[App Friday] Using games and rewards, Habitica brings a fresh approach to building habits

With over 10 lakh downloads on Google Play Store, Habitica brings a lighter approach to inculcating habits by gamifying tasks and introducing rewards.
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“Quality is not an act, it is a habit.”

While many may agree with Aristotle, building a habit is easier said than done. 

Whether you’re trying to rise early or read a book daily, building a habit takes effort. It has been long believed that doing something for 21 days builds a habit, however, a few reports suggest this might not be as easy as it sounds. 

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg defines ‘habit’ as a psychological pattern having a three-part process. The trigger or cue helps you settle into the task,  followed by setting up a routine. Finally, the reward makes doing the task much more fun.

The latter has been used by many consumer-tech and legacy companies to create habit formation among customers. 

This is also the approach Habitica is using to inculcate habits. Run by Habit RPG Inc, Habitica tries to gamify habit formation by sending users reminders and digital rewards. 

Founded by Vicky Hsu, a University of California graduate, the app was released in 2015 on the Google Play Store, where it currently has over 10 lakh downloads and has a 4.5 rating. It is also available on the Apple App Store.

How does the app work?

After downloading Habitica, the app gives a quick three-slide introduction about their offerings such as creating to-do lists and joining a community. 

Once you click on ‘let’s start’, the layout changes to the scenery of pixelated mountains and clouds on a purple and white background. This seems to be inspired by 90s video games. 

Credit: YourStory Design

After registering with your email ID, username, and password – or by signing up with Google, an artificial intelligence (AI)-based bot named Justin pops up as your ‘guide’ and tells you about how to use the app. 

Habitica will then ask you to create your avatar and select your habit goals. These could be in the realm of work, exercise, school, health and chores, among other categories. On the app’s homepage, you will find a dashboard called ‘health’ and ‘experience’ alongside your avatar. 

The app also shows the initial objectives, and you can earn coins when you complete a task. These are the rewards on which Habitica bases its model to enable habit cultivation. You can use these coins to purchase virtual tools for your avatar. The app also prompts you to reward yourself by eating a treat or watching TV, whenever you complete a task. 

The app also has a list where you can add the habits you are looking to cultivate, which helps you remember things in your daily life. 

There is also an option of putting these habits into the ‘Dailies’ tab placed on the bottom. There is also a to-do list section where you can add your day-to-day tasks to increase productivity. 

With every habit, there is a ‘+’ button to the left and the ‘-’ button to the right. You are supposed to click on ‘+’ if the activity is completed and ‘-’ if you haven’t. The more activities you complete, your avatar’s health improves, and vice versa. 

Credit: YourStory Design

You can also customise your habits based on difficulty levels, category, and whether the habit is positive or negative.

If you click on the top left tab, the app offers more features including challenges – which you can create or join, more purchases for your avatar, and also become members of some of the guilds. These challenges and guilds are based on the initial selection you made about your interests. Here you can chat with other people in the community, which helps you stay on track. 

Verdict

One of the best things about Habitica is its layout. The pixelated 90s gaming background and the avatar are meant to evoke nostalgia, especially if you are someone who grew up playing Nintendo's Contra or Super Mario. 

While this writer is not a huge fan of notifications, this app could employ them as on occasions, it is quite easy to forget to check the tasks completed on the app. Habitica, while useful, could also get a bit addictive with its coin and gems collection format.

Nonetheless, the app presents a fresh take on promoting habit formation, compared to other productivity apps – including Boosted, Todoist, and Evernote – that have a more hardline approach. While the rewards system may seem a bit childish at first, once you join a few communities and try to accomplish some goals with others, the app becomes fun to operate. 

Every time you accomplish a task, you get more gold coins and gems, and using these, you buy more things – including a sword, pets and clothes.

Also, the app enables socialisation as users can also be part of a community. 

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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