Fitness / Video Games

Mariothon

A Mario Kart running app.

Recently, Jane McGonigal’s “Reality Is Broken” has encouraged me to spend a lot of time pondering what it would be like to be a game designer; constantly considering the artful blend of psychology and technology and its impact on the entertainment, fitness and education industries.

“ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: wanted to break 6 mins in a mile time trial on the track; ran 5:45 and had more in the tank. ” – Christian Spicer, @spicer

#GeeksinSneaks

While on a jog with the gamified Nike+ Running app, I contemplated this hashtag. Aside from the Geeks in Sneaks meet up group and loads of gamified fitness apps (Wii Fit; Zombies, Run; Kinect Sports Rivals, etc.), I wondered if something more could be done to encourage those identified with the geek community to promote fitness regimes.

Initially, I had the lofty idea of organizing a crowd-funded #GeeksinSneaks race (5K, 10K, half/full marathon) full of cosplay, video game prizes and exclusive comics and geek apparel/memorabilia. If this idea were to draw a big enough crowd, its scale would limit the event to happening at fixed times in fixed areas. It may not be enough to encourage constant activity.

Then I thought about the Nike+ Running app. I am able to use this app on my own time. Day or night, weekday or weekend. While I appreciate the app’s gamification elements, they have now worn off to some degree; however, they were enough to get a jogging regime to stick. I now use the app simply as a fitness tracker. I wondered, “is there another way make running a gamified experience and broadcast it to a massive audience?”

Then it hit me.

Nintendo has repeatedly stated that they have a renewed focus on the smartphone ecosystem and health. They also plan to release Mario Kart 8, a beloved franchise, on May 30th. While real-life Mario Kart already exists, I was unable to find Mario Kart adapted into a running game. What if Nintendo were to release a gamified smartphone running app with the mechanics of Mario Kart built in. Lets call it “Mariothon.”

Mariothon

In Mariothon, players are able to set up a race with up to say four runners. Each player is required to where headphones with an attached button-mic to hear in game alerts and trigger events. At certain distances, players are awarded items (simulating Mario Kart’s mystery boxes) that they can use at their leisure by clicking the button on their headphones.

For example, at a quarter mile, a runner earns a lightning bolt. Once used, an in-game alert informs all other runners in the game to walk until the effect wears off. Another variation might add time to the paces of the competing runners. A banana peel might be used as a surprise attack when another runner crosses a certain geo-fence. Blue shells would have a direct impact on the leader, forcing them to stop dead in their tracks or pausing their “distance ran” meter. First to a specific distance wins!

Obviously, not every run will users want to incorporate the game element. In the event of solo runs, the app could serve as a simple run tracker with many of the same achievements offered in the Nike+ Running app. Cross-brand incentives could also award solo runs. Besting a 7-minute-mile or completing a 10K could unlock characters or tracks in Mario Kart or other console-based Nintendo games. (similar to Hearthstone’s unlockable WoW mount)

As a non-developer, I have no idea if linking players and dropping geo-fenced items is a possibility. I also understand that the initial development of this app would certainly be a huge undertaking. While this would join the many gamified fitness apps on the market, the Nintendo and Mario Kart branding may be enough for it to stick with a larger audience.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Is this something that would interest you? Does this already exist? Has fitness gamification worked for you? If so, what fitness apps are you utilizing and how are they helping?

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Image source The Augusta Chronicle

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Kyle Starr is the writer of TheStarrList.com and The State of Gaming. Find Kyle on Twitter at @_kylestarr.

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