I’m a 13th level Rogue!
I love role-playing games. Tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons or Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. Video games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. I’ve played them for decades, now. So, naturally enough, when it came time to start exercising and losing weight I went looking for a way to make a game out of the process. After several disappointments, a friend of mine pointed me at Habitica.
Habitica is not specifically an exercise or weight loss app. As described on the front page of their web site, “Habitica is a free habit building and productivity app that treats your real life like a game. With in-game rewards and punishments to motivate you and a strong social network to inspire you, Habitica can help you achieve your goals to become healthy, hard-working, and happy.” It is, as they say, free – although some quests and costume options can only be unlocked with “gems”, and the primary way of acquiring gems is to spend real money. The cash goes to the developers to help pay for development and maintenance, though, and there are no pop-up ads asking you to spend money.
Structurally, you log on to the web site or download the app and create a profile and an avatar. Once this is done, you begin entering your tasks. These are broken into three categories: Habits, Dailies, and To-Do List. Habits are things you want to do regularly, Dailies are things you need to do on a regular basis, although not necessarily daily. You can select the schedule on which they need to be done. To-Do List is things you need to complete by a specific deadline. When you do (or complete) one of these tasks, you earn gold (which can be used to buy weapons and equipment for your character) and experience points (to level up). Any Dailies you fail to complete damage your character, and I believe that if your character “dies” then you start over again at level one.
As an example, some of my Dailies include “Walk 5.2 miles”, “Check my blood sugar before breakfast”, “Help my son brush his teeth”, and “Half an hour of guitar practice”. My only Habit at the moment is “Complete all my Dailies”.
To increase the role-playing game feel, Habitica offers Quests and Challenges. Quests are storyline events created by the designers, that require you to complete your daily tasks in exchange for bonus experience, gold, and other rewards. Challenges are user-created events, that offer extra experience and other rewards for participation and completion of addtional goals. There are also “mini-games”, such as finding and rearing pets or taming mounts.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, though. The app is a little slow at times, and to make use of some of the functionality of the game you have to visit the web site. And the web site is, how do I put this…? It’s not as user friendly as it could be. It’s not terrible, but the site navigation is quirky and the layout is uninspired. It’s also rather slow loading. The help files are oddly organized as well, and the best tutorial on how to use the site is a video. Some people may like that, but I prefer text for my instructions.
Now, at this point, I suspect there are really only two reactions to what I’ve described. Either “oh heck yes, sign me up!” or “uhm… this sounds boring and stupid”. If you’re in the second camp, this is not the app for you. But if the idea of treating your daily goals as level grinding sounds appealing, and you like video game or tabletop RPGs, I thoroughly recommend Habitica.