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The Role Of Steps And Game Elements In Gamified Fitness Tracker Apps: A Systematic Review

Aatish Neupane, Derek Hansen, Jerry Alan Fails, Anud Sharma

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This article reviews 103 gamified fitness tracker apps (Android and iOS) that incorporate step count data into gameplay. Games are labeled with a set of 13 game elements as well as meta-data from the app stores (e.g., avg rating, number of reviews). Network clustering and visualizations are used to identify the relationship between game elements that occur in the same games. A taxonomy of how steps are used as rewards is provided, along with example games. An existing taxonomy of how games use currency is also mapped to step-based games. We show that many games use the triad of Social Influence, Competition, and Challenges, with Social Influence being the most common game element. We also identify holes in the design space, such as games that include a Plot element (e.g., Collaboration and Plot only co-occur in one game). Games that use Real-Life Incentives (e.g., allow you to translate steps into dollars or discounts) were surprisingly common, but relatively simple in their gameplay. We differentiate between task-contingent rewards (including completion-contingent and engagement-contingent) and performance-contingent rewards, illustrating the differences with fitness apps. We also demonstrate the value of treating steps as currency by mapping an existing currency-based taxonomy onto step-based games and providing illustrations of nine different categories.