Doki Doki Dash

Gaming Your Way to a Stronger, Fitter You Cindy Wong Interactive Telecommunications Program Tisch School of the Arts New York University

Abstract Doki Doki Dash is a conceptual mobile tness app that uses a mystery game to get players outdoors, solving crime and getting t. In the game, players become detectives in accepting crime cases, gathering clues and hunting criminals. Doki Doki Dash’s storyline is propelled by the player’s physical movements – as the players get more active in movement, the more the game rewards them by propelling them down the mystery trail – and further into the interactive game. Doki Doki Dash attempts to provide a gaming interface for personal tness that rewards players for their curiosity and also takes advantage of a player’s neighborhood space. As a proposed mobile application, it would utilize smartphone’s sensors to trigger events based on the player’s physical activity and location status. Doki Doki Dash proposes using an interactive game narrative to mask exertion for users. e result is a tness game application that centers arounds exploration,

social play, and an imaginary world set around a user’s real-world environment. e study of persuasion technology and tness activity routines is a large eld populated with researchers studying motivational behavior and user participation. However, this paper will survey the eld of exercise gaming, highlight the user experience challenges faced in current tness applications, and how that feedback resulted in the creation of Doki Doki Dash. Introduction e eld of mobile health is exploding with new devices and applications geared to monitoring people’s physical activity. From a technology standpoint, there are many devices and programs geared toward the aspiring tness bu . But, what about other users who don’t t that pro le? How do we get the nonexercisers involved?


From that social perspective, researchers are studying how persuasion technology may impact people’s attitudes and instill an active lifestyle. Health promotion programs designed to increase physical activities have placed a signi cant emphasis on techniques to maximize a person’s motivation to become active1. However, the research attention has focused on educational concepts (informational) versus the emotional compulsion (enjoyability) to desire exercise. A few researchers have argued that the “major reason for the very limited success of physical activity interventions is that they failed to consider the experiential aspects”2 . In other words, exercise is not viewed as an enjoyable activity for a majority of the population. Despite the fact that people are informed of the positive bene ts that are derived from physical activity, most people see it as an unpleasant, o -putting chore. Social researcher, Steve Amiereault, noted a behavioral gap between what people o en stated versus what they did in regards to exercise. e health statistics show the quandary in that intentions do not merit behavior3 . Approximately 25% to 35% of

American adults lead inactive lifestyles. e American Heart Association recommends that people do 20 minutes of moderate cardio exercise, three days a week to maintain health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. However, most people fall short; 34% of adults are obese. ey lead sedentary jobs, do not have regular physical activity programs, and are generally inactive around the house4 . One solution to enrich the exercise experience is gaming. People like to game. Games follow us everywhere from our laptops to our commutes to our work and back. According to a study by the Pew Trust Center, one in four Americans have downloaded a mobile app5. Out of those gures, 60% of them downloaded games. Games are compelling because they are goal-oriented and entertaining in a way that exercise is not. According to game designer Jane MacGonigal, games relieve a gamer’s craving for challenges that can be overcome, battles that can be won, and dangers that can vanquished.6 Exertion game researcher, Floyd Mueller, has provided a framework to discuss the -physical challenges posed on these exercise games.

Amireault, S., Godin, G., Vohl, M.C., Perusse, L.: Moderators of the intention-behaviour and perceived behavioural control-behaviour relationships for leisure-time physical activity. Int. J. Behav. Nutr. Phys. Act. 5, 7 (2008). http:// Dishman, R.K., Motl, R.W., Saunders, R., Felton, G., Ward, D.S., Dowda, M., Pate, R.R.: Enjoyment mediates e ects of a school-based physical-activity intervention. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 37, 478–487 (2005).

Amireault, S., Godin, G., Vohl, M.C., Perusse, L.: Moderators of the intention-behaviour and perceived behavioural control-behaviour relationships for leisure-time physical activity. Int. J. Behav. Nutr. Phys. Act. 5, 7 (2008). http://

American Heart Association Recommended Exercise. Livestrong. March 2011. 124077-american-heart-association-recommended-exercise/

Purcell, Kristen. Entner, Roger. Henderson, Nichole. e Rise of Apps Culture. Pew Research Center. September 4, 2010. e-Rise-of-Apps-Culture/Overview.aspx

Mcgonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How Press: New York. 2011.

ey Can Change the World. Penguin


e premise of my thesis centers around the idea that in order to promote tness, you have to make it fun. So, why not turn tness into a game that rewards real-world physical activity? ink, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego but instead of hunting criminals virtually, your detective skills pay o by pounding the pavement, literally. Doki Doki Dash will draw on facets of social persuasion technology, heuristic play, and scale to a player’s ability. Motivation e purpose of my thesis is to make exercise more enjoyable for the non- t by bringing gaming outdoors. In order to make tness e ective, make it fun for players. So, why not turn tness into a game that rewards realworld physical activity? e explicit goal of Doki Doki Dash is to get players to nab criminals. e implicit goal is to get players to be physically active. e storyline directs characters to hunt around their neighborhood on their running/jogging/walking routes. It imbues a solitary activity, like running, with a social component to connect others within the circle of friends or neighborhood. roughout the player’s journey, the game is helping them build behaviors and routines that slowly increase their physical tness. By combining familiar elements like mysteries (Where in the World is Carmen San Diego) to tness apps (Nike+ GPS) to geo-location (FourSquare), Doki Doki Dash could introduce a tness activity that’s more enjoyable for the exercise-adversed because it is a game rather than an exercise tool. is paper will highlight the user experience challenges faced in current applications and how it resulted in the idea, design, and interaction experience of Doki Doki Dash. Research

e eld of mobile tness apps and exercise games has risen dramatically in the last four years. To better understand the mechanics behind these popular tools, I studied what is currently on the market. Fitness apps are highly e ective for the informational data they provide but don’t provide a fun, experiential environment for added user motivation. Exercise games are limited to their indoor environments or are o en marketed to young children which limits their scope. By outlining these various projects’ successes and drawbacks, this will help demonstrate the niche that Doki Doki Dash makes for itself. Case Example: Mobile Fitness Apps For mobile apps, the most popular tness apps I studied were the Nike+ GPS, Run Keeper Pro, and Couch to 5k. ey all share similar features but for the best user experience, I’ll cover the Nike+ GPS. It is one of the best known iPhone running apps7 . It maps a user’s runs, tracks their progress, and updates the user’s performance status on their social network of choice (Facebook, Twitter). For social encouragement, users can hear ingame cheer sound e ects every time their friend likes or comments on their Nike+ run status on Facebook. e app provides metrics (average pace, total time, total distance, caloric burn) and o ers a data visualization of a user’s run history (a map that details the run trail and the intensity of pace). A user can choose to set a challenge (beat a previous distance or time record) or do a basic run. Nike+ GPS also has a social network website where users can meet fellow runners, track data, and add friends. A recent update has included a gaming element (Nike Tag) where a user can “tag” a friend with the challenge being to out-run the other’s run record.

Nike+ GPS. iTunes. March 2011.

While Nike+ GPS succeeds on many user experience levels, it is clearly geared toward runners. e app works as an elegant way to track users’ information but does not o er much motivation to stick to it aside from data logging and the occasional encouragement from an in-audio message. For social entertainment, it does allow friends to cheer users on via Facebook. However, it is, for the most part, a solitary exercise. Case Example: Geo-Location Apps FourSquare and SCVGR are the latest geolocation apps that in uence user behavior to explore establishments in their cities. Both apps foster ambient awareness of the people around an urban environment and passively monitoring it. FourSquare is recognized as creating the environment that established the user behavior of checking into location, notifying users of friends in the vicinity, and rewarding badges for regulars who frequently returned to check in8 . SCVGR builds on the FourSquare model by encouraging users to do scavenger hunts around a list of locations to earn game badges and unlock prizes9. Motivation-wise, FourSquare’s design (leaderboard scoring, friend progress) tethers users to keep playing with its built-in gamelike features. Motivation-wise, SCVGR was an interesting case study to examine whether player-submitted scavenger hunts and challenges inspire action for other players to participate. Case Example: Console Games Nintendo and Microso have sold millions of their motion-triggered console systems, the
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Wii and the Kinect. Both companies have created popular, casual games that are categorized as exer-gaming (Nintendo Wii Fit, Microso Kinect Sports). ese games rely on simple exercise routines that people can work out to within a short time frame. ey primarily focus on a solitary exercise mode. Some exercises do have a multiplayer environment so you can play with friends, however, that is not necessarily convenient for most people’s workout schedules. e game designers have succeeded in creating an entertaining way to get physical tness without feeling a sense of burdensome obligation to do so. However, there are drawbacks in the exercise games since they are limited to an in-door environment, the game world is limited and doesn’t scale in network size. Case Example: Spatial Games For large-scale, outdoor games that encourage physical exercise, I looked at Nike’s e Grid and Jane McGonigal’s game, CryptoZoo. Both games existed only in a set time range (with a start and end date) and had an appealing public spectacle element. However, the level of player engagement and collaboration di ered. While Nike’s e Grid was geared toward competition and tness-lovers, Jane McGonigal’s CryptoZoo was not. In October 2010, Nike debuted its large-scale running game, e Grid10. e game took place over several days included hundreds of registered online players. It was a large-scale “King of the Hill” style game where participants signed up online to play within London. Runners would claim certain territory by running from destination to destination, calling into various Nike-themed telephone booths to claim a

CrunchBase: FourSquare. March 2011. SCVGR. March 2011. e Grid: Run Your City. March 2011.


neighborhood. e more runs they made, the more points a player earned that would be displayed on a website leader board. Game badges were also awarded to players who demonstrated speed, stamina, and insider knowledge of their neighborhood streets. Jane McGonigal’s CryptoZoo game was a collaboration with the American Heart Association and the Future Institute of Play that debuted in June 200911 . e game encouraged players, solo or in teams, to research the game’s story creatures, read their behavioral patterns, and follow a trail of game creatures’ footprints in 1-mile journeys over urban environments. rough this scavengerlike game, players would be obliged to treat their urban environments as an obstacles course, getting physical active. Both games relied on tremendous game setup, a large scale of players to feel a sense of solidarity, and organization. CryptoZoo failed to capture player’s imagination because of its multiple rules to play the game and demands on users with its in-game tasks. e gaming mechanism wasn’t compelling to keep players playing beyond a day. Project Methodology User Research For user research, I collected surveys, tested mock-ups with selected participants, and captured feedback from users involved in test mock-ups. First, I gathered information from people to learn more about motivational behaviors regarding exercise and gaming and what played an in uence on physical performance. I created an initial question survey that gave me a spectrum in where a

user tester was in regards to tness aptitude and gaming interests. Questions included: “How o en do you play games?” to “What would you consider your exercise routine?” to “If you want to improve your tness level, what would help?”. For the two rounds of game testing, I did some initial brainstorming about essential game metrics: Are there tasks that feel fun, spark your interest, and make you want to keep playing to see the game progress? Do the goals change per challenge? What are the measurements of success? For the initial game test, I wanted to see whether audio feedback in uence player’s actions. Did assigning mid-run audio commands or comments incite players to keep up with the run? e audio test included an in-game character who introduced themselves to the player nad made announcements throughout the run from positive encouragements to issuing speed commands to the player. e audio test used an MP3 le that had a musical soundtrack layered with audio sound e ects triggered by time intervals (30 seconds, 1-minute mark, 2-minute mark). e audio sound e ects also included game sound e ects to indicate speed intensity and performance achievement. e three participants in the practice run were three guys in their mid 20s to early 30s. All three were in t shape, into casual gaming, and did use mobile tness apps like the Nike+ GPS. From their feedback, I learned that the initial test was intriguing to testers because it helped relieve the tedium of running and made the run feel spontaneous and challenging. One tester commented, “Paying attention to game/surroundings did make time go faster. Surprised by my [running] performance.”

CryptoZoo. March 2011.

For the second game test, I wanted to present a visual mock-up of a mobile game interface. If given a choice of exercise decisions (say, to walk or run) , which would a player choose and how would that impact their in-game progress? Would seeing how their decisions in uence their game progress make them act di erently? If seeing an in-game character that was asking for help, would a player voluntarily choose to aid them by performing bonus tasks? For the game mockup, I created an interactive Keynote presentation that used an iPhone interface. I interviewed four people; the participants were in mid 20s to early 30s, two guys and two girls. Some regularly exercised, whereas some did not. Some were casual gamers whereas others were hardcore gamers. From there, I dra ed initial game design goals that were inspired a er game testing and reading Greg Trefry’s book12 . • • • • Rules and goals must be clear. Players need to be able to quickly reach pro ciency. Casual game play adapts to a player’s life and schedule. Game concepts borrow familiar content and themes from life.

arcade games to mobile games. ey are motivated by game mechanics to have fun. ey want the freedom to be social in their gaming or to work out solo. ey are the types who either: A) Don’t regularly exercise because they consider it boring and don’t like the social atmosphere of gyms and tness classes. B) Exercise regularly but want something di erent from usual workout and desire a change of pace. Exertion Game Framework For guiding the design development of Doki Doki Dash, I was heavily in uenced by the works of Floyd Mueller and his framework of user experiences when it comes to building an exercise game13. ree key indicators, as described by Mueller and prescribed below, were what I kept in mind as I developed the game. • Awareness of Exertion: Masking the exertion goals with the game interaction to better pace the user in the exercises. is will help prevent burnout and overuse. • Exertion indicators: O en provoked when a user thinks, “How long can I keep up?”.How explicit should exercise commands be to keep players acting accordingly (“jog for 5 miles/per hour” vs “jog”) versus leaving the commands for the players to interpret according to their own capabilities. • Understanding Exertion: How to provide the exertion information to give more feedback or encouragement in the game? Game Overview

A pattern emerged from this game test that helped me hone my user personas. Distinct gamer personalities emerged with the mobile app mockup. Players who recognized an ingame achievement and status leveling up immediately went for harder exercise choices. Target Users My target users are people who like gaming, whether it was from playing board games to

Trefry, Gregory. Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in ALL of Us. Morgan Kau man: Amsterdam. 2010.

Mueller, Floyd. November, 2008.

Figure 1. Player exercise level choice.

Figure 2. Motion activity screen.

Doki Doki Dash is designed to accomplish two main user experiences for players. 1) Make exercise feel approachable, realistic, and doable in small steps. 2) Adaptable to player’s performance. Have the game grow in challenges as your performance improved. e game is intended to be played casually in set amounts of time that encourage a regular routine (20 minutes a time) and that assigned cases can easily be accomplished for the beginner exerciser and gradually become

more advanced as the player progresses in tness and game levels. Occasionally, players can set their action pace [Figure 1] or make decisions in the game (interviewing crime witnesses in the game, searching crime scene). ey can play their music to accompany their workout within the game[Figure 2]. Positive reinforcements are built in as game incentives to keep players loyal and recognize their accomplishments. Motivating a player’s exercise behavior will keep them incentivized to play more. e more the player plays, the better the player becomes is the general practice.

Figure 3. Training case mode.

Figure 4. Pulse rate scan. opportunities to tackle a case together [Figure 7]. Basic Walkthrough & Game Mechanics e game premise is simple. e player nd themselves situated in a detective agency. e boss character tells the player a crime has occurred and the criminal is on the loose. e criminal’s information is shown (name, mugshot). e boss character requests the player’s help in apprehending the criminal. ey are prompted to ll in a name.

Doki Doki Dash utilizes several tools to help players around the game: • Audio commands: In-game feedback that cue based on a player’s physical tness and location. • Map interface: Shows players where they are, where their next destinations are, and where criminals or other in-game characters may be lurking. • Social alerts: Players get ambient feedback in push noti cations that let them know if other players in their network are near and occasionally get alerts for collaborative


Figure 5. Player in-game decisions: interviewing in-game characters. Fitness Calibration e rst step in the game is to see how t a player is and calibrate their di culty level accordingly. at way, the game can cater to a beginner exerciser or an athletic exerciser. As a rst-time user, Doki Doki Dash will ask to test a player’s workout skill. It gives a training case where players chase a er a character [Figure 3]. A er the player runs as fast as possible in the training time period, they are assessed. e game asks for players to check in with a ngerprint scan as identi cation proof.

Figure 6. Player Pro le.

e ngerprint scan is really just a clever, subversive way to check a player’s heart rate. e iPhone’s camera ash can be pulsed to check a player’s pulse [Figure 4]. Doki Doki Dash can then measure a player’s workout intensity along with a xed metrics like time and distance. is is really helpful to gauge a player’s performance so as it goes up, so does the di culty of the challenges. A er the initial training mode, the player is assigned a criminal case and given speci c ingame tasks that ask them to travel (at di erent pace intervals) en route to locations that can

be imaginary (rooted only in the game) or real venues in your neighborhood. Along the game trail, the player may nd clues to the crime, interview witnesses at crime scenes [Figure 5], and hunt down the criminal if nearby. ese in-game events are also built-in methods to get players to take a breath and rest for a bit, preventing workout burnout and giving the game a rhythm and pace. A er a player has apprehended their rst criminal, they are then allowed to see their in-game accomplishments, ranking, and progress [Figure 6]. As one case is closed, another is opened and players can advance from being a rookie detective to the top rank of chief inspector. Social Play Doki Doki Dash gives players opportunities to collaborate to ght crime. Occasionally, there are cases that require multiplayer support so players can add friends to join them on cases. Here’s where geo-location is key for multiplayer play. Players can live in the same neighborhood. If the game can judge their home location, it can judge a midway location for multiple players to assemble for game tasks in the area. Game Reward ( e Payo ) Figure 7. Multiplayer case. • Meaning: Chance to be part of a larger experience and contribute to the player community. User Interface & Visual Design e user experience for Doki Doki Dash had to be simple, straightforward, and easy to pick up for a casual gamer on a touch-screen smartphone. e game is built on simple decision trees that ask users to accept tasks or make an A/B decision. e more intuitive the game play, the less barriers to have players go explore the game.

Doki Doki Dash rewards players by providing them 3 intrinsic rewards as in uenced by McGonigal’s work: • Satisfactory Work: e ability to be immersed in tasks that demand player activity and the direct impact of our actions. • Successful Experience: Imbue players with optimism to succeed, aspire, and selfimprovement. • Social Connection: Share a common experience with a community of involved players

e visual design played a critical part in the creation of Doki Doki Dash. e game is intended to look friendly, inviting, and whimsical. Game characters were built to have distinctive, colorful looks paired with silly, nonsensical names that gave them a memorable personality. Technical Initially, Doki Doki Dash was to be built in Corona, a mobile app-building program. However, technical limitations and time constraints prevented me from being able to build a fully realized version of the game. Instead, I chose to focus more building Doki Doki Dash’s game experience and prototyping it in Keynote to give users a simple proof-ofconcept. If my e orts succeed early, I will than focus on producing a simple version in Corona as an early working concept. Conclusions My primary goal for Doki Doki Dash was to create a compelling reason to go workout from a gamer’s perspective. By utilizing a crime game, role-playing as a detective, and geo-location triggers, Doki Doki Dash is a mashup of familiar genres to make the game play feel more familiar to new players. If players can get in shape while enjoying Doki Doki Dash, I’d consider my thesis a win-win. It’s a game that o ers a compelling reason to get someone o their couch and explore their neighborhood in an active way – especially for people new to regular workouts. Acknowledgements Many thanks to professors, game designers, game testers, and fellow classmates for providing me feedback during my thesis. Special thanks go to ITP faculty and alum that include Shawn Van Every, Greg Trefry, Adam Simon and Michael Dory. For feedback and

testing, I’d like to give special acknowledgements to David Phillips, Sebastian Buys, Dave Miller, Keng-Fu Chu, and Floyd Mueller for their helpful feedback during the thesis game testing process.