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Zombies, Run!

Entry updated 6 September 2019. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2012). Six to Start. Designed by Naomi Alderman. Platforms: Android, iOS.

Set in a Post-Holocaust world, Zombies, Run! is a fitness Alternate Reality Game for smartphones. The game can be played at the gym or outside: players need to be moving, and activities like running, walking or cycling are all possible whilst playing. The player takes the role of "Runner 5", who must carry out missions, collect supplies for their base and explore the area around their base. Zombies, Run! synchronizes with the music on the player's phone, interspersing it with an ongoing, episodic narrative. Collected items, which are generated at random intervals during play and reported to the player as they run, are used to upgrade the player's home base and unlock further missions. If the GPS feature is enabled, the game periodically encourages Runner 5 to outrun packs of marauding Zombies by moving faster. Players can allow their phones to download their information to the Zombies, Run! website, which keeps a tally of how many kilometres have been run in total. In 2014, this stood at over 20 million.

Zombies, Run! was an early success story for the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter, where contributors can pledge money in advance to support the production of each project. Development company Six to Start raised $73,000, nearly five times the requested amount. After the game had been released, Zombies, Run! became the number one grossing fitness app in the iStore and has sold over 800,000 copies. The game also has an unusual business model for a mobile app (application), since players buy the entire series, rather than buying one episode at a time for small amounts of money. Six to Start decided early on that the nature of the game meant that players would commit themselves to buying a season, and that this would ultimately help with motivating them to exercise regularly. The game has since become free to play [see under links below].

The game is split into episodic seasons, rather like serial Television, and includes a large cast of voice actors. Zombies, Run! has been praised for its multi-racial cast, even spread between genders, and for including gay and queer characters within its narrative. As the series has developed, Zombies, Run! has allowed episode guest writers who have included Andrea Phillips – author of the Alternate Reality Game Perplex City (2005) – and Elizabeth Bear. Head scriptwriter Naomi Alderman is also a published author and has collaborated with Margaret Atwood, ultimately producing another Zombie-themed text; The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home (24 October 2012-January 2013 web). Six to Start has an active policy of encouraging fans to contribute fan fiction and otherwise support the game; as a result, fan fiction author Andrea "thischarmingand" also wrote ten missions for Season 2. The Walk (2013) is a spinoff of the game which encourages the player to walk 500 kilometres, the length of the UK. [EMS]


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