The continuing gamification of life
November 1, 2011 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Fitocracy is a social game that harnesses the power of feedback loops to promote fitness.

Founded by two RPG-loving gamers, Brian Wang and Richard Talens, as a way to track their own progress. Slate's Farhad Manjoo does a video review, and Daniel Spelzmann at Ppen Salon has a profile as well. The tracking site has also appeared in XKCD and Penny Arcade

Previously, on MeTa
posted by the man of twists and turns (41 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I tried it through the MeTa,I love the idea but the one week window to input data proved too frustrating and I stopped using it.
posted by Harpocrates at 8:07 AM on November 1, 2011

Is there a comparison anywhere versus Health Month? Fitocracy seems more glitzy, but I liked the scrappiness of HM. Not enough to keep up an exercise regime, mind.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:10 AM on November 1, 2011

"request an invite"? Nice attempt at giving an impression of scarcity.
posted by DU at 8:12 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

fitocracy is pretty focused on only exercise, not overall lifestyle changes, like Health Month.

dammit, I should have mentioned the main 'hook' : it uses an RPG-style XP and leveling system as a way to measure progress.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:12 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do I have to enter any spreadsheets or choose from a list of fast food drop down boxes? Cause I hate shit like that.
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been trying to get an invite for three months now. It seems strange to post something on the Blue that we can't even view or use.
posted by synthetik at 8:16 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Fitocracy and Health Month use opposite incentive structures - Health Month involves penalties (losing points) and Fitocracy is based on rewards (gaining XP and achievements.) I found Health Month infuriating, but I have been using Fitocracy pretty faithfully since it came up on MeTa.

Fitocracy is much more single-focused, though - it's really designed around weightlifting and cardio, although they're pretty good about adding activities (I get a satisfying amount of points for karate) and little things (like "taking the stairs instead of the elevator".)

I'm pretty happy with it and considering signing up for the new $5/month premium deal just to express my satisfaction, although none of the paid-for things at this point are really tempting.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:17 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ah - if anyone else was confused like me - there is a link in the "Previously" link that lets you sign up.
posted by synthetik at 8:18 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Does the METAFILTER invite code no longer work? I can request more if it's not. They were pretty responsive when I initially asked for a batch of codes for MeFites.
posted by schmod at 8:18 AM on November 1, 2011

>> "request an invite"? Nice attempt at giving an impression of scarcity.

From the FAQ:
"Fitocracy is currently in limited private release. Due to unexpected demand, we haven't been able to send out as many invites as we'd like since we're trying to make sure the system is stable to handle everyone who wants in."
Not everything is a conspiracy.
posted by JohnFredra at 8:21 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've been enjoying Fitocracy. I'm "Thufir" on there and in the metafilter group. I wouldn't have expected it before I joined but it actually has motivated me to be more consistent with my exercise, particularly the Metafilter group challenges (seriously guys, I've been sick and I'm still in 6th place in the current challenge, you need to step it up).

I apparently have 9 invites at this link
posted by ghharr at 8:22 AM on November 1, 2011

I joined Fitocracy but am not sure if I'll stick with it. My biggest annoyance is the inability to "create" an exercise for something that is not currently in their index. I'd like to be able to keep track of my gym stuff (and the community looks cool), but not being able to accurately keep track of what I do is a roadblock for me.

Hey, I have ten invites! If you want to give it a try, go nuts!
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:33 AM on November 1, 2011

This is cool! I wonder if we might be able to persuade them to support shovelglove?
posted by JohnFredra at 8:44 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

The game aspects were attractive and they certainly have a good way of encouraging community participation, but I stopped using it for the same reason as Elly Vortex - it just wasn't possible to match all of my exercises with their limited list. And creating groups of exercises wasn't very easy or intuitive. It also suffers a bit from the SparkPeople problem of having too many clicks to get things entered. Perhaps that'll get better in the next revision; if so, I'd definitely try it again.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:48 AM on November 1, 2011

Alright, I signed up: I've been very skeptical of gamification, but I haven't tried anything that tries to incorporate it like this, so this should be interesting (and maybe just what my lazy, unmotivated ass needs right now). Thanks.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:34 AM on November 1, 2011

I actually like it more than Health Month. Health Month stresses me out. Miss a day, having to do things because of what I thought I'd be able to do at the start of the month, it's not what this anxiety ridden brain needs.

The positive reinforcement of Fitocracy is working so much better for me.
posted by theichibun at 10:45 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Fitocracy needs way more RPG elements: more (and more diverse) quests and achievements and additional perks for leveling up. It would be great if there were the equivalent of daily quests (e.g. "today's daily quest is a 3 exercise upper body workout, 8 reps each on the bench press, lat pull down, and bicep curl" or "run for at least 10 minutes or 1 mile"). Perks for leveling up or completing quests could include things like a small coupon for a sporting goods store.

It also needs more social elements. For example, if two people work out together they should be able to note that in the log. Working out together could also factor in to achievements, quests, and XP. This could be done both to encourage finding a workout buddy (e.g. a flat XP bonus for shared workouts) and also to provide a way for "mismatched" workout buddies to work on quests together. So for example a quest could say "Do 100 pushups, between you and a friend." Even if one of them only does 10 pushups and the other does 90, there's still a shared sense of accomplishment.
posted by jedicus at 10:48 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's definitely the challenges that have motivated me the most, but even on a personal level I have found myself pushing a little harder at times.

The UI is definitely clunky and some elements (like quests and achievements) are underdeveloped/under used in my opinion, but it's a cool concept and I've had fun with it. I believe you can request added exercises in the forums if you can't find things.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:51 AM on November 1, 2011

The problem with gamification in too many instances is that they haven't considered what makes a game fun. When the pinball machine Comet came out, they made a big deal about it having a million point shot, but I think most people played it because it was fun to play. Soldering a couple 7-segment LEDs to the back board to inflate the score 100-fold just wasn't that exciting.

Similarly, I played through Fallout 3 a couple times, not because I was leveling my characters but because I wanted to see all of the stuff the designers put in the game. If someone could gamify my exercise routine by adding a plot, as sense of exploration (including little throw away terrain features that are actually interesting), and some bits of back humor sprinkled into the mix, that would be awesome. That's almost exactly not like putting my bike on the training stand in the laundry room and calling my odometer reading my score.

Or just go the first person shooter route and just add a guy with a club to my exercise routine and have him try to thrash me soundly. It's worked for me in the past.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:05 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Swear to God, I didn't think it would catch me but it did. I use it faithfully to record workouts. The main thing I like is that it notes new personal records, but it also lets me look back and subtly pushes me on because I want MOAR POINTS. I recommend it.

Bad side is that you sometimes have to hunt for exercises, or choose the closest thing. I did table makers the other day and ended up calling them dips. Was pretty frustrating, but not a deal breaker.
posted by mobunited at 11:15 AM on November 1, 2011

While I'm ranting: it also needs a concept of classes. People could choose to be a runner, cyclist, weight lifter, sports player, etc. Then you could get special class quests (e.g. run 5% further than your personal best) but also bonus cross-class quests to encourage well-rounded fitness (e.g. if you're a weight lifter then doing a cardio quest would net you extra XP).

It's also missing weight loss quests and achievements, as far as I can tell.

Basically, if they're going to gamify something they need to hire a game designer not just game players.
posted by jedicus at 11:25 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's worth remembering that it's still pretty early beta - they only recently brought on a dedicated quest designer, and they've got attributes, classes, and PvP on the list (for September, but this appears to be two guys who are only just now starting to monetize, so...)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:44 AM on November 1, 2011

Fitocracy and Health Month use opposite incentive structures - Health Month involves penalties (losing points) and Fitocracy is based on rewards (gaining XP and achievements.)

In some arenas (e.g. financial decisions), there's a pretty well-documented tendency for people in general to be more highly-motivated to take action to prevent a loss than to gain something extra. I don't know if it's been studied in this context or not, or what it does in situations like this of where you can opt out of the entire thing. The constant threat of a loss may lead you to quit the whole game instead of exercising more.

But it would be absolutely fascinating to get the data from both these games after they've been running a few years.
posted by straight at 11:49 AM on November 1, 2011

I think it still needs the a strong beta badge and to get the hell ride the props system. I'm sick of getting props just so strangers can get a badge for it.

I'm adventureloop there too hit me up if anyone needs an invite.
posted by adventureloop at 11:50 AM on November 1, 2011

Kid Charlemagne, what' you're looking for is Zombies, RUN!, a smartphone app.

Most of the suggestions people are making are excellent, and have already been posted in their internal forums.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:52 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks, man of twists! I'm the lead game designer of Zombies, Run! and yes, we are going about making it from very much a 'this should be fun' POV rather than a standard gamification angle.

Why? Because I don't think that XP, levels, badges, etc should be the only way of making 'real world' activities fun. A lot of these exercise sites also strike me as inserting yet another point of friction in your routine, in that you need to do the data entry. I know it's not hard, particularly for geeks like us, but we're more interested in how we can make the game/exercise experience as easy as pressing a single button.

And yeah, there is going to be a metric assload of story and world building in it. Maybe it'll work, maybe not, but at least it's something new that has genuine passion behind it.

FWIW though, I do play Health Month, and although I find its use of points to be confusing (the hit points are OK though) it has a charm and simplicity to it that I admire.
posted by adrianhon at 12:48 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fitocracy got me to turn my 5-mile run into a 6-mile run last weekend, even though I felt grotty and had blisters on my feet from all the huge muddy puddles by then, just because dammit there's a 200 point bonus for the 10K quest and I wasn't going to miss out on that during a challenge. And then I got ill and now I'm probably coming last, but whatever, I made that 10K. (I'm Calluna on the MeFi group, btw.)

Also love it for the integration with Runkeeper, although I'm vaguely suspicious it's not taking elevation into account so you only get a hills bonus if you put the activity in manually.
posted by Catseye at 1:04 PM on November 1, 2011

OK, I'll check this out. Every other fitness board I've checked out uses shame as a motivator. Oddly that hasn't worked out so well for me. MetaFilter group, prepare to have your average shifted downwards.
posted by lekvar at 1:19 PM on November 1, 2011

The constant threat of a loss may lead you to quit the whole game instead of exercising more.

That's exactly what it did for me. Whereas Fitocracy is just a handy place to track my workouts, with badges! I'm a sucker for badges. (And it works out well for me that my basic routine plugs in neatly - I'm a straightforward power lifter these days.)
posted by restless_nomad at 1:25 PM on November 1, 2011

Yeah, I found Health Month annoying after a while. It brought out the "You're a failure!" in me for missing various goals. Fitocracy has less pressure. You enter some stuff or you don't. It's up to you. What annoys me is that it seems to be very runner and basic exercise focuses. I can't hit the basic achievements and quests because I don't exercise in that particular manner, ie. the only time I run is when someone is chasing me.

I don't like "normal" sports, and I think that is what kept me from being active for so long. So it's great that I can track 5 hours of night club dancing (they've even broken down styles of dance, so there's more than just ball room), but spending all day at a lawn bowling tournament is for naught. And believe me I get kind of wiped spending 3-5 hours rolling a large elliptical ball at a smaller round one.

The random props for no reason work my nerves. And their mobile site isn't so great.
posted by loriginedumonde at 1:52 PM on November 1, 2011

While I'm ranting: it also needs a concept of classes.

posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:04 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I joined Fitocracy last week because I have been lifting weights for years in stony silence with no feedback whatsoever and figured it might be fun to get fun badges and points from a faceless reward system.

It has encouraged me to add in a few exercises that I didn't really need to do but that I knew would be no-big-deal just to get some easy points, which will probably lead to overtraining and fatigue and ultimately abandoning years worth of work. Thanks, 2011!

If anybody wants to BRO DOWN, I am on there as ScotAloha
posted by SharkParty at 2:04 PM on November 1, 2011

I'm trying to get on a fitness kick at the moment, so I figured I'd try it just now. The kick I got from the fact it gave me 41 points for the leisurely walking I did on my way home makes me feel way better than it should. Apparently, I am a sucker for positive reinforcement.
posted by hoyland at 2:48 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yo, restless_nomad - who're you on Fitocracy? I need to make some new admins for the mefi group, and, well...
posted by coriolisdave at 4:21 PM on November 1, 2011

Heh, yeah, occupational hazard - I'm jpreacher there and everywhere but here.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:35 PM on November 1, 2011

If you think 'cardio' is nerferd compared to free weights, I suggest you find a rowing machine.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:35 PM on November 1, 2011

I've been trying to get an invite for three months now. It seems strange to post something on the Blue that we can't even view or use.
posted by synthetik at 8:16 AM on November 1 [3 favorites +] [!]

People seem to post invites on r/fitness pretty regularly.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:32 PM on November 1, 2011

Both the users' invites in this thread have been used up, but the METAFILTER invite code is still functional.

I've just signed up as Gordafarin. I just started Couch to 5k as well so this might help me stay on track.
posted by Gordafarin at 3:25 AM on November 2, 2011

I have some invites too if people want one. Message me for it because I have a cat who isn't letting me do much on the computer right now. That's not what she's doing right now, but it still works.
posted by theichibun at 8:58 AM on November 2, 2011

In like Flynn--registered as halloweenjack and joined the blue group.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:14 PM on November 9, 2011

in case anyone else is still here:

Group Invite
Group Code: 6NK3Y

Group link:
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:22 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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