Recapping MAGFest 8

By: Joe Grogan

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Gaming Tournaments, Nerd-Core Bands, and Panel Discussions with Sid Meier and John St. John, the Voice of Duke Nukem

January 5, 2010 – Yesterday saw the closing ceremonies of the eighth annual MAGFest, a gaming expo run by gamers, for gamers. What sets it apart from events like E3 is that it focuses more on the community than on the professionals of the industry. Of course there are guest speakers, game announcements, and the like, but what you’ll mostly find at MAGFest are community gaming rooms, classic gaming competitions, and concerts. This year the entire Hilton hotel in Alexandria, VA was dedicated to the convention, which meant more room for gaming, more time for special guests, and round-the-clock nerd-core concerts.

The event kicked off in the last hours of 2009 with a New Year’s Eve party for pre-registered attendees. Just as you would expect, the party consisted of music, dancing, and gaming, of course. Things really got going the next morning when the non-stop gaming began. For four days straight the hotel had a haven for every type of gamer imaginable. There was a LAN room for PC gamers, an arcade area with both current and retro arcade games, a console room for fans of the big three, and a tabletop room for fans of games like Dungeons and Dragons, all open 24 hours a day for the entirety of the event. There was also the “challenge corner” where players could try and tackle insanely difficult gaming feats for prizes of all sorts.

For those seeking a more melodious experience there were concerts every night featuring different nerd-core bands performing their takes on classic video game tunes. The list included the funk band The OneUps, Metroid Metal, hip-hop artist A_Rival, and the “micro orchestra” Select Start, just to name a few. And as if it weren’t enough to be able to listen to modern renditions of classic 8-bit tunes, attendees to this year’s MAGFest could head over to JamSpace, the 24-hour music room, where they could put on their own gaming gala, no matter how unfit to sing.

If somebody was in the market for a less interactive gaming experience they could always head on over to the 24-hour video room. This room housed a four day marathon of independent movies and shows all about gaming. Such titles as Captain N, Project: Snake, River City Rumble, and Sidequest Has Left the Party were shown. Even The Wizard, the famous feature length Nintendo commercial, was shown.

Players looking for a more competitive weekend could participate in tournaments for prizes provided they were good enough to come out on top. Tournaments included a wide variety of games, both old and new. Whether your forte is fighting games like the Guilty Gear series, racing like the Mario Kart Series, or tactical shooting like Counter-Strike, there was a tournament for you.

For those attendees looking to burn a hole in their pockets there was a marketplace open throughout the convention where merchants were selling all types of gaming paraphernalia from clothes to hand-crafted art. Towards the end of the convention there was also an auction in which patrons could bid on rare items not being sold in the marketplace. Better yet, gamers trying to make a quick buck were able to put some of their personal gaming mementos up for auction and take home the profit.

Of course, no video gaming convention would be complete without special celebrity guests, and MAGFest 8 was no different. Though all of the guests had their fair share of offerings that they brought to the convention, two stuck out above the others: Sid Meier, the grandfather of computer gaming, and Jon St. John, the voice of Duke Nukem. Other guests included gaming legal analyst Dan Rosenthal, the philosopher of the gaming world Robert Aldrich, and webcomic creator Dave Stanworth. All of these special guests held panel discussions where they discussed some of their latest projects and gave fans aspiring to become professionals in the industry tips on how to make their dreams come true.

This was arguably one of the greatest MAGFests in the history of the event, and even though it only lasts four days, it’s still one of the best ways I can think of to get in touch with the video gaming community. Let’s hope MAGFest 9 will be just as great when it rolls around in 2011.

Gamers Participating In A Madden Tournament
A View of JamSpace From the Stage
A Vendor Makes A Sale In the Marketplace
John St. John, the Voice of Duke Nukem
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