About a month ago I posted a quick plug for an app that makes a game – a real-life game – out of defining and realizing habits and to-do’s. It’s called Habitica, and it’s tag is “Motivate yourself to do anything.” Here’s the WordPress blog.

A role-playing game is one where you take on a virtual persona, a character, and “play” in a digital (or board game) world, adventuring and going on quests of various kinds. My favored genre is “swords and sorcerers,” aka (the original inspiration for RPGs), “dungeons and dragons.” The purpose, of course, is purely social entertainment; the drawback is that, otherwise, it is a completely unproductive pastime. If you’re like me (obsessive), this can become a problem. I can literally live there for hours, even days, at a time, meanwhile getting nothing done in the real world.

Enter the idea of “gamifying” life.

Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.

Gamify, the verb, is to turn (an activity or task) into a game or something resembling a game; to adapt (a task) so that it takes on the form of a game.

The concept is not new. All of us have probably “made a game” out of some mundane chore to make it less boring. When my kids were younger, feeding the cats and cleaning the kitchen were accomplished quite nicely in this way. It reminds me of “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

The problem was that, for me, as part of my recovery from surfing the XXX intrenet, abusing alcohol, and wasting time, I had to give up RPGs. I have missed the fun.

The solution is replacing/redirecting that desire to play to something useful. After a month of “using,” I’m really pleased with the results, and can heartily recommend this approach to adventuring life.

And the best part is that this is completely biblical!

Ephesians 6:10-18 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Wear the Full Armor of God
10 To end my letter I tell you, be strong in the Lord and in his great power. 11 Wear the full armor of God. Wear God’s armor so that you can fight against the devil’s clever tricks. 12 Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places. 13 That is why you need to get God’s full armor. Then on the day of evil, you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing.

14 So stand strong with the belt of truth tied around your waist, and on your chest wear the protection of right living. 15 On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong. 16 And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows that come from the Evil One. 17 Accept God’s salvation as your helmet. And take the sword of the Spirit—that sword is the teaching of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times. Pray with all kinds of prayers, and ask for everything you need. To do this you must always be ready. Never give up. Always pray for all of God’s people.

Basically, with Habitica, you create your todo list and the habits you want to make (or break), and play consists of gaining experience, loot, and gold for checking them off; or suffering damage to your health if you don’t get them done. You are represented graphically by an avatar (icon) which you can equip and customize. There also a social element: Guilds are communities of players with similar goals, such as the Disciples of Jesus. There are challenges and quests, and a way to join a party to tackle them. The tavern is a group chat place to check into. (I’m not into the social side so much.)

So far, just having a single place (web-based or mobile app) where I can set, organize, and track my goals, and feel instantly gratified or penalized for making progress (or not) on them has been incredible. For the first time, I can tangibly see – anytime, anywhere – my priorities. I’m realizing just how full a day can be.

The important parts of this app are the three types of activities: Dailies, ToDos, and Habits.

Dailies are those tasks that are done daily, weekly, or monthly. For example, “Do an hour of chores everyday” is one of mine. “Blog the daily prompt” is another. The best way to describe dailies is those things which are almost automatic, like showering or taking medications.

ToDos are one-time appointments or projects with deadlines. I currently list the Sundays I’m scheduled for the worship team and a checklist for the long, bureaucratic process of retiring from the USPS under this category.

Habits are those behaviors and goals in more of a “working on” status. For example, while blogging the daily prompt has quickly become a daily checklist item, actually getting a post (like this one) from journal to blog is a habit I’m trying to get better at. Actually folding the laundry and putting it away is my wife’s favorite. Habits can have good (if completed) and/or bad (if missed) results. Once I’m regularly accomplishing the habit, I can make it a daily.

To summarize, Habitica is a ToDo List/Life Organization tool that is working very well for me. It makes a game out of setting and accomplishing those things I’ve always wanted to do but somehow never got around to. It has a web and app interface, so it’s completely mobile. It satisfies my urge to play my favorite type of game in a meaningful, productive way.

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