iEver since its inception, gamification has seemed destined for partnering with education and with productivity. Many years later, people are still wrestling with how to marry these activities effectively. I’ve blogged in the past about working with Habitica, but recently I had the opportunity to try out relative newcomer to the productivity-meets-game mechanics task managers: Task Hero.
(Fair warning: I used it for about a month, it was very much in Beta mode, so bear with me.)
About the best thing that can be said about Task Hero (aside from how responsive the team is when a bug or serious non-bug issue crops up) is that graphically, it is clearly a game. A lot of game elements have been pulled in, with graphics reminiscent of older games. It’s bright. It’s colorful. There are magic spells and monsters and encounters.
Where it seriously lacks, and where Habitica had them beat until their redesign at the end of September, is the amount of real estate given to the primary task of managing one’s tasks. And it’s not that they didn’t give plenty of space to that, but there’s so much crowded around that it doesn’t feel like that’s what they intend you to focus on. (Habitica is slowly working with users to resolve their own problems in this area.)
And there have been game-related issues related to this question of where the development team means for you to focus. When I first started playing, I had a moment where I checked off a completed task, and the system informed me I had eaten poisoned berries and taken damage. From doing something positive. I very nearly permanently walked away from the game that afternoon. Instead, I spoke to the team about why I nearly walked away. It was fine for about a week, and then “random encounters” started attacking me, even when I’d had a good day. That’s fine for a game, but it tends to backfire when trying to motivate yourself to get things done or build new habits. (And I was never able to get this across to the developers.)
That said, you work your way across a map, and every time you move to a new spot, you have an encounter of some sort. The game is so desperate to rely on the game mechanic of dealing out encounters that players must overcome that it deals out these encounters with an air of annoyance that it can’t punish you for being productive. The focus is clearly on creating a game that just happens to have a productivity element attached to it. They are trying to understand that this isn’t the right setting for that mindset, but it’s clearly a new concept to them.
I played out the first level, beat the boss, and moved on to the second world, and I haven’t been back since. I don’t know that I will. Even with the hiccups that have come with Habitica’s recent redesign, it’s the more soundly developed game-based task manager.