We started this idea on, if we do games differently and health differently, what would that look like?

Traditionally, video games and health have been two very separate categories. If you’re a gamer, common perception says you avoid sunlight at all costs, love Cheetos, and spend more time wearing sweatpants than real items of clothing. Is this an unfair, sweeping generalization? Definitely, but it still exists. If you’re a health nut, common perception says you wake up at 4am to go swimming, love kale, and go out of your way to shame anyone eating a Hot Pocket. This is also an unfair, sweeping generalization, but exists nonetheless.

Here’s my point: just because things have always been done a certain way, that people have always believed gamers can’t be healthy and healthy people can’t be gamers, doesn’t mean that will always be the case.

“We started this idea on, if we do games differently and health differently, what would that look like?” said Tim Cooley.

Cooley was working for a health and wellness company when he had an idea for a game dedicated to get people walking. He pulled in three others (Binoy Mohanty, Eleora Nelson, Topher Nadauld), created a company name (Random Breakfast), and started honing down the idea.

“We met an advisor, his name is Jeff Peters, and we showed him the initial prototype, we hadn’t even coded anything yet,” said Cooley. “And he kept asking these questions: ‘Why would I come back? Why would I do this?’ We learned a ton about game development from that simple question and because of this, we changed the whole system.”

Initially, StepPets was designed to be a game based on walking virtual pets. This quickly transitioned into its current iteration, a level-based game where you save the planet from invading asteroids, unlock other pets, and uncover treasures.

“It’s a normal game, imagine Mario getting to the castle and then getting to the next castle,” said Coolet. “But we’ve done different things. So, the level is created by the way you walk. For example, if you downloaded it and have an iPhone, the first couple data points are flat because that’s when you were sleeping. You can notice when you woke up, when you went to lunch, it naturally creates hills and that’s how we track your steps. The higher the hills, the more positive things have happened.”

Funded through prize money from various competitions (Bench2Bedside, Games4Health) and a grant from Zions Bank, StepPets has recently been released on iTunes. It combines aspects of both gaming and health, like being able to earn Stepcoins by walking and then use them to purchase items within the game. If Random Breakfast is striving to help you view games and health differently, then this is where it starts.

“We just want to make fun games and then loop health in under the hood,” Cooley said. “Imagine playing Clash of Clans and instead of waiting for six hours, you can go for a five minute walk and something will happen.”

Published 12/16/2015