Life: The Real RPG (Role-Playing Game)

Life: The Real RPG (Role-Playing Game)

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.

…While I’m Making Other Plans.

…While I’m Making Other Plans.

I know I was destined to write this entry. 😄

The inspiration – a little of it, anyway – was the movie Edge of Tomorrow, which I’ll describe simply as ‘”Ground Hog Day” during wartime,’ so as not to spoil it for you too much. A bigger part of where this post started was my thinking on how to answer the question, “So what do you do?”

The best response is “G.H.R.O. W.I.S.E.R.” This is, of course, an acronym, a handy literary tool that helps me remember stuff. In this case, it’s where I want my focus to be. I’ve determined what’s important after careful deliberation. And that included deciding what I can live without. If you’re curious, the acronym stands for:


Income or Investments
Singing and playing music
Encouraging others
Recreation – that is, an appropriate amount of downtime

You might say GHRO WISER is my mission statement. It’s my list of priorities, the areas of life I want to concentrate on, in some kind of order. Today, however, I’m not writing about the goals I have, but more about the need to have a firm idea on what they are. I’m talking about the act of choosing and planning, and whether it makes a difference in life. Or not. 

So you may have heard the saying, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” This is basically a consideration of fate vs free will. Which is it? Can life – a Christian life – be both? I think it’s critical to make the following distinction:

Do my choices make any difference?” is one question;

Does God already ‘know’ what I will choose?” is an entirely separate matter. And, it’s the less vital one.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.
Isaiah 55:8

The gist of this verse is, I think, that there are things I can know, and things I may never know. Much of what God has done – and how He does it – falls into the latter category. I want to concentrate on the former and not waste too much time speculating.

What do or can I “know?” Here are three crucial choices:

  1. I can choose some very important stuff, like my attitude and acceptance of circumstances; like getting up when I fall; like asking without shame for help from others and from God; like not worrying about the aforementioned unknowables; like who I live and do for
    Here’s a quote off of which sums this up nicely:

    “…Instead of our story being … linear… with a set beginning, middle, and end, it is like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. Each choice you make takes you to a different fate… destiny… future. Who we are is made up of our responses to events in our lives. If we change our responses, we change our future responses, as well.”
    This is the heart of recovery from addictions and compulsive behavior.

  2. I can realize that I do, but God determines the results; if I don’t do, nothing will be different
    This emphasizes the importance of action, of not being “so heavenly-minded as to be of no earthly use.” I love this quote from Ronald Reagan:
    “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do.
    I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.”

    Remember the definition on insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
  3. I can remember and be aware of the evidence of my past, and that, by far, it has been good
    I’m still alive, and the analogy of a sports team in the post-season is a great one. I like the direction my life is going now, and that has everything to do with living it for and with God.
    Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
    Romans 8:28

To sum up, for me the question of whether I have had any hand in what’s happened to me, past and present, is a definite “Yes!” My choices certainly brought me to rock bottom. I believe I was saved when I finally chose not to force my own decisions on life.

    Who’s In Charge In Here, Anyway?

    Who’s In Charge In Here, Anyway?

    Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution? Ever had to make the same one more than once? Have you ever started a statement with the words, “I want to…” “I’m going to…” “I think I should…”? Have you actually reached those goals in your life? Do you have compulsions to act in certain ways or have plain old bad behaviors? Are you a serial procrastinator? Are you addicted to anything?

    img_2915Think about this for a moment: If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, then quite simply, You are doing something Yourself doesn’t want to do. Did you catch that? Does it sound like there are two people, two wills, operating inside you?

    There are. There is the one doing those things and the one who doesn’t want to do them and instead, wants to do these other things, that are probably much better for your health, wealth, and your true happiness.

    Would it surprise you to learn that this has been a problem for people for thousands of years? Here’s a quote from quite a long time ago:

    “Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong.”

    Or to put it another way:

    “I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I don’t want to do.”

    img_0885So I have a question for you, “Who’s in charge inside of you, anyway?” One way to answer this is to think of those two selves as your body and your mind. Body wants everything that’s fun and pleasurable; Mind has dreams of being something in this world. The two are at war because bringing dreams to life requires hard work and sacrifices; it means Body gets less – sometimes far less – of what it lusts for.

    I have good news and bad news for you. There is a way to break these habits, BUT it’s no miracle cure, no single button to be pushed or spell to be incanted. Transforming your life is a day-by-day journey, a voyage of discovery, and likely is a lifelong trip.

    If you want to be the best you can be, take hope, it is very possible, but there are a few important facts to know before you start.

    #1 The right word

    First and most importantly, your “best” is that condition you have reached when you’ve run out of time. It’s the furthest you’ll ever get in this life. Were you ever to reach your “best,” you’d have nowhere to go but down. Better to want to be … better. Better today than you were yesterday, last week, last year. Behavioral change is all about progress, not perfection.

    #2 You can’t do it alone

    small-groupThere’s a saying, “People don’t lack strength, they lack will (power).” The way to build the determination you need is with support, especially support from others who are traveling the same path as you are. This is the idea behind 12-step programs like “______ Anonymous” and “Celebrate Recovery.” You meet with and get to know people who understand what you’re going through and why, and you share the struggle, out loud. You talk about it. You listen. You learn helpful stuff.

    It also is a benefit (a huge benefit) to have an “authority” figure with expertise in self-improvement, in renewing lives. (For many, that ‘higher power’ is God or The Creator of everything. The reasoning is that He created each of us, so who better to know how to get us working well and feeling good?)

    #3 You can’t “stop,” you must replace

    I have a saying, “Thinking about not doing something, is the same as thinking about doing effortit – you are still thinking about it.” Call this a Law of Attraction. If your mind is focused on a thing, your body will follow right along to that thing. When you try to leave one habit behind, you must have somewhere new to head toward. With Mind focused on that (and not the old actions), Body follows and becomes able to do things you never thought possible.

    #4 It’s no overnight stay

    IMG_3215Here’s a great example: Imagine you’re relocating to a foreign country. It’s a permanent move, not a vacation. You have to learn the language, the customs and geography you now find your self in. You immerse yourself in it, but it’s still going to take time. Eventually, you’ll feel at home again. Each day you’ll make progress – sometimes only a little. It’s a process of improvement. It’s growing.

    To conclude, I have a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Matrix. The characters in this film leave the real world to enter a simulated environment – a virtual reality. Their bodies remain behind, comfortably seated. If they die in that alternate setting, their bodies die, too.

    “The body can not live without the mind.”

    cslewisWe could go deep into philosophy and theology here and argue about whether the mind continues without the body or not, but the body definitely does not live without the mind. For me, that means that “I” am first my mind (the order giver) and secondly my body (the order taker).

    “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”