Skip to main content

ICS News Archive

If looking for the latest news, go here

Return to News Archive List
October 27, 2017

Tanenbaum’s Interactive ‘Magia Transformo’ Game a Hit at IndieCade Festival

Ever since Josh Tanenbaum, assistant professor of informatics, first learned about IndieCade as a graduate student back in 2008, he has wanted to participate in the international festival of independent games. This year, he got his chance with his visionary game, “Magia Transformo – the Dance of Transformation.” Out of approximately 1,000 submissions, “Magia Transformo” was one of just 104 selected as a demo for the IndieCade Festival 2017, held Oct. 6-8 in Los Angeles.

Tanenbaum says the experience “definitely lived up to the hype!” Within 20 minutes, all sign-up slots were filled for his mixed-reality game, an interactive story in which players wear colorful cloaks and hats and dance around a glowing cauldron. As he explains, “The idea is that the costumes help the players transform into the fictional characters of the story.” See players demo the game at

Feedback was extremely positive for this unique gaming experience. “We’ve taken a lot of different, fairly accessible technologies, and we’ve combined them into this hybrid digital physical experience that nobody has ever really seen before,” says Tanenbaum. One young player liked the game so much that he kept checking back to see if he could play again. “He had literally hundreds of other games to choose from and only five hours to experience them, so the fact that he took an extra half hour to play our game a second time was one of the greatest compliments I could have hoped for.”

Tanenbaum built the game at UCI’s Transformative Play Lab, and the Magia Transformo team includes Ke Jing (systems designer), Natalie Nygaard (game designer and programmer), Vincent Chang (music and sound), Mark-Justin Pareja (art), and Karen Tanenbaum (playtesting & UX design). The group should remain busy with the successful IndieCade trip opening up new opportunities.

One of Tanenbaum’s earliest mentors, Celia Pearce, an associate professor of game design at Northeastern University, attended IndieCade and discussed potential collaborations. Tanenbaum also hopes to set up an Institutional Review Board to conduct formal user studies. He said most players at IndieCade initially tried to draw on the phones embedded in their spell books rather than physically dance around the cauldron. “I think this speaks to how pervasive and naturalized phone interactions have become, and it’s a phenomenon I’m very curious to explore further.”

Read the related “Magia Transformo” story on the UCI News page.