Okay, so I was talking with Anni and Alyssa about what would motivate me to exercise, and I decided that what would work best is some way of tying my use of the internet to an exercise bike. Anni suggested that I just tie it to the power supply, but I don’t like that for a number of reasons – what would ideally happen is that I would have a stationary bike with something that counts the number of revolutions, and then tie that into Firefox with some kind of mod, so that going anywhere on the internet requires a certain amount of cycling. Well that’s all well and good, and would make an interesting project if I had the time and money to do it, but it led me to an even better idea: a combination gym and RPG.
In its simplest form, the RPGym would just be a series of Achievements or Rewards, so that you would get a little computerized medal which said “Biked 50 miles” once you had done that. And then you would have different difficulties for things like that, which would get harder over time (bronze, silver, gold, etc.). The whole system would be set up so that anything can be achieved given enough time.
But with enough money and programming, you could set it up so that you have an RPG built on top of gym membership. You would have to have all of the machines feeding information into a game, so that each action you can perform would be a different exercise machine. So traveling around the Realm would use the treadmill or elliptical, or the rowing machine for sea travel, and every other machine would be used for doing jobs for the locals, like crushing grapes, working a bellows for the smith, climbing a cliff, etc. You would get money and experience for the things you did too. Anyway, the whole thing would be designed around the same psychological tricks that MMOs use to keep you playing – but it would be a lot more upfront about it, because that would be the main draw of the RPGym. Characters would get loot, improve skills, etc. The type of character you have would probably depend on what kind of workout you wanted – bruisers would have a lot of weight lifting, while rangers would have a lot of cardio.
Okay, so the problems – I’m not sure how economically feasible it would be to modify machines to feed information into a program, and build a game around that information. There are lots of things like weight lifting that aren’t normally hooked into computers – and to be a full service gym, you would want to have pretty much everything hooked into the game. You would also want to have some unobtrusive way of doing this – probably RFID tags that would be worn around lanyards? – so that gym members wouldn’t have to spend more than 5% of their time at the gym dealing with the game. That said, given the right implementation, I think this could be a great idea, sort of like Wii Sports on steroids, but with RPG elements added for the psychological factor.