Level 10: Task-It

Task-It (1)

Introducing Task-Itloading

Task-It is the thoroughly imaginary ultimate gamified work experience. It combines customize-able project management techniques with a user-friendly interface and plenty of incentives to keep employees engaged and motivated. Inspired by all the other examples of gamification I’ve researched over the past ten weeks, Task-It’s was designed to incorporated the core features of gamification– incentive, community, and progress visualization. However, rather than applying these  features to housework or self-improvement, Task-It combines them with task management software to become a productivity tool for the office. For the purposes of this post, I will focus on the Gamified features of this application.

 

For Employers

Customization

taskit

One of the most valuable tools for a project manager is the ability to customize task management software to fit the company’s needs. Every team has unique preferences for managing task, and most task management either provide sufficient customization options for administrators, or they are easy for employees to use. Unfortunately, it is rare that an application is user-friendly and offers the appropriate management options. For example, some companies use software that logs the minutes, hours, or days spent on a task, while other software simply tracks the estimated percentage as a task is worked on. There are also several methods for sorting tasks– by person, by department, by project, by due date, by status. Some prefer to visualize a project with a calendar or Gantt chart, others prefer a Kanban board. Task-It strives to provide any of these methods as options for your team. Task-It is also an incentive program, and it applies those same principals of customization to that part of the app. Task-It is pre-balanced for convenience. The points users earn are based on the tasks to which they contribute, so project managers don’t have to determine the value of work, but they can adjust those pre-set numbers if necessary. Similarly, the point values at which a user levels up is predetermined. All the project manager must do is create rewards associated with those levels, so use suggested rewards from the Task-It database. The achievements in the app work the same way, so employers can create challenges for users to complete for specific rewards. These options allow for the creation and easy implementation of seasonal incentive programs, or other unique motivational rewards.

For Employees

Task Managementswipe

Large-scale task management is efficient, but it can be difficult and intimidating, for those organizing and those receiving assignments. Task-It breaks larger assignments into manageable tasks and dependencies. Multiple users can be assigned to the same task, and each will earn points as they log time spent on that task. Even when tasks are passed from one user to the next, points can still be earned. Users can access the task management on their desktop computer when they are making extensive notes and attaching files. However, they can also use convenient swipe controls on their phone to mark tasks complete on-the-go. You can also filter the tasks in a project to view just those that are assigned to you, in the order of the nearest deadlines. These filtered views help make a large workload much more manageable. Progress bars on the thumbnails also help users visualize not only work to be done, but work that has already been accomplished.

Rewards

earn

All gamification relies on creating incentives for users to complete specific tasks. One of the most difficult area in which to motivate people, aside from the gym, can be the office. A repetitive routine can drain energy. Task-It offers a combination of year-round reward opportunities and specialty incentives. For example, users may become eligible for benefits like extra vacation days as they level up. The company may also promote a holiday incentive program, offering points for donations to a local food drive. Aside from earning points by completing assigned tasks, users can earn points as part of achievements. Users can browse the company achievement list and accept whichever achievement’s they’d like to complete for bonus points and/or rewards. These appear in the user’s list of personal goals. Users can check on their progress towards achieving these goals at any time, and display their earned achievements (Trophies) on their profile.

goals     trophy

Community

The final essential aspect of Task-It is community. Each user has their own profile, featuring a photo, personal statement, title, time spent at the company, Task-It level, trophies, recent activities, etc., and they can view each other’s profiles. Personal motivation is vital, but community motivation can make incentives all the more effective. Task-It encourages group motivation through competition among coworkers. For example, just as users can accept achievements as personal goals, they can also challenge other. This allows coworkers to compete directly with one another, rather than solely indirectly through leaderboards or monitoring each other’s points and achievements. Similarly, as a boss you can challenge employees to a specific task to offer them an incentive for improving a specific skill or habit.

Task-It (4)

Summary

In summary, Task-It serves as an example of the ways in which gamification can be applied to serious endeavors for positive results. The full potential of gamification is still being explored, but the boundaries are far from limiting. Task-It applies gamification as an incentive tool, as it is most often used, in this case to motivate employees. Gamification benefits the employees by making the work more manageable and integrating tangible rewards. Employers benefit from more engaged and productive employees. With gamification, even if it’s not a traditional game, everyone wins.

Level 9: Intermission

Over the past ten weeks, I have explored gamification in a number of contexts. The purpose of this brief post is to provide concluding thoughts on gamification.

Gamification is an appealing solution to many problems because gamification is about making things “fun,” or at the very least rewarding on a personal level. In the future, gamification will likely become more and more integrated, particularly in our entertainment society. “Entertainment education” or “Edutainment” has been increasing in popularity alongside the integration of of commercial video games into standard curriculum.  A generation that grows up with this game-centric education will likely be even more receptive to gamification in other areas of life.

My discussions of gamification thus far have focused on how and why gamification has been applied to specific tasks– meditation, banking, fitness, etc. I’ve discussed how that application motivates users, and why it works. But what more can be done? To what end is gamification useful? I have taken that which I’ve learned about gamification and applied it to a concept for a theoretical application that combines task management in the workplace with a gamified incentive system. The following post is a detailed explanation of how this application would work.

Level 8: Mindbloom

Gamified Life Balance

So far, this blog has featured gamified applications for meditation, physical fitness, daily tasks, chores, financial fitness, and learning programming or foreign languages. These applications offer great advantages, but they’re very focused. Each application helps you to make improvements to one area of your life by offering motivational tools and incentive systems. So, by combining these applications, you can construct a network of tools to achieve life balance. But what about one place to keep track of balancing everything?

Grow the Life You Want

life

Mindbloom offers a suite of “life improvement apps to grow the life you want.” These apps include Life Game, Juice, Proof!, bloom*, and Momentum. I will focus my examination of Mindbloom on Life Game, a gamified inspiration and wellness application for desktop and mobile users. Essentially, Mindbloom combines visualization techniques with a gamified to-do list and inspiration board. Mindbloom differs from most of the other gamification experiences explored thus far in that it does not focus on a specific objective theme. Rather, it incorporates many different areas for improvement within a single application.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” -Mindbloom

Mindbloom operates on three fundamental ideas:

Choosing Priorities

Mindbloom offers seven options for player priorities: Creativity, Career, Finances, Health, Lifestyle, Relationships, and Spirituality. As a player, you can choose as many of these as you wish to be represented as areas that require your attention.acorn

Finding Motivation

Mindbloom also functions as an inspiration board. You can search and upload quotes, music, and images that inspire you to work towards and meet your goals. There are two ways to build your collection of inspiration. Mindbloom provides an in-app library that you can search for inspirational images, quotes and music. You can search by keyword or by category. You can also upload your own sources of inspiration from an existing inspiration board or as you happen across them on the internet in general. You can add personal photos of friends, family, and pets, progress photos, a picture of your library, or whatever else motivates you to continue working on your goals. If you don’t have an inspiration library, or you don’t particularly want to build one, Mindbloom has a “Get Inspired” button. If you click the button, you will find a slideshow of images like this one:

inspired

Taking Action

Mindbloom’s action feature provides the ability to create your own objectives or complete ones that have been predetermined by Mindbloom. For example, you might create your own health objective to participate in a kickboxing class, or a relationship objective to plan a surprise date night. These actions are the primary way to monitor your progress in any of your priorities.

This is You. 

tree

You are a tree. The leaves on the tree represent the priorities you’ve chosen for yourself. Trees need sunlight and water to grow. The sunlight represents the inspiration you find in images, music, and quotes. The water represents the actions you take that support your priorities. You level up by nurturing your tree. As you collect inspiration and complete actions, your tree grows. If you neglect your tree, or certain branches of it, the leaves change from green to yellow and so on.

rain   sun

market

Mindbloom provides a visualization of the attention you are paying to the various aspects of your life. Your tree starts small, on a generic background. As you level up, you also earn achievements and seeds. Seeds allow you to purchase upgrades and other rewards in the Market. Upgrades include increasing the limit on the number of images and songs you can upload as inspiration, as well as action packs specific to Creativity, Finances, etc. These packs include actions– objectives for you to complete– and inspirational images. Your homepage is complete with a background, music, and ambiance, so you can unlock new environments for your tree; for example, you can transplant your tree to the bayou or add the sound of frogs. You can also purchase sunshine and water if you’re struggling to keep your tree green.

levelup

As we’ve seen many times before, a key aspect of gamification and motivational applications in general is community features. Mindbloom allows you to connect with friends and form groups so you can encourage each other to complete your goals. Just like many other applications, community encouragement drives the desire to reach new levels and earn achievement.

friends

Your Virtual Life Garden

Mindbloom is like a little virtual garden you can tend to. If you don’t find images with overlayed quotes inspiring, you may find it difficult to be motivated by that portion of the application. However, the action feature may be useful, particularly because it does have the advantage of viewing your actions in a calendar view. Regardless, the visualization feature can be useful in evaluating how true you are to your priorities, and where you should be focusing your efforts towards a more balanced life.

All images obtained from mindbloom.com

Level 7: Fitocracy

Getting Motivated

Gamification is important because it is proven as an effective motivational tool. Gamification can help people reach their goals, whatever those goals may be. One area in which people most often have difficulty remaining motivated is physical fitness. Keeping motivated by tracking progress by pounds or inches can be especially difficult when the numbers change so slowly. This is where gamification can be useful. Instead of tracking progress strictly by results, you level up and earn points and achievements by working out. In addition, unlike applications like HabitRPG, the XP rewards are predetermined, so the user doesn’t have to any setup to start earning points.

achievement

What is Fitocracy?

Fitocracy combines a focused social media site for people with similar goals with a workout-tracking application. As opposed to tracking weight or calories, Fitocracy focuses on the work you’re doing to reach whatever goal you have set for yourself. The home page is similar to a Facebook newsfeed. Users ask each other for advice, share articles and inspiration, or post about their progress. You also have a personal activity page where all of your own personal updates are kept in a timeline. This includes your achievements, badges, workouts, points, and leveling-up. Your profile page has an about section where you can write a bio, etc.

Fitocracy contains a library of workouts that users can search and track. You select a calendar day and search for any workouts you completed or plan to complete. Once you’ve completed a workout, you can add details like reps and time spent on the workout. You can then mark the workout as complete in order to track it and earn points for the exercise you’ve done.

If you don’t have specific goals for yourself, Fitocracy provides a variety of quests. So even if you don’t have specific goals in mind, Fitocracy can help you find a direction. These quests have fun names and predetermined point rewards.

quests

Training With a Coach

Sometimes you work better with a source of enforcement. Fitocracy also serves as a platform to connect people with personal trainers to assess goals and progress. Each coach has a profile as well as testimonials from members who have been matched with them in the past. If you’re not sure what you need in a coach, you can ask Fitocracy for a recommendation. Coaches can also set up short-term programs with weekly fees if you want to work as a group towards short-term goals.

coach

Becoming A Hero

Fitocracy’s premium version is called becoming a Hero. This allows users additional benefits, like weekly progress reports. These track the points you’ve earned from activities like Kickboxing or other exercises. Fitocracy also tracks your personal records. This allows you to compete with yourself, rather than only compare your progress to that of others. These weekly updates serve not only to help you track your progress but also to remind you to keep using the app. Users can choose any number of ways to set goals that focus on effort put in, rather than results. For example, you could set a distance to run in a certain amount of time, rather than a number of pounds to lose.

insight

Becoming a Hero also unlocks a number of community features. You can use private messaging with other members. You can also challenge them to a duel.

duels

In a duel, you can directly challenge another user to compete for a specific goal, on a specific timeline. A fitness partner can help keep you motivated to go to a gym– if you don’t go, you’re not just breaking a commitment to yourself, you’re breaking a commitment to someone else as well. Competition is just another way to motivate each other. Fitocracy enables a digital competition between individuals who might not be able to go to the same gym together. You can also unlock the ability to claim titles for yourself. These titles highlight a specific specialty and appear alongside your name wherever it appears on the site.

Becoming a hero also gives the user several other benefits. There are a few differences with workouts– you can save workouts from other people and don’t have a limit on the number of routines you can save. Heroes are eligible for additional exclusive badges. Plus, since Hero subscriptions are Fitocracy’s primary source of income (other memberships and mobile apps are free), Fitocracy rewards Heroes with early access to new features before they are available to everyone else.

All images obtained from Fitocracy's website.

Level 6: Financial Gamification

It’s Complicated

The concepts of financial fitness, and especially good credit, can be difficult for many people to understand, let alone be motivated to maintain. The concepts are complicated, and financial institutions, with their legal speak, rarely make an effort to make the ideas more approachable. However, recently, gamification techniques have entered the financial world. Although some banks, like PNC, incorporate gamification as part of their online account, most examples come from third party applications that the user connects to their other financial accounts. The novelty of gamification in finance means that the applications are far less comprehensive than those that exist for other tasks. Financial fitness requires a great deal of explanation as well as incentive, so the app must reward users for both learning and doing. 

SaveUp

saveup

SaveUp is an online application that you can use as an incentive to save money and pay off debt. As their website describes, you link your financial accounts to your SaveUp account. As you contribute to your financial goals, you earn points, just like many other examples of gamification. However, rather than purchasing specific rewards, you play games. This is where the application diverges from gamification. Rather than applying game mechanics to finance, SaveUp introduces literal games to the user as a reward. It’s the equivalent of being rewarded with arcade tickets; if you’re not good at the game, or the game is a game of chance, the games might very well be the only reward you get. This may be an effective way to encourage players to save money, but the gamification of it is limited. Overall, the application seems more likely to encourage a gambling habit than a responsible understanding of financial fitness.

SmartyPig

smartypig

SmartyPig is another application that is commonly associated with gamified finance. While SmartyPig does offer the option to redeem rewards in the form of gift cards, that as close to gamification as the application really comes. Rather than a gamified experience, SmartyPig is more accurately defined as a specialized saving tool. It allows you to transfer money for a specific goal to a virtual piggy bank, where you can’t spend it until you have reached your goal. The money can then be transferred back to your traditional account to be spent. You can watch your progress for each individual savings goal without the temptation to spend that money on anything else as it sits in your checking account or even a coin jar.

Not Quite There Yet

I was able to find references to other gamified financial applications, but the websites had since been closed. The best example I was able to find was PNC’s virtual wallet and Punch the Pig features, which I discussed in the introduction. It seems that the financial world is one that gamification has not quite successfully invaded. The options are limited, but the fact that financial gamification is not thriving is not completely shocking. The material is complex and a singular application cannot easily satisfy both novice and experienced users, since a successful application would likely need to focus either on educating users or motivating them to continue good financial practices.

Level 5: Duolingo

Learning a new language, or even practicing a second language in which you’re mostly proficient, can be overwhelming. These skills take a lot of dedication and repetition to acquire and maintain. Duolingo is a web and mobile application that you can use to learn or practice foreign language skills. Duolingo combines more gamification techniques than most of the applications examined so far, and with good reason. Duolingo needs to provide a “one-size-fits-all” tool for people with any level of experience to learn any number of languages. These gamification elements help greatly in making the experience more universal.

Personally, I took a few years of Spanish classes in high school and college, but haven’t had much opportunity to practice it since. I chose to explore Duolingo as a tool for learning Spanish since I knew enough to understand how they were attempting to teach me, but not so much that I wouldn’t be able to tell if it was an effective method. Duolingo lets you try the site without creating an account first, which made starting very fast and very easy. Once I had explored a bit and was ready to log off, I was able to create an account to save my progress, feeling much more confident about spending the time to do so.

The first thing Duolingo asks is which language you’d like to learn. Duolingo offers thirteen options, including Spanish, French, German, Irish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Turkish. After choosing, you experience the first instances of gamification: Duo the owl gives a short (optional) tutorial before you pick your difficulty. You can name yourself as a beginner or take a placement test to skip the skills you’ve already mastered. As you take the placement test, you hear as well as read text that needs to be translated. After each question, you will see the correct option if you answered incorrectly, but you will also see a “Discussion” option. If you are confused by the question or the answer, you can view and contribute to a discussion board where other users of all levels can talk about that specific question. This serves the same purpose of help forums for games that allow novice players to ask others for advice about a particular level or objective.

If you start at the beginning but want to test out of specific skills, like food vocabulary, you can do that too. These tests include a set number of translations that you need to complete before testing out of the lesson. The test questions ask you to transcribe spoken test, speak written text into your device’s microphone (this is an optional setting), or translate written text from one language to another. This variety allows a variety of learners to learn effectively through Duolingo. You are given several “lives” represented by hearts on the screen. With each incorrect translation, you lose one of these lives. If you lose all of your lives before reaching the end of the quiz, you don’t test out of that lesson. But the simple gamification of passing and failing the lesson tests. You can finish the test knowing that you were 2 questions away from passing the test, and that motivates you to try again. Whether or not you pass the test on the first try, it is the taking of the test itself that allows you to practice in a different way, so it’s important that the process isn’t too intimidating.

The lessons themselves work much the same way as the lesson tests. The questions allow you to hover over words for translations, and some words are shown with pictures to give additional context and association as you learn the vocabulary. Duolingo breaks the material into very small lessons with clear topics, such as clothing, food, possessives, etc. This means that you encounter rewards more often, and feel motivated to continue achieving your goals on the site. As you complete levels, you earn XP (experience points). As you reach certain thresholds, you “level up.” Duolingo also allows you to set a daily goal for practicing on Duolingo. For example, I might want to practice only five minutes a day while on the train, but you may want to sit down at the computer for twenty minutes a day. Duolingo reminds you how far away you are from reaching that daily goal, and also encourages you to continue your streak of practicing on a daily basis. You also receive notifications for reaching milestones, like the becoming 1% fluent in Spanish.

One new gamification aspect incorporated by Duolingo is their “in-game currency” Lingots. You earn Lingots for completing lessons, leveling up, and continuing your streak. These Lingots can be spent in the virtual store for a variety of in-game rewards. You can purchase bonus skills, like learning how to flirt in that language. You can purchase extra exercises such as timed practice or quizzes. You can pay to take a day off without losing your streak. You can even wager to earn double or nothing on your ability to maintain a seven day streak.

Duolingo’s community features are also very prevalent. Beyond the discussion boards mentioned above, you can upload articles to the immersion section, where the community works together to translate the documents. You can also connect to Facebook to compete with friends or share specific accomplishments. When you reach milestones in proficiency, Duolingo offers to add that information to your LinkedIn Profile. All these options for collaboration and competition allow users to engage and support each other while they learn a new language, and provides a variety of potential human resources for more complicated questions.

All of your progress is tracked on Duolingo’s homepage. You can view your progress charts, hours left until a new day starts, a quick link to strengthen weak skills, Duo the Owl (of course), your XP and level, currency, your heart bonus, and an overview of the skills you’ve completed.  One of the most valuable features I found with Duolingo was how adaptive it was as it learned what I knew and what I didn’t. Duolingo keeps a list of the vocabulary words I’ve learned, how well I know each word, and when the last time I practiced the word was. Any word that I encounter for the first time in Duolingo is underlined and I can hover over it for a translation.

Overall, Duolingo might be the most extensive and effective example of gamification that I’ve encountered, especially for such a difficult and broad objective as learning a new language. Duolingo includes community features, in-game currency, XP, “lives,” rewards, achievements, and more. The primary goals of gamification are to engage the player and break a large task into smaller objectives to provide ample opportunities for a feeling of accomplishment. In my opinion, these goals were very clearly met with even minimal engagement with Duolingo.

Level 4: CodeCademy

The Spread of Gamification

So far, I’ve examined in detail instances of gamification in meditation, chores, and daily to-do lists. But gamification is appearing in minor instances almost everywhere. Just this week, when setting up a new email account, I was shown a page of badges, goals for tasks I should complete to fully set up my email– choosing a theme, verifying a backup email, etc.

Let’s Face It

Our world is increasingly dependent on computers. But at the same time, computers themselves are becoming increasingly complex. Learning to write code and understand HTML, CSS, JavaScript, APIs, PHP, etc. is likely intimidating to anyone who has no experience with programming. There are plenty of online classes and other free services to help people learn these skills, but many of them aren’t as approachable to beginners, and they focus on theory, rather than practice. And to anyone attempting the acquisition of coding skills, the undertaking seems far from a game.

But what if it was?

codecademy_new_logo

CaptureCodeCademy has developed a gamified system of educating people about coding skills, while maintaining a practical and professional atmosphere for those who take the process very seriously. Their users range from people picking up a hobby to students supplementing their education to professionals seeking a career change. In accordance with such a broad audience, CodeCademy’s gamification is subtle. The user’s summary page contains a pixelated profile icon,  an accumulated point total, streak information (the longest number of successive days a user has logged in), skills completed, and badges earned. The
website also tracks your progression through the different lessons offered.

CodeCademy is approachable to beginners because it organizes skills in several ways. The first prominently displayed category is Web Developer Skills, and these are presented not only by their language, but also by their applications. For example, if you’re unsure what skills you need to acquire, you can navigate to a specific end goal instead, like “Make a Website.”  CodeCademy also features 30-minute projects, such as “Animate Your Name,” to break the task of learning to code into little achievable pieces.

Learning with CodeCademy

Once you’ve chosen a project, CodeCademy provides more details, including a difficulty level, an number of enrolled students (enforcing the community aspect of the site), and even an estimate of how many hours it will take to complete the course. The summary of the course also generally focuses not on the pieces of language learned, but what the user will be able to do by learning it.

All of these pieces keep the user engaged by focusing on accomplishments. The badges I earned weren’t for learning the difference between an ordered and unordered list, but for implementing a push menu. I also earned badges for earning a certain number of points in a day, or completing a certain number of lessons. I was constantly reminded of my end goals, and every achievement I made or would soon make between now and my ultimate reaching of those goals. Each lesson even starts with a preview of the final produce.

CodeCademy also breaks learning up into small, easy to accomplish pieces. Rather than reading a chapter about processes and then attempting to apply them all at once, CodeCademy guides users through tasks one step at a time, checking the work being done as it’s being done. Hints and additional resources are available right from the practice window if you’re struggling. And just like the non-linear narrative of many traditional games, the user can proceed back and forth through the lesson as they need to in order to understand the concepts.

Though subtle, this example of gamification demonstrates the powerful nature of even minimal application of its core concepts. In this case, gamification lessens the intimidation of such a big undertaking. While most other examples of gamification focus on motivating users to continue certain tasks. CodeCademy (while it certainly encourages continuation) also focuses on motivating users to start coding. Most people know how to complete daily chores, so they don’t need motivation to start doing laundry– most of us face the necessity of those types of tasks on a regular basis. CodeCademy faces an additional obstacle of educating users on what they should learn, in addition to motivating them to continue learning. Ultimately, this service accomplishes a great deal with a very minimal approach to complicated concepts and goals.

Level 3: Chore Wars

Welcome, Brave Adventurers

“Finally,” the Chore Wars homepage states, “you can claim experience points for housework.”

ChoreWars

Now, you can technically earn points in a program like HabitRPG for housework… but you have to be the one to set it up that way. If housework alone is something you want to focus on improving, HabitRPG might not be the best choice, since it’s build for you to chose a range of habits to address. With the explicit focus of ChoreWars, however, you lose a lot of the customization options available with services like HabitRPG. In ChoreWars, you chose from a selection of pre-determined appearances and select your “natural talents,” like paying bills, dusting, and grocery shopping. Your final customization option is just choosing who can see your chores and experience points (XP)– everyone, or just the members of your party.

Once you start or join a party, you can create your own “adventure” or import a pre-generated one. To get the hang of things, I chose to pick from the list of already generated adventures. I skipped a few of them– I don’t iron any clothes, I don’t have a yard to attend to, and I don’t have any plants that need watering (and that’s intentional). The rest, though, I kept– Dusting, Paying Bills, Laundry, Dishes, etc.

In the Name of [Your Residence]

Claiming XP is pretty simple. Your list of adventures is divided into domains– the bathroom, the kitchen, the outside world, etc. Each adventure as a summary. Let’s take a look at grocery shopping:

The “flavor text” (or text that is designed to contribute to the game’s theme) reads, “Venturing to the local market to pick up a significant amount of food and other essentials for the party.” (This makes it sound much more appealing than my mile walk through the rain to pick up Ramen noodles!)

Completing this adventure will reward you with 50 XP, but also includes the following risks/rewards:

  • between 1 and 50 gold pieces
  • 75% chance of treasure (bag of holding,food ration,fizzy potion,bubbly potion,lembas wafer,slime mold,tripe ration)
  • 75% chance of a wandering monster (zombie,enraged shopkeeper,shopping troll)

When I claimed my adventure, I earned 50 XP and 17 gold pieces, but I also encountered an enraged shopkeeper, and (naturally) engaged in combat. We were nearly evenly matched, with the shopkeeper holding 20 HP to my 19 HP. I attempted to attack the shopkeeper, and missed, losing 9 HP in the encounter. (The combat narrative and values were all randomly generated as far as I could tell. The player makes no choice to attack, defend, etc.) Following that initial strike, there were some misdirected spells and stabs, and ultimately, the shopkeeper defeated me quite absolutely, and returned from my adventure with only my XP, my groceries, and my 17 gold pieces.

As you play the game, you can adjust the XP that correlates to each adventure. The site recommends judging appropriate XP by the average number of minutes it normally takes to complete the task. (This type of direction is extremely helpful for members who have never balanced this type of game before, and it isn’t even buried in a Wiki, like most of the tips for how to play HabitRPG.) And of course, as mentioned above, you can create your own adventures too, like cleaning the cat’s litter box so the dog doesn’t treat it as a personal buffet (*sigh*).

The Land of [Your Party]

Why form a party?

Well, the first reason would be the group motivation technique that drives HabitRPG members to stay on track with their daily habits. Chore Wars even allows you to leave comments on your adventures for party members to see. Having someone in your life take part in the same gamification experience can help keep you motivated to really commit to those adventures. Luckily, ChoreWars offers enough customization to accommodate different scales of living spaces and responsibilities, from a dorm room to a full house, and it’s much more engaging than the paperwork college roommates are often required to complete (and just as often gets forgotten minutes later).

The second reason would be a shared living space. ChoreWars seems ideal for people who share a house or apartment and want to divide up household responsibilities. For example, college roommates might want to create an adventure for each communal chore or financial responsibility. Creating XP values for the time or money spent can help everyone feel assured that contributions are evenly distributed. ChoreWars can also be useful for families. The gamification can make completing the tasks more exciting for younger children, and parents can even equate the XP earned to the allowance their kids can earn. The narrative at the end of each adventure (like my failed combat with the enraged shopkeeper) also provides an extra incentive to claim your adventure by offering new stories and maybe earn some extra gold pieces.

Go Forth…

So go forth, brave adventurers, and claim what is rightfully yours. Slay the dragon that lies with the dust bunnies beneath your bed. Expel the minions gathering in your bathroom. Keep a domain that is worthy of your party’s company, with Chore Wars.

Chore Wars is perfect if you want a centralized and entertaining place for monitoring a group’s participation in just housework. The language and the imagery create a great atmosphere for making household chores more tolerable. Unlike HabitRPG, the game is mostly balanced for you. The gamification focuses more on a narrative for your character than just the exchange of HP and XP. HabitRPG excels at bringing groups together across distances, whereas Chore Wars excels at uniting a group bound to a shared residence.

Of all the subjects for gamification, chores seems to be the least harmful application. Chores do not require they be taken seriously. No-one can argue that gamification of chores destroys a child’s work ethic or makes them incapable of completing chores “traditionally,” as is often argued about professional and educational gamification. Chores are entirely a personal (or household-wide) necessity for keeping your living space sanitary. And why shouldn’t that be at least a little fun?

Level 2: HabitRPG

Gamify Your Life

HabitRPG is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Headspace in terms of approaches to gamification. Rather than taking a very focused example and offering specific rewards for specific tasks, HabitRPG turns would-be players into designers as well. It gives a large amount of control to the users themselves. There are pre-determined elements, but the player can also create their own objectives, rewards, and integrations. HabitRPG is the architecture, but the platform allows for much more customization than apps like Headspace.page

HabitRPG relies on much more traditional and extensive terminology and design than smaller examples like Headspace. Players create an avatar, earn XP (experience points), gain and lose health points, collect armor and equipment, choose a class, join quests with friends, and battle monsters. And it all revolves around your to-do list.

 

Here’s How (and Why) It Works

Avatars and Pets

Players get to customize their avatar’s skin, hair, outfit, etc. Just like any other game, this customization allows you to create an identity for the game and become invested in play. Once you reach a certain level, you can also collect and care for a variety of pets. The style of this artwork also alludes to early video game art.

Levels, XP, HP, and Currency

You can die in this game. Fortunately, Habit RPG gives you several tools for tracking your progress in the game: Levels, Heath Points (HP), Experience Points (XP), and In-Game Currency (silver, gold, and gems). As you complete tasks, you earn XP. As you reach preset thresholds, your character “levels up.” At level 3, for example, the player starts receiving “drops” from the game (this can be an egg to hatch a pet, food for pets, etc.). Each time you level up, your HP is also replenished. You have a maximum HP of 50, and lose HP for missing daDeathily tasks, etc. If your HP reaches 0, your character dies. (You can continue playing, but you level down and you lose all of your gold.) Gold, silver, and gems are all types of currency you can earn in the game. You can use this currency to replenish health, buy weapons and armor, or purchase other rewards (see below). Ultimately, levels, XP, HP, and currency are all ways to introduce consequences and incentives to the player. These consequences and incentives drive the player to continue improving as they play the game.

Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos

Tasks are broken down into three categories: Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos. These are all customized by the player. Habits are tasks that can be completed as frequently or infrequently as the player desires. They can be set as positive, negative, or both. For example, a player who is trying to quit smoking can create the negative habit: “Smoke a Cigarette.” Each time the player smokes, she activates that habit. Since it’s a negative habit, activating the habit causes the player to lose HP. Another player could earn XP every time he walks to work. Dailies are habits that players need to complete once a day (for example, taking medication). For each day that the player completes this task, they earn XP, and for each day they skip it, they lose HP. Furthermore, if you skip multiple days in a row, you lose more and more HP. This demonstrates the real-life consequences of continuing to skip important daily habits. To-Dos are just that: things you need to do, usually only once (homework assignments, errands, etc.). You can set difficulty levels for these tasks which determine their worth (in XP) when completed.

Rewards

Rewards is another area of the game that players can customize. You can chose the rewards that will be most motivating to you. These rewards revolve around the currency system, but the player is responsible for balancing worth. You can chose both the reward and the criteria for earning it. For example, one player might equate earning 500 gold with treating himself to dinner. Another player might strive for 1000 gold to earn the right to go out to a movie. This customization means that HabitRPG doesn’t have to offer universally desirable rewards in order to motivate people to play. (*HabitRPG does not provide the rewards that players set for themselves. It is the player’s responsibility to supply that reward once they earn it. HabitRPG is just a platform for tracking progress towards those rewards.)

Classes and Quests, Teams and Challenges

Once a player reaches level ten, classes become available. Players can choose between become a Warrior, Mage, Healer, or Rogue. Your class determines how you interact with tasks and what skills you bring to quests you complete. I have not yet selected a class or attempted a quest, so I can’t comment on the more specific details of these features, but the home page features a prominent button that says “Battle Monsters with Friends.” Most of these social options are dependent on creating or joining a party. In this way, HabitRPG allows and encourages group motivation. You can also find plenty of player-created challenges to join. These challenges add tasks to your board that act just like your other Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos, but they are tagged as part of a specific challenge and you can check in on everyone’s progress. This feature is great for fitness and book clubs, students, and other groups to motivate each other and keep track of shared objectives.

 

Applications of HabitRPG

The potential applications of Habit RPG really are endless. The “game” is really a platform for each player to customize their game for what they need. I tend to be a workaholic, so I customized HabitRPG with goals to live a healthier, more well-rounded life. I earn rewards for taking a full hour lunch break at work, reading for 30 minutes, using Headspace, and taking a walk with my dog. I lose HP for ever day that I don’t get a full 8 hours of sleep or I don’t take one hour out of the day to do something I enjoy. This allows me to get external reminders about tasks that I tend to forget about, especially since I tend to be a list-oriented person. But it also reminds me of the compounding detriment of skipping healthy habits. (My character has died 4 5 times already…) Overall, this gamified to-do list has proved very efficient as a motivational tool, as long as the user takes the time to set it up and balance their rewards for a proper difficulty.

Level 1: Headspace

Meditation: The Game?

When thinking of subjects for gamification, meditation isn’t exactly thought of as a prime candidate. Meditation is supposed to be quiet, calming, relaxing… an exercise in solitude and reflection. Games are usually associated with excitement, active engagement, and competition, as games are usually a group activity. The potential oxymoron  of gamified meditation is precisely the reason for exploring this example of gamification first. Meditation is a very simple, focused (but sometimes difficult) task. This allows the gamification in the following example to be easily isolated from the objectives of the task itself.

Say Hello to Headspace

Source: www.headspace.com

Headspace is a meditation app that uses several gamification techniques teach and encourage daily mindfulness habits. At a high level, the app allows you to track progress, compare with friends, and earn rewards. The app and Level 1 exercises are free, and users pay a monthly subscription fee to access the rest of the exercises at their own pace.

At its core, Headspace is an organized database of guided meditation exercises. These exercise are categorized into courses, or themed progressions. Once the user completes the first exercise, the next one in the progression is unlocked. The foundation course is divided into three levels of exercises, with each set of exercises lasting slightly longer. Once the user completes all three foundation levels, the rest of the courses are unlocked and can be pursued in a non-linear fashion.

Customization is another technique commonly found in gamification. For Headspace, this means that after users learn the basics of meditation and mindfulness, they choose the applications they want to practice. Themes for these advanced courses include relationships, anxiety, depression, pregnancy, self-esteem, sleep, happiness, and balance. By framing the their meditation library this way, the creators of Headspace can be subtle in encouraging specific meditation behaviors. Users start with small, generic exercises and work up to the exercises that are longer and targeted at specific objectives. This way, users can’t inadvertently overwhelm themselves.

Source: Headspace iTunes Profile

One of the challenging aspects of mindfulness and meditation is consistency. This is where the gamification techniques in Headspace become more prevalent. Headspace rewards users with stats and achievements. Users can view data about their progress, including the number of minutes they’ve spent meditating with Headspace. The app also awards achievements for running streaks when users meditate several days in a row. These numbered ribbons appear for various intervals between 1 and 365 days, encouraging users to “Take 10” (or more) every day to practice mindfulness. But the incentives don’t stop there. Headspace also encourages users to add buddies. While this feature likely increases the number of subscriptions purchased, it also allows users to motivate each other, which is a vital motivation and gamification technique. Just like a running buddy, a meditation buddy can help you improve your meditation skills by offering health competition and mutual support.

“We All Need to Get A Little Head Space”

I did not have to try Headspace for long before I purchased a subscription. I had tried other forms of meditation before, none of which I found particularly helpful. The benefits of Headspace, however, were immediately apparent. Headspace gradually teaches users how to meditate and otherwise practice mindfulness. It utilizes repetition of specific techniques and even animations to help users become more comfortable with meditation, and allows them to become self-sufficient. Headspace includes a few gamification designs, and it applies them very well. The end result is an experiment that uses techniques from an entertainment industry to promote good mental health.

Headspace serves as a great reminder that game design can be applied to universal applications besides entertainment, and it should be noted that they donate subscriptions to those who might benefit but can’t afford the monthly fee. Headspace breaks mindfulness into bite-sized pieces to make it much more approachable for beginners. You might even find that you’ve been applying some of the foundations of mindfulness for years without realizing you were missing pieces of the puzzle. For those with some meditation experience, Headspace can provide the motivation to continue meditating on a daily basis, or to focus their mindfulness on specific obstacles in their lives.

Though some might be unsure of the gamified approach, it is clearly turning heads. Headspace is consistently ranked as one of the top meditation apps available. As I write this, 5,349 people are meditating with Headspace right now, according to my Headspace app, probably hoping to “unlock” the benefits described on the Headspace website:

For thousands of years, meditators have claimed many benefits for their practice. Our experience, and that of Headspace members, suggests that regular mindfulness practice, through meditation, is an effective treatment for stress, worry, lack of focus, relationship problems, addictions and more. It leads to peace of mind and wellbeing, greater focus and creativity and better relationships.

Headspace is bringing these benefits to thousands of people around the world at any given time, and gamification is the reason that number continues to grow.