Last weekend, January 5-8, @Ndoto, @FlatFootFox and I decided to check out MAGFest (Music and Gaming Festival). It was the first time any of us had attended this convention, so it was a bit overwhelming. Still, I think we all had fun! It was like a very small PAX, with an emphasis on music instead of upcoming games. In fact, in many ways, there was a strong focus on older games – chiptunes and 8-bit graphics were prevalent.

Since we didn’t stay at a hotel at the con, it was difficult to attend everything that sounded interesting. Instead of getting the full con experience, we only got a taste – but it was enough of a taste to know that, if we go again, we’ll be staying at a hotel nearby so that we can have better access to all the events.

There were a few highlights from the weekend. The convention itself was organized well. That might just be due to its smaller attendance – and the large venue – but it never felt overly crowded, or impossible to attend the more popular events. The dealer’s room had some talented artists, sellers with older classic games and consoles, and lots of Japanese drinks and snacks (unlike Otakon, where the Baltimore Convention Center bans the sale of all outside food)! Notably, some of the artists there sold paintings on canvas of classic 8-bit video game scenes – it sounds odd, but it was actually really impressive to see in person. Attached to that was perhaps the largest room at the con: a gaming room with classic arcade cabinets, old consoles, new consoles and pinball machines. There was even a projector set up with an Xbox 360 and Kinect – Dance Central looked pretty good on that.

There was only one actual panel we went to, and that was Ellen McLain’s Q&A. For those who don’t recognize the name, Ellen McLain is an opera singer who has done vocal work for several Valve games. The most well-known of those projects, though, has to be performing the voice of GLaDOS. We arrived at the panel a little late, so we didn’t get the best of seats. Still, it was great to hear herJohn Patrick Lowrie, @FlatFootFox, Me, Ellen McLain thoughts on Valve, gaming, and her career in general. The panel ended with her introducing her husband, John Patrick Lowrie, and a group sing-along to “Want You Gone” and “Still Alive”.

After the Q&A was a signing, which (unsurprisingly) had a large turnout. Due to a lot of luck (and a lot of perseverance), @FlatFootFox and I managed to get to the front of the line before time ran out for that session. Both Ellen McLain and John Patrick Lowrie are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Not only was the picture itself really awesome, but afterwards Ellen McLain turned to us and said, “that was just like a picture with our boys!” – to which I just laughed and thanked them for the photo opportunity. I mean, what do you say to that? Wonderful people, and I’m glad I got the chance to meet them.

We attended a couple of concerts – being a MUSIC and gaming festival, there was always music of some sort being played somewhere. A couple of the performances were original chiptune compositions, which were very well done. The biggest concert of the convention, though, was Earthbound Papas, headed by the one and only Nobuo Uematsu. I’m not sure what there is to say about Nobuo Uematsu that hasn’t already been said – the music was beautiful, and hearing it performed live by them made it all the more spectacular.

Earthbound Papas

Those were the highlights. As with any con, there were a lot of small details that made the experience unique, but I won’t get into those here. Suffice it to say that we were all quite impressed, and I’m sure we’ll be back in the future.

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