The Future of Gaming: “Helping gamers get physically and mentally fit” With Yash Jain of Hero Trainer
What separates the beginners from the best? The future is eSports, and building a game that creates an environment for a high skill cap will keep players coming back for competitions well after the game has passed its prime. Street Fighter is an old fighting game with a large following in eSports for this exact reason. Street Fighter, at the pro gamer level requires perfect frame timing (meaning being able to react to attacks at 1/60th of a second), allowing for a high ceiling of competition. In fact, one of the most iconic moments in eSport history is when Daigo deflected15 strikes from his opponent at 1 health and counter attacked into victory.
As a part of our series about what’s around the corner for the toy, game, and video game industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yash Jain.
Yash Jain is the founder and CEO of Hero Trainer — a free mobile app where users can earn rewards in games on PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, Apple, and Android for walking. Listed #3 Product of Day on Product Hunt. Hero Trainer is a startup based in San Francisco.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
As a gamer, I always found it hard to stay motivated to exercise. Any time I spent away from the game felt like a waste. My character’s level and gear meant more to me than my own health. A few games tried to introduce and keep gamers in engaged in exercising, but eventually failed as players lost interest. Pokemon Go came the closest to getting people to maintain a routine by getting people out of the house and walking around. However, not everyone was into Pokemon and many lost interest a few months afterwards. I thought I could apply the logic of Pokemon Go to every single video game to help tackle this problem for everyone.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
People I never thought would reach out to me did. Former NFL player, Landon Turner, reached out to me on Instagram to support Hero Trainer. E-sports host Jess Brohard reached out to me regarding a potential collaboration for an upcoming mental health product she is working on. I learned that a impactful company mission will rally people to help.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, my girlfriend, Elizabeth Anderson. Especially when the funds were tight in-between fundraising rounds, she proactively bought groceries for me. She also has made sure to get me out of the house on the weekends to get fresh air and to take breaks from my work to prevent burnout. I would say founder burn-out is one of the main reasons startups fail.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In addition to getting gamers to exercise and providing game rewards for free, we have partnered with Anchor Therapy Clinic, a veteran’s mental health non-profit. They reached out to us for support in helping veteran’s avoid PTSD with gaming, but also by keeping them healthy through exercising. We believe this model can be extended to many organizations that target crippling mental and physical diseases in children and adults.
Ok fantastic. Let’s now move to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell us about the technological innovations in gaming that you are working on?
Currently, we offer a premium game gift card once you walk a certain number of steps. This means you can get an entire game or premium game reward for any game console free simply by walking. The next iteration we are working on is syncing directly with a game. For example, when you walk a step on Hero Trainer, you directly level up or get rewards in the game you play. The reward would be immediate and provide an even greater incentive feedback loop.
How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?
Today, all of exercise gaming is centered around one game. Remember playing Wii Fit or even Pokemon Go? These products eventually declined because they’re tied to one game or game system. It quickly loses its novelty as the next exercise game comes out. Hero Trainer allows exercise for ANY game on ANY system, so you don’t have to get fit with a game you no longer care about.
You also have the capability to earn an entire game or premium game reward (meaning it’s a cash purchase item only) for free by walking. It’s a no-brainer for users: it’s free, they get rewards, and they can earn those rewards while going to grocery store or walking their dog.
You, of course, know that games and toys are not simply entertainment, but they can be used for important purposes. What is the “purpose” or mission behind your company? How do you think you are helping people or society?
The mission behind Hero Trainer is to help gamers get physically and mentally fit. We provide rewards that help incentivize gamers to get fit. In fact, one user lost 30 lbs in 2 months using Hero Trainer. We have also noticed users who decide to walk a few extra steps will generally begin to monitor and make healthy lifestyle changes (i.e change diet, play sports, etc.) We have also built a chat feature with in the app to help people connect to discuss challenges they may face and receive encouragement from other users. These features have been highly important to users’ mental and physical health during the pandemic. In the long term and on a larger scale, we believe we can also help reduce the hospital costs and length of stays for each gamer.
I’m very interested in the interface between games and education. How do you think more people (parents, teachers etc.) or institutions (work, school etc.) can leverage toys or gamification to enhance education?
I received my MBA from Quantic University — a fully accredited online MBA. Instead of being a string of Youtube videos, it works like Duo Lingo. You have bite sized lessons with fun quizzes to retain the information beyond the exams. I believe a similar product should be extended to public education as well. Especially in times like these- when teachers are competing for kids’ attention during remote lessons.
However, since it is not the case, I believe there are a few ways teachers can gamify their classes right now: 1) Keep it fun: Focus live class time on the visually exciting/practical applications of the lesson. 2) Incentivize: Provide extra credit for students who ask thoughtful questions whether written or verbally during live classes 3) Support: Leave a small recording of 3–5 minutes for each type of problem. This system does the following things: it provides engagement, incentives, and offers options for students to learn at their own pace like Khan Academy.
How would you define a “successful” game or toy? Can you share an example of a game or toy that you hold up as an aspiration?
A successful game is one that serves as a platform to attach a powerful memory. Pokemon Go is a game I hold up as an aspiration. It was the first game to bind health and gaming together outside your living room. In that first month of launch, it felt like world peace — people were outside exploring trails, all kinds of people of different generations were mingling, and small business were booming. For many gamers, it was the first time they went out of their way to step outside the house and stay outside the house. I even started to walk 6 miles to work instead of driving, hoping to catch a new Pokemon. I cannot say that for any other game I’ve played.
What are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Create a Successful Game” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
It’s hard to make a broad encompassing list of qualities that ties into both single player vs. Multiplayer games, but this list aims to accomplish this list. There will always be exceptions to the case, but these are what I’ve found to be true.
- Emotion — Is playing the game a memorable experience? I remember the funny moments I had when playing Valorant with my friends and the pain I felt as Solid Snake crawled through a hallway emitting microwaves. We keep coming back to these games because of the way the experiences made us feel. Single player games specifically have an added capability of creating greater immersion than a movie or book because they allow us to experience the world as the characters themselves. Games that do not evoke deep emotions are games that will be forgotten.
- Focus — What does your game solely focus on to be different? An excellent example of this case is Portal. It was a novel game in which you solved puzzles with through portals. You didn’t need to slay hordes of enemies or go online to compete with other players. The game itself was short, but it excelled in creating a clever puzzle adventure. It has since become one of the most iconic games in video game history, winning several Game of the Year awards and even being featured in a museum art exhibition.
- Fun — Does the core game play mechanics offer variety and depth? This is highly subjective, but the best way to measure this is to look at the repetitive nature of the gameplay. Some games are simply work. I recently purchased the new Zelda game, Age of Calamity, and slaying 100s of monsters in each level became copious. The repetition can be eliminated if you’re playing online, since the experience varies through your interactions with other players. This is why a game like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Mario Kart are fun despite the repetitive nature of the game.
- Detail — How much effort was put into every aspect of the game? This not only applies to the core gameplay, but also the QA. A game that is polished shows respect for the player. A work of art is one that keeps a consistent aesthetic and attention to detail within components you would normally not really focus on, such as NPCs or tiny insignificant parts of an environments. For example, the water puddles evaporate over time in Grand Theft Auto V. Ants carry leaves up and down a tree in Horizon Zero Dawn (a game where you slay gigantic robotic dinosaurs). In Red Dead Redemption 2 (an old cowboy western game), your character gains stamina as your exercise or gains weight if you eat junk food. These minute details may not seem necessary to success, but translate into goodwill from your players, content posts, streaming, and recommendations as the game creates true immersion.
- Skill Cap — What separates the beginners from the best? The future is eSports, and building a game that creates an environment for a high skill cap will keep players coming back for competitions well after the game has passed its prime. Street Fighter is an old fighting game with a large following in eSports for this exact reason. Street Fighter, at the pro gamer level requires perfect frame timing (meaning being able to react to attacks at 1/60th of a second), allowing for a high ceiling of competition. In fact, one of the most iconic moments in eSport history is when Daigo deflected15 strikes from his opponent at 1 health and counter attacked into victory.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊
I believe our existing mission accomplishes this task of getting people of all kinds fit. My goal is also to take care of forgotten members of society- for example, Olympic athletes. Once Olympic athletes reach their prime, there is very little for them to do afterwards. For the lucky few, they receive endorsements or media engagements. However, for most Olympic athletes who aren’t able to place in competitions, they must look for other work and unfortunately, their options are limited. My goal is to connect these forgotten athletes to the eSports world.
eSportsis one of the fastest growing markets with high competition encouraging pro gamers to look at all avenues for shaving off seconds and reaction times. In fact, many trainers have started adding physical regimens to prevent burn out and improve the performance of gamers. I believe it wouldn’t be too difficult for Olympic athletes to transition into a coaching role. They understand the competition, discipline, and challenges required to excel and can support gamers in a new way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It’s not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly”, Theodore Roosvelt. Very few people in my life would call me bright, but one aspect about me everyone would agree on is that I keep trying even in the most challenging situations. When I was in highschool, I was on an undefeated Junior Varsity football team at 100 lbs. There were no cuts to get on to the team. You would start training in January and if you made it all the way to the season, you would be on the team. I was absolutely horrendous at football, but I tried my hardest. I can’t take all the credits, my teammates and coaches came to help because they knew I was trying my hardest. I was the “Rudy” of the football team. I was happy I tried, even if I failed spectacularly, because it taught me one thing: people will come to respect and support you if you work hard.
Today, this principle still holds true for me. I quit my pharmaceutical job to run my own startup in an industry in which I had no experience. I’ve hit every tree branch on the way down making Hero Trainer, but many new people have rallied on their own to help me along the way from my highschool friends watching my Twitch streams to influencers reaching out to help the missions to family and friends investing at the early stages I could have lived a more comfortable life had I not tried, but I would be filled with a life of regret know that I did not make a difference when I had the chance.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.