MAGFest - A Display of Talent, Recreation, and Nerds
In its long-outdated definition, the word nerd once described people overly enthusiastic about fictional works and entertainment - The incredible behemoth convention that is MAGFest challenges, improves, and encourages the very nature of “nerddom”, fandom, and ultimately the love of all things creative.
This “Music and Game” convention, held in the esteemed Gaylord National Convention Center and Hotel around January/February each year, has long celebrated guests from the video game, anime, and various entertainment sources while offering its humongous halls, ballrooms, and amenities to concerts, expert panels, and more activities. If your interest lies in playing games, there are two warehouse-sized sections of the center full of arcade games, video game consoles such as the popular Nintendo Gamecube, and even independently-designed arcade games. Fellow GameLark writer Allen shared with me a music groove game that limited itself to 12-15 buttons and no instructions - meanwhile I observed a fighting game where there were 50 buttons and only randomly-chosen ones would attack your opponent. Meanwhile fans of their respective series can purchase custom-made merchandise in a huge hall, stroll past cosplayers and excited enthusiasts like themselves, or pick up an instrument to jam at a small sectioned-off area called a JamPod. The options are endless and the entire hall shares your goal of having an exceptional time with friends.
While I could only be in so many places at once, I’d like to share a mix of my favorite experiences and those I couldn’t see this year. Some of the fantastic concert experiences included:
Sam Mulligan and the Donut Slayers - A comedic, theatrical, and altogether hard rocking group with chiptune influence
Frank Klepacki and the Tiberian Sons’ Command and Conquer LIVE - A mix of the composer himself of the strategy classic and a rock/metal band full of solos, shreddery, and war-machine levels of enthusiasm
Ocabanda - A chirpy group carrying the titular instrument, founded with David Erick Ramos of Youtube acclaim, and arranging a range of tunes!
This is just a tiny slice of the incredible weekend. People were able to dance to fantastic DJs, Chiptune Raves, and enjoy a huge array of styles of music here. Additionally, the more industry-savvy and educational events were on full display:
MAGES (Music and Gaming Education Symposium) - A variety of panels serving to help teach musicians, future-musicians, audio engineers, and game audio specialists about the industry! I participated in one regarding Undertale music and the cover scene, and saw several hosted by Materia Collective and their collection of working artists.
Guests- In addition to individual-submitted panels, the convention featured The Runaway Guys, Lena Raine, OC Remix, and more each with a slew of panels, signings, and great events!
After all of the fun and games, however, the most important part of the convention experience to me is Friendship. Adorable moment aside, these conventions thrive and survive with friends planning to see each other, grab food, enjoy company, jam together, and ultimately catch up. Personally this was my 5th or 6th MAGFest and I still felt that “butterfly in stomach” effect of seeing friends from across the country or globe.
My greatest highlights range from catching Jackson Parodi in the halls charming a Snorlax cosplayer with his accordion, all the way to spending the night chatting about cultural idiosyncrasies with 10 or so friends in our hotel. A lot of the magic of any convention is meeting beforehand, working together, learning about what makes these different musicians, artists, and nerds tick and sharing unexpected unplanned fun. A huge highlight for myself and others was being nominated and/or winning the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.) awards for best remixes in a variety of categories. Nominated entries were all extraordinary, unique arrangements of video game songs both retro and new, and the entire room for the awards was full of peers who worked with each other on a daily basis. Making a humongous congratulations to all entrants, nominees, and winners from this year, including those from our parent-company Materia Collective and GameLark itself.
I know much of this was my limited scope, and this write-up only serves to reflect on such a fun event while inviting you readers to consider attending your next convention or MAGFest itself. Engage in your industry, work hard with your friends be they next door or overseas, and take the time to actually catch up. You never know how remarkable a weekend you could make with the right people, the right place, and the right time.