On the first weekend of the year, I surrounded myself with thousands of sweaty nerds at MAGfest XI. I should have done a write-up about MAG much sooner than this, as my first time attending came just 15 days after the inaugural post of Protozoic, back in late 2004.
MAGFest, or the Music And Gaming Festival, is a non corporate-sponsored gathering of gaming culture and everything nerd that is adjacent to that. The main attractions there are many diverse musical acts, “celebrity” speakers, panels, arcade cabinets, board game rooms, LAN rooms, and merch tables. You might find the composers of classic games such as Final Fantasy or Castlvania, flown in from Japan just to be at MAG. You might find also find people dressed as their favorite Muppets. At times, there’s little coherence in the fest, but it comes together. And, the nerds come in droves. Over 9000 were in attendance this year, which was up by 3000 from last year, which was up by 3000 from the year before that.
To explain my experience with MAGFest, I need to drop some history. I’ll try to be brief.
I joined the TheShizz message forum back in 2003. There I connected with other enthusiasts for the Minibosses, a band that does rock/metal-ish covers of Nintendo Entertainment System game music (Side note: I remember being jealous that someone else thought of this idea before I did). Connecting with other forum goers eventually led to going to concerts. In early 2004, someone who went by “thegreenzebra” on the forums asked if I wanted to carpool with him to a Minibosses show in Philadelphia.
“thegreenzebra” also told me he created a convention where the Minibosses will be playing later that year. That was MAG III, where Mike and I were 2 out of the 500 in attendance. I reconnected with a few of the peeps from TheShizz, including “thegreenzebra” who later started to be known as “MrMAGFest”. The most vivid part of MAG III for me was noticing someone familiar in the corner of my eye. It was Daniel “kareshi” Brown, who I knew as regular poster on TheShizz and the guy who covered a lot of NES music on piano. Later he would bag the world record speed runs for Jaws and Ghost ‘n Goblins . I got to meet and know kareshi and many others through the community via the yearly festivals. And, by many others, I mean there were over 110 Shizzies, as we’ve become to be known, at MAG VIII, and over 90 at this last iteration, some coming from locations as remote as Alaska and Iceland.
I used to think MAGFest was big at 500 people. I used to think a few musical acts each night during the weekend was almost too much to ask for. Now, it’s almost too much for my constitution to handle. There is usually always someone playing in one of the multiple concert halls between Thursday night until well after midnight Sunday morning. The chairs in the back of the concert halls get good use because some people just can’t stand up anymore. Not to mention the game rooms, panels, and film screenings all go 24 hours.
In previous years, I always tried to divide my time a little between all that MAG has to offer. However, this time I didn’t touch a single arcade cabinet, and I left the panel and film rooms unbreached. I kept it pure by standing in concerts until my feet ached and partying with my Shizz brothers and sisters until passing out.
I could go on and on, but for the sake of time and attention, let me direct you to a big highlight for me this year: Super Guitar Bros. You would think a decade of MAGFests would leave little room for novelty, but these guys are truly new and amazing. They don’t have an album out yet, but their concert was beyond description. Here is a live studio track just to give you an idea.