The Gamification of Running

“Gamification” is everyone’s favorite buzzword these days. It’s so hot, that we still use quotes to write it out — “gamification.” Yes, it’s that fresh.

To put it simply, “gamification” is applying game-design thinking to non-game applications in order to make them more fun and engaging. Think Foursquare; you earn points for checking into locations, competing with your network of friends that also use the app for the most points earned through check-ins over a specific period of time.

Outside my role as media maven and gaming publicist, I’m a sweat enthusiast. Yoga, cycling, hiking, I do it all, but my true love is and will always be running. However, sticking to something like an 18-week marathon training program requires a lot of motivation. Enter the “gamification” of running.

I’m an avid Nike+ user. In fact, I’ve been using it for years, long before “gamification” became a part of our daily media consumption. Nike+ uses a sensor to track running distances. The information is then synced online and shared with the Nike+ community and through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Users can also set up personal goals for time, distance, or frequency of runs. Additionally, Nike+ has built-in achievement milestones to hit through the program based on total miles run. These levels are broken down by color, going from light to dark. I still get excited each time a legendary runner like Paula Radcliffe congratulates me on hitting a new level.

There are a multitude of similar applications and communities that now serve the same purpose — RunKeeper, MapMyRUN, and TriplePoint’s very own client, Fitocracy. They all help keep runners motivated by providing fun and entertaining ways to keep progressing, whether it’s by hitting achievements, earning points, or sharing completed runs through social networks.

The “gamification” of running. Did you hear that? That was the sound of my worlds colliding.

Richard Kain

I’m a MapMyRUNner.  Apps can bring quantification and gamification.  Quantification is a necessary antecedent, and the more something is quantified the more possibilities for gamification there are.  Knowing I can visualize a fly-through of run after the fact, my favorite element of the app, unquestionably inspires greater distance.