My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Product Review: Level Me Up App

Level Me Up is a cute little app that is loosely based on a cross between the concept of 10,000 hours and the massive hard on that tech and game geeks have for leveling.  It essentially makes your life feel a little bit like a role playing game.  While not strictly a writing app, it has a lot of uses and applications for a writer who is interesting in keeping track of how long they are really giving to writing (in a way that is more fun than a stopwatch and a ledger).  It won't make you feel like your life is a World of Warcraft mission to save the world from demons, but it might make you feel like your life is one of those fishing achievements.

Image Credit: The App Store
The app tracks the time investment in various tasks.  Users "level" like they would in a role-playing game by logging in hours..  You will even get a little fanfare of music and a picture of triumphant trimphy triumph when you level.   You can even share results to Facebook...if your friends don't hate you enough already for telling them what you eat each meal or for constantly asking them to swing by your farm and play with your cow's teats.

You get to name the skills you want to invest time in, and the app will keep track of them separately.  For example, I was a "Skillful" (Level 98) Writer the last time I remembered to log in my writing hours.  But I am only a N00b Piano Player, and since school has ended I haven't been able to level higher than Student for the skill Lit Analyst (though Skyrim lit-analyzing time should take that up). I recommend strongly you don't track Porn Viewer or Threesome Fantasizer unless you want a shockingly harsh look at the reality of your life and its depraved priorities.

While this isn't much more than an aggregate stopwatch with an interesting user interface, it does have some neat features.  Users get to pick anything they want for the skills, and there is a system that allows for parent skills.  So the app adds up my skill time in "Blogger," "Lit Analyst," "Essayist," "Journaler," "Fiction Writer," and "D/s Erotica Writer That I'm Never To Tell Anyone About Ever," and the total of all those skills dumps into "Writer." There are also LOTS of icons you can pick for a various skill.

It won't make you sit down and do something you don't want to do, of course, but it can sometimes make doing things a little more fun.  It's also really useful if you aren't really sure how much time you're actually giving to something.  I never really thought that I wrote more than a couple of hours a day in school until I added up all the essays and Livejournals and discovered it was closer to four or five hours a day.

I would love to tell you it is really stupid and people shouldn't need such a thing to motivate them to do anything or track the time they give to something as if the destination matters more than the journey.  I would love to tell you that but the simple Pavlovian desire to get my picture of triumphantism and the music fanfare led me to a few sessions of writing that I wouldn't have normally done, and on several occasions when I saw that I was getting close to leveling, I put in a few extra minutes to tip me over the edge.  And the hard core geek in me really loved the idea of working on my proficiencies.  I imagined every ten levels was a +1 modifier to the skill.

I'm not proud, okay.

One main problem with this app is that it will eventually get boring.  Reaching level one in fifteen minutes is fun and interesting and keeps the app fresh and exciting.  When you need hundreds of hours to get to your next level, logging in each session is easy to forget.  I found after a month that I stopped using the timer function, and would only estimate times and plug them in once a week.  Eventually I stopped using the app altogether.

Fun, interesting, and even motivating for a while, and if you can get involved in affectations and electronic devices that pat you on the head, it'll probably be fun, but the utility of Level Me Up lies mostly in its novelty.  Mostly it was very good at showing me where my time was actually going.  I don't practice piano nearly as much as I thought I did, and I need to read more often.

Sometimes rating apps can be a little strange.  People don't have the same sense of "value" when it comes to apps that they do in the rest of the world.  Two dollars doesn't seem like it's anything at all, yet in the world of iPad apps, you better have a reasonable program if you deign to charge more than $.99.  Even an app with hours of entertainment for less than the price of a cheeseburger can get scathing reviews over its value.  However, given that I used this app for months before I tired of it, and it really did help me keep an actual idea of how much I was giving to writing and reading during that time as well as motivate me to push myself to do a little more, I'd say it's well worth the money even in "App value."

Final Score: 6 out of 10 in "App value" (7 out of 10 in "real world value")


  1. I'm not sure I'd give this such a high rating. It's kind of silly.

    1. My rating system is based on price and value, not some sort of absolute scale. The question I'm asking isn't what is the worth of this of something but rather is it worth the price? A $2 app that is a little lackluster is going to get a higher rating than a $20 book that is pretty awesome not because the app is better but because it is a better value. If this app cost 14.99 on iTunes, I'd probably give it a 1 or a 2, and if it were 24.99, I'd consider adding negative numbers to my rating system. But at a price that is less than a soda, it's worth it.