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Photo by Hans Kristian Henriksen/Magination (Used with permission)

The business behind those mesmerizing magnet GIFs all over Reddit

Magination aims to foster creative play with magnets.


Cynthia McKelvey

Internet Culture

Posted on Nov 11, 2015   Updated on May 27, 2021, 4:15 pm CDT

Tuesday on Reddit several GIFs of magnets snapping together took the Web by storm. Moving seemingly by the will of a disembodied hand, these animations skyrocketed to the top of several subreddits including r/woahdude, r/insrestingasfuck, and r/oddlysatisfying. Take a look:

Perfect magnets

Collapsing magnets

The GIFs were created and posted by the minds behind a new venture in creative gaming, cutely titled Magination. The game is set to launch on Kickstarter Nov. 19.

The concept behind Magination is in its name: “What we really want is to evolve Magination into a game made entirely by its users. And calling it a game might be wrong, it is more like a creative platform,” co-founder Tobias Linkjendal told the Daily Dot via email. But for those of us who may be creatively challenged, the kit will include some rules for games Linkjendal and Magination’s co-creators have come up with themselves.

Linkjendal said that the GIFs unexpectedly became popular on Reddit. Originally, they tried to post them on Facebook but the social media platform took them down for containing “too much text in the image.” He said the popularity was organic, but that people were suspicious.

“Now we feel like we have to explain ourselves as people think we paid Reddit like $3,000 to get to the front page, which is a little sad, but mostly funny!” Linkjendal said.

Magination came together organically after Linkjendal bought some plain, coin-shaped magnets online and showed them to his roommate, Juul Arthur (now the co-founder of Magination). The two came up with a game of curling, where they would use magnetic force to push their opponents’ magnets away.

They’re also hoping the game will be educational, teaching children and adults alike about magnetic force through intuitive, hands-on learning. 

The Norwegian students, together with a third friend and fellow student, Hanna Aanjesen, developed the idea for Magination. They hope to launch an online community with the game where users can upload rules of their own games, as well as vote on things like new designs and colors for pieces.

They’re also hoping the game will be educational, teaching children and adults alike about magnetic force through intuitive, hands-on learning.

However, the magnets may cause some parents to worry about their suitability for children. The magnets are made of super-strong neodymium, the same material used for Buckyballs. Buckyballs, launched in 2009, were an extremely popular creative game where people constructed two- and three-dimensional shapes from an array of small spherical magnets resembling ball bearings.

But unfortunately, the small magnets were easy to swallow and resembled candy, leading some children to consume them. Because of the strength of the magnets, they were attracted to each other even through the membranes and tissues of the digestive system. Or, as Gizmodo put it in 2014, “The magnets are powerful enough that if you ingest two balls separately they’re going find each other no matter what, ripping you apart like slow-moving magnetic bullets if necessary to do so.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled Buckyballs in 2012, citing the dangers they posed for children.

Linkjendal said that he doesn’t foresee the same fate for Magination, despite using the same materials as Buckyballs. The biggest concern is the “Single” piece (the other magnets are too large to be swallowed). Roughly the size of a quarter and brightly colored, the single-sized magnets may resemble candy, Linkjendal said. However, one of the criticisms the CPSC lobbed at Buckyballs was that it was too easy to lose a piece or two without noticing.

For Magination, single pieces come in pairs and stack together easily, so Linkjendal feels confident that you would notice pretty quickly if some pieces were missing. Additionally, he’s not sure if a child could even swallow the piece whole, though he emphasized that was just speculation on his part.

He added that even if the single piece was swallowable, he’s not sure if two pieces would have as easy of a time finding one another as the Buckyballs do: “[The Buckyball] can easily rotate around its own axis as it is a perfect sphere, where as they get closer to each other inside the intestines, the poles would start to align,” he said, emphasizing again that he was just speculating. “I assume that the Single [piece] would have to be oriented the same way as the other Single in the intestines in order to actually attract.”

Linkjendal added that an age limit will be prominently displayed on the box, as well as a warning placed in the manual. “We feel like we have done what we can on our side to deliver a fun and safe product to the market, and if CPSC still disagrees, we will have to work something out,” he said.

Time will tell if Magination can get off the ground. While the venture has received funding from Spark NTNU and Innovation Norway to be “almost production ready,” Linkjendal said they’ll be aiming for an additional $10,000 on Kickstarter.

Photo by Hans Kristian Henriksen/Magination

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*First Published: Nov 11, 2015, 5:39 pm CST