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Tech Review: Habitica

By Ron Scopelliti

A couple of months ago I wrote a column about how I sometimes integrate aspects of computer role playing games (RPGs) into my every day existence, acknowledging my successes and minor victories like I would if I completed a quest in “Dungeons and Dragons Online.” Well apparently I’m not the only one who thinks that way.

The all-seeing eye of Google recently alerted me to a group of apps that it thought I would find interesting. They’re part of a new bunch of “gamified” productivity and self-improvement apps, which use elements of computer and mobile gaming to help you track real-life goals. The apps generally reward you for achieving goals and maintaining good habits, and penalize you when you fail to achieve a goal, or engage in a bad habit.

While I experimented with a few different apps, the one that interested me most was Habitica by HabitRPG Inc. Habitica is a cross-platform product that is usable through the World Wide Web, and also through free apps for iOS and Android devices. Your Habitica account is synchronized across all your devices. Registration is required, and while there is no mandatory fee, there is an optional $5 a month subscription plan for additional features.

The way it works is you are given experience points (commonly known to gamers as XP) for completing real-life tasks, and maintaining good habits. Conversely, you have health points (HP) that you can lose if you indulge in a bad habit or fail to complete a scheduled task. When you gain enough XP, you reach a new level, and are given access to game features such as avatar enhancements, pets, skills, and quests that your avatar can go on with other users. Losing HP can potentially put you down a level.

Habitica also features social aspects to help you connect with the 2-million-plus users that have Habitica accounts. There is a “Tavern” where you can chat with fellow users, and there are guilds you can join with other users who share your interests. You can also gather a party of friends to battle monsters online.

In addition, there are third-party tools such as extensions for the Firefox and Chrome web browsers that dock points when you visit an unproductive web site, but reward you when you visit a productive site.

Following the advice of the Habitica’s FAQ, I started out slowly, just setting a few goals, and quickly gaining some XP. Setting up my avatar and profile for the game earned me an automatic 7 XP out of the 160 it will take to reach Level 2. Completing my “IMHO” column on time, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work earned me another 15 XP.

Though I’ve just scratched the surface of Habitica, so far it’s proved easy to use. There’s an extensive Wiki to provide answers for common questions, an active community of helpful users in the Tavern, and numerous third-party tutorials available on YouTube.

While my record with productivity/self-improvement tools ranging from Franklin Planners to PDAs hasn’t been great, I’m hoping to stick with Habitica at least long enough to progress through a few levels. Maybe it’s the weapon I need to finally slay the dragon of procrastination.

For more information on Habitica, visit Habitica.com.