Our day to day lives are full of boring, repetitive chores that are just not fun to do. Remembering to get in exercise every day is a drag, and if you're trying to learn something new, then setting aside the time and getting to work just for the satisfaction of knowing that you put in the time can be very hard to do.
But many video games are also essentially a lot of busy work - a game like Tetris is about as intrinsically rewarding as cleaning your closet, and it has less tangible benefits. But Tetris can get you hooked for hours - how many people will spend 15 minutes a day re-organising their paperwork though? Games are built around the idea of rewarding your actions in a consistent manner, and it's possible to use the same techniques to turn everyday activities into something fun. Here are eight apps that help do just that:
1. Zombies, Run
There are Zombies behind you. Run. You put on your headphones, and you can hear the zombies snarling behind you, so don't let yourself be left behind. Run too slowly, and they're going to catch you.
There's actually a story with a full narrative (top picture) and you're collecting power-ups and supplies when you run, which you use to advance through the game and increase the things you can win - turning exercising into a game. Available on both iOS (Rs 250) and Android (Rs 255), the app isn't cheap, but if you've had trouble getting motivated to run, then it's not a bad option, with missions and rewards that will help you to build up your routine over time.
This iOS only app (Rs 300) lets you create your own quests and turn your life into a game. You can set up a list of things that you need to do and earn points for completing them, win perks for completing things early and raise your personal "level". It's a little like Dumbo's magic feather - you see your Resilience score rising, and feel more confident about taking on the next challenge as well, and it helps you to track the various obstacles you've already overcome, so you can see how you've really progressed through life.
The HabitRPG website has been around for a really long time now, and while there's a little effort required in getting things of the ground, once you've got things set up, turning your habits and daily activities into point generating quests and earning rewards is a huge amount of fun. The free app is available on both Android andiOS.
As with SuperBetter, the goal is to level up your "character" and take on even bigger challenges over time, but unlike that game, here, there are wonderfully retro graphics and effects as well, which makes it far more appealing as a "game". Whenever you complete a task, take care of a to-do or just reinforce a positive habit (like not smoking), you gain experience and gold in game, and you level up with enough experience points.
At the same time, you'll lose health points for every bad habit you log, and failing to complete tasks also costs health, so your character can "die" if you aren't careful.
The only downside is that the mobile app is fairly slow and lags often, so it is difficult to get things set up on the app, but if you already use the website then the app is a great companion.
Turning your habits and exercise into a game makes a certain amount of sense, but what about waking up every morning? Surely there's nothing that an alarm clock can learn from video games, right? This iOS app (Rs 120) makes you play games to make it stop every morning though. Here, the idea is that the game elements are challenging enough to actually get your brain into gear, unlike a snooze button.
In case that doesn't sound challenging enough, the app can also require you to get out of bed and scan a barcode, or something in the room, using the camera on your phone before it stops ringing. At the same time, the app gives you something it calls the iWake number, a measure of your healthy sleep, and you will earn badges by improving this and maintaining good sleep habits too.
In case running around the room scanning things sounds like a little too much work to put into your mornings, you can also try downloading AlarmMon. This free iOS app is a simple alarm list, where the alarms are guarded by different "monsters"each with its own unique sounds and games that you must play to turn off the alarms. The design is skewed towards cute manga style characters, and it can be a little too saccharine, but the app works on the iPod Touch as well, which makes it a good option for a kids alarm that feels like a fun game and not a chore.
6. Sleep Cycle
Another paid iOS app (Rs 60), Sleep Cycle has a lot of clones available on Android as well, but for iOS users, this is really the best choice. While it includes an alarm, that's not the key point of Sleep Cycle. Instead of turning the alarm part into a game, Sleep Cycle turns your sleep into the game.
Youjust need to put your iPhone on the bed, within about three feet of you, and it will use the accelerometers on the phone to track minute movements and determine how well rested you are. In case you're sleepingon memory foam, it's probably better to keep the phone closer, within about one foot from you. And obviously, if you share the bed with someone, or if your pet likes to jump in and out of the bed, it's going to affect the readings.
The app can tell when you're sleeping lightly, and ring the alarm in a light sleep phase (within a time window that you specify of course) but it also presents you with notes about your sleep; there are no badges or points, but it gives you enough data that you can measure and analyse things to your heart's content, with charts, graphs, and even support for exporting the data to Excel!
Ifyou want to learn a new language, and want to have fun along the way, then Duolingo is the app to get. Free on both Android and iOS,Duolingo is a proper language learning tool that teaches you words, nouns, verbs and usage, and gamifies the process by giving you hearts and experience points, and a bonus for streaks where you get things right for several days in a row. As the difficulty rises slowly, you'll find yourself losing hearts as well, when you make mistakes and that's how the game encourages you to grind the simpler lessons for extra hearts and experience (and also reinforces the learning in this manner).
It's a brilliant tool and the layout and design are friendly and encouraging. This is one of the best learning apps available, but the focus on only languages can be a bit of a limitation.
8. Memrise - Learn Any Language
Memrise is another free learning app (iOS, Android) that lets you learn languages - in fact, that's all that the full name mentions. And in a straight comparison, it feels like a less professional version of Duolingo.
Why list both apps then? Aside from the fact that both are free, so there's no harm in trying out which one works best for you, there's also the fact that with Memrise, you can create your own custom flash cards to study something, and others can and do that too, so you could download lessons on math or history and memorise that using Memrise as well.
As with Duolingo, Memrise also awards points as you learn, and you can compete for high scores against your friends, turning competitive testing into something everyone can enjoy.