Gamification is a new word for the old concept of motivating by making things fun. There are a huge range of fitness focussed apps out there that make a competition out of getting healthy. Here we take a look at some of the more general apps designed to improve our habits, skills and attitude. HabitRPG, Superbetter, Rare Candy and Epic Win each take different approaches to making us better people.
HabitRPG is more than an app. Actually it’s not even an app, its a web-based open source project that’s been translated to an app. Add your own good and bad habits, daily tasks and to-dos and collect gold when they are done. Gold buys upgrades, gear, weapons or pets. Neglect your tasks and lose health. There are challenges, guilds and boss fights like a real RPG.
The Goodness: HabitRPG has a lot to give if you stick with it. Starting with customizing the little pixel avatar right down to the hairstyle. There’s something very adorable about tiny pixel pictures.
The Awkward: You have to sign up before you can get a look around the app. It’s free to join but I like to know what I’m signing up for. The best place to start is the website, not the app. Honestly, the app is clunky, confusing and doesn’t have all the features of the site. The developers admit that ‘the website is more robust ’.
The Magic: There’s a big community of users and contributors including a wiki. And pets. Love the pets.
The geek in me likes HabitRPG for the community vibe it has going but it’s hard to get past the usability of the app given you need to check in so regularly. Though it is free and open source and apparently the app updates are in work.
Superbetter (US $6.49)
Superbetter is less game and more self-help guru. It encourages you to take small actions each day to live healthier and happier.
The Goodness: The design is bright and easy to navigate. Create your own quests or Superbetter can guide you to self-improvement with preset quests (like googling baby animals for a quick smile). These scientifically developed activities, the ‘power packs’, are the core of the app experience. They come with little lessons explaining the reasoning and benefits for each task.
The Awkward: Once you load up a few power packs you can quickly end up with too much going on, both visually on screen and tasks to perform. It’s worth spending a little time to personalize it, de-clutter the tasks and make up a few your own. Again with needing to sign up before you even know what the app looks like. Error messages pop up occasionally (a possible connection issue) and the sounds are really annoying. I eventually found the switch but turning off all sound takes away that nice little achievement ‘ta da’ too.
The Magic: Science cards describe the psychology behind each part of the app. It teaches strategies to improve resilience and be better.
Superbetter is valuable for the ideas and information included but I wouldn’t use it day after day. Its a taste of therapy much cheaper than the real thing.
Rare candy (US $2.49)
Rare Candy applies RPG style levelling to your own real life skills. It rewards you for spending time practicing on your way to master a new ability.
The Goodness: No-brainer set up, jump straight in to setting up skills to practice and dailies. You choose what you want to work on. The interface is clean and there’s a good help screen if you need it. It has a free version to check it out and a cheap paid version that adds a few details and more reward options.
The Awkward: Levelling up comes without much ‘yay you’ fanfare. Adding time to a skill should show the progress bar move or a round of applause or something. I tried adding hours until the level changed to see what it does and the progress bar actually went backwards.
A built in timer runs while you practice the skill. I started the timer to practice, and forgot to stop it. I came back a few days later and I was level 38 prodigy, Woohoo! The time practiced can be changed by either editing the number of hours for a skill, or adding and subtracting hour/half hour lots. This way is much more convenient but adds no coin rewards.
The Magic: Perhaps it’s the elusive ‘Rare Candy’ that comes with mastering your skills. The game hints at an epic journey to greatness but I’m just not sure where the path is going.
Rare Candy is simple to use but light on the ego stroking and instant gratification that gamifying your life is all about.
Epic Win (US $2.49)
Epic Win is all about instant gratification. It’s a to-do list that that gives you a feel good theatric cheer when you tick off a task. Achievements level up the character.
The Goodness: Even without the RPG elements, it’s a good to-do app. The interface for adding recurring tasks is simple and can link to Google calendar. Tasks aren’t ticked off with a quick touch, it’s a long dramatic flourish that leaves a warm fuzzy sense of accomplishment.
The Awkward: The graphics are a little home made and there’s minimal customization to support the RPG experience. The background music is irritating but can fortunately be switched off separately to the sound effects.
The Magic: Doesn’t everyone deserve a drum roll and fireworks when they get the washing done?
Epic win is an easy to use task list with added fanfare to help keep you motivated.