The Walk: Don't Run, but Never Stop Moving
by Raymond Wang
Six to Start, a UK indie developer known best for its mobile post-apocalyptic fitness game Zombies, Run!, will have you walking to Scotland later this year with a new game called The Walk.
Using the same narrative-centric premise as Zombies, Run!, The Walk will also aim to get players out of their seats through captivating storytelling, but with a key difference: instead of running from zombies, players are encouraged to walk (no, really) alongside a modern spy thriller.
In The Walk, you are given a package that needs to be brought to Edinburgh, Scotland, but before you can get on a train, terrorists blow up the station with an electromagnetic pulse in an attempt to steal the package. Nothing electronic––cars and trains included––works; you'll need to walk, hopefully avoiding your pursuers in the process.
The new title is being sponsored by the National Health Service (NHS) in London in order to encourage the public to exercise more regularly. As part of the goal, The Walk will triple as a narrative game, an pedometer, and a rewarding experience: active players will be awarded in-game benefits.
"We thought a lot about how to conceptualize that being active is not just a one-off activity," said Naomi Alderman, head writer of both Zombies, Run! and The Walk. "It's something that every bit of incremental effort works towards, and we thought about this idea of a really long journey."
Studio co-founder and chief creative officer Adrian Hon added, "Getting into the habit of moving more is a big process. It can take several months to get in the habit, so the idea of having a single, huge, long journey is just more inspiring than short or intense exercises. We're sensible about this. The only way you can get up to what health officials say you should be walking, which is about 10,000 steps per day, is by walking throughout the day. It's by taking a 10 minute walk, going to the shops, small stuff like that. We're trying to get people to walk throughout the day, that's why we're doing this with the NHS. It's going to be the best pedometer you've ever had but it's also got a game built into it. So you're kind of playing all the time whenever you have your phone with you."
Although the game is government-sponsored, The Walk will be sold commercially; Hon and Alderman believe that paid apps are more valued by owners, and therefore more likely to be used. And with regular weekly updates to the story included, Six to Start hopes that the app will see a lot of usage.
“We want to make a game people will play again and again, not just for weeks but for months," said Hon. "And there’s not that many habits we do that often except, maybe, watching soap operas and watching TV.”
It's a lofty dream for sure, but if anyone could pull the spread of fitness gaming off, it's the makers of Zombies, Run!, which received its funding on Kickstarter last year and now has over half a million downloads despite its $8 price tag. The Walk is set to release later this year on mobile devices, and if it's anywhere near as successful as its predecessor, maybe I'll see you on the way to Edinburgh.Originally Published Jul. 25th 2013