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How I Write and Learn

Introducing……”App Spotlights!” In our new series, our writing and learning coaches share some of their favorite websites and applications! Check back to see how our coaches use technology to help them write, manage their day, take note, and much more!


Scoring of the Habitica App. The author gave a 3.5/5 for usability, 5/5 for design, 5/5 for overall utility, and a 4.5/5 for price. Habitica

By Sherah, a Writing Center Coach

One of my dearest friends, a fellow graduate student and full time academic advisor, and I are currently on a quest to defeat the Monstrous Moon, a fanged one-eyed monster using the moon to manifest in the mortal realm. How are we defeating him in our collective spare time, which amounts to about 3 seconds? By crossing things off our to-do lists. 

This is the weird world of Habitica, a to-do and habit building app that promises to ‘gamify your life.’ The basics are that Habitica provides space for you to track your Habits, Dailies, and To Dos on their dashboard. You set each item to its appropriate level of difficulty and schedule its single or recurring due date. To Dos are one time occurrences, while Habits are, preferably, things that will happen anyhow (i.e. eating at home or eating out) and score both positively (a point for eating in) and negatively (lose a point for takeout). Dailies are recurring tasks you set to appear as needed (for instance, dust my bookshelves every Friday).

As you check things off your list, you earn gold, which you use to reward yourself with costumes and armor for your custom avatar or with rewards you designate (i.e. a bubble bath for 10 gold pieces). Occasionally, you’ll randomly receive items as you slog through your lists, including a variety of pet eggs, magic potions to hatch them in different colors, and a range of foods to feed them. Feed them enough and they transform into mounts, which your avatar can then ride (my above mode of transport is a zombie cactus!). 

Habitica also includes an optional social aspect. You can enlist your friends into parties, which include a chat feature, then go on shared quests, like defeating the Monstrous Moon. Or you can join public Challenges, which autoload habits, dailies, and/or to dos and then award gems to winners. Many of these are academic, or can be adapted for academic purposes. There are also public guilds, which I’ve yet to really explore. 

One of the cleverest features of Habitica is its class system, which isn’t available until you reach Level 10. This sorts Habiticans into Mages, Healers, Warriors, and Rogues, each of which has different strengths within the game. After playing for a while, I realized I’m most motivated by finding pets and food, so I chose to be a Rouge, which gives me more random items than it does other players. With the higher rewards, however, come higher risks; I lose items and gold if I don’t complete my Dailies. My friend is a Warrior, which has a lower risk factor and gives her greater strength in quests. Pairing our skills in parties has let us complete quests we wouldn’t have been able to manage solo.

As someone who loathes their phone and prefers playing cards to online games, I am far from Habitica’s target audience. And yet…I’m obsessed. In pursuit of cute cactuses or saving a quest from my friend’s day off, I actually blow through tasks I’d otherwise avoid (my grateful cat’s litter box is now absurdly clean). Using their tag system, I sort my tasks into the various parts of my day, from dissertation writing to Writing Center coaching, and find myself looking forward to each opportunity to clear those tasks.

While Habitica has certainly kept my bed made more regularly, it’s also proven useful for me as a student and a writing coach. I’m currently enrolled in a public (and hilarious) H.P. Lovecraft inspired study-challenge, which I use for dissertation research, but I also plan my writing projects in it. Each segment gets a To Do, difficulty level (hard!), and an internal checklist. As long as I check off something from the internal list, the unfinished To Do isn’t counted against me and it’s incredibly satisfying to complete the entire task. One of my Habits is 30 minute writing sessions and a Daily reminds me to check off something from my writing-related To Do checklist. As a coach, I have at least two regular student writers who share their Habitica tasks with me (one of them introduced me to the game!). We break down and schedule writing projects, debating difficulty levels and ensure due dates are reasonable. Then we commiserate about how hard it was to destroy the Laundromancer who was threatening the cleanliness of Habitican’s wardrobes last week!

The interface of the Habitica app.
The interface of the Habitica app.

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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