A new fitness program that asks gamers to earn time gaming by exercising is targeting fans of one of the biggest releases of the year.
“Skyrim Fitness” pushes players of Bethesda Softwork’s latest massive fantasy role-playing game to do 10 push-ups to earn an hour of time in a world that can take 60, 80, 100 hours to fully play and explore.
Yes, that could mean hardcore gamers who wrap up playing through “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” also rack up 1,000 push-ups.
Jason Cross, senior Editor at PCWorld, kicked off the “Skyrim” fitness program the day before the game hit shelves last week. To make it a bit easier to track, and a bit more fun to participate in, he tied it to community fitness website Fitocracy.
Fitocracy, which is still in beta, is a website that allows people to track their workouts and earn points that are used to level up their account. While the website and the “Skyrim Fitness” program both use the honor system, trusting people to be honest about their workouts, there seems no point in joining if your intention is to lie your way through the game.
Cross said he signed up for the Fitocracy beta a couple of weeks ago to see what all of the hoopla was about.
Tying a role-playing game fitness program to a fitness program role-playing game seems like a perfect fit. The idea of creating a group in Fitocracy dedicated to “Skyrim” players, and then suggesting everyone workout to earn play time just popped into his head, Cross said.
“I figured I would be spending a whole lot of time on just one game over the next few weeks,” he said. “It’s certainly not completely original: Gamers have done exercises as ‘punishment’ for losing rounds in ‘Starcraft 2’ or ‘League of Legends,’ or during the long wait of flight paths in ‘World of Warcraft.’ Some have set up computers or consoles so they can play while on their treadmills or exercise bikes. I just thought it was be a good way to break up an otherwise sedentary game with a little exercise.”
Cross settled on “Skyrim” because he felt it was the best fit. It’s a single-player game, so one can take breaks more easily. Also, it’s the sort of game that inevitably sucks up a lot of time, which could mean a lot of push-ups.
While Cross suggested players do 10 push-ups for every hour of gameplay, he’s following a tougher schedule.
“I’m personally doing 12 pushups, and I’ll increase that by two every 10 hours of cumulative game time,” he said.
The reaction to Cross’ idea, first presented on Google+ and then on website Reddit, has been overwhelmingly positive. Nearly 200 people have already joined the Fitocracy group and plenty of people are coming up with their own tweaks on Cross’ “Skyrim” fitness plan.
“The biggest criticism seems to be from users that claim 10 push-ups is a trivial amount for any grown person and that the hourly number should be far higher,” Cross said. “In truth, there are lots plenty of gamers who struggle to do 10 push-ups. They’re harder than you think if you have follow proper form and pace. Many people are substituting the push-ups with 20 crunches or five pull-ups or what-have-you, which is totally fine. It’s not meant to replace the gym, and it’s not going to make the extra pounds melt off or buff you up. It’s only meant to be a little physical activity to make your briefly exert yourself and take breaks while you play in a way that’s fast and easy enough to do in your living room or den. If it’s not something you’ll stick with, it’s worthless.”
I’ve been using the program myself, not just for “Skyrim,” but all of the games I play. I’ve also started using the same program with my 10-year-old son Tristan, who is allowed to game only for a limited time on weekends.
Tristan’s program allows him to earn an hour’s gaming time on the weekend by doing 10 push-ups, 20 sit-ups or 100 jumping jacks. He can earn two hours of game time by jogging a mile with his mother or me. As with the original “Skyrim Fitness” program, he’s not allowed to bank time. So he has to take a break every hour, or two, to earn more time.
Tristan ended up doing about 60 push-ups over the weekend, an amount that had him struggling by Sunday afternoon and sore Monday morning. The exercise requirement also led to his taking a break from gaming all together and going outside with his friends to play more.
While “Skyrim Fitness” is a neat idea, Cross reminds that it’s not meant to be a complete fitness program.
“It’s just meant to be a lot better than simply sitting in front of the screen for hours on end,” he said. “While it won’t turn you into an Adonis, I’m pretty sure you’ll notice a difference if you play 100 hours of ‘Skyrim’ over the next month. 1000 push-ups in a month is not trivial.”
Brian Crecente is managing editor of Kotaku.com, a video-game website owned by Gawker Media. Join in the discussion at kotaku.com/tag/well-played.