Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Points For Everything: How I Tried to Win At Life With Gamification

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Points For Everything: How I Tried to Win At Life With Gamification

by Justin Pot
My brain is stupid. It thinks I can get done tomorrow what I need to do today, and that I can do this afternoon what I need to do this morning. It puts everything off. It’s why present me always resents past me – even aspresent me dumps work onfuture me.
Like I said: stupid. But motivation is a curious thing. Some days I’m perfectly willing to spend hours pursuing virtual treasure in a game, but can’t seem to motivate myself to write an article. Why are video games so good at keeping me captivated? Part of the reason is that video games offer achievable goals, and show me how to reach them. Even more importantly: there’s usually some kind of reward, intangible as it may be. My stupid brain reacts to that – which is why I’ll take Link across Hyrule Field 20 times to deliver masks but won’t want to take out the garbage.
Harnessing that power to train my brain outside of a video game is called gamification, but will it work for a mind as distractible as mine? It’s something I’ve been wondering since I discovered HabitRPG, which aims to make improving yourself addictive. I’ve been using HabitRPG as my primary to-do list since January. Does it work? Here’s what I discovered.

HabitRPG: A Primer

HabitRPG, at first glance, doesn’t look different from your standard to-do list. And it really isn’t, except for the pixelated character and the HP (health) and XP (experience) bars:
The four columns below this – Habits, Dailies, Todos and Rewards – are the heart of the gameplay. The first three help or hinder my character – bad habits reduce my HP, good habits increase my XP. In-game currency can be used to purchase in-game rewards (like a shiny new sword) or out-of-game rewards (like a half hour of TV during a workday).
How did these various features help me? Let’s go over them, and how they fit in my workflow.

Dailies: The Killer Feature

There are certain things I need to do, every day – like watering the plants, or cleaning out my inbox. And there are other things I want to do, every day – like working out, or responding to at least 10 comments on this site. HabitRPG provides a column called “Dailies” for this – and it’s probably my favorite part of the service. In one place, I can mark all of the things I want to accomplish every day, and HabitRPG motivates me to actually follow-through. Here’s my personal list: