The Gamification of the Apple Watch

Anna Lynch
3 min readAug 29, 2019
Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

Would you be more inclined to exercise regularly if it were more like a video game? In Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal describes how games can make people happier than reality itself. She proposes “fixes” to make reality more enjoyable by resembling a game. She begins this explanation by describing the four primary traits of a game.

  1. There are specific goals in the game the player can look forward to achieving.
  2. There are rules regarding how a player can go about achieving these goals.
  3. The player receives feedback regarding their progress in achieving the goals.
  4. The player voluntarily participates in the game by accepting the goals, rules, and feedback system.

These traits can also be applied to the Apple Watch, which is a fitness tracker that tracks calories, exercise minutes, and standing hours. By incorporating these traits into the Apple Watch, fitness tracking resembles an enjoyable game.

The user of an Apple Watch can expect challenges such as daily move goals. The specific move goals are to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, burn a certain number of calories, and stand at least once an hour for 12 separate hours in the day. These move goals are tracked by an appealing and colorful ring that becomes a fully closed circle once all the move goals are met. There are also monthly move goals. For example, the monthly move goal could be to close the exercise ring at least 20 times during the month. Users are given a sense of purpose to meet these move goals.

There are rules involved in completing the move goals on the Apple Watch. For example, a user cannot set the Apple Watch to track an exercise while sitting on the couch. The watch will acknowledge that the user’s heart rate is not high enough to be considered exercise, and the tracker will turn off. Also, it is a widely accepted rule that the Apple Watch should only track one person’s move goals. In other words, two people should not share a watch to complete the daily goals.

The feedback system of the Apple Watch is very motivating. The display of the rings closing into a full circle is a feedback system, as it shows the progress of the user’s move goals. However, the Apple Watch also gives feedback notifications throughout the day. For example, if the move rings have not progressed as much as usual during the day, the Apple Watch will notify the user to “check your rings.” If it is near the end of the day and the user has not met the move goals, the Apple Watch will notify the user to “close the move rings.” When achievements such as monthly goals and streaks are met, a badge is added to the user’s collection as a reward for completing goals. The Apple Watch also notifies the user if a friend completes all of the daily goals or completes an exercise, which gives the user a sense of social connectivity and friendly competition to keep up.

Wearing an Apple Watch to track one’s fitness is a voluntary act. The user acknowledges that an Apple Watch is not necessary to exercise and be involved in fitness. Still, the user chooses to participate in the act of wearing an Apple Watch. The game-like feel of tracking fitness with an Apple Watch gives users incentive and motivation to keep up their fitness routines, making it an overall positive experience.



Anna Lynch

Just a content writer with a passion for technology