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Fun and work in one with Habitica

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Phones can often be a distraction, but they can also boost the creativity and productivity of students’ work habits. Habitica combines fun with work in an ingeniously designed app that turns a user’s life into a game.

Habitica first takes the user into a classic character creation screen, in which the user makes an avatar. The character customization is quite limited in terms of complexity, but there is a larger menu of activities that the user can choose to customize the initial setup of the app.

When the user finishes the setup, bars indicating health, experience and level are shown with a list of rewards, which can be either real or virtual. For example, “Reward yourself” costs 20 gold coins and allows the player to watch TV, play a game or snack in real life. Others, such as leather armor and a training sword are reminiscent of traditional role-playing games and only affect progress in the app. The health potion, available for 25 gold coins, recovers 15 health. Completing tasks such as those in the Habits tab allows one to earn gold coins. A function of the habits is that it merges a good and bad habit into one, in which the user can click add or subtract, simultaneously adding or losing experience.

Another tab, Dailies, includes time-sensitive tasks that give the user a significantly larger experience gain, but only one gold coin. However, if these tasks are missed, the player is hit with a health penalty that must be restored using the health potion. As the app starts at Level one with 50 health points, it seems dubious that the health bar could ever deplete. The ‘To-dos’ section gives similar rewards but is otherwise just a list. The ‘Tavern’ option pauses the Dailies to prevent health damage, while parties and guilds allow collaboration with others. Shops sell armor, weapons, pets and the food to feed them, but are otherwise optional and have no effect.
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I was drawn to the app because I thought it could be applicable to my life, but Habitica was largely disappointing for a few reasons. For instance, the app lacks a significant reward and sense of instant gratification to warrant reusing. The amount of time used to gain experience and gold is quite low in comparison to the amount of effort put into setting up the tasks. When a task is finished, a small menu pops up indicating the amount earned, making the app feel too impersonal. Like actual phone games, the app could benefit from increasing experience gains or being generous with gifts in the beginning to keep players interested. Instead, it would take a user about three days of regular use to get to the next level. Without instantly satisfying rewards, the user has little motive to use the app.

Secondly, the app lacks a real game experience. Although Habitica may not be solely for entertainment, it feels like a utility app masquerading as a game rather than a hybrid of the two. Sure, the app is decorated with charming 8-bit illustrations, but there are no animations or any visual indicators of progress. Furthermore, in order to customize a character, a user needs gems, which costs real money and cannot be earned through tasks. In Habitica, the goal is to be productive in real life, so there is no compelling reason to use gems. If anything, the use of gems degrades the app’s values as a cash grab.

Habitica tries to embody a hybrid that encourages both productivity and recreation, but fails to excel in either. The app is useful for those who are already productive and want a fun organizer, but it falls short for those looking to become productive.

 

By Jamie Chen, Scene Editor

Photos courtesy of Google Play


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