Gamifying Fitness

I am not an active person by any means. I sit at my desk all day on my computer, typing up programs or playing video games. The idea of getting up and going for anything more than a short run just sounds dreadful. The most exercise I’ve ever gotten in my life was from karate classes back in high school and the only reason I stuck with it long enough to get my black belt was that I thought my parents were forcing me to stay.

Dylan NolteI’ve recently started working towards losing weight and I think you can imagine how difficult it’s been to keep the motivation to exercise. At first, all I could do were stretches and running on a treadmill. Any time I attempted to do push-ups or weight lifting, I’d give up after only 5 or 6 reps. It’s not that I wasn’t capable of doing more, it just felt too difficult. Jeez, my senseis would be SO disappointed if they saw me today.

Fortunately, I have a secret weapon! What if instead of video games causing me to sit around for hours on end, I utilized them to push me to work out regularly? Enter Ring Fit Adventure!

This article isn’t sponsored, I swear.

No really, I’ve just fallen in love with this game and there are a ton of reasons why! The art style is simple and clean, the characters are charmingly animated, the battle system is well-thought-out, and fitness puns are everywhere!

The game comes with a pilates ring and leg strap that you plug your controllers into (dubbed the Ring-Con by the developers). They can detect a variety of things from motion, orientation, and how hard you push or pull on the ring. You would think that with so few types of input, there wouldn’t be a lot of exercises you could do, but the game is surprisingly diverse. Everything you do is turned into a real-life exercise. Everything!

Want to navigate the menus? Move the Ring-Con to control the cursor. Want to make something to power yourself up during battle? Squeeze the juices out of fruits and veggies to make a smoothie by, you guessed it, squeezing the ring! Need to cross a river? Squeeze the ring into your abs and start making a rowing motion to use the oars.

And, like any other game, it’s just hard to stop playing sometimes. Here’s what goes through my head whenever I think I’m ready to finish up:

“Alright,” I’ll think, “I’m beat; I’ve completed 5 courses, done multiple challenges, and worked out for nearly an hour. It’s about time I stopped for the day…”

“Yeah,” my brain will reply. “Buuuuuuuut, your EXP bar is almost filled up. If you complete another course, you could totally level up again.”

“I could. Or, I could just pick it back up tomorrow.”

“True. But you don’t want to leave that tiny bit unfilled. It’s like when your favorite show gets left on a cliffhanger. It’s just one more course.”

“... FINE! I’ll play just ONE more.”

I then proceeded to play for another hour and exhaust myself.

girl sleeping in black and whiteOf course, there’s another aspect of this game I love and that’s how it is designed. As an aspiring game developer, I need to have an understanding of what makes different games so fun to play and I end up looking towards the one I enjoy for that inspiration. Ring Fit has taken something that I despised doing and made it nearly addictive, so they must have done something right.

I think part of the magic comes from how they interpret your progress. Like with real-life exercise, most of your progress comes in very small increments. You gain a small stat boost here, a new ability there and, while the changes aren’t always noticeable right away, over time you start to feel stronger and stronger in both the game and real life. However, unlike real life, the game provides an extra level of graphical and numeric feedback that reassures you that you are indeed growing, even if you don’t feel it yet.

Oh, I could go on for hours about this. Maybe I’ll come back and explore more of the game’s design philosophies in another article, but I feel as if I’ve gone on for long enough. If you have a Nintendo Switch and have trouble working out, then I highly recommend picking up the game. If not, you should definitely try incorporating some form of exercise into your daily routine. It has made me feel a lot better since I started!