Convention Coverage: MAGFest 6

With over 72 straight hours of events, concerts and games, it’s hart to know exactly where to start when talking about MAGFest. On the surface, the Music and Gaming Festival is just a small (around 1000 attendees) video game convention on the east coast. But if you actually dive below the surface and attend one of these annual events, the reality is so much more than that.

The sixth MAGFest, or M6, began on Thursday, January 3, 2008. At this early stage of the weekend, you can only get an idea of what’s about to happen over the next two and a half days. Only half of the attendees have arrived and not everything is completely set up. By about 1 o’clock Friday morning, things start to come together and the festival picks up the pace it will maintain until Sunday afternoon: crazy.

The largest and most crowded room is usually the console room, where you’ll find more than 50 TVs and projectors running every system from the Atari 2600 up to the Playstation 3. Some of the highlights for me included the import-only DrumMania from Konami as well as their arcade version of BeatMania. Not surprisingly, Super Smash Bros. Melee was one of the hardest games to play, along with Rock Band, due entirely to the lines of people waiting to play.

While playing games is a large part of a convention like this, it’s not the only thing going on. Throughout the day you can find panels on everything from chip tunes and web comics to game journalism and game development. Notable guests this year included the Angry Video Game Nerd and the crew from Screw Attack as well as community members from VGMix and OCRemix, two of the largest chip tune communities on the Internet.

Tournaments tend to run the length of the convention as well and feature classics like Mario Kart 64 and Street Fighter 3rd Strike in addition to new hits like Gears of War and Rock Band. But don’t expect the tournaments and game playing to stop with just video games. MAGFest is also the place you want to be to show everyone your skills at Settlers of Catan or Warhammer 40K. And of course there’s Magic: The Gathering for all you TCG nuts out there.

If all of this is just too interactive for you, there’s always the video room. Here you’ll see everything from the now standard Advent Children to the new TMNT or Transformers movies. Although sleeping in the video room is officially frowned upon, odds are you’ll find at least two sleepers in there anytime after 2 o’clock in the morning, and the same can be said of the LAN room. Many gamers found warmth from the January weather next to their PCs.

The real draw of MAGFest, though, is the concerts. In past years, bands such as the Neskimos and the Minibosses have rocked the crowds, as have Year 200X and Chromelodeon. This year nearly every band I saw rocked my face off. I can’t really pick a favorite, but Powerglove might have had the most awesome costumes. That, and they almost knocked me out with their bass – that’s rock n’ roll! Another surprise was Shawn Phase actually showing up with a band this year instead of his typical solo performances.

Of course, if the heavy stuff in the concert room wasn’t your style you could always go to the Jam Space where you’re likely to find any individual musician at the con jamming out with just about anyone. In fact there were even a few concerts that had more of a rave-like feel to them in contrast to the heavy metal going on down the hall.

While MAGFest didn’t experience any noticeable growth this year, the experience didn’t lose anything from previous years and even managed to expand their offerings. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground for MAGFest next year because if you like video games or video game music, I promise you this is an event you don’t want to miss.