Dungeon of Fitness Preview: Jean-Charles Ize Interview

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Summer is coming and it’s time to work on our beach bods. But, going to the gym is annoying and maybe you don’t have good enough motivation to work out at home.

Well, a party game called Dungeon of Fitness could just be the motivation we all need to start working out and become healthier. It’s currently on Kickstarter and I recently had the pleasure to chat with its designer about making a game where you need strong muscles instead of strong wits. Here’s what Jean-Charles Ize had to say about Dungeon of Fitness and how his team Mens Sana Games is shaking up the fitness world.

Can you tell us a little bit about your game? What inspired you to create Dungeon of Fitness?

At the very beginning, in 2018, I wanted to create a The Legend of Zelda role-playing game to play with my friends. But with time and reflection, I had fun imagining a board game with little puzzles and tests of skill. I was facing a hardware problem and I was not satisfied with the system. Shortly after, in the context of my activities as an instructor in historical martial arts, I was seized with despair by seeing my guys with a physical condition that was not sufficient. I figured my Zelda board game challenges should be pushups and squats! Shortly after, an instructor friend proposed a combat activity in the club with Magic the gathering cards. Without knowing it, he had just relieved me of my problem with the materialization of my game. It would be a Zelda sports card game.

I really made The Legend of Zelda game. It was a big hit in the martial arts club. We really had a lot of fun with it. The idea came to propose it outside but to do it in the Universe of the Legend of Zelda was impossible! So I looked for how to adapt my game. That’s where Julien, one of my students, gave the main idea of the Dungeon of Fitness universe: It must take place in a Heroic Fantasy parody of gyms. Over time, as he was full of good ideas and a very experienced board game player, I asked him to help redesign the game. And that’s when we started working together on Dungeon of Fitness. Julien is the co-author.

dungeon of fitness concept art
Dungeon of Fitness concept art

I reached out to Mlle Pysthache for illustration tests. The results were immediately positive, and the team began to work on bringing the game to life in a new and exciting way.

We collaborated to bring a playful twist to the game by refining its rules. Originally named “Hall of Gains,” the game’s rules, while simple, were not suitable for someone who was more used to working out their mind than their body. After numerous rounds of testing with our dedicated group of testers, we fine-tuned the gameplay mechanics and adapted them to the natural flow of a dungeon crawler, ultimately giving birth to Dungeon of Fitness. With the game mechanics in place, the team realized they needed a graphic designer to bring the game to life. That’s when LoCo, a talented graphic designer, joined the team and worked tirelessly to create the stunning visuals that make Dungeon of Fitness such a captivating game.

Who’s all part of the Mens Sana Games?

I manage alone Mens Sana Games – a Gamification Studio and I collaborate with Julien, Laurent, Mlle (Read Mademoiselle) Pysthache (read Pistache), Ironquest, Romain et Matt are guests on Dungeon of Fitness and helped to develop the universe. Most of the Mens Sana Games are produced by Me, Julien, and Laurent. But we collaborate with a lot of people.

The game parodies some gym stereotypes. What kind of jokes can players expect in the game?

Gymbros who skip legday, Zombie Fitgirl obsessed by selfies, Juiced athletes, Shakes instead of potions… The lore is full of references – The story takes place in the world of Middle-Discplate. When you find a Statue of Arno (conan -schwarzy) you have to pray… it’s about burpees and you will be blessed by Arno, a powerful gift. A long time ago, Arno defeated an arrogant dragon by offering him a challenge, to do the longest infinite push-up. The dragon is said to be so powerful that it is still doing it. But that one day he will realize the trick and destroy the world.

dungeonf of fitness kickstarter
Dungeon of Fitness makes great parody of gym stereotypes

We all have different levels of fitness. How is the game accommodating that?

The game is both accessible and demanding. Anyone can play since the principle is to manage their stamina and abilities. There are lots of ways to endure a game. When beginners play they can help each other without thinking of competing. However, a race can also set in. We offer physical exercises that can be adapted and you should not hesitate to size a part to your abilities. All you have to do is remove or add cards to a dungeon.

Are there cards or tutorials new players can follow to learn all the exercises needed to win the game?

To win is very simple. You either have to defeat the boss or be the first to defeat the boss. The latter is a timed collective enemy. The whole dungeon you go through before is used to build your inventory and get ready (or get tired) before the boss.

As for the explanations, we have made videos but we will still make others. Particularly because we offer the game beyond French speakers.

dungeon of fitness cards
Various challenges in Dungeon of Fitness

One of the unique features you’re offering are sports towel playmats. Are there any other sporting goods in the works? Maybe branded protein shakers?

We also offer a map towel of the game universe. Useful if the game takes on an RPG dimension. And now a Tshirt. We haven’t diversified the goodies too much yet, because we prefer to focus on what we know. We make games, we make them good and beautiful and above all we manufacture them in great materials in Europe. We do not yet know how to make various goodies.

Do you have any more fitness-themed games in the works? What’s next for Mens Sana Games after this campaign?

There’s also the Dungeon of Fitness role-playing game that’s in the works. We started to prepare something. But this is not satisfactory. Doing something original is more difficult. However, building on all of the Dungeon of Fitness card games, we now have what it takes to release something fast and Print & Play Freemium!

I would personally like to offer a version of my Zelda game in another universe. It uses other game mechanics like planning and memory. But the next game I’m working on is not Fitness related but has a lot in common with Dungeon of Fitness. I don’t want to say too much, but it is very fun to test. We enjoy it a lot more. 🙂

I usually ask about favorite games, but let’s switch it up 🙂 What’s your favorite exercise?

You can ask me both!

I have been practicing combat sports and martial arts since I was little. I’m 35 today, I must have started at 5. I’ll let you count. I must have had a sword in my hand for over 15 years. My favorite exercises are all those that allow me to become a better fighter. Sometimes I don’t have equipment with me, Dungeon of Fitness is a way to build a chaotic session which is what you can suffer during fights. I don’t know what my favorite exercise is, but my pride is being able to do one-armed push-ups like Rocky Balboa.

I like games with themes, licensed adaptations that I like. Dungeon Crawler, Strategy, asymmetric mind game. I am a video game player: Starcraft 2 or Dark Souls. I’m quite competitive but I also like survival games where you have to collaborate like games set in the Lovecraft universe.

So I would name three games that I love:
– Not Alone
– 7 Wonders Duel
– Grave Robbers From Outer Space

What can you recommend to our readers, besides playing Dungeon of Fitness, of course, to stay healthy and prepare for the summer?

The most important thing is to watch what you eat and think about moving/walking every day. The human body is not completely adapted to a sedentary lifestyle. It contains fluids that need the movement and contraction of muscles to circulate. So eat well and move every day. Enjoy it or find a way to enjoy it. You will be happier and longer. If you’re already doing that, do some physical activity, simple exercises, yoga… And if you’re already on that, take 3 coaching sessions in a room and lift stuff and run. You will be better day by day and even beyond the summer.

Lastly, how can our readers learn more about your game and support the project?

The Kickstarter page is the best place. We put the essentials there. We are also very reactive, do not hesitate to ask us questions. We don’t leave anyone in silence for very long. And above all, we take into account everything people tell us. Besides, if we do a Kickstarter, it’s because we were asked to play the game in another language. I take great pleasure in knowing that people all over the world are interested in my game and want to play it. I like to spread this good vibe. So, I will always enjoy chatting as much as I can with everyone. Do not hesitate to write to us. We will do our best to respond quickly.