The gaming community is often cast in a bad light as vagrants, underachievers, basement-dwelling hobgoblins, or even, on occasion, gun wielding psychopaths. But this is not really who gamers are. This is not what we stand for. This is not our community. The gaming community can be one of the friendliest communities you’ll ever meet and there are a few events throughout the year where we gather together in our mutual love of games as entertainment and an art-form. Today, I would like to highlight MAGfest: The Music and Gaming Festival, an event of gamers, by gamers, and for gamers.
Gamers convene in style. MAGfest was held at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland which is exactly as impressive as it sounds. It is a massive five star hotel with “Indoor Trees” as JonTron of GameGrumps fame put it. Marble floors, columns, and grand entranceway make this an impressive location, but here on the far exteriors of the DC metropolitan area gamers gather in an ironically informal way.
There were no levels or VIP locations here. All of us were gamers and all of us equal. Everyone was issued “Apocalypse Survivor Badges” which looked like Gameboy Colors further adding to the whimsical nature of the event. MAGfest officially opened with a panel hosted by the organizing board. They went over the rules and told funny stories about bad things that have happened in the past. One attendee shouted “What about spawncampers?” and the group leader laughed and responded “Spawn Campers are fine, man. Learn how to spawn!” And this good-natured fun continued throughout the festival.
The festival was broken down by room and floor. The upper floors contained large auditoriums where the panels, concerts, and screenings were held. The lower floors contained the Expo Center which was further broken down. The first partition contained a sea of folding tables and boardgames as well as a large open area in the back for autographs. Next to this was the arcade room with a veritable history of arcade games from an Asteroids game with an LED screen to Missile Command to Time Crisis to Dance Dance Revolution. This was followed by the vendor/LAN room where the designers, artists, and musicians displayed their wares, while in the back lay a LAN network and Table-Flipping-for-Charity wherein you get awesome stress relief while raising money for Child’s play. Lastly, there is the console room with consoles at least as far back as the NES with incremental increases as you reach more recent consoles. On the surface this would have looked like any other convention-type event…that is until you see the veritable menagerie of game props and cosplayers. I have to give props to one girl in particular who made a chain chomp cosplay. It looks like a convention and in some ways it is, but on the inside were very informal down to earth panels between the special guests and their fans.
The panelists acted like regular attendees and had just as much fun walking around playing games and watching other people’s panels. Egoraptor and JonTron, collectively known as the Game Grumps hosted a panel taking questions based on games and cosplay weapons raised in the air that they thought looked cool. People brought them art and games for future videos. People asked about their favorite games and how they met, which is a hilariously cute story that I cannot give justice to here. There was another panel hosted by James Portnow and Daniel Floyd of Extra Credits wherein they took questions for over 4 hours and were joined by other guests as James scouted the audience. These guests included Kan Gao of To the Moon fame and Dale North and one of his coworkers at Destructoid. Even this panel which became a much higher discussion of game analysis, the games industry, and game design theory still remained fun and thought-provoking. These things are part of what makes MAGfest a true community event.
MAGfest brings out the best in the gaming community. It is an event for gamers of all shapes and sizes to meet and have fun. It is a place for gamers to come together and discuss games with their heroes whether designers, reviewers, or musicians. It is a place for gamers to support their artists and musicians. It is a place for gamers to party with these designers and musicians. MAGfest is a place for gamers to truly be gamers and gamers first before students or designers or citizens or outcasts.