Symposium, November 4, 2021: Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run!

Zombies, Run! (2012) is an exemplar of an often-ignored genre of games named exergaming. Created by combining “exercise” with “gaming,” the portmanteau describes a classification of experiences using forms of gamification to encourage exercise and other health-related activities. In the case of Zombies, Run! (2012), the explicit activity is running. (The title includes the word run, after all.)

What sets Zombies, Run! (2012) apart from other applications used to gamify exercise is the narrative framing of the player within the role of a person who is called “Runner 5” by other characters. As the player runs, short episodic audio narratives are played matching the length of the exercise activity. In order to hear more of the overall story, the player must keep running (or, in more recent versions, use simulated running while doing other activities).

Throughout a running session, and mixed in among the audio episodes, is the player told they are acquiring different materials and items. This can be something as simple as a bra or plot-centric documents. Once the session is over, these acquired materials are then used as part of a base-building mini-game in which the materials are used to expand a base and improve the lives of the characters referenced in the ongoing audio story.

Yet, both the material acquisition and base building never quite connect to the player-character dynamic. Players can ignore the base-building and even turn off the signaling of gathering materials, if wanted. The only fixed requirement for progression is the starting of an audio episode before the next unlocks in order.

To help drive discussion, lets start with the following sets of questions:

  • How did you feel about the narrative framing of being named “Runner 5” by the game? How did you imagine the character of Runner 5? Was it you? Someone else?
  • Did you participate in the base-building? What did you accomplish? Did you feel the mini-game contributed to the overall game in a meaningful way?
  • Did you use the zombie attack functionality? What did you think of the dynamic intermixing of different audio cues? Did they help? Were they distracting?
  • Many people seek out a “runner’s high” that is achieved by or right after running or other related activities during which they lose time or are less aware of their bodies as a result of the activity. In what ways can we think of this phenomenon in the same way as Flow? And, if so, do experiences like a session of Zombies, Run! (2012) contribute to that feeling or prevent it through interruptions?

We’ll meet Thursday at 8:30 EDT / 7:30 CDT / 5:30 PDT, voice chat over Discord.

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