Having a hard time coming up with something to talk about today (and wanting to just cozy up and relax with the storm outside), so why not a brief post about MAGFest?
We don’t have a lot of really cool events out here on the East coast, but we do have MAGFest. Short for Music and Gaming Festival, MAGFest is a 4-day festival that takes place every January in DC. In addition to panels and special events, MAGFest has a number of featured areas that are open 24 hours a day during the entire event, including LAN gaming, tabletop gaming, a marketplace, a jam space for musicians, and (probably the biggest draw) a MASSIVE game room that is half free-to-play arcade cabinets, half console games set up with TVs. Guests include musicians, directors, voice actors, artists, and other members of the video game industry as well as internet personalities. Music is of course a big part of this festival, and lots of chiptune and video game-themed bands perform throughout the event.
We have a ton of friends from college who go to MAGFest every year, but last year was our first time going. A friend of mine described it as sort of a college reunion atmosphere for people like us who are all from the area and were part of the gaming/nerd communities in college. We ended up running into a lot of people we hadn’t seen since graduation! We had a great time hanging out with friends and exploring the game room. Some of the games we enjoyed were Dance Central (run on a huge projector), DDR, Pokemon Puzzle League, and the X-Men arcade game (which has spawned its own a festival meme). We didn’t play any tabletop games, but we did hang around and chat with some of the people who were playing, and they were all eager to tell us more about their games. We didn’t make it to very many panels, but we did attend Ellen McLain’s (the voice of GLaDOS) panel, and she was so lovely! We also briefly dropped by one of the music rooms and enjoyed a set by a band called Autoscroll.
Of course, the biggest draw last year was the special guest of honor, none other than Nobuo Uematsu! He is probably the biggest name in video game music and is best known for his work on the Final Fantasy series. He gave a performance Saturday night with his rock band, The Earthbound Papas. We decided we really couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see such a legend and that was the deciding factor for us attending last year. I grew up watching my brother play the Final Fantasy games and loving that music. I think a lot of us sort of felt like we were seeing the man behind the music of our childhoods. The funny part was that his band was WILD. It was hands-down THE loudest concert I have ever been to, and my ears were still ringing well into the next day. They played super heavy metal arrangements of different game songs and maybe a few original pieces as well. Nobuo would say a few words in between sometimes and he was completely adorable.
As of right now, we’re still a bit on the fence about going this year since money is a little tight (and there aren’t really any guests we’re adamant about seeing, except maybe the Extra Credits folks), but I did have a lot of fun last time and would really like to go back. If we do go, I’d love to be able to stay Friday night and go for two full days, spend a little more time in the game room, see more panels, actually play some board games, see some more bands (I liked the one band we saw more than I was expecting!), and maaaybe figure out a way to get some Artemis set up in the LAN area!
One more thing to note: I had only been to anime conventions before going to MAGFest last year, and I really, really appreciated the more adult atmosphere of this festival. I had started to lose my patience at the last anime convention I attended, and felt like they really weren’t for me anymore. MAGFest feels much more comfortable. It really does just feel like a big party, and while there are still some obnoxious fans running around, I think the average age of the attendees has got to be at least 10-15 years older than an anime convention.
In short, if you’re anywhere near DC and you like games, MAGFest is a good time! This year, it starts on Thursday, January 3rd and runs through Sunday the 4th. The festival will be returning to the Gaylord National at National Harbor, MD (just outside DC) which is a spectacular venue in a nice area. Wednesday is the last day to pre-register for the 4-day pass for $40, then it will start going up. (You can also save $10/ticket if you buy in a group of 8 or more). Drop me a line if you’ll be there! Hopefully we will be, too =)