It’s been almost two years since fitness geeks Brian Wang and Dick Talens launched Fitocracy, a game that married their love of bodybuilding with their passion for role-playing games like EverQuest and Starcraft. The game has almost 750,000 registered users logging workouts via the iPhone app and website, but about half of them are Android users. As of today, an Android version of the app is finally available in the Google Play store.
And of course, there are badges
Fitocracy is designed like a social network, with profiles, status updates, comments, and photos — but all the talk revolves around fitness. Users get points based on their regular workouts or by participating in pre-planned sets of exercises called "quests." And of course, there are badges. "Fitocracy makes exercising fun through gamification, awarding points and badges for workouts well done and ranking users to spark friendly competition," the company says.
New Year's resolution season brought interest from the press, including a review on The Dr. Oz Show, and the app was featured by Apple in the App Store's New Year's section. Unfortunately, the Android app could not be finished in time for January 1.
Fitness is a hotly-contested market across all platforms, with everything from Wii Fit to immersive games like Run Zombies Run vying for users’ attention. Data-centric apps like Runkeeper and Jawbone could also be considered Fitocracy’s competitors. There are also bodybuilding-specific competitors like Fleetly and WeightTraining.com, which have incorporated some similar gaming elements.
Despite all the crowding in the field, Fitocracy is one of the most social and addictive fitness trackers in the genre. It's designed to take advantage of the kind of game mechanics that have sucked people into playing video games for years. As the founders are fond of saying, playing the game is like leveling up your EverQuest character — except you’re leveling up yourself. Fitocracy users spend an average of 3.5 hours a month using the app (by comparison, Twitter users spend 21 minutes a month).
Fitocracy is one of the most social and addictive fitness trackers in the genre
The app also offers the ability to start or join a group challenge, in which friends compete against each other. Users can also join groups, which may be interest-based or groups of friends, like "Getting Fit for the Zombie Apocalypse." Fitocracy also has a searchable database of exercises and the ability to save up to eight workouts for free. The premium version, "Fitocracy Hero," lets subscribers challenge each other to one-on-one duels, save other people’s workouts, get early access to new features, and save an unlimited number of routines for $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year.
Some interesting dynamics have emerged in the extremely body-conscious community. Much of the comments traded back and forth are positive, between both guys and girls, who are constantly posting pictures of their abs, biceps, and so on. "But as you might imagine, a lot of flirtatious behavior and cross-gender compliments as well," Wang admitted. "An enormous amount of that, actually." A few users became couples through Fitocracy, he said. "People joke about us starting a dating service all the time."
There’s also a dark side to all this focus on body image
There’s also a dark side to all this focus on body image, and some users can be sensitive to criticism. As a result, the eight-person company spends a lot of time on community moderation. "We've even got a nucleus of users inside the community that came over from 4chan and brought that culture with them," he said, referring to the image-based, anonymous forum that is notorious for attracting immature and hateful users. "We've had to cordon them off into their own little sandbox. They call themselves ‘/fit/’. Whenever their cultural standards and language leak outside of their little area, things can get very nasty."
The Android version is missing a few features, including the leaderboard and group challenges, which were left out due in the time crunch. However, Wang looks at it as an experiment. "Might be a good opportunity to see if simplifying the app by cutting some of those things out makes sense," he said.
When asked about his New Year’s resolution, Wang gave the stock startup response: be the best CEO he can be. As far as fitness goes, he admits he’s hoping to stick to a healthy diet while also maintaining a healthy social life. "It's taken years to learn how to do both," he said.