Non-Traditional Storytelling

I love stories.

Not just books (though I love them as well) but stories told in any fashion. Movies, TV shows, books, video games even. Any way that a story can be told, I’m a big fan–and I know that there’s many different ways to tell a story. I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting ways, and sometimes what I find surprises me.

However, none have quite lived up to what I found at Abel Township.

I hate exercise, as a general rule. I get tired and sweaty and I don’t want to do anything afterward. I have enough trouble keeping up motivation on an average day; I don’t need help feeling like sitting around and doing nothing is my best decision. I’ve tried all manner of things to get myself up and moving. I have a Wii which is excellent at collecting dust. I have elastic resistance bands that I think are in my closet…? I have dumbbells which make excellent paper weights. I’m bad at this. (It’s one of the things I like the most about my job at the café; it keeps me on my feet and moving around.)

But when I started hearing people talk about something called Zombies, Run! on the Internet, I was intrigued. A running app? Zombies? What’s going on now?

The more I heard about it, the more interested I became. Unfortunately, my phone at the time wasn’t capable of running the app, so I had to wait until I upgraded my phone–and then downloaded the program. I was living in fairly rural New York at the time, and had big long empty roads to walk/run on. It was perfect conditions. I strapped on my shoes, put in my headphones, and set off.

What I found was a whole different world. A helicopter crash, a desperate run for safety, and all the while, a single British male voice on the other side, urging me along and hoping for my survival. Sam Yao, comms operator for Abel Township–where the chopper had been trying to get me. Obviously, I couldn’t talk back to Sam (and thus, neither could my character, who Sam dubbed Runner 5), but I felt connected to him. I wanted to do well–for him, and for the township. When Dr. Myers spoke up from behind him, I wanted to impress her. I wanted to prove myself worthy.

I wanted to run.

I’d never wanted to run before in my life, but for Sam and Abel Township, I wanted to run.

Now granted, I didn’t run very well. I found the 5k training app that Six to Start (the company behind Zombies, Run!) had put out and tried that. It’s an interval training course, all set up with Dr. Myers training you–with Sam’s help from the comms booth–to be the best Runner Abel could ask for.

I was awful. I still am awful. I could get to about Week 3 before my side or leg or both would give out and I’d be limping for the rest of the time. Once I got to Week 5 before having to give up. But I never completely gave up. I still haven’t given up. It’s actually a bit like winter here in Virginia for the moment, and I do have this job that keeps me on my feet, but I haven’t forgotten about Abel Township or Sam. I “ran” my first 5k through the Virtual Run Six to Start did last fall. They’re doing another at the end of March through the beginning of April, and I’m hoping to do that one as well. I want to get back into the program. I miss Sam and the other Runners. I want to know what’s happening in Abel. I want to finish the 5k program and get into the app proper and start building up my base–since you can do that, through the supplies you pick up as you run and the Zombielink that sends all that data to your account on the site, allowing you to update a virtual Abel.

This isn’t just some app. This is one of the best storytelling methods I’ve seen in a long time, and it convinces people otherwise less inclined to get up and do something in order to progress the story.

And if that’s not the perfect motivation, I don’t know what is.

(I want to make a special note here at the bottom to thank Philip Nightingale, the voice of Sam Yao, not only for giving life to that amazing character, but for being a friendly voice of support off of the comms desk as well. He’s spoken to me briefly on Twitter before, encouraging me to keep running–just like Sam always does. It’s meant a great deal to me, and I hope to keep making both him and Sam proud. Thank you, sir.)


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