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Nathan Winquist

Nathan Winquist is a Research Coordinator for Northwestern University’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBITs).  Recently completing his MS in Health Communication at Northwestern, he is currently preparing for and looking into future PhD programs.  Nathan manages studies focusing on college student digital mental health tools, and also has research interests in community, transfer, and junior college student mental health.

 

Consistency has been reassuring and rewarding to me throughout my life. Organization, however, was a trait I struggled with until I was in college. My father’s primary organizational strategy was Post-it notes, and I grew up with these Post-its all over the house. They were on the front door, the bathroom mirror, the microwave, and all over his desk.  In my mind, this was the way adults organized themselves. However, when I decided to be more organized in college, I found the Post-it strategy did not work for me. 

Fortunately, I stumbled upon the strategy of keeping a journal. I found that writing things down in one place made them much more likely to be completed. Since then, I began using a day planner as well as the Note app on my phone to keep additional to-do lists. Recently, a friend suggested I download and try Habitica.  Upon using Habitca, I felt like it was a habit tracker that could have been made for me. It was useful while also being fun, stimulating, and rewarding. The interactive aspect of Habitica made it much more exciting than simply keeping planners, and it soon became my primary method of organization.

Once I downloaded the app, I created my character, and I chose my general interests. After my character was created and my interests were chosen, the tutorial showed me how to create different habits, dailies, and to-dos. The app even pre-populated itself with habits or tasks related to the interests I picked, which was helpful. The tutorial helped explain how to use the habit-tracking functions of the app. However, the tutorial didn’t provide as much information about the features that make Habitca a social game, like how to play with other players or go on quests. It took more digging than I would have liked to figure these things out.  Fortunately, my friend helped with this. I found a lot of things useful and fun about Habitica including its social and game features and multi-platform accessibility. 

Social Features

The friend who suggested I download Habitica was someone I had grown up playing video games with. I was pretty excited to join and play this game with my childhood friend. A little after the first month, my fiancé (not a gamer) noticed my productivity and wanted to play as well!  Playing with each other helped us encourage and push each other in our party chat to get habits done to accomplish various quest goals and beat monsters.  It was reassuring to consistently see that others were looking to improve themselves as well.

Game Features

Habitca combined my interest in actively logging my daily life with the passion for games that I had cultivated through years of playing role-playing games like World of Warcraft.  I enjoyed beating monsters, completing quests, and leveling up my character with my friends, all while being much more productive in my day to day life. I’d find myself trying to maintain all sorts of positive habits like flossing, creative writing, professional networking, and even trying to reduce negative habits I’d have developed like avoiding sweets or watching TV for too long.  I also was motivated to complete a big yard renovation project to accomplish these in-game goals. 

Additionally, I’d try to incorporate other habits from the game/app’s “Challenges” section.  This was a section where I could view and accept many different habits (in my case: recreational reading and creative writing) as challenges that are created by other users or groups.  Through completing these challenges and my own habits, Habitica provided incentive through obtaining rewards and in game items. For example, I tried to earn enough gold to buy armor to make my character look like a Viking that’s riding a brown T-Rex, which was really fun! 

Multiple Platforms

After about two months, I discovered Habitica’s web-platform, which was much more user-friendly and convenient than the app. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer for work and school, and it was helpful to have Habitica on my browser in the background to remind me of the various habits and tasks I try to accomplish. Habitica has become a constant presence, and I’ve networked, wrote, and read recreationally much more frequently due to this.

All in all, Habitica helps keep my habits and to-dos organized while providing me with a new incentive structure to accomplish them through social support and in-game rewards.  It has been and will continue to be a regularly used tool for me to accomplish my goals and develop and maintain more positive habits. I suggest starting this app/game with a friend(s).  Alternatively, you can join various guilds in the game to connect with hundreds of players. Habitica isn’t the only app that incorporates game and social features. You can find some other examples of game-based mental health or self-improvement apps on PsyberGuide including: SuperBetter, Flowy, Sinasprite, Lumosity, TF-CBT Triangle of Life or eQuoo.