HabitRPG: The RPG To-Do List

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I started college last year. This is a double edged sword, to be honest. All the free time university comes with means I’ve been able to game more now than I’ve ever been able to, and that’s great. I’ve cleared out a sizable backlog of games, with more to finish before the school-year is up.

But at the same time, it can be difficult keeping the rest of my life in order. Sure, I can game more, but I also have a million other things that I have to keep track of that I had the pleasure of avoiding in my adolescence: writing research papers, reading textbooks, buying groceries, finding time to work out, eating healthily, etc. etc.

And sometimes, life can simply be a drag. When your days become monotonous, repetitive affairs, you can begin to lose interest. Couple that with things like the internet, and productivity can simply slow to a halt.

Enter HabitRPG.
I ran across this wonderful little program while scrolling through articles on Lifehacker. Essentially, HabitRPG is a simple to-do list manager. What sets it apart from most other programs of the same vein, is its focus on gamification.

Everyone likes games, right? The theory of gamification is that, by applying game principles to tasks, you’ll want to do them more. In Final Fantasy, you went through hundreds of chocobo races to get a summon. And in Majora’s Mask, you collected masks for something as boring as a bottle! Videogames are good at taking mundane tasks, and making them memorable. HabitRPG does the same thing, but in real life. I was skeptic of the idea at first – not everything has to have points or rewards applied to it – but now I’m now hooked.

HabitRPG takes your life, and turns it into an RPG. The part of my brain that relishes bars going up and despises bars going down is addicted to HabitRPG. The gamer in me wants to see my in-game character reach new levels and get more loot. It’s a process that I’ve been going through for years, across probably hundreds of RPGs, but applied to the real world.

We all like being rewarded for our efforts, and HabitRPG supplies that reward. And though that reward may be fictional, at the same time, it’s tangible. If you go on a mile-long run, you can’t just hop on the scale right after and see if you’ve lost a few pounds. But that same run may earn you a sword in HabitRPG, and that encourages you to run again, and once more – and suddenly, you’re running regularly.

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HabitRPG has three groupings for tasks: Habits, Daily, and To-Do. Habits can be positive, negative, or both, such as eating healthy, or drinking soda. Daily tasks are exactly what they sound like, and can be set to be more day-specific, such as cleaning out your reading list on Tuesdays. To-Dos are one and done type tasks, such as homework assignments.

That all sounds like business as usual. But here’s where things get addictive. Your character starts at level one. Doing tasks helps him earn experience and gold. You then use gold to purchase items, weapons, and rewards that you set for yourself (hit 20 gold and you can watch an episode of Game of Thrones, for example). If you miss a daily task, or perform a negative habit, your character’s HP will go down. Let it hit zero, and wham – your character is dead, and you have to start back at level one.

To anyone else, this would probably sound totally unnecessary for a to-do list system. But it gave my butt the kick-start it needed. As you level up, you get less experience for tasks you complete, and it takes more experience to reach the next level. This cleverly forces you to be more and more productive in order to level your little hero in a timely fashion, and prevent his death.

As a professional procrastinator, I’m always on the lookout for excuses. HabitRPG takes those away from me. For the first time, I’m keeping up a solid, constant workout routine. I’m doing homework assignments on time. And my programming skills are improving out of daily practice. None of these things were occurring before I used HabitRPG. I’d consider that a win on the app’s part.

Even better, HabitRPG was recently funded on Kickstarter, meaning a mobile app, and a ton of new features, like pets and classes, are on the way.

I’m not saying that HabitRPG is for everyone. But for the unproductive gamer, or someone who’s tried a million to-do list managers but hasn’t found one that helps you get things done, this may be the perfect push to get you doing what you need to do. I recommend it for that very reason.