HabitRPG isn’t exactly a game, but it’s not exactly your average time management app either. It’s the perfect mixture of both.

I’m a gamer who sometimes has trouble tearing myself away from the games and accomplishing all those other things I want to do. I know I’m not alone. It’s not that I’m not motivated, it’s just…games are so fun. It’s really easy to run around in Borderlands 2 instead of opening up Photoshop and struggling to sketch something worthwhile, because Borderlands is super rewarding—I get achievements and stuff! I get cool new items and gain levels! All I get for sketching is a sketch. (At least, in terms of immediate gratification.)

HabitRPG is an app I stumbled across after someone on Tumblr said it was a great way for gamers to gain motivation in everyday tasks.  RPG stands for “role-playing game,” an acronym not typically applied to apps, but there’s just enough RPG essence in HabitRPG that it makes sense. I’ve only been  using the app for a few weeks, but I’ve already found it extremely effective.

As a gamer, I find that adding a bit of competitiveness, achievements, awards, and the ability to track my progress make even the dullest of tasks more exciting. Becoming a cute character with a sword doesn’t hurt, either. In HabitRPG, you customize your own sprite and set your own goals. There’s a “habit” list, a dailies list, and a more typical task list. The habit list is simply a way for players to gain progress every time they do a certain activity—I chose drawing. Whenever I pick up a pencil or open Photoshop, I check the habit box. The dailies list is a daily to-do list—I chose “draw for one hour,” something I want to try to do every day. I could also put something like “brushing my teeth” if I had a problem with remembering to do that, I suppose. (I don’t. Promise.) The task list is a list of one-time goals; “complete three figure sketches” might be one for me.


Source: Nerdophile

Mine pretty much looks like the one in pink at the top right. Because, you know. Pink. Source: Nerdophile

For each task, habit, or daily, you can set coin awards and difficulty meters. You can also choose your own rewards; for instance, once I earn 200 coins, I get to buy a new video game. You also earn experience for each task completed, and 150 experience will increase your character’s level. However, if you fail to complete a task, you lose a heart. Losing all of your hearts will result in the loss of a level. This is the app at its most basic —there are also character classes, items, quests, pets (really!) and the ability to invite others to play, but you don’t necessarily have to take the experience that far. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out the  HabitRPG Wiki.

(Players can also rest at the inn, which will halt the whole process—say, if I went on vacation and didn’t have time to draw.)

Sounds just like a game, right? That’s what’s great about about HabitRPG—it’s not just gamification, it actually has the trappings of a typical RPG as well. Earning coins, losing lives, gaining experience, customizing an avatar—all stuff that makes it more fun.

The main thing I’d warn anyone about is that the app is still a little glitchy. I’ve had a couple of inexplicable bugs occur, so if that kind of stuff, er, bugs you, then I’d steer clear. It’s still workable, though.

Is it good for kids? I’m not sure yet. I think HabitRPG works well for me because I chose a specific area that I want to improve—namely, my drawing output and rigor. I’d quickly be overwhelmed if I tried to put everything through the system. There’s something to gamification, but there’s also something to just living, and I don’t want to be thinking about how many coins I’m earning every time I floss or don’t floss. It would also probably be way too easy to drop off the program if I wasn’t already motivated; HabitRPG is a great way to inspire you to follow through on something  you already want to do, but I wouldn’t look to it to help me find that motivation in the first place.

My advice? Try it out! Even if your kids don’t like it, you might. I’d try to find a specific area you want to improve, or your kids want to work on, and gamify just that—for instance, honing a creative skill, applying better time management to homework, or remembering to get out of the house for a couple of minutes every day for some fresh air and exercise. Don’t take on too much all at once, and remember you can reset your character if you fall off the wagon!

In short? I highly recommend HabitRPG.

This article was written by

Keezy is a gamer, illustrator, and designer. Her background is in teaching and tutoring kids from ages 9 to 19, and she's led workshops for young women in STEM. She is also holds a certificate in teaching English. Her first memory of gaming is when her dad taught her to play the first Warcraft when she was five. You can find her at Key of Zee and on Twitter @KeezyBees.