Magia Transformo: The Dance of Transformation,” a game created by a team led by Josh Tanenbaum, UCI assistant professor of informatics, debuted in early October at the prestigious IndieCade festival in Los Angeles. Selected from more than 1,000 entries to be one of just over 100 titles to be demonstrated at the event, the mixed-reality game is based on an interactive story in which players wear colorful cloaks and hats and dance around a glowing cauldron. “The idea is that the costumes help the players transform into the fictional characters of the story,” said Tanenbaum, whose research often includes elements of game development interwoven with theater arts. “We’ve taken a lot of different, fairly accessible technologies and combined them into this hybrid digital-physical experience that nobody has ever really seen before.” The game was created in UCI’s Transformative Play Lab by Tanenbaum’s team, which includes Ke Jing, a graduate student in informatics; Natalie Nygaard, a senior in computer game science; Vincent Chang, a senior in software engineering; Mark-Justin Pareja, a senior in computer game science; and Karen Tanenbaum, an assistant project scientist in informatics. Josh Tanenbaum said festival participants jumped at the opportunity to play the game, and all the positions were filled almost immediately. It took a while for some to get the hang of the activity, he noted: “Most 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.”

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