The one gaming / anime / nerd convention I attend every year is the Music And Gaming Festival, or MAGFest. It's owned/run by an old friend from Charlottesville, and it does everything it can to deliver an awesome weekend of gaming, partying, and intellectualizing to anyone willing to make the trip to Virginia or Maryland. I had an awesome time overall and I've composed two brief top-five lists to convey my thoughts on the convention.
The Best Parts of MAGFest X
5. Hangin' Out
Really, what sets MAGFest apart from other conventions is its informal nature. All the time you'll be playing games with someone in the game room, get invited to a suite party, or what have you. For all of the cool concerts and panels that MAGFest hosts, the best part of MAGFest is being around so many like-minded gamers that want to hang out and have a good time.
4. The Venue
The Gaylord is enormous. Holy shit. But it also has a reasonable layout and interactive maps in a few places to help you out. The floorspace alone made the event way less congested than MAGFest IX, and the hotel staff was (almost) always helpful and gracious to an extreme. The National Harbor area is also pretty nice indeed, with lots of good restaurants nearby at reasonable price ranges (hotel restaurants were muy expensivo).
3. The Games
The variety of games to play at MAGFest is always stunning, and MAGFest X lived up to past years. I think there were more arcade machines than ever, and the console room had a great selection. The tabletop room had basically the same selection as past years, but that's still good. My only beef regarding the game room was a lack of consoles for tournaments, making pretty much every tournament run late and frustrating several of my companions.
2. The People
Not only are my college friends I reunited with at MAGFest a stellar group of people, the rest of MAGFest is pretty boss, too. Almost everyone was civil and great to hang out with, and the event's selection of guests, speakers, panelists, and bands was fantastic. The voice actress for GLaDOS cold-reading a My Little Pony script? Dozens of video game theory and intellectualism discussions? Isaiah "Triforce" Johnson? Gaming Family Feud? Jon St. John? Too good.
1. Nobuo Uematsu
This guy transcends the "people" category. He and the rest of his band Earthbound Papas threw a hell of a concert for us, mixing original material with Black Mages arrangements of Final Fantasy tunes, and chugging beers and throwing out Colossus yells with the crowd. Uematsu-san was totally amiable, funny, and having a good time. His Q&A panel the morning after his concert was great, and it was awesome hearing insight and anecdotes from Uematsu and his bandmates (three of whom were Square employees with Uematsu in the 90s).
If that wasn't enough, I got Nobuo and his entire band to sign a Japanese copy of Final Fantasy IV I bought earlier at one of the vendors. When the lead guitarist in the band saw what he was about to sign, he smiled and laughed saying "I made that." He designed the box cover layout and manual for Final Fantasy IV more than twenty years ago. I can't make this shit up.
The Worst Parts of MAGFest X
5. Hotel Security
Not once, not twice, but five times was I in a room or part of a group that was ordered to get quiet or break it up. Not cool, Gaylord. I sort of understand doing that for the (totally awesome) hallway game of J. S. Joust I was a part of, but we were *not* being loud enough to justify all of the stern warnings we received. I think the hotel's security team wasn't as ready for MAGFest as its attendees were.
4. Crowded Restaurants
The restaurant selection was very good in National Harbor, but you'll be damned trying to get into one after 6 PM. Lunch was never a problem, but I had to resort to (expensive) room service on Saturday night because every damn restaurant had a line out the door, and one of them was even "temporarily closed due to lack of staff." The fuck!?
3. Colossus Calls
Seriously, this inside joke is played out.
2. The People
95% of MAGFest goers are nice, normal gamers that want to have a good time. I played Power Stone 2 with a male gay couple and a hilarious drunk girl for like an hour and it was awesome. But not everyone is awesome. Some women should simply not wear skanky cosplay. It's never cool to hit on someone so inappropriately that they need to relocate (this happened to one person in my group at least twice). And whenever there are a lot of drunk people, there are some extremely obnoxious people. Don't even get me started on how many unwashed male nerd stereotypes there were creating a palpable sweat-funk.
1. Not Enough Hours in the Day
I didn't have near enough time to do everything I wanted to. I skipped bar trivia (no real trivia show this year...) and Catan basically by accident and only went to maybe half the number of panels I wish I had been to. I was just getting caught up in the spirit of things, sure, but there is so much gaming goodness to be found at MAGFest that there is no way to experience it all, and that's just a shame. Maybe MAGFest should be six days instead of four.
If it sounds like the positives are way stronger and more significant than the negatives, that's because it's true. I had a fantastic time at MAGFest, and now work seems that much more boring and less fun coming right after. My only lame parts of the weekend werediscovering that my Kindle broke in my backpack, which is definitely not MAGFest's fault, and being too late to sign up for the Catan tournament, which is mostly not MAGFest's fault.
OK, enough MAGFest, time to get back to reading comic books and playing video games. I'm 95% sure that the first game on my games beaten in 2012 will be a random Game Boy game I bought at MAGFest, the second game will be Radiant Historia, and the third game will be Mass Effect. Pretty sure that's how it's going down, and soon.