gamifying life

In my previous post about my bullet journal, I talked about my monthly habits tracker and how I stopped using it after a few days because I had started using an app called Habitica to track my habits and my to-do list. In this post, I’m going to show you the world of Habitica, how useful it can be to get your life on track and learn new habits, and I’ll also talk about the very modern concept of ‘gamifying’ life: getting motivation to get things done through gameplay.

Habitica

Habitica is a unique time management application: what makes it unique is that unlike most time management programs, Habitica takes the form of a simple role-playing game. The aim is to input things that you want to get done or habits you want to keep check of, and complete them each day for virtual money and experience points. You can input into three categories: Habits, Dailies and To-Dos.

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The Habitica interface on a computer internet browser. From left to right – Habits, Dailies, To-Dos and Rewards. Top: on the left is my avatar with my pet (see more about pets below); the one on the right is my sister Emily, who is in my ‘Party’ (see more below); the red bar is Health, and the yellow bar is Experience Points.

Habits are long-term goals and when inputting, they can be set to either ‘good’, ‘bad’, or both. For example, a good habit might be “Spend no money” – if no money has been spent that day, you will gain experience points and gold. A negative habit might be “Get a takeaway”, and if you does this you will lose experience and gold. Then, something like “Go to bed before midnight” could be both good and bad: if you go to bed before midnight you can gain experience, but if you don’t you’ll lose it.

Dailies are things that you need to do every day. If you do these things you will gain experience and gold; however if you fail to tick these things off you will lose health. Your health will reset when you level up using experience points. A ‘daily’ could be something like “Read a book”, “Wash the dishes”, or “Take the dog for a walk.

To-Dos, the final category, are things that can be added whenever there is something new to add to your general to-do list and these can stay there for as long as you like, until you get them done. When you complete a to-do, you gain experience. Individual To-Dos can be split into a checklist to make big tasks look less daunting.Unlike Dailies, you won’t lose any health if you don’t complete these within a time period: however the entry will change colour over time, turning redder the longer it is left. To-Dos become more valuable over time, giving you more experience and gold when you complete them. (That’s not an excuse to leave them for weeks though!)

As you can see in the picture above, the section on the far right is for Rewards. Rewards can be bought with gold which is earned through completing tasks, and they come in the form of armour and weapons to equip your avatar with. These are then useful when completing Quests as they improve your stats, much like most other role-playing games. Your avatar’s attributes are Strength (useful when completing Quests), Intelligence (increases the amount of experience you earn), Constitution (reduces the amount of damage you take from negative Habits and missed Dailies) and Perception (increases how much gold you earn and the chance of random item drops). Rewards are fairly expensive, but they might help motivate you to complete more tasks!

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This is the Stats & Achievements page. Here you can see your stats, equipment, attributes, pets, and a list of achievements available to earn.

One nifty feature that makes this app better for people who travel, go on holiday or simply want a short break from chores: you can check into the ‘Inn’ by going to Social > Tavern and pressing ‘Rest in the Inn’. Whilst checked into the Inn, failing to complete your Dailies won’t take any health from you but you can still complete them and gain experience. This should be used lightly though – it shouldn’t be used as a way to cheat!

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Another thing that makes Habitica even better and more accessible is that not only can you access if from your computer, but you can also download the app for both Android and iOS. Be aware that these apps are currently in Beta, so there are some options that are available on the internet app that aren’t yet available on the phone app. This isn’t a problem though: the app is great to open up if you want to check what tasks you’ve got left to do that day, and tick them off quickly and efficiently without having to start up your computer. Great if you’re out and about and want to carry on getting those experience points! Below are a few screenshots from the Android app, so you can compare it to the PC ones from above:

 

If you’re interested in playing along, it’s completely free to join and download the app! Just go to Habitica.com to get started. Now I’m going to move on: in relation to Habitica, I’m going to talk a little bit about the odd concept of Gamifying life and why it works for me.

The Concept of ‘Gamifying’ Life

This is something that I’ve probably been doing for a while, without realising it. My brain is awful at motivating me to do things that are actually useful. If I need to write an essay, I’ll leave it till two days before the due date before panicking; if I need to clean the house or go shopping, it can always be left until tomorrow. So, the idea that these tasks and chores can be turned into a game suits me perfectly.

It’s all about having that extra little bit of motivation. With Habitica, for example, getting up and cleaning the house or going outside (gasp!) earns me experience points so my character can level up, and that makes me want to get the task done. Writing it like that, it seems a bit – okay, extremely – sad. But it works.

Plant Nanny

Another app I use for motivation is ‘Plant Nanny‘: this app, available for AndroidiOS and Windows Phone, aims to help motivate you to drink enough, which is something I’m awful at. In the past I’ve had my mum and my friends telling me off for not drinking enough. It’s always the same: I complain that I have a headache or I feel lethargic, and when asked how much I’ve drunk, I mutter that I haven’t had anything all day. In ‘Plant Nanny’, you begin with a tiny potted plant with an adorable face that you can give a name, and the only way to keep your new cute plant alive is to drink enough water in a day and log it on the app. It looks so sad when a plant is about to die (which, ironically, is about to happen to mine any day soon… oops. Sorry Florian), and it makes you run to the kitchen to get a drink to save your dear plant’s life.

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Look at that face. That’s my first plant called Daphne Dandelion. I managed to keep her alive!

As I’ve already said, when you think about the concept of life gamification it sounds ridiculous. There are probably plenty of people out there who think it’s a stupid idea, and they might be right. But, in an article called “Points for Everything: How I Tried to Win At Life With Gamification” (MakeUseOf, 2013), my thoughts are summed up exactly:

Is it dumb that my brain can be motivated with just the promise of virtual points, pets, and products? Yes.

Is that how my brain works? Apparently. …

It’s not magic: HabitRPG [now Habitica] only really works if you apply yourself to it. It only works if you adapt yourself to its way of thinking, and are actually honest about the things you’ve accomplished. For me, however, it’s worth doing – and I’m not going to stop using the service.

Gamification may be weird and some people may find it a pointless waste of time, but for people like me who need a bit of motivation to get things done, they work. I’m probably going to be using Habitica when I’m 50.

What do you think of ‘gamifying’ life? Do you use any fun apps to help get you motivated?

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