Another year, another group of New Year’s resolutions that may end up just falling by the wayside. I am a person who loves to make resolutions, but is terrible at sticking to them. Last year, however, I was able to keep more of the goals that I set for myself by making them into a game.
There are so many apps using gamification techniques now that we hardly notice them. Apps that will give you points for spending money or give you stickers/kudos/gold stars for doing things are a dime a dozen. Gamification is a powerful thing. It works because it taps into our natural desires to achieve and can induce us to do things that we might not otherwise do so that we can reach completion. It probably won’t change your behavior entirely, but it’s set up so you’ll spend just a tiny bit more. With big names like Starbucks, Nike, and Foursquare using gamification techniques, you could randomly click on anything in the App Store and you’ll likely touch an app using those techniques in some way.
The apps that remember to keep the “game” part of gamification are more rare, however, and when they do remember to keep the game part, it can be a lot more engaging than just mindlessly racking up points. Points are nice. We love points, but at the same time, we need to be able to do something with our reward—or at least be able to do something fun in order to get our reward.
Just in time for the new year, here are three gamification apps that do things right!
For me, this was more of a “Zombies, Walk Briskly,” but the game is engaging. The app has a number of missions that the player can run through—slowly pulling apart the layers of story and meeting new characters.
This isn’t remarkable on its own. If it was just this, then Zombies, Run! would be little more than a podcast. What the game does brilliantly is incentivizing you to keep moving. Aside from your fear of death by zombies, you’ll pick up items along the way as you run. These items will allow you to build up your base and better equip yourself to face the zombies next time. Another bonus is that Zombies, Run! will integrate your own music and playlists into the story as you run, which gives the story a much more personal feel.
Do you need to walk more? Or maybe your resolution was to see more of your city? Ingress is a territory control game where two factions are duking it out: the Enlightened and the Resistance. The basics of the game is that you walk around with your Ingress app open and you’ll be able to see portals in the real world. These portals are usually by some kind of street art or landmark and the point of the game is to hack these portals for resources while trying to control the area for your faction. It’s the kind of game that will have you walking a couple blocks out of your way to take over a neutral portal and you’ll get to see some cool art on the way.
No list about the gamification of goals would be complete without mentioning Habitica. Formerly known as HabitRPG, Habitica turns your real life chores into a game. It separates your life into Dailies, Habits, and Tasks. Tasks are where you put things that you’ll only need to do once or that are rare cases; Dailies are the tasks that you’d want to do every day (like making your bed or sweeping your apartment); and Habits are exactly what they sound like. Maybe a habit you want to build is to drink more water? Slot it in there and if you drink more than three glasses, you get points; drink less than three and you lose health.
What Habitica does so well is that it gives you things to work toward. Earning points isn’t just for badges and achievements, it also gives you gold. There are quests that you can do in game and a plethora of loot drops that will help you buy armor and weapons, hatch companions, and grow mounts.
Hopefully, these games will be as useful to you as they were to me. Habitica in particular has helped me to get quite a bit done. I imagine that there will be a lot more people walking around when Pokémon Go is released, and since I’ve never tried it, I couldn’t put it on this list. I will give it an honorable mention, though, for being the self-improvement app that I’m looking forward to the most. It operates on the same premise as Ingress, except instead of hacking portals, you can go around your city catching Pokémon.
I cannot wait for my chance to catch ‘em all, but in the meantime? I’ll settle for slaying all my New Year’s resolutions.