Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) is a free task and habit building productivity app that utilizes a gamified approach to have you build the health of an avatar through your performance. Gamification is the attempt to enhance systems, services, organizations, and activities by creating similar experiences to those experienced when playing games in order to motivate and engage users. Gamification offers opportunities to help learners figure out ways to solve real-world, wicked problems.
Habitica treats your real life like a game and includes an online task list, action reminders, and habit adjustment tools. As you complete tasks, you can gain experience point and improve the health of your avatar. Gamification and game design has been used successfully in classrooms for some time.
Tasks in Habitica
You use habits, to-dos, and dailies to complete day-to-day activities and work on long-term goals. Some of them you can add positives or negatives depending on how you act. Some are just negatives (you do them, you lose health) or just positives (you do them, you gain coins, experience and stuff for quests).
To Do’s are single tasks you plan to complete once, and dailies are tasks you want to complete on certain days of the week. To Do’s are useful for tasks you can break down into smaller parts, and are useful for tasks with deadlines. You can use checklists for to-dos to break up a more complex task into manageable parts.
Habits are things you reward or penalize yourself for doing.
Habits are used to reward yourself for doing good things. You can also use bad habits as punishments.
Dailies are things you plan on completing multiple days a week. Make something a daily if this task is something you need to do often, and you want to make sure you complete it on time.
Go to Habitica and create an account. You can create an account with username and password, or sign up with Google or Apple.
The next screen will ask you to create a display name and a username.
After creating your name and username, you’ll go on to change the look of your avatar. You can change the body type, skin color, hair, and add a wheelchair or some accents to your character.
Before you finish up, you’ll indicate what you want to work on with the app. As an example you can use this to focus on work, exercise, self-care, etc. Your main dashboard will then open up.
You can dive in pretty deep as you get started, but I prefer to keep things simple.
Begin by creating a habit or two that you’d like to focus on. A habit might be something like going to bed at a specific time, or eating healthy food. As a reminder, a habit can be used to reward or punish you. It is something that happens occasionally. You identify the rewards and punishments that are built into the game that can motivate you.
After creating a habit or two, create one or two items in the dailies column. An example might be drinking a certain amount of water each day, or meditating. Dailies are tasks that you want to complete multiple days per week.
If you want, you can add to do’s as well. I do not use Habitica for this purpose, but it may work for you. In your to do’s column you might use the checkboxes to break up a larger project that you know you have to do, like writing a paper, into smaller parts (research, brainstorm, write, revise, edit, proofread, publish).
Parties, Guilds, Challenges, & Quests
In my classes, I start learners up with their individual character and have them use it for a week to track and gamify their life. Add the app to your mobile device to make it easier to check in on your character while away from your desk.
As you complete tasks, you’ll get swords, armor and healing potions. Habitica is an RPG themed, gamified, productivity tool. But the best part is the social aspect.
Once a class is up and running, I introduce parties, guilds, and challenges, and quests.
Parties. A party is a group or a team that you form. Generally I have students create parties based on partners or teams in class. I keep parties to two to four people. The nice thing about a party is that your health and experience are impacted by those in your party. This helps with a certain amount of accountability as the class progresses.
Guilds. A guild is a group of like-minded people in Habitica. You can find tons of public guilds to join from all over the world to discuss topics via chat or take up a challenge together. I create a private guild for our class to keep everyone together.
Challenges. Once you have your class organized into parties, I introduce a couple of challenges to the guild. A challenge is a community event in which players compete and earn prizes by completing a group of related tasks. When an individual, or a party completes the challenge, you (the person that created the challenge) declares a winner. The winner may receive a reward like a gem. As the course instructor, I’ll typically start off with some simple challenges like “be the first to post to the discussion three times” or “respond to a peer twice in the online discussion.” As these students win and receive gems, I then have them create challenges and offer gems to others.
Please note: Habitica is free to play, but you’ll need to offer gems to create challenges. You can purchase gems for a nominal fee at the start of a semester or year. You can buy 21 gems for $4.99. This is more than enough to get a class motivated and working together.
Quests. Habitica also includes the opportunity to engage with quests, or long-term, in-game goals with members of their party. I do not use quests in my classes, but I frequently use them in a family party I’ve created with my kids. My children and I have been playing with Habitica to see if it offered a way to think about goal setting behaviors in and out of school. My kids sign us up for quests and I get dragged along. 🙂
Habitica is a great, free, open-source productivity tool that incorporates social and gamification aspects into a slick package. You can find new challenges, like-minded people, or get more productive together with your friends, community, colleagues, or even family.
This is just grazing the surface of what you can do with Habitica. For more tips and tricks, check out the Habitica Wiki. Games have the opportunity to delight and engage the mind. What can they do in your life…and your classroom?