Healthy Heroes, an application inspired by the popular World of Warcraft game, enables a gamer to build and level up an in-game character by collecting experience points from real-life sports and fitness exercises.
Online role-playing games, whether or not we are talking about the mass multi-player variety, could be used to improve the physical condition of the human gamers. This is the basic idea that prompted the founders of Healthy Heroes to develop an application designed to motivate and encourage gamers to take up a sport by rewarding their efforts with in-game experience points. So the virtual character becomes stronger as the gamer puts in some strenuous real-life exercise, and while thus striving to build the in-game hero s/he will automatically improve his or her own physical condition. “The inspiration for our game is the World of Warcraft, where you have to invest time in order to build and level your hero,” Healthy Heroes programmer Amer Mohammed explained to L'Atelier at the Health 2.0 Europe conference, which was held in Berlin on 6-7 November.
To play Healthy Heroes on his or her smartphone, the gamer first needs to choose a character, which will be either on the side of the ‘heroes’ or their opponents the ‘villains’. Next you select an activity such as gym training, football, running, etc, that you are about to undertake and check in. When you have completed your exercise session, you just press stop and you will see the points won through exercising go towards building your hero. So the game seeks to motivate real calorie loss by enabling you to enhance your character’s attributes. Conversely, if you stop exercising, your game avatar will grow weaker, or suffer an even worse fate. For example, to prevent your character from dying, you have to burn a minimum of 700 calories a week, which corresponds to two sessions of running. “It takes a year to get from level 1 to level 40, which is the maximum level,” Amer Mohammed told us.
Simple and attractive
The application also has a social dimension, whereby the user can challenge himself and others to complete various ‘missions’. Gamers also get bonus points when they train with a Healthy Heroes friend or when they exercise in bad weather – when it’s rainy, windy, or snowing. One of the keys to achieving mass adoption of this kind of app is of course ease of use. “Many online programmes on the market today are just too complicated,” argues Amer Mohammed, whose background is not in the medical profession. “Nevertheless the app still needs to be well- designed.”