Monday, 20 May 2013

If life is a sport, make sure you know how to cheat with the Nike+ Fuelband.

What do you get a man that has everything for Christmas? Far from being that man, I was void of ideas last year and asked my better half for a Nike+ Fuelband. Along with the promise (from me) that this precious bracelet would kickstart my health kick. 

Costing £129.99, it was the ideal price point and timing for a fitness-related present. At the time of writing, Nike has stuck to this RRP despite new competition from Fitbit and Jawbone 'fueling' the fitness accessory marketplace with arguably better tech and features. 

Once the wrapping paper was off, the packaging design had a reassuring air of Apple about it. However, I didn't take my new toy out of the box until after the Christmas leftovers had disappeared. I connected the well-designed USB cable and was greeted with a request for my height and post-turkey weight, as well as how many 'Nikefuel' points I wanted to target. Eager to please myself, I decided to go for the minimal 2,000 Nikefuel goal. After all, who asks for failure on a daily basis as their Christmas present, right?

The dotted colour bar on the band was a nice gamification touch and kept me motivated to reach my goal before bedtime for the first few weeks. Charging the band meant syncing my data with Nike+, where winners are treated to a dancing naked Nike+ ninja and fireworks for streaking (achievements together).

If you believe the Nike marketing gods, the problem was that I found myself playing the game and not using the Fuelband to record my life as a sport. I started to cheat. Cheating is probably a stretch - like any game - I found the glitches and used them to my advantage. 

As a lefty I tend to wear watches on my right wrist - the same wrist I use to move my desktop mouse at work. While working late one night, I found that I had reached my goal when my only activity had been shuttle runs between my desk and the kettle in the office kitchen. I found taking a bus over the tube to work every day would earn me more points, while I would go to sleep just short of my goal, knowing a few tosses and turns would get me across the line.

Then the inevitable happened one fateful day when I forgot to put my Fuelband on. From that day on it all went to shit. The streaking ninja party animal was nowhere to be seen and he (I'm guessing) might as well have pulled down a 'GAME OVER' banner. Several false starts later and my appetite for Nikefuel was empty. If life was a sport, then I had gone into early retirement. 

The thing is, the Nike marketing gods got it wrong. Life isn't a sport, it's a game. And that is what the Fuelband has going for it over its competitors. Everyone with a Fuelband earning Nikefuel is playing the same game, regardless of how many calories they burn or steps they take. If the Nike+ Fuelband was life imitating sport, I would still be looking for a way to cheat and Lance Armstrong would have been choosen by the Nike PR department as the face of the launch campaign. Oh wait, he was...

This morning I decided to reboot my Nike+ Fuelband. I realised that it wasn't game over, I just needed to restart on a harder level. I have gone for a daily 3,000 Nikefuel points target on this "run" rather than the maximum 5,000. Like all good games, I figured it's important to ensure there is replay value.  

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