quests encourage users to try different exercises for extra points. As points and participation build, players “level up” and unlock achievement badges and new quests. Meanwhile, users can view one another’s progress, comment, converse online, and encourage one another by “giving props” for their achievements.

Level Up

Fitocracy Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Richard Talens believes three game elements help users stay on track with fitness—the on-screen progress bar, quests and social interaction.

“Just seeing a bar moving forward while you play is motivational. That’s a key concept of Fitocracy. With fitness, it may take three weeks to begin seeing results, but when you track your activities, the Fitocracy bar moves ahead immediately,” says Talens.

In addition, quests are a great way to engage beginners. “People alter their lifestyles to complete quests,” according to Talens.

Then, there are the social elements. Talens says, “The social element has to be rock solid so users can see, engage, compete with and motivate one another.”

Game Over? Never.

Talens and co-creator Brian Wang, want fitness to become a lifestyle for others as it has for them. These self-described video game nerds, both now dabble in competitive bodybuilding. They understand that the addiction games create is the same addiction that motivates them to hit the gym every day. Like every user on Fitocracy, they want to “level up” and complete the next quest. Despite working 100+ hours per week to build Fitocracy, both Talens and Wang find time to work out and log their activities on the site for other users to see.

“We want to be an example,” says Talens. “But I don’t consider myself to be more motivated than anyone else. If I can do it, anyone can. Fitness can be easy if you treat it like a game and are social,” says Talens. With Fitocracy, users can play with, against, or alongside one another, but ultimately, they compete against themselves.” AF

Stephanie Thum is an AFAA certified group fitness professional and is licensed to teach multiple Zumba® Fitness formats. She holds a master’s degree in corporate communication and contributes to several publications throughout the country.

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