Habitica RPG

New Game! is a piece I do once a month on a game I’ve recently tried. They may not be the newest games, but they are the ones I find most interesting.

I had heard about habit-rewarding games before, but I had never tried any before Habitica. I came across this role playing group (RPG)-type game when I attended GaymerX in Santa Clara, California. I love RPGs and I loved the focus on “leveling up your character”.

How you play the game essentially is, you put things on your list that you would like to complete. I put some of my dailies as “floss” or “read 10 pages of Game of Thrones”. Then you can also put other items which I use for special projects, like “organize my room”. You get experience points and gold for both. You can use that gold to buy special items for your avatar.

So it’s a very simple application but it has really had an impact on my life so far. But also, like many nerds in the Nerdmunity I have experienced symptoms of depression. While I have been working on my symptoms, there are a few bad habits I picked up while fighting my arch nemesis “Learned Helplessness”. For those of you who are not aware, learned helplessness is a mini boss of Depression that serves to give you that lovely “I can’t, therefore I don’t” mentality, stopping you from doing the things that you love.

To conquer these habits, I tried making lists and pressuring myself into getting the items done by listing the times at which I was free to do those items. In doing so, I was trying to use the monster called guilt to provoke myself into doing the things on my list. Regardless to say, it was not very effective and a lot of my projects went unfinished.

Habitica on the other hand relies on positive reinforcement (i.e. “you did a thing, here’s a cookie”). I’ve always been excited to cross things off a list, but in this game you get stuff for it! And you’re probably thinking “hey can’t you just make up random things and just say that you did them in order to level?” You can, but “cognitive dissonance,” a psychological effect that tells us that the more effort, time, money, etc we put into a thing, the more we value it. Essentially, for me, the game wouldn’t have any meeting without checking off things I would actually like to do.

For anyone interested in using the game, I would start with realistic goals that you can resolve quickly. Positive reinforcement works best when you get reinforced for a behavior. So when you set your goal to be “Read all of Game of Thrones by Thursday”, it can kind of reduce the amount of effectiveness unless you are able to read all 800 pages in the span of a week.

This game is free to play, but if you don’t have a smart phone or don’t want to sign up, you can also try this with an RPG system, such as Pathfinder. Make a character for yourself, deal out how much XP (experience points) you want for each activity, and then level your character that way. But overall this is a great game and I recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their good habits.

– Good Villager