MAGFest 11 Re-cap

It’s been nearly a month since MAGFest, but I’d still like to give a brief re-cap for those of you who might be curious about the event, or be easily persuaded into attending next year.  It really is a great event with a fun, laid-back atmosphere.

 

Thursday

MAGFest begins on Thursday, but we didn’t want to spend the money for an extra night at the hotel.  But it was clear on Facebook that the party was already getting started by our friends that went up ASAP!  We spent the day packing and buying/baking snacks for the hotel room.

 

Friday

We packed up all of our food and stuff, drove up to National Harbor, parked, and headed over to the Gaylord to meet some of our friends and drop off our coats at their hotel room (we were staying at a different hotel, but couldn’t check in yet).

We checked out the AMAZING gaming rooms.  This year, the gaming area had expanded from two to four rooms.:

  • Room 1 – Console games from every era (including Kinect games on projectors), indie games, and challenge stations.
  • Room 2 – LAN area (where people could bring their own PCs) and vendor marketplace.
  • Room 3 – Arcade cabinets, ranging from the classics, to cocktail cabinets, to DDR.  All free-to-play.
  • Room 4 – Board games, with a line of tables full of games and plenty of tables for you and your friends to claim with a game.

Nick entered a Rock Band 2 Drums tournament and did pretty well!  We all had a good time cheering for him.

Nick in the Rock Band drums tournament
Nick in the Rock Band drums tournament

Some of our friends got roped into a Yoshi’s Cookie tournament, even though they had never played (maybe because they had some real Yoshi’s cookies at the tournament table!)

Real Yoshi's Cookies!
Real Yoshi’s Cookies!

For lunch, we made some sandwiches with stuff we brought.  National Harbor is a little bit like a theme park, and everything is a little overpriced, so we tried to save where we could.  At noon, we met up with our friend Snooze who was attending MAGFest for the first time.  Eventually we saw some other friends who had gotten in on Thursday and stayed up all night!

Every year, two former UVA Gamer’s Club presidents run a video game-themed game show-style panel, and it’s always hilarious.  This year, it was 25,000 Point Pyramid, and volunteers from the audience were paired up with guests from various web shows and podcasts to answer video game trivia and try to win fabulous prizes.  It was a good time and very funny!  They always put on a good show.

At 6:00, we went to the Extra Credits Q&A, one of the panels we were most excited about.  James and Daniel from the show were there, and as advertised, they just answered questions throughout the panel.  Apparently, their panel last year ended up lasting for HOURS after the allotted time, full of interesting and though-provoking conversation about games and game design, so this year they were given a room where that wouldn’t be a problem and were told to have at it.  The questions and answers were all interesting, and at one point they brought up some guests from a different show to add to the discussion.  It would have been cool to stay for longer than the first hour, but dinner was calling.

Dinner was Nando’s Peri-Peri chicken!  We met some of Stephen’s friends and had a delicious dinner.  Afterwards, we spent some more time hanging out in the game room, and I watched some of the Dance Central 3 tournament.  The dancers were amazing!  I saw a girl that I recognized from last year, and she was even better than before.

Nick got started on the gamer challenges, which were really cool!  MAGFest had set up a bunch of laptops with a custom-made interface that connected to a bunch of emulator roms.  They had a list of challenges for various games, and had the roms configured to start you at the right moment with the right parameters.  Most of them involved clearing a certain stage of a game without getting hit once.  Nick spent about an hour trying to beat a particularly tough challenge (beat Blind in Link to the Past without getting hit), and he emerged victorious!  They had a punch-card system for the challenges, and you got rewarded M-points and small prizes for challenges completed.

Nick won!
Nick won!

Our friend Phil arrived at night, so we gave him a tour of the gaming area and went and watched some Armcannon. There was also an exciting reunion of the band Unhandled Exceptions, which Phil, Nick, Snooze, and Chris formed to enter a Rock Band tournament back in college.

The Unhandled Exceptions reunion
The Unhandled Exceptions reunion

At some point during the day, we had run into Bill who informed us that The Protomans, a Protomen cover band, would be playing at Stage 2 at midnight, so Nick and I went to check that out.  It was definitely an experience!  The coolest part was that the real Protomen were all just sort of hanging out there, and even started trying to help the drummer hit his cues.  Very entertaining =)

The Protomans
The Protomans

Finally, we headed back to the amazing hotel Phil managed to get us with rewards points, stayed up chatting for a while, and got some sleep.

 

Saturday

It was hard to get up and going on Saturday morning, but we had some lunch in the room and Nick and I made it back over to the Gaylord by noon so he could compete in the Pokemon Puzzle League tournament.  It’s one of his top three favorite games, and he is really good at it, so this was an exciting opportunity!  Nick was up first, and it was a scary start — his opponent beat him two rounds in a row!  Luckily, it was a first-to-three tournament, and he managed to come back and win the next three rounds.  Heartstopping!

Pokemon Puzzle League - Who's the best?!
Pokemon Puzzle League – Who’s the best?!

Since there was a lot of time in between rounds, we went over to the board game room and started a game of Ticket to Ride.  After refreshing on the rules and playing a few turns, Nick went back to the console room (four rooms away!) to make sure he wasn’t missing his turn.  Minutes passed, and Nick hadn’t returned.  I tried to call him, but his phone was still on the table next to us, so Snooze went to go find him.

While we waited to hear back, I was glancing around the room and who did I happen to see walking by?  Tood Etter!  He had brought his son and his son’s friend to see a guest they liked (who turned out to be sick and cancel, bummer!).  Snooze called to let us know that Nick hadn’t come back because he had been about to miss his turn after all, so we all headed over to see how he did (another sudden-death victory!).  Eventually we went back to the board game room and Todd taught us how to play Alien Frontiers.  He had to leave around 5:00, but we played his turns for him after he left and he somehow managed to win!

After that there wasn’t much going on, so we headed back to our hotel for a board game and pizza party!  Unfortunately, nobody else was able to make it, but the four of us enjoyed pizza delivery and several rounds of Shadow Hunters (and maybe some Space Alert?  I forget).

Shadow Hunters
Shadow Hunters

 

At 9:00pm, it was time to head back to the Gaylord for… THE PROTOMEN!  Yay!  They weren’t scheduled to start until 9:20, but we got there 5 or 10 minutes early and K.I.L.R.O.Y. was already out and getting the crowd revved up!  At first it was a little hard to see, but then we moved far right and got a great view without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder with the crowd.  We took advantage of the space and danced and sung our hearts out!  It was a great show, and all the more enjoyable because we had impulsively gone to their End of the World show in Nashville just before Christmas on our way to my parents’ house in Illinois.  This time, we were able to sort of get lost in the music/experience instead of being overwhelmed by our first Protomen concert.  We could also see Reanimator (the drummer) a lot better since there wasn’t any fog at this show.  Unfortunately, MAGFest had to be pretty strict with the performance times, so they got cut off before they could finish their standard set-list.  (We found out later that they finished up at Stage 2 much later that night.)

The Protomen!!
The Protomen!!

After the show, we went down to the vendor area to wait for the band to come down so Nick could get the stick he caught at the Nashville show signed by Reanimator.  It took some time, and maybe a bit of line-cutting (but nobody was talking to Reanimator at the moment!), but Nick got a sweet autograph and met his new drumming hero.

When all of that was taken care of, we headed back to our hotel room for more board games!  Todd had mentioned he wanted to play Space Alert with us, so we gave him a text and he came over for many hilarious rounds of Shadow Hunters, a few failed Space Alert missions, and a few play-throughs of a quick game he brought called Escape: The Curse of the Temple.  Escape was frantic and fun, but the audio track made me so anxious!  We’ll probably try to pick that one up soon.

I think we made it to bed at 4:00am?  Yikes!

 

Sunday

If it was hard to get up on Saturday morning…  Things were starting to wind down on Sunday, so the only thing that got us moving in the morning was our 10:00am (!!!) check-out time.  With nowhere else to go, we headed back to the gaming room where Nick worked on some more challenges.  Snooze and Phil both had to head out before too long, so we said our goodbyes.

We spent WAY too long in the vendor room trying to figure out how to spend the M-points Nick had won from his tournaments and the challenges.  M-points were little Fallout-style bottle caps that could be used as currency in the vendor room.  And each M-point was worth $1!  Nick had accumulated 8 M-points over the weekend, so we had $8!  We had already gotten a poster and CD from the Protomen table earlier in the weekend, so we looked and looked trying to find something else to buy.  We kept finding ourselves back at the Fangamer table (I wish they had brought more of their posters!) and Nick ended up getting a classy black Starman polo (which he ended up wearing to his interview at Microsoft!).

We went and got lunch with Jen, Greg, and some friends of theirs at Baja Fresh, and then we decided to head back home ourselves.

 

So that was the bulk of our MAGFest 2013 experience!  There was so much more stuff we didn’t see, including lots of interesting and intellectual panels about gaming culture and game design, and TONS of talented musical performers.  Even though we had a whole extra day and a half this year, it still felt like there wasn’t enough time to see it all.

But luckily, we did see this — the Yip Yip aliens playing DJ Hero.

Yiiip yip yip yip yip yip
Yiiip yip yip yip yip yip