As many of you reading this know, I recently (perfectly amicably) parted ways with Harmonix, ending my role there as Web Director. My 3 years at Harmonix were some of the best years of my professional life, not only because of the sheer awesomeness of the employees there, but also because it introduced me to the video game industry, which is an absolutely fascinating economic microcosm. To my “release early, release often” web brain, the concept of working for years in secrecy – then permanently burning the results to millions of plastic discs – was absolutely fascinating.My job at Harmonix was to meld the console gaming world with the web world. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but it became clear to me that merging offline experiences with online communities would be the future of brand building.
My unwritten (or maybe it was written – I’m not sure) mission statement for the work I did at Harmonix was “To make people think about Rock Band when they’re not playing Rock Band”. I got pretty good at thinking along those lines and soon that became part of my overall worldview as a “web guy”. People aren’t always using your product but, these days, they’re almost always glued to some online device or another. How can you take advantage of that fact to keep your brand fresh in their minds? This question became my professional passion.The job hunt when I left Harmonix was a bit more arduous than I had expected. Although I had been a hands-on web developer for almost a decade before joining Harmonix, my role there primarily as an “idea guy” became a bit of a liability. (As a tangent to any folks out there in similar roles – if you are in the web business, keep your technical skills sharp with personal projects and a solid portfolio, no matter how cerebral or managerial your day job becomes.)
The problem with being an idea guy is that it’s really hard to find precisely the right kind of company that needs your particular variety of ideas – especially if you don’t want to move clear across the country to find a gig.Fortunately, I managed to find that company (or, they managed to find me). It’s a fast-growing startup that was looking for someone to build a compelling online experience and community around their core product – an offline experience. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so, too, so I jumped at the opportunity. But this company isn’t in the game business – it’s in the health and fitness business. I’d make a crack about health and fitness being at the opposite end of some spectrum from video games but, well, Dance Central.
In a few weeks, I’ll begin my job as Online Experience Product Manager at Koko FitClub.
Koko FitClub is a fitness center franchise with an absolutely unique difference – the Koko Smartraining SystemTM . Koko’s clubs provide a fully automated personal training system. Everything you need to do for your 30 minute workouts is presented to you on a screen as you exercise on their custom-designed machines. Everything from the weight levels you should use (which adjust as you progress over time), to the actual pace of your routine, are clearly presented to you just 12 inches in front of your face. As someone who’s tried gyms but hates keeping track of things and dealing with human trainers, my first time using one of these machines was a revelation – so very geek-friendly.
Check out the video:
Koko is truly an innovator and clearly focused on the future. As part of that forward-looking vision, they’ve been storing every bit of workout data on secure servers to let people track their progress online. Some fitness companies may be content just to let you know how many calories you burned or how many reps you did – just like some game companies may be content to give you only basic leaderboards online. But that’s not how we rolled at Harmonix, and that’s not how Koko rolls.
I’m not going to spoil the fun by saying much more about what’s up our sleeves, but just know that I’m going to be doing everything I can to make physical fitness an accessible, FUN goal for all you web addicts (and gamers!) out there. And, as a web addict and gamer myself who could use a little more fitness, it’s a bonus thrill to have the chance to be my own guinea pig on this adventure.
Now I DEFINITELY have an excuse to pick up some custom NIKEiD kicks I’ve been thinking about for a while.See you in the gym!