Dead Men Running


Adrian Hon, Chief Creative Officer at Six to Start Games talks to Steven Balbirnie about the app which crosses the genres of fitness and horror currently taking the world by storm: Zombies, Run!



Adrian Hon is probably most famous for designing and producing the massively popular alternate reality game, Perplex City, while working at Mind Candy. In 2007 he left Mind Candy and co-founded Six to Start Games with his brother Dan (now interactive creative director at Wieden+Kennedy), and it wasn’t long before their company was garnering critical acclaim. Innovative titles such as We Tell Stories and Smokescreen won the company various awards. Six to Start Games’ most recent franchise, Zombies, Run! continues this innovation.

In Zombies, Run! you play as a character known as ‘Runner 5’. Your objective in the game is to go on scavenging runs for basic supplies to aid the burgeoning post- apocalyptic Abel Township, all while evading the clutches of the walking dead. As you run, you automatically collect items that you can then assign to your base when you return home. Each of the app’s missions lasts between 20 and 30 minutes, and the game’s story unfolds as you progress; but you need to be careful because if you can’t keep up the pace you risk being devoured by your undead pursuers. The game also allows you to sync your progress online via its ‘Zombielink’ service so you can share it with your friends.

When asked about the origins of the concept for a game as unique as Zombies, Run! Hon explains that it arose from a synthesis of ideas that were both technical and artistic. “It came from a couple of places. I’ve been a runner for a long time now, but it didn’t come naturally. I only really got into it with the help of gadgets like the Garmin Forerunner GPS watch, which at least helped you see how much you were improving. The problem was that they didn’t make running any more interesting or fun, and even when GPS tracking apps became commonplace, no one seemed to be making running games for smartphones, so it was something that I’ve wanted to do for
some time.”

“The other half of the inspiration came from our co-creator and writer Naomi Alderman, who fairly recently joined a running club,” says Hon. “When they asked people why they’d joined, some people said ‘to get fit’, others ‘to lose weight’, but one person said, ‘to survive the zombie apocalypse’! We put two and two together, and that’s where Zombies, Run! came from!”

The idea clearly struck a chord with the public, as upon its release earlier this year, Zombies, Run! swiftly became the top grossing health and fitness app in the Apple app store. Hon, while surprised at the scale of the app’s success, believes that this was because they were catering for an audience, which up till then, hadn’t been engaged with by developers. “Obviously we were delighted. We knew that the idea was popular, but we didn’t know it was that popular. I think the reason why it was so successful is because everyone already wants to improve their fitness and for a lot of people, going out running is the cheapest and most obvious option, except for the fact that it can also be really boring. So an app that only costs a few pounds and makes running far more fun and effective is a great proposition for a lot of people.”

Following on from the success of the first game, Six to Start Games have now developed and released another Zombies, Run! app, this time specifically designed to help people with little or no running experience get into it. “Zombies, Run! was for people who already did a bit of jogging and running, whereas Zombies, Run! 5k Training is for total beginners who have never really run properly before. It includes 25 workouts spread out over eight weeks, designed by running experts, that will help people go from complete novices to being able to run a 5k distance in one go.”

The new app will also not be a stand-alone title; instead its plot will further develop the storyline which was established in the first Zombies, Run! game. “It takes place before the events in Zombies, Run! but features many of the same characters and places, so it’s a great introduction to the story for new players, and it’s also a fun way for existing players to get more story as well!”

With season 2 of Zombies, Run! also already currently in development, Adrian Hon and Six to Start Games look set to forge further ahead in the horror fitness genre which they have so ingeniously created.

Zombies, Run! 5k Training is available to buy now at the App Store for $3.99 and the original Zombies, Run! is available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone for $7.99