New Zealanders will be the first to test their strategy skills against others in their community with the launch of the free mobile running app ‘Run An Empire’, exclusively to the New Zealand market.
Running is one of the most accessible ways to get or stay fit – and while it can be a great stress release and mentally rewarding, experienced runners can often find it difficult to get motivated. The app has been designed to make exercise stimulating by pitting neighbour against neighbour as they race to run, jog or walk around an area with their phones to ‘capture’ it and build their own digital kingdom.
‘Run An Empire’ Co-founders, Sam Hill and Ben Barker were inspired to create the app when they realised nothing was really giving them the motivation they needed. Wanting more than a love/hate relationship with exercise, they saw a huge gap in the market for something that could talk to people like themselves – and did something about it.
Their solution was to create a downloadable strategy game that takes place in the real world while players move through their local area to advance up the ranks.
Unlike other gamified health apps, ‘Run An Empire’ was designed to be a game with health benefits, which rewards determination over natural ability and works with each person’s pace, no matter their speed around the streets.
You can't advance in the game by driving, skating, or cycling around your territory as the app is programmed to use your phone's accelerometer along with a GPS to identify any unusual movement.
“We wanted to create an accessible app that would give people a sense of purpose when they go out for a run. Through testing, we have found that people who try the app enjoy the challenge and seeing their own progress so much that they find themselves running a lot more, even if they had already considered themselves regular runners,” says Barker.
The app encourages users to challenge others for their territory by running over or around their territory and to build the strength of their own territory by running or walking a route multiple times.
In its infancy, ‘Run An Empire’ helped test runner Luis Silva make a life changing step towards recovering from heart surgery.
Not previously a runner, Silva only started to run following his surgery to aid in his recovery and to strengthen his health. ‘Run An Empire’ helped to give him the incentive he needed to keep at it. He is now an avid runner, despite having an artificial heart valve, and has even started a running group called “Velocimonsters”.
He says, “While typical running apps focus on sharing personal results and competing with friends, Run and Empire fills the ‘fun part’ gap. Running and having fun while doing it is the most important thing. Physical results are a second motivator now. I'm really happy to be on this boat that's going to rock the world of running in the nearby future.”
Regular runner Eoin Parker says he didn’t realise the element of competition would be such an incentive to run until he tried the beta version of the Run An Empire app.
“I get a big kick out of winning new territory and I have definitely worked out who my main competitors are. As the app has developed and I can more clearly see where they are building their empires this has spurred me on,” says Parker.
“It has definitely made me run more often, run longer and run more varied routes,” says Parker, “and it has encouraged me into some healthier behaviours like long walks at lunch.”
Another beta tester, Scott Nickle, says that the app helped him remain active after he sustained an injury that prevented him from running.
“Although I was already a runner, Run An Empire was a wonderful metaphorical carrot hanging in front of me to keep me going sometimes. Often it was the reason I'd finally lace up my shoes and go for a run.
“In autumn, when I was unable to run I still found myself going on long walks to claim or fortify new parks and walkways.”
Hill (Co-founder) says, “Run An Empire plays on our innate competitive nature, removing monotony from routine exercise through more than just gamification, but by creating a game in its own right.
“Moving up the ranks in the game becomes an incentive for both beginners and avid runners to be active and to enjoy running and walking,” says Hill.
The app tracks players’ progress, rewarding persistence and celebrating milestones with a Coat of Arms which represents their skill level.
The game map is split into individual tiles (‘hexes’) that players can conquer, with each hex featuring a live scoreboard that’s updated in real time as people build their own empire.
Launched on Kickstarter in 2014, ‘Run An Empire’ received overwhelming support with 1,800 backers and over 5,000 people signing up to the mailing list once the campaign closed. It has been in private beta since early 2015.
‘Run An Empire’ is currently available for iPhone and can be downloaded on the Apple App Store.