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We Try It: HabitRPG

I sometimes forget things seconds after I’m told them. I’m horrible with names. I can’t remember to do easy tasks and my family is used to being asked to remind me of the simplest of things.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m just not as organized as I used to be. Being an adult means being assailed by hundreds of tasks a week, to the point where the minutiae of minor habits and smaller tasks fall by the wayside. I tried to-do lists, carrying a notebook on me at all times, creating a to-do list on my tablet, and even became desperate enough to try writing things on my hands.

So when I first heard about HabitRPG, my initial reaction was: “Where have you been all my life?”

HabitRPG is a free habit tracker created by Tyler Renelle, a self-proclaimed geek who endeavored to create a tracker that catered to old-school gamers. Other habit trackers tend to rely on rewards and motivation being defined by the user outside of the trackers spectrum. HabitRPG seeks to recreate the atmosphere of an old Super Nintendo RPG, such as the original Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, and other 8-bit games, in an attempt to foster additional motivation.

In order to create the necessary sense of urgency that’s common in an RPG, the user has three motivators: Experience, Gold, and Health. Experience and Gold are gained through completing tasks and keeping up with habits. Health is lost by not completing set tasks. If your life reaches zero, you “die,” losing levels, gold and equipment.

These tasks are split up into three categories: To Dos, Dailies and Habits. To Dos encompases single-use tasks. For example, taking a package to the post office would be a To Do, which would earn you points and gold upon completion.

Dailies are tasks that must be completed either daily or on certain days of the week. You could set up “Get to Work on Time” as a daily task and set it to the days of the week that you work. As long as you mark it “completed,” you’ll gain experience and gold each day. If it’s left unchecked, it will take off health when the day resets.

Habits can either add experience and gold or remove health based on whether you did or did not do them. For example, if your habit is “take the stairs,” you can add points for taking the stairs, and remove health for taking the elevator.

The payoff for the user is the Rewards. There are in-game rewards such as weapons and armor, which increase the percentage of experience gained and decreases the percentage of health lost when a task is left incomplete. You can also define your own rewards that you can use gold earned for, such as setting up a reward for Starbucks or watching an episode of a TV show you enjoy. You can bank your gold and go for the big rewards, or use it on smaller rewards as needed.

Pros:

  • Portability – This is a big advantage of online habit trackers. If I forgot my tablet or notebook at the office, I’m screwed; I have to go back to the office and grab it. With an online tracker, I’m able to access it via any computer, tablet with an Internet connection, or use the mobile app. This makes it easier not only to access my list of tasks and habits, but makes it easier to add tasks when I remember them.
  • Ease of use – When you first log in, there are dialog boxes to walk you through each type of task. From there, it’s fairly simple to input your tasks, habits, dailies, rewards, etc. There are multiple additional functions that you can use as well, such as tags, guilds, and pets, but it’s not necessary to use anything but the bare minimum to still get quite a bit out of the experience.
  • Motivation – A combination of in-game rewards and real life rewards, not to mention the fear of dying, gives me sufficient motivation to complete my dailies, my habits, and most of my tasks.
  • Organization – As long as I add it to my tasks, HabitRPG helps me to remember things that I can guarantee you I would have forgotten otherwise.

On a more personal note, as someone with a mental illness, it also gives me a sense of satisfaction. It helps me to manage my illness by reminding me to take my medication, keeping track of when my appointments are, and rewarding me for completing my daily wellness tracker. It also reminds me to do less concrete tasks, such as challenging negative thoughts (which I have on my dailies and my habits) and to do a personal check on my wellness every day.

HabitRPG can also help you to can categorize the tasks. When dealing with an episode of depression, sometimes daily tasks are all I’m capable of completing. This breaks it out into black and white what must be done, and what can wait until I’m feeling more capable.

Cons:

  • HabitRPG can be buggy. Throw in the fact that it was only recently officially funded via Kickstarter, the fact that’s it’s free, and a recent increase in traffic and it’s no wonder. That said, it makes for a pretty sporadic user experience. Fortunately, many of the bugs have or are in the process of being resolved, and the experience is getting better every day.
  • The visuals can be a bit of a turn off to those who never played old-school RPGs. They don’t bother me as I grew up playing the early Final Fantasy games, but for the younger generation or for those who just never got into video games it might not be as nostalgic. This is a minor negative, as it’s really just a shell for the functionality.
  • At some point I used HabitRPG for a few months before I got completely overwhelmed. There was a lot of pressure on me with so many unfinished tasks and habits to complete, that I completely abandoned it for about a month and my character died. I’ve come back to it recently, and deleted quite a few of my tasks and habits, and it that seemed to help make the experience more enjoyable. This probably has less to do with the application and more to do with my personal tendency to overwhelm myself with too many tasks coming at me all at once. Moral of the story- go through and prune your tasks and habits once in a while to get rid of any excess fluff that may bog you down.

My overall experience with HabitRPG has been a good one. There are many upgrades coming up the pipeline, such as guild challenges, new items, and even boss battles. Overall it has helped me to improve my habits and to be able to commit to completing tasks in a way that appeals to both my childhood nostalgia and my adult need to win the game.

The hardest part? Getting in the habit of doing it.

HabitRPG from Tyler Renelle on Vimeo.

By Bipolar Gurl

Bipolar Gurl is an artist and... well, that's about it really. Multi-talented she is not.

6 replies on “We Try It: HabitRPG”

True story: I started doing something like this at work to keep myself entertained/motivated. I gave myself achievements that I could work towards, docked myself for slacking off, and awarded myself so that I could level up. Whenever I leveled up, I gave myself an award. I didn’t keep up the effort, but I think with this interface/app, I might be able to do just that! Thanks for the write-up, I’m working on setting up my profile now! :D

Awesome. And wow, kudos to you for being organized enough for that. You’re ahead of the times! And definitely give it a shot. Despite the cons, it is really worth trying, even if you just find out that it’s not for you.

One of the bugs (just as a forewarning) is that after you first login, you might have to refresh the page before you can start to check off things. It happens sometimes, sometimes not. I forgot to mention it in the article. Whoops!

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