Remembering Quest, the iOS App That Turned To-Do Lists Into an 8-Bit RPG

Sadly, SangHeon Kim’s Quest app stopped working after 2017’s release of iOS 11.

Gamification — that is, using game mechanics to make non-gaming tasks more enjoyable, rewarding, and engaging — is nothing new. If you’ve ever been awarded a badge for signing up, checking in, or filling something out, then congratulations: you’ve been gamified.

To-do list apps are ripe for gamification: you check an item off and receive a reward. But SangHeon Kim’s Quest — not to be confused with the Quest RPG — takes that approach quite literally by turning to-do lists into mini quests à la table-top RPGs. Your character starts out as a simple adventurer, but as you check more and more items off your list, he levels up, gaining better and cooler weapons and armor. And as an added bonus, Quest’s nostalgia-inducing sounds, visuals, and animations evoke classic 8-bit video games.

It’s a simple and kinda cheesy approach, but it works, and won several “best of” awards in South Korea and Japan. Sure, iOS has its own default to-do list app (Reminders) that’s probably more powerful and flexible. But Quest is way more fun. Or rather, it was way more fun. Quest’s last update was way back in September 2016 and unfortunately, when iOS 11 was released in 2017, it stopped working altogether. By then, however, Kim was focused on another app, a relaxation game titled Abyssrium.

There are similar RPG-themed titles in the App Store, including Bounty Tasker, EpicWin, and Habitica. However, those first two apps haven’t been updated in several years, which always makes me leery, while Habitica’s approach to tasks, quests, and leveling up is more complicated. (It’s more like an actual game than a mere to-do list app.) Habitica also includes a social aspect and in-app purchases, which add more layers of complexity.

I miss Quest. Just this week, I was yearning for its 8-bit aesthetic while checking off some random task in Reminders. Sure, my friends kidded me whenever 8-bit tones and jingles rang out as I checked things off my list, but that was all just part of the charm — something that often feels in short supply with many apps these days, regardless of how gamified they might be.

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