Personal Growth

Conquer Your Goals with Habitica, an App That Makes Your Life a Role-Playing Game

In RPGs like "Skyrim" and "Monster Hunter: World," players can spend hours developing their characters' skills and abilities, slowly chipping away at obstacles until they are capable of great feats they could never have pulled off before. But in all the hours you spend making your character the best it can be, your own skills and abilities in the real world might suffer. What if your real-life skills made your video game character better, too?

Level Up!

Welcome to Habitica. In this game, the character you level up is yourself. You gain experience and earn gold by accomplishing goals and fostering good habits. When you first make your character, your options are a bit limited. You can change their skin color (with some exotic options in blue and green), update their hairstyle, and give them a pair of glasses or a wheelchair, if you want. Then it's time to start planning quests.

But a wizard won't get experience points by waving a sword, and you won't level yourself up by playing video games (unless you're a professional e-athlete). That's why the first thing you've got to do is tell Habitica exactly what you're working on. A creative project? Physical fitness? The next step in your career? It will automatically suggest some noble quests, such as "stretching" (a daily goal), "set up workout schedule" (a one-time to-do), and "10-minute cardio" (a habit you should cultivate). Any time you accomplish one of these tasks, you'll be richly rewarded with in-game gold and experience points, bringing you one step closer to level two (and that 5K you've been thinking about signing up for).

But the app isn't just about encouraging good habits — it's also about discouraging bad ones. That's why some habits are a double-edged sword. The default description of your diet, for example, reads "Eat healthy / junk food." Stick to the first part, and you'll earn experience points and regain hit points. But give in to the temptation to eat a pile of donuts and you'll start taking damage. Which isn't to say that you aren't ever allowed to eat donuts — but Habitica gives you an easy-to-read sense of how often you've indulged that habit, and rewards you for staying strong.

Gather Your Party

A lot of great RPGs are single-player only, but you just can't simulate the fun of organizing a major raid with your friends. Habitica lets you take on real-world projects as a team, too. So that final group project that you've been stressing about? It's actually a terrifying red dragon, and it's up to you and a band of adventurers to take it down with swords of +1 citation. In fact, it doesn't even have to be a single, monster-sized task. Some users have created parties devoted to slaying the beast of photography skills, or to support each other in the battle against mental illness and eating disorders.

It works because it gives you constant rewards and feedback. Sure, working out is its own reward, and it will make you faster, stronger, and healthier over time — but that "over time" can be brutal. The app, then, reminds you what good you're doing for yourself. And better yet, when you sign up as part of a group, other people are counting on you. And when people are counting on you, you do better. But to us, the main benefit has got to be the excuse to play the Final Fantasy victory theme all day long.

How to Break Bad Habits

Written by Reuben Westmaas April 18, 2018

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