The tube race Octalysis

Imagine yourself in a futuristic race inside a tube. The tube twists and turns at every point, and you try to follow it with your hovering vehicle. It seems inevitable that you will make contact with the sides. And now you really wish the tube has some soft bumpers…


Now this situation is a metaphor for any task, job or project you will attempt to deal with. The four sides of the tube – up, down, left and right – corresponds to four inefficiency catastrophes. And fortunately, every pitfall has a series of bumpers that can save you from that grisly fate.



The top bumpers will save you from burn-out, and giving up on the project. They are called white hat core drives, and go by the names of core drive 1: Epic meaning and calling, 2: Development and accomplishment and 3: Empowerment of creativity and feedback.

On the bottom are the bumpers that will save you from procrastination, and never getting started with the project. Their names are core drive 6: Scarcity and impatience, 7: Unpredicatability and curiosity, 8: Avoidance of loss. Collectively they are known as the black hat core drives.

The left side bumpers have the power of focusing your energy to the essential tasks, not wasting valuable time on useless details. Some of them has been mentioned already. Yes, some core drives can save you more than one time! They are great that way…
Core drive 2: Development and accomplishment, 4: Ownership of possession, 6: Scarcity and impatience. By the way they are “left brain” drives.


Finally the right side is for you too-efficient people, who forget to stop and think if your idea really is the best way of doing the project. Saving you from over-focusing on a single task, and let you remember the greater picture. In other words, it will broaden your mind

Core drives 3: Empowerment of creativity and feedback, 5: Social influence and relatedness, 7: Unpredicatability and curiosity.
And… you guessed it, they are the right brain core drives.

So now that you know the cures, you should start analysing your problems. What is the problem that is limiting you in your current project? Or maybe the problem isn’t you. You are motivated and efficient. The problem is your students, your clients or your employees.
Well, same thing applies. Identify which problem is the main devastator of efficiency, and work to apply the cure.

Oh, did I forgot to explain the core drives in detail? And how to apply them to a project? Well, all of that information can be found at the main page of Octalysis, nifty link here:

Looking for other great posts about gamification of education?
Go to Overview of the blog

Thermal Showdown

An educational card game of physics

The basic idea

To make a collectible cards game about physics, specifically regarding thermodynamics at high school level.

Thermal Showdown is a game set in a duel between two mad scientists in their battle-suits. The battle-suits are impenetrable, so each scientist is trying to overheat the other into a blackout.

The gameplay is reminiscent of such games as Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone.

Notice: This post refer to the first version of Thermal Showdown.
Find updated info and cards here: Thermal Showdown info

Fancy cards example v2
Note that this design is work in progress (working on getting licensing for images), current alpha version has more simple black-and-white design

Example of play

To get a good impression of the game, and learn to play in record time, read through this example. Don’t worry if it seems long, most of it is pictures ūüôā

Notice: This post refer to the first version of Thermal Showdown.
Find updated info and cards here: Thermal Showdown info

The rules

Battle cards basic stats:

  • Energy cost (to play)
  • Defence stats:
    • Heat Capacity (HC)
    • Maximum difference in temperature (dT)
  • Offence stats:
    • Output power (OP)
  • Special abilities

Basic gameplay:

Setting up the game

  • Each player starts with all his cards in his main pile, shuffled and face down.
  • Each player draw 7 cards from his main pile into his hand.

Every round the active player

  • reset available energy and any activated cards
  • increase his available energy by one – so available energy equal to round nr.
  • pick up one card from his main pile of cards.
  • play a number of cards from his hand limited by his available energy
    • Battle Cards: are on the table until defeated
    • Trick Cards: are used once ‚Äď some may permanently empower a Battle Card
  • attack with a number of battle cards (not cards played this round)
  • battle cards that has “activate to…” may only activate if they did not attack, and if they were not played this round.
  • end the round, starting the round of the next/other player.

In combat

  • Attacking battle cards may target any battle card
  • Players may only be targeted if there are no defending battle cards
  • When a battle card is targeted, attacker and defender apply their damage = OP to each other.
  • If a card takes at least the same damage in one round as it‚Äôs combined defence value, HC*HT, it is defeated.
  • If a player takes damage, it is summed up. When the player reach 20 damage, he is defeated.
  • When a battle card is defeated, it is placed in its player‚Äôs discard pile along with any attached trick cards.
  • These rules are modified by card special abilities


  • When two or more battle cards attack the same defending battle card simultaneously:
    • The defending card receive damage from all attackers
    • The defending card apply its damage to a single attacker
    • The defending player choose which attacker takes damage

Deck building

  • Identical cards: 1 copy allowed for every 10 cards in the deck.
  • Players should have same number of cards in their decks.
  • Some common cards have “mass produced”: No limit to number of copies.


  • When a player has used up his main pile of cards, he shuffles his discard pile and use it as his main pile.
  • Battle cards that has attacked or activated are turned sideways to indicate this.
  • Counters (fx. coins) or dice are used to keep track of available energy, player damage and battle cards with counters.
  • Trick cards go to the discard pile after use – unless they attach to a battle card.

Battle Card special abilities

Examples, not a complete list.

Radiance: This card may activate to deal one damage to target battle card or player.
Activated cards may not attack, and cards that have attacked may not activate.

Blocking: Attacking Battle Cards may only attack this card and others with blocking.

Mass produced: No limit to number of copies.

Trick Cards

Fuel explosion: You may choose the amount X of energy paid to play this card.
The card deals this amount of damage to target player.

Improve resistance: Energy cost: 2 kJ.
One battle card get +2K max. temperature difference (dT).
Place this card visible behind the battle card.

Double mass: Energy cost: 3 kJ.
One battle card doubles its Heat Capacity (HC). If the battle card has Mass Increase, double the amount of mass counters instead.
Place this card visible behind the battle card.

Notice: This post refer to the first version of Thermal Showdown.
Find updated info and cards here: Thermal Showdown info

Example cards

Toy soldier

Energy cost: 1 kJ
HC 1kJ/K, dT 1K, Power 1kW.
Mass produced: No limit to number of copies.
“A tiny lighter is glued to his hand”

Infrared lamp

Energy cost: 3 kJ
HC 1kJ/K, dT 1K, Power 1kW.
Radiance: This card may activate to deal one damage to target battle card or player.
Activated cards may not attack, and cards that have attacked may not activate.


Energy cost: 5 kJ
HC 2 kJ/K, dt 2K, Power 6 kW

Notice: This post refer to the first version of Thermal Showdown.
Find updated info and cards here: Thermal Showdown info

Write your experience

Have you tried out the game? How did it go? Are there any unclear points in the ruleset?

Did anything make the game dull: predictable, too long or too short?
And what changes would you suggest?

I need your feedback to decide which new cards should be added in future versions, to provide the most engaging experience possible.
You can write on the blog or tag me in the FB group Octalysis Explorers.

Also: Read my other blog post about gamification of teaching (English).

Bo Paivinen Ullersted

Exploration of knowledge

An approach to gamifying classroom book-and-paper teaching, which worked well when tested in practice.
Note: My references here are to the Octalysis framework for gamification.

So, after having messed around with various approaches to gamifying teaching, I realised that I needed something simple and flexible. Something that could be used no matter what the topic was, and something that could be finished in a reasonable timeframe. At the same time, I found that a key issue was to provide students having different levels of skills with enough challenges, while avoiding the typical motivational killer of “I didn’t manage to solve all of the challenges”, and also making sure everyone practice the same skills.
My solution to these needs was the exploration of knowledge concept that I present here.

The basic idea is to provide the students with more freedom, in a structured setting (Meaningful Choice, CD 3 Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback).

This is done by presenting the content of several lessons for the student in form of a map. Every area of the map has some theory references the students must read (or it could be in form of a video), and some exercises that can be done.

Now some areas are locked with gates Рthose that require knowledge from previous areas. To access a locked area, the student group must gather all the relevant keys. And they gain the key from an area by completing the required number of exercises in the area.

To keep things going, there are deadlines on the map. Gates that the students must unlock at a certain time. I have put deadlines for the end of lesson 2 and 4, in my 4-lesson project.

So to sum up: The students are required to complete a minimum of exercises in each subject before the deadlines, so the teacher can rely on the students having this knowledge in the future.
At the same time, the students have a degree of freedom in their approach. Most areas should have more exercises than required to gain a key, so the students can choose which ones they prefer. The¬†faster students – those that are not just barely meeting the deadlines –¬†have even more options. Do they finish all the exercises in the required areas? Do they go for the key in an optional¬†area? Or do they take on extra challenges, like a quiz or an experiment,¬†some of them locked behind gates?

To keep the¬†students focus on quality and understanding, every group were required to choose one exercise¬†to prepare for presentation.¬†At the beginning of each lesson, two groups would be selected to present for the class, after that the groups were mixed so that everyone could present their exercise to¬†a few classmates before they went “back to work”.

I used this in¬†physics teaching (high school level), using a mix of calculation and simulation exercises. The students¬†had¬†their book as well as a video –¬†a very¬†efficient and focused walkthrough of the theory, useful for refreshing at the beginning of a lesson.

This is the map i used for the project. The three areas on the left have no restrictions, so they are the starting areas. I hope it is understandable, even though it is in danish:

Translation: N√łgle = key, opgave = exercise, modul = lesson,¬†afsnit = chapter.
Background by Eltair via


With this short presentation, I hope you have an understanding of the idea behind using exploration of knowledge in teaching. And if you wish to try it out in practice, you should continue reading through the notes below, to get all the details right.

Practical/teaching notes:

  • The students self-test their answers from a list of answers
  • Every group is 2-4 students
  • Every group has their own map
  • If¬†your subject¬†don’t use experiments, find a different type of non-standard exercise the students can unlock
  • Try the system out with a good class the first time¬†– students that will work¬†efficiently in groups without too much supervision.
  • The experiments are very short and simple.
  • At some points I summed up for the class what they had learned, due to a students request.

Gamification notes:

  • Exploring the map and¬†earning keys are, of cause, CD 2: Development and Accomplishment
  • Celebration: When the students gain a key, give them a key stamp (a piece of paper to glue on the map). Also ring a bell or play a sound effect¬†on an app.
  • The¬†questions of the quiz’es are not visible before the group has earned access. CD 7: Curiosity.
  • Not tested:¬†The experiments should also be unknown until access is earned.
  • The final deadline ends in a large quiz,¬†testing knowledge in all the required areas.

Notes for making the map:

  • When designing the map, start by dividing the¬†material into a few subject areas (5 in this map). Then find out which areas are dependent on knowledge from previous areas, and set up the key/gate system from this dependence.
  • The students should have the same amount of time available as you would use to go through the subjects in a standard teaching.
  • I recommend using the map for a project of 3-6 lessons (tested with 4).
  • The map can be produced in a number of different ways. Use Word, Publisher, Photoshop or similar software. Or print¬†the map and¬†glue pieces of paper with gates and text onto the map, photocopy the result.
  • Use a fancy map-like background
  • The reason there are no page numbers on the map is because the students used a digital book.¬†If you use normal books, page numbers would be useful.
  • A single area in this map is completely optional – the key is only used to gain access to an optional quiz.
  • In this map the points needed to access quiz’es and experiments are different from the points needed for keys.¬†But they could be the same.

Did you find this interresting? Then I am sure you will like to read about Mastery of assignments.

Or find my other blog posts on gamified teaching here: Gamification of teaching