New take on old board game designed to encourage more exercise

Agatha(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in our series of articles spotlighting Northeast Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Johnson City’s John Cannon is at it again.

The serial entrepreneur who moved to Northeast Tennessee in 1980 is bringing his passion for behavioral change concepts to his newest venture that draws on the old board game named Clue.

“I’m a Clue/Sherlock Holmes/murder mystery fan,” Cannon says. “I’ve named the game Agatha, and it’s focused on exercise.” readers may recall that we recently profiled Symply Health, another of Cannon’s start-ups. While the latter was focused on helping people stop smoking, Agatha introduces a game that provides the motivation for individuals to walk.

For those not familiar with Clue, it was first marketed in 1949 as a game where players have to determine the “who, what and how of a murder” – who did it, where the crime was committed, and what weapon was used. Since it is a board game, the players move around a mansion gathering clues to ultimately answer the questions.

In the new concept that Cannon has developed, the players literally walk to different locations to find clues.

“As you move from room to room, you have to physically walk in the real world,” he explains. The distance between locations can be as short at 1,000 steps or as far as 5,000.

How do you get people to do something they are not inclined to do?

Cannon cites a number of experts in behavioral science and studies they have done. One is Jonathan Bricker, whose smoking cessation work is core to Symply Health. Another is B.J. Fogg, whose Fogg Model shows that three elements must converge at the same time for a specific behavior to occur. Those elements are motivation, behavior and a trigger.

“We leave motivation wherever it’s at,” Cannon explains, so Agatha is based on a person’s ability and a stimulus or triggering event.

“This game is designed with behavioral science and game theory using new technology,” Cannon says as he describes the four types of game players. One group is described as the killers; they want to beat the other people. Another group is characterized as the achievers; their goal is to get a good score. Explorers want to see and understand all of the details. The fourth group is the socializers who just want to participate.

Cannon has applied for a patent for what he calls his Reality Gametracker Technology.

In the meantime, perhaps the best way to understand his goal is the start-up’s tagline – “Making Walking Fun.”

Cannon is looking for people to help provide user feedback, support an upcoming crowdfunding campaign, and use and share the game themselves.  Readers can sign-up to support Agatha at

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