Background - Run An Empire

Running is a very accessible way of keeping active: runners can go wherever they want, whenever they want for as long as they want. It’s also boring.

The current solutions for making running more fun are ‘gamified health apps’, which generally reward calories burned with digital ‘badges’. However, 70% of UK adults already play actual games. They demand much more: to be immersed, to have a personal narrative and to have their skills challenged.

Run An Empire can do all these things. Players compete with their neighbours to own the most territory in their area. The owner of a land is whoever runs, walks or jogs around it the most times. Players must choose with every run if they are going to reinforce their own territory or liberate an opponent’s.

Following the international success of their Hello Lamp Post project, Sam Hill and Ben Barker built on the city interaction concept and created Run An Empire.

The game was initially launched on Kickstarter in March 2014 and was funded by 1,825 Backers (full list of supporters available here) after just 27 days, eventually reaching 153% of its target. Several thousands more have since expressed their interest in beta testing the game, from when the Kickstarter campaign closed.

Run An Empire also received significant support from the Ordnance Survey GeoVation Fund (details here) and the Bethnal Green Ventures ‘Winter 2015 Cohort’ Accelerator Programme (details here).

The company then completed its seed funding round on Crowdcube in December 2015, where it raised 175% of its target within just 12 days.


About The Team

Based in Somerset House, London, Run An Empire was founded by Ben Barker and Sam Hill. Ben and Sam are experience designers and play-makers. They have been making playful experiences together since 2010 and have spoken internationally about the value of play, narrative, experience and memory in the urban environment and as part of every-day living. They co-own PAN Studio.


About PAN Studio

PAN is an independent experience-production studio, composed of a group of designers,
developers and engineers with interests and skills in two overlapping fields:

  • creating stimulating experience events and installations;
  • designing user-centric products, systems and services that are intuitive, effective and
    rewarding to interact with.

This is PAN’s fifth located-experience product. Since 2011, the studio has been building experiential and gaming products for arts bodies, commercial brands and the public sector. Now, Run An Empire represents the culmination of their learning. Apart from Run An Empire, PAN has also built:

  • Hello Lamp Post: playable, city-wide experience that allows people to share thoughts, observations and memories in conversation with street furniture (benches, bus stops, letterboxes and parking meters etc). Hello Lamppost was commissioned for the Playable City Award and nominated for Design of The Year 2014 at the Design Museum, London. Initially launched in Bristol, it has since been run in Austin and Tokyo in 2015 and is planned for more cities around the world later in the year.
  • A Fork In The Road: part story telling platform, part tour-guide,part text-adventure game,A Fork In The Road uses the pathways and road networks of the city as a framework for generating interactive narratives. The system has toured in London, Moscow and Indianapolis.


Notable Coverage

Pokemon Go-style app Run an Empire could make us a nation of runners – (August 2016)

‘Run An Empire’ Is ‘Pokémon GO’ With Real Health Benefits – Forbes (August 2016)

Fun running: how fitness apps including Run an Empire can gamify your workout – Evening Standard (June 2015)

Alternate Reality Game Will Turn You Into a Fitness Maniac – Fast Company (April 2014)

Mobile AR game Run An Empire brings strategy to the streets – Polygon (April 2014)

First Look at Run An Empire – Runner’s World (April 2014)