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Sunday, January 12, 2014

MAGFest 12; What A Weekend!

So last weekend, I started the year off by spending four days in National Harbor, Maryland at The Gaylord National Hotel and Resort for MAGFest. For those who may not know, MAGFest is a weekend long event celebrating music, gaming of all forms and general pop cultural goodness. There are panels to attend, concerts to rock out at and games as far as the eye can see. It would be impossible for me to cover everything that happened so I'm going to hit some highlights in this blog.

- Holy Hell, was the registration line long. I got there around 4 PM after checking in and I still think I waited about 90 minutes before I got my badge. It was totally worth it though! Wouldn't have traded a single second. As I waited in line I got a call from Kate, one of my roommates for the weekend. We'd been friends online for I'd say probably close to 5 years now and this would be the first time we'd met in person. Not a bad venue for it, if you ask me. Anyway, she asked me to come find her in the line and give her a room key after I got my badge. So after getting my badge, I backtracked the line and found her at the end of what was still a really long line, though it was shorter than when I had joined it initially. After finding her and passing off a key, Kate asked me if I'd take her suitcase up to the room. Well, it certainly seemed more sensible than having her pull it with her as the line moved slowly forward. So I returned to the room, charged my phone and eventually Kate and Adam - our other roommate for the weekend - arrived at the room and took some time to just relax and decompress now that we were all finally here and had all our necessary MAGFest identifications.

- I got to meet "The Cinema Snob" Brad Jones after the Internet Movie Reviewer panel. Nice guy and shorter than I thought he would be.

- Bit Brigade was performing Thursday night and I definitely wanted to check out their set. Bit Brigade's gimmick is thus, one guy plays a speed run of a video game and the band plays the background music live. This year saw the performance of a new game, The Legend of Zelda! Now you might be wondering how that would work since the music of this early NES-era game is pretty much limited to the Overworld theme and the Dungeon theme. Well the twist was they played music from various games in the series going from the original The Legend of Zelda all the way to Nintendo 64's  Ocarina of Time. It was amazing!

- Midnight saw the return of "Audition for The World's Worst Movie". Basic premise, Tom "hesanevilgenius" White writes up a script for what would be an awful movie. MAGFest guests and randomly drawn audience members have to perform the scenes without corpsing, laughing or otherwise breaking character. If the person fails, they are out of the scene. Audience members who survive have a chance to win a signed DVD of a bad movie. Highlight of this year's event, someone cosplaying as a Yip Yip alien from Sesame Street was randomly drawn to participate. And they performed the scene completely in character! Needless to say, they won their scene. I wasn't called upon to perform, but it was fun to watch all the same.

- I got back to the room after 2:00 AM and Kate returned not too long after.We decided to look for Adam first heading to the main concert room where MAGProm was wrapping up. And yes, the name is exactly what you'd expect, a Prom happening at MAGFest. He was nowhere to be seen so we decided to check the game room next, particularly the pinball area. Once again, no sign of Adam. So after that we wandered over to where the Rock Band set up was and played a couple of songs with other attendees up at that late hour. As this was going on, we heard frequent snippets of classical music and the sound of explosions behind us. Our curiosity was peaked so we decided to check it out. It was a game called Johan Sebastian Joust. Every player was given a Playstation Move controller to hold and the object of the game is to move with the tempo of the music playing while attempting to hold your controller as still as possible while trying to jostle the other players so their controllers go off balance and thus eliminate them. We watched a few rounds before deciding to dive in ourselves and try it. I didn't fare too well but Kate... she was like a pro at this game! In fact, I'm fairly certain she spent some time each day at the Joust area, for want of a better term. Watching and playing J.S. Joust was easily some of the most fun I had at MAGFest this year. The fact that Kate and I were there from about 2:30 until almost 4:30 in the morning watching and playing should be enough to attest to that fact. Check out this video to see J.S. Joust in action and get a better idea of what I'm talking about. Bonus info: You can see Kate in this video; she joins the game around the 3:48 mark, the girl wearing the tan 9th Doctor's outfit dress and the white cat ears.

- Friday began with running on very little sleep. I blame the bottle of Bawlz Root Beer I had the previous evening. I'm not used to consuming hyper-caffeinated beverages so I guess it hit me pretty heavily. Oh well, on to the JonTron panel! Jon was very entertaining answering questions, cracking joke and he sang a snippet of "Con te partirĂ²". It was glorious! So glad he wasn't struck with the "con flu" again this year.

- I had planned to go see the Game Grumps panel that afternoon, but I wasn't feeling too well. So I decided to head back to the room and lay down for a bit. After taking a nap for a couple of hours, I was ready to take on the rest of the evening. On the agenda, seeing The Megas and This Place Is Haunted in concert that night. The Megas' set was fantastic! Having missed seeing them last year, I was glad to finally catch them this year. They specialize in covers of music from the Mega Man series of games. They didn't play "Don't Mess With Magnetman" which is easily my favorite song of theirs, but they did play some new songs from their upcoming album called "History Repeating: Red" so I guess that's a fair trade.

- This Place Is Haunted took the stage after The Megas and also blew me away. They started their set with a cover of the old HBO ident. You know the one. They covered a multitude of video game and movie theme pieces and rocked the hell out of every one of them. Interesting to note, one of the songs they played was the theme from the NES video game Silver Surfer. And funnily enough, the video they had playing in the background was footage of a no death run of the game - even though it is one of the hardest games to play in the NES' history. So kudos to whoever played that for the footage.

- Friday night's late night event was The 2nd Annual MAGFest Pub Quiz. I got to participate this year. Our team captain was The Rap Critic and we were Team Big Baby Jesuses. Overall, we tied for 11th with - if memory serves me - 3 other teams. Not too shabby out of a field of about 40 teams!

- Saturday began with a panel with the guys from "Continue?" and was followed by a meet & greet with them. They were quite taken with my CHIKARA track jacket and t-shirt mentioning that they were good friends with CHIKARA personality Billy Kumohara. So hearing them mark about about CHIKARA was a definite highlight of the day for me.

- I had a brief encounter with JonTron after Continue's panel. I got to shake his hand and compliment him on his videos. I also got to ask a question I was planning on asking if I were picked at his panel; if he could adapt any Broadway musical into a video game, what musical would it be and what type of game would it be? So, who do we see about making "Les Miserables: The Video Game" a reality?

- Saturday afternoon was devoted to seeing bands on the Second Stage. Canada's missingNO, a jazz band, and Baltimore's Rare Candy, a keyboard heavy prog band, were the ones I watched that afternoon. I saw Rare Candy on the Main Stage last year and really enjoyed them so it was good seeing them again.

- I decided to check out the vendor area some more on Saturday afternoon and talked to some of the members of The Megas, This Place Is Haunted and missingNO complementing them on their sets that weekend. I also stopped by brentalfloss' table and had a brief conversation about Les Miserables with him telling him he made a better Javert than Russel Crowe did. While there I picked up a copy of The Megas' "History Repeating: Blue" and a copy of  Starbomb's debut album as well. Good stuff!

- Linkara's Atop The 4th Wall Live! returned to MAGFest again, this time in a midnight slot. He riffed on a strange Donkey Kong comic from the early 80s and gave us a look at the first episode for 2014 which was the conclusion of Marville. Very funny and entertaining as always.

- Sunday was the final day of MAGFest and there were many fewer events scheduled this day in comparison to last year. But that was OK by me since the only event I was really interested in that day was the Internet Personality Meet & Greet. I brought a copy of the book So Bad, It's Good which I got for Christmas to have signed since many of the folks at the Meet & Greet specialized in reviewing bad movies. Most importantly, I wanted to get the signature of Allison Pregler a.k.a. Obscurus Lupa since she wrote the forward to the book. The first person I approached to sign was my friend Jess, better know as Lady Spaz from the video series "Fool's Gold". I crashed with her and her roommates at last year's MAGFest and now, here we were, a year later and she was on the other end of the guest/attendee spectrum. Way to make it, my friend! :)

In all, it was a fantastic weekend. There was so much more I wish I could've seen and done, but there are never enough hours in the day. I'm eagerly looking forward to MAGFest 13 coming January 2015. Who else is going next year?

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