Zombies Run At Mission 7 With Ingress
Or how I learned to stop worrying, start walking, and love the Zoms.
It’s no secret that I am not the healthiest puppy on the farm. I mean I’m trying to make a career out of sitting on my ass playing video games and tweeting for John Smith’s sake.
At ~250 lbs. and 6’2″ according to the bmi scale I am borderline morbidly obese. Sedentary lifestyle + eating wrong + mental health issues = mid 30’s heart attack. According to the bmi scale, I should be floating at around 170 lbs. that means I gotta cleave off 80 lbs. just to get to “normal.”
So how does an aspiring video game journalist get motivated to stop wandering the post apocalypse and start wandering the pre? Well you give them a game to play. A game that revolves around running in a post apocalypse. Running from zombies. Running from zombies and saving the world.
Zombies, Run! is a streamlined, unobtrusive, immersive experience. All it needs are headphones, location tracking, and a steady pace. Go for a walk, pop them phones in your head, hit shuffle all, and just go. The app does the rest.
There are settings that allow you to customize the experience to your comfort and fitness level with 25 and 40 minute missions. These are accompanied by absolutely fantastic, immersive radio plays that feel like The Walking Dead by way of Doctor Who. Intrigue and conspiracies abound as you meet fellow runners tasked with scavenging the wastes in the hopes of keeping the settlement alive.
These radio plays serve as immersive world building that allows you to close your eyes for a minute and picture the devastation around you. The app knows how far you travel and peppers the audio plays at regular intervals providing the background and action for your current mission. Whether it is exploring an abandoned, zombie infested hospital or running circles around the camp with a fellow runner to distract the horde, Zombies, Run! provides just the right amount of distraction to keep your mind off the exercise. In between story logs you can use any media player to provide a soundtrack for your run. When you reach the next checkpoint, your media gets paused so you are always immersed in the world.
As you go walk about, the game randomly notifies you of pickups. These run the gamut of edibles, consumables, craftables and other assorted post apocalypse detritus. These can then be used to build the base in a built in Farmville like. There are no paywalls and no timers. The only way you get the supplies to improve the settlement is by walking with the app and collecting them during missions.
It is this system that brings a bit of score counting and gamification, short of just seeing how far you can walk or how much story you can hear. You get invested in providing your improvements and are motivated to scavenge for supplies. Of course without any risk, this may eventually prove too little of a justification to go that extra mile.
Another optional setting is the ability to add chasers to your run. These are randomly occurring zombie attacks that you literally have to run from in order to avoid having your supplies stolen. Imagine just walking calmly at your own pace, listening to the story or your music, when suddenly the operator screams, panicky, in your ear. “Oh no, they’re right on you!” He says, “You’re gonna have to run!” As the moans and groans and sounds of the horde suddenly get closer and closer in your headphones. Now, you literally have to run if you want to make it home with all of your supplies intact. The feelings of dread as the zombies approach, the thoughts of “Fuck I’m tired but I really don’t want to lose any of this good stuff, the people need these meds!” add a nice bit of activity and urgency to what is otherwise audio book walking simulator.
If there is one criticism I have is that the runs are a bit aimless. You can walk in circles and still receive the same experience as walking to the mall. There are no destinations in mind. The story says go north but the app doesn’t care. There’s no response if you go toward where the story says is a horde instead of the mission objective. These are just static radio plays.
It can break the immersion a bit knowing that you really aren’t walking north to a perceived objective. Keeping that immersion is key to keeping the motivation to continue the run. Getting invested in the story and scavenging pushes you to go those extra few yards. Without it, you might as well be at home playing Fallout.
It is with an effort to alleviate this problem that I recommend downloading another similar app called Ingress. Ingress tells the story of a hidden war between two powers vying for control of a mysterious energy. You pick your side and are instantly shown a scan of your immediate area. You can see the energy around you and the portals and missions nearby that gamify the experience. Ingress is a worldwide phenomenon, recently featured on LifeHacker, where I first came across it. There are meetups all over the world where fellow players converge and compete for territory.
The idea is that real world sculptures and tourist attractions were built because of the presence of these energy portals. A local park, a school, a bit of modern art all serve as real world battlegrounds between the Enlightened and the Resistance. In a major urban area you have a good chance of coming across players in meat space ready to become your new best friend and bond over the common experience.
It is for these reasons that I suggest using Ingress as a companion to Zombies, Run! Ingress can navigate you to any portal in the world giving you a destination to head towards. While there is no official compatibility between the two apps, it is not hard to do it yourself. Zombies, Run! tells you to go north, so you set Ingress to take you to Central Park. All the while collecting Ingress energy and audio logs, and completing your zombie run. Who knows you might even happen upon a massive battle once you get there.
I hope I have adequately relayed how amazing these two apps are. The immersion and world building are comparable to the best hardcore experiences. There is no need to rig a treadmill to your Xbox to burn calories while you burn zombies. You can game while you work out and still scratch all of those same itches. All with the added benefit of actually going outside. There are even random encounters between the chaser events of Zombies, Run!, and the chance of meeting fellow Ingress players. Level up your own stats. Actually be the lone wanderer or the chosen one. Couple these with Habit RPG and add even more game to your game so you can game while you game game. The only limits are your stamina and imagination, and you can level them both up just by playing.
So get out there hero! The world ain’t gonna save itself.