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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I Survived MAGFest 11!

MAGFest 11 was this past weekend at the Gaylord Resort in National Harbor, MD. And honestly, what a way to spend the first weekend of the new year! I shall recap the happenings here to the best of my memory. Come along with me, won't you?

Friday: My plan was to wake up at 6:00 am in order to get ready and get on the road since it would be a 2-hour trip and the first panel I wanted to attend was at 10:00. In reality, I actually work up around 4:00. I'm not sure if this was due to excitement for the weekend, or the fact that my sleep cycle has been jacked up beyond all repair for the last month or so. Either way, I was up and after showering and packing my last remaining essential items it was time to start driving.

Traffic was fairly minimal, much to my surprise considering I was driving near Washington D.C. I arrived at the Gaylord a little after 9:30 and made my way to registration. Upon picking up my badge I headed towards my first panel of the weekend, "Atop the 4th Wall: LIVE!". For those who may not know, "Atop the 4th Wall" is a comic book review show hosted by a gent named Linkara. Admittedly, I'm not a big comic book person, but his show really entertains me all the same. And honestly, I think that's the mark of a good reviewer, when they can entertain you whether or not you're a fan of the medium they cover. The panel consisted of a live review of a bad Transformers comic, a sneak preview of the latest episode of his show and some Q & A. And, much to my delight, I was called on during the Q & A! WOOT!

Afterwards, I had some time to walk the floor a bit before heading to my next panel. My phone's battery was fairly low at this point and that was more than a little worrisome. Specifically because I had not yet gotten in touch with Jess a.k.a. Lady Spaz, my gracious hostess for the weekend, and made arrangements on where and when to meet up yet. Thankfully I was able to send her a message and got a quick response saying to meet up in the lobby at 3:00. Shortly thereafter, my phone then died. Good timing, huh?

I walked around the arcade a little while, taking in the atmosphere of it all. So many classic game cabinets; Pac Man, Marble Madness, Space Invaders, The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Centipede and the 6 player X-Men arcade cabinet just to name a few. Plus a nice handful of pinball machines also including Doctor Who, Hook, Family Guy and Super Mario Bros. There were a few games I was disappointed to not see there namely Sunset Riders, Revolution X and the Jurassic Park and The Who's Tommy pinball machines. Maybe next year.

I left the arcade and headed for the Game Grumps panel about an hour before its scheduled start. And while I was on my way, I came across the guys from "Continue?" just hanging around and talking to people. And Nick Murphy recognized the fact I was wearing a CHIKARA t-shirt and my CHIKARA track jacket. So that was a personal mark out moment for me.

The Game Grumps panel line was incredibly long by the time I got there, but I still think I managed to get a pretty good seat. The panel  itself was very entertaining and I was surprised that only 2 or 3 people quoted memes back to them during the Q & A session. Two highlights were JonTron actually calling Barry - their editor - and actually getting him to answer when someone had a question for him and getting to sing along with Jon & Egoraptor when they did the Game Grumps theme song about 20 minutes before the end of the panel. Hey, better late than never, right? And the fact Jon & Arin closed out the panel by singing a bit of "Goodbye, Love" from Rent entertained me greatly.

The Game Grumps panel ended at 2:30 and I headed to the parking garage to grab my suitcase and sleeping bag and cart them back to the hotel. I finally met with Jess and Joe, her roommate/editor/antagonist in her web series "Fool's Gold". We went up to the room and shortly after I met the other two guys staying there that weekend, Matt and Adam. After lounging around a bit, Jess, Joe & Matt headed back downstairs to do some filming for a future episode of "Fool's Gold". I decided to come along and check it out. And proved to be helpful also; Matt was doing the filming and since he had to travel backwards most of the time, they asked me to watch his back. Woo hoo, helping! As we walked around, we all made a small cameo for a guy who went by the name Christhenerd who was filming "the largest crossover video ever" at MAGFest. It was a really entertaining idea and I was glad to be a part of the video, which was also very entertaining also.

Jess met up with a bunch of people that evening and Joe, Matt and I lounged in the room watching Hoarders. I'd never seen an episode of that show before, but holy crap, I'm still stunned that people like that can exist. And believe me, we were riffing on the episodes the entire time. What? Did you expect me to watch that show seriously and perhaps sympathize for the people featured? Do you really not know me that well? Also of note, go to YouTube and find the video for a commercial for a hair product called Hot Buns. It is the most ridiculous thing I had seen all weekend up until that point.

After having Papa John's delivered for dinner, I headed back down to the convention center to check out a Quiz Night event featuring many folks from TGWTG/Channel Awesome. All the competition tables had been filled already, but there were plenty of spectator seats to be found. All the questions dealt with video games and I knew a good bit of them. Hooray for random trivial knowledge! Afterwards, I found Linkara and introduced myself to him. I had actually interviewed him on my podcast a long while back, but didn't know if he'd remember that or not. He didn't, but I didn't mind. Linkara's a very cordial guy and it was a thrill to finally meet him in person. I also met up briefly with Nash, JesuOtaku and Film Brain on the way back to the room and complemented them on their work. And despite the fact it was after 2 in the morning, they were glad to for the praise.

Not long after that I returned to the room and sleep quickly overtook me. Day 1, Complete!

Saturday: After rejoining the waking world, Jess, Joe and I heading to the Chez Apocalypse panel. For those who may not know, Chez Apocalypse is a new website that houses content from some familiar faces at TGWTG like Team Nostalgia Chick (Lindsey, Nella & Elisa), Todd in the Shadows & Kyle "Oancitizen" Kallgren, as well as additional contributors Phil Bunny, Foldable Human and Rantasmo. Score another point for me as I was able to ask a question during this Q & A as well, asking if a friend of mine from high school who had appeared in a previous video with Team NChick would make any future appearances. For the record, the answer was maybe.

More filming for "Fool's Gold" was on the agenda for the day so we headed to the lobby to get a few more cameo appearances for an upcoming episode. Fun fact, I actually filmed the scene where Lady Spaz encounters That Sci-Fi Guy. So when the episode is up and that segment looks awesome, you'll know it was because I was behind the camera for that one. Afterwards, a group of about 10 of us headed to Elevation Burger for lunch. It's concept is similar to that of Five Guys, made-to-order burgers. Very tasty, but holy crap was the line to wait a long one. Though I'm sure the situation was similar anywhere else in the National Harbor area.

When we returned to the Gaylord, I got in line for JonTron's panel about an hour and a half early. There was a pretty sizable line at this point so I thought this was a good move on my part. About 20 minutes later, a staff member came around telling us the panel was cancelled because Jon had fallen ill. Well, this was a disappointing turn of events. Now with a few more ideas of free time suddenly granted to me, I decided to check out the vendor area and do some more gaming in the arcade. Hooray for free play settings!

I headed back to the room to veg out and charge my phone for a while. I brought my UltraMantis Black replica mask with me and had contemplated wearing it around MAGFest for a while. However since the mask is a little on the small side and I had to wear my glasses beneath it, it gave me a small but of double vision. Needless to say, I decided against wearing the mask. No point in risking falling and hurting myself.

Dinner time, so I decided to check out the sports bar in the resort called National Pastime. Standard sports bar fare, but very expensive. $14 for a dozen wings. Tasty, but pricey as hell. I decided there was no way I'd follow it up with dessert. $10 for a slice of cheesecake?!? Unless that cheesecake is covered in gold and being fed to me by some scantily clad women, there's no way in hell I'm paying that much.

Now that I was at full health (Did I really wait this long to make a video game reference?), I headed to one of the large ballrooms for a concert by a group called Rare Candy. They're a prog rock style band who specialize in covers in video game music. I was really impressed by their set, Definitely going to check out more of their work in the future.

So, guess who I ran into next in the vendor area? None other but "Mr. With Lyrics" himself, brentalfloss! Nice guy. And I got a picture with him to boot. Always good.

Around 10:00 I headed upstairs to get in line for an event called "Auditions For The Worst Movie Ever", an interactive event where members of the audience would be drawn at random to have a chance to act in scenes with some folks from TGWTG. Granted, I was there 2 hours before the event started. But I decided there'd be no harm in getting there early. And I was tired of walking. While waiting, Derek the Bard of "Warning: Readers Advisory" came seeking volunteers to mimic book covers for the 50th episode of his web series, so of course I volunteered. Soon the auditions began and I laughed my ass off the entire time as many members of the audience and TGWTG personalities (Linkara, Elisa, Todd in the Shadows and JesuOtaku) performed the "original screenplay" of "Captain SuperPunch: Earth's Greatest Hero" written by Tom "hesanevilgenius" White and featuring narration by Derek the Bard. ...Wow, that's a lot of quotation marks in that last sentence. Moving on. My name wasn't drawn to participate, but I loved watching it the entire time. If this movie was real, I would watch the hell out of it! I hope the event was filmed, I'd love to watch it again. So many great lines, many of them ended up going to Todd In The Shadows. Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of the major highlights of the event, Linkara dropped the F-bomb! Twice! If you don't know why this is treated like a big deal, Linkara is one of the few people in the Internet reviewing community who doesn't use strong profanity in his videos. So to hear him yell "Fuck you!" while portraying Captain SuperPunch, comedy gold!

Before we knew it, 2 AM came and the movie was over. Sleep soon followed since we had to get up pretty early for the first panel of Sunday morning. And it would be well worth it. You'll read more about that in just a few lines. For now... Day 2, Complete!

Sunday: We woke up at "Oy, it's early" o'clock to get ready for the first panel of the day, a Doctor Who panel ran by members of TGWTG (specifically Holly, Punky, Diamanda Hagan, Nash, Nella, Linkara and That Sci-Fi Guy) at 9:00. The panel started a bit late because apparently the staffers who had keys for the room were still asleep at 8:45 so we had to wait on them to show up. Once the room was finally opened, the panel began. It consisting of watching a bad 7th Doctor episode (Paradise Tower Part 4) while the panel members riffed on it, some discussion of the panel's thoughts about the upcoming 50th Anniversary and a small amount of Q & A. While it was an enjoyable panel, I do have to respectfully disagree on one point; I liked the 10th Doctor's exit. His last words before regeneration made me cry. Why Nash quoted it with such disdain and the rest of the panel agreed I'll never understand. Oh well, to each their own, I guess.

Afterwards I decided to drop by a shop in the resort to pick up something to snack on before the next panel. I couldn't help but notice the only non-diet sodas in the fridges were Sprite and Fanta. Way to deplete the resources, MAGFest. Two thumbs up! But I like Sprite so I definitely can't complain.

I headed back upstairs to the panel room for the next panel, Reviewing the Worst of the Worst. I'm sure by the title alone you can tell what the topic of discussion was. This panel consisted of TGWTG personalities Diamanda Hagan, Film Brain, Oancitizen, Obscurus Lupa and Phelous.  And once again, I scored a question during the Q & A portion; I asked about Mystery Science Theatre 3000 being a potential influence for their review styles, Film Brain mentioned he never watched very much of it since it wasn't heavily imported to Britain and Diamanda mentioned not being much of a fan. Blasphemy! ...I kid, please don't hurt me, Mistress Hagan!

Immediately following the Reviewing the Worst of the Worst panel was the Channel Awesome/TGWTG Meet & Greet event. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet with and briefly talk to some of the personalities I'd seen throughout the weekend and had been a fan of for so long. I managed to get everyone at the event to sign the back two pages of a Super Mario Bros. comic I brought me just for the occasion. That reminds me, I still need to post a picture of that. And on the note of comics, I donated a very strange Star Wars comic from Marvel to Linkara for a possible future review. And despite inflicting that on him, Linkara was still kind enough to pose for a picture with me. Such a class act!

The Meet & Greet ended at 3 and I had initially planned to leave shortly afterwards. Earlier in the day though, Jess asked me if I wouldn't mind leaving a little later around 5:00ish and if I could perhaps drop her, Joe and Matt off at Union Station. I was more than happy to oblige. I dropped by the arcade once again to kill some time, yay for more gaming! I also stopped by a booth in the vendor area and bought a bag of Japanese cola flavored hard candy. Tasty stuff.

As we got ready to leave, disaster struck! I still have no idea how it happened, but I lost my parking garage ticket within minutes after getting it validated at the machine in the garage. It's not like I had a lot of pockets to deal with - 2 on my jacket and 4 on my jeans - but, hey, there you have it. Never seems to fail when I'm driving with someone, especially if it's my first time doing so, something stupid like this always happens. So after paying an additional $11 for the lost ticket penalty, we were finally on the way to D.C. After being re-routed a few times thanks to construction that wasn't foreseen by my GPS, we finally made it to Union Station and went our separate ways until our paths cross again at next MAGFest if not sooner.

2 hours later, I made it home. Exhausted from my weekend but having loved every second of it. I can't wait for next year's MAGFest! And for any other fan fests, cons and other such events happening this year. I definitely want to check some more out this year. And, I'll likely recap them in far too long blog post as well. Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more from me!

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