Messing around with Habitica

I tried Habitica some years ago but did not get into it. This week I gave it another try – now I love it! It’s a to-do list or checklist app where setting tasks and checking them off also levels you up in a weird little role-playing game. After three days I’m a level 3 warrior wearing a very strange purple helmet and attempting to hatch a wolf egg. Yes, I am susceptible to gamification of damn near anything!

I normally keep my to-do list in Remember The Milk, not always well tagged, but with some tasks scheduled, and many more in an enormous backlog sorted by creative or domestic projects. The scheduled tasks often slip. I’ll postpone them for a day or a week. Calling to schedule a dentist appointment has slipped a week for oh…. so many months now. Somehow I never get to that one.

I tried recently to add some new habit formation into RTM, so that I would get up and stretch more often, or meditate for 5 minutes. This hasn’t worked out super well. These small tasks clutter up my main list.

Enter Habitica! It sorts items into habits, dailies, and to-do. Each item can get tagged but also gets a difficulty ranking: trivial, easy, medium, or hard.

It has a column for habits (which you can do several times a day, with a plus or minus for positive or negative rating). Now, stretching, doing tai chi, triaging a few bugs here and there, or scooping the cat box don’t clutter up my more complicated to-do lists. I am ridiculously motivated to glance over the Habits list to see if there’s anything quick I can do to level up my character a tiny bit.

There are also Daily Habits, which I’m approaching more cautiously. I don’t want to overcommit in this area.

The main to-do list is for one-time or rare tasks, and has more scope for complexity. You can add smaller checklist items to make gradual progress on multi-part tasks.

So far, I’m only starting to explore the game mechanics. I’ve joined a party where we battle monsters by doing stuff on our lists. At some point you can use in-game coins (earned by leveling up) to equip your avatar with useful equipment for battle. It’s silly and fun.

The useful stuff so far: I have settled into doing the Habits and Dailies, then forcing myself to face up to the to-do list items. If I want to level up then…. omg…. I have to do one of those things! It’s been working.

I’m considering adding “rewards” that i can buy with in-game coins, things I like doing but that eat up a lot of time or are actively unhealthy. For example, I could make “Play one day in Stardew Valley” cost a significant amount. “Mess around with Pokemon” might cost less. Making my game playing depend on progress in ANOTHER GAME that is basically real life has a certain appeal! “Zone out reading Twitter for infinity time instead of going to sleep” would take all my coins and flush them right down the toilet.

habitica avatar

A wild augmented reality appears!

As I went up the hill to get groceries today, from across the street I hollered “Well hey there! I see you’re catching a Pokémon!” to a guy in front of the Bernal Heights library. He barely even turned to look at me as I rolled up but he giggled and replied “Yep, lots of Zubats in this neighborhood!” Just a normal conversation between strangers apparently taking a photo of a blank wall of a public building!

I am level 4, I have an egg in the incubator and am all hot to get to the point where I can fight a Pokémon in my local Pokégym. Sorry but you will all have to get used to people talking like this. Welcome to the future.

As I have played Ingress for the past 3 years a bit obsessively I am very happy Niantic has this massive success. And also proud that some of my portals and photos and descriptions are integrated into Pokémon Go. I still prefer the elegance and game balance of Ingress, and the interesting social behaviors and structures that have evolved for it. (I can go to any city, and find Ingress portals and talk to its players; instant social group.) But I can see cool potential and the greater mass appeal of the new game built on the bones of Ingress data & infrastructure.

I know people will hate on this game for many reasons. It’s popular (yet dorky) for one. It will make people mad that others are doing something pointless. Its selfies will infuriate the grumpy people who hate the idea of self-portraits. People will inevitably walk into buses and off of cliffs and cause poké-stop-while-driving accidents. But I love this moment, the huge surge of cultural awareness as the game spreads. By tomorrow, people will start writing mainstream articles explaining the entire phenomenon or discussing why you should or shouldn’t let your kids play the game.

For me it is a beautiful and historic moment as it feels like a level up for mass participation in a virtual or augmented reality. This has plenty of potential for good and bad. It will spark people’s imaginations, even as it drives us further into ubiquitous surveillance of our location data and habits. Part of the cool thing is it creates a shared imaginary world and a geographic overlay to our real world. Combined with the powerful impulse we have to collect things and know trivia it will be a collective and somewhat guilty pleasure of people who have the money and privilege enough to have a lot of data bandwidth on their mobile devices. And who don’t mind handing even more of their data over to “the cloud”.

We can build strong memories and shared experiences that stay with us for years in game play. That will be enhanced by using the geography of the world around us!

Unlike the bohemian and esoteric pleasures of ARG-ing this is a swift popular movement of millions of people joining the game. It’s huge! I expect it to very rapidly become a placeholder or touchstone for people’s fears and dreams about technology. We will see a sort of mythos develop around it like the way you can see nuances and divisions in how people approach the idea of Minecraft. Something that they use as a container for the idea that young people these days, or whoever, aren’t properly politically engaged or doing the correct things or are sheep following pop culture; and/or an activity that is frightening, incomprehensible, t hat makes us vulnerable; and/or a social technology that could unlock something like the collaborative power of flash mobs.

The first attempt to make a game like this I am aware of was called “Pod” (annoyingly hard to Google) in the early/mid 90s. It was a small handheld device, like a tamagotchi gadget, on which you could collect parts to build little insectoid robots. In theory you would come across other Pod players in the real world at random and could trade parts in order to evolve your robo-insect things. I don’t remember how they communicated with each other. I only came across a random stranger to trade Pod pieces with once, in a mall in San Jose, after many months of carrying it around. The Pod was supposed to somehow be educational about the idea of Darwinian evolution! At the time this game was very exciting, but it didn’t pan out.

Anyway, we aren’t yet all walking around wearing dystopian headsets but I expect more AR overlays to come, maybe historical details so you can step through time on the map where you’re walking, maybe layers that are more artistically complex (though ludic complexity is also art!) or overtly political.

Pacman Cookies

We interrupt this serious broadcast to say that there should be more Pac Man and Space Invaders cookies. Someday I’ll make myself Pacman cookie cutters. Space Invaders cookie cutters would be great too.

Also, someday I’d like to create the entire Pacman board out of cookies. The fruit should be made from marzipan!

pacman cookies

It’s not hard to shape these by hand from sugar cookie dough and a lot of food coloring. These cookies were made from pre-colored dough. I think sugar cookies with a lemon glaze would work very well next time!

If you enjoy 80s geek nostalgia like I do, then you might like this amazing crocheted Atari console with Pitfall on the screen, made by jackrabbit, whose crafts you can buy on etsy!

best thing EVER

Or these incredibly great tshirts… I want the Missile Command and Asteroids ones.

BlogHer in Second Life

The BlogHer Conference is coming up next week! We’ll have tons of people in BlogHer in Second Life where there will be an entire conference track. Take a look at Erin’s outline of the BlogHer Second Life Conference schedule.

Would you like to transcribe one or more of the voice sessions in 2nd Life for the IRC relay? If so, please contact Erin Kotecki Vest aka Queen of Spain,

I am especially happy that the schedule includes Jen and Aleja from GimpGirl, an online community for women with disabilities. I go to their 2nd life meetings (though I attend only in IRC and not in Second Life itself) and there’s been some great presentations and conversations.

Here’s the schedule!

BlogHer in Second Life ’08

DAY ONE, Friday July 18th

9:00-9:15 AM (live from San Francisco, CA)
Welcome to BlogHer ’08 from the Westin St. Francis Ballroom in San Francisco

9:15-10:15 AM
“Speed Dating” for BlogHers in Second Life

10:30-11:45 AM
Second Life Break-Out Session #1: The Intersection of Blogging and Second Life
Led by Cybergrrl Oh (aka Aliza Sherman), and featuring:
Ana Herzog (aka Nancy Hill)
Gidge (aka Bridgette McNeal)

12:45-2:00 PM
Second Life Break-Out Session #2: Second Life and Security
Featuring Padlurowncanoe Dibou, formerly in charge of Hillary Clinton’s in-world HQ

Second Life Activity in Exhibitor Area

SecondLife Open Mic and Party
More details on how to be part of the Second Life Open Mic

DAY TWO, Saturday, July 19th

9:30-10:30 AM (live from San Francisco, CA)
BlogHer ’08 Morning Keynote: Hybrid Media

10:45-12:00 PM
Second Life Break-Out Session #3: SecondLife as Educational/Training Tool
Padlurowncanoe Dibou
In Kenzo (aka Evonne Heyning, Creative Director and Interactive Producer for Amoration)
Fleep Tuque (aka Chris Collins from the University of Cincinnati)
Dannette Veale (from Cisco)

1:45-3:00 PM
Second Life Break-Out Session #4: Using Second Life for Good
Led by Susan Tenby and featuring:
Connie Reece
Jennifer Cole and Aleja Ospina, the women behind

Second Life Activity in Exhibitor Area

5:15-6:15 PM (live from San Francisco, CA)
BlogHer ’08 Closing Keynote: Living the Truman Show

Fictional layer on social networks

Here’s a fabulous idea! On social network profiles, there will be space for one’s fictional alter egos. In other words, my profile on orkut or friendster or tribe or even LinkedIn should include my past role-playing game character information. One could suck in data from one’s Everquest or World of Warcraft or MUD characters, and manually put in data about tabletop rpgs.
It’s important, because who you like to pretend you are is important. Among role-playing gamers I certainly know people who think about the patterns in their game-playing, and who consciously use the characters to vary their real life persona, to experiment with ways of being, as well as to play to their real life characteristics and strengths.

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