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A quick con-recap for the Spillfam!
This weekend, Ewok Princess and I, lovable X, accidentally stumbled upon MAGFest, the Music and Gaming convention at the Gaylord in the National Harbor near Washington DC. So we naturally took the opportunity to geek out for a spell.
Prices: $40 day pass, $55 for 2 and a half day con
Highlights: Venue, Video Game room, and Nobuo Uematsu!!!!!
Lowlights: Funky Smelling Teens, steep price, not much late evening content
I wasn’t very happy about the prices, but with a tiny bit of arm-tugging by her royal highness the E.P., I forked over the dough and we ushered ourselves into Nerdy Convention Goodness, complete with cosplayers, LARPing, crazy props, and games. Lots and lots of games!
As is standard with these things, MAGFest boasted a large collection of sit-and-play games from every console imaginable. There were also several independent developers there, showing off their wares: a few very unique games that look gorgeous and have some pretty innovative mechanics. It’s a wonder these people aren’t getting snapped up by the big companies, but its good to see that guerilla gaming development still exists and thrives. Of course, I was most excited about the old school arcade machines they had available. Here's a short list: Pac-Man, Galaga, Asteroids, Ikari Warriors, Bad Dudes (oh no! President Ronnie has been kidnapped), Tron, Spy Hunter, and Rampage! We played the 90s X-Men ¾ scroller arcade game, trying to control three characters each at the same time (which proved impossible, but fun for about ten minutes), and I got to rock out on some Guitar Hero arcade (with my crazy hair!).
E.P. even tried her hand, for the first time, at DDR. Her signature dance move consists of tapping her foot on one point repeatedly. Very entertaining.
There were imports galore, from Japan, of course, including an interesting taiko drumming rhythm game. My mini-gasm moment, however, came when I saw a working Dig-Dug machine. Its amazing how things like this can bring back the flood of childhood memories.
We were also spellbound by the Kinect set-up they had. Up until now, I have not been a fan of the Kinect motion technology, but seeing it in action, and thinking of the amazing things that can be done with it, I have to say, I was impressed. The machine was running a dance game, and we watched numerous people make fools of themselves trying to keep up with the steps shown on the projection screen. Even Ewok Princess gave it a go, and she was much better with this version than with DDR.
Next door to the games room was the vendor room, chock full of art, games, t-shirts, books, snacks, and wares. One of the highlights for us was the Interrobang booth, they seem to do lots of unique work, and I’m definitely going to check out some of their products in the near future. Lots of other conventions had booths: Katsucon and Otakon were both represented. In fact, Anime in general had big representation in the vendor room, there were several sections of Japanese art, tandem dancing, cosplay, Pocky, and this gem here:
We didn’t get to see any panels, but we did check out the video room for an hour-long independent film called “Resident Horror,” an aptly named spoof of the Resident Evil video game franchise. It was low-budge and campy, but we genuinely laughed out loud at some parts. From the main character’s name “Tokeen Jackson” (he was African-american), to the awful special effects, to the inside jokes, it had enough to make it entertaining. I thought it would have worked better as a web series to give a bit of a break between the scenes, but overall a good fan-made effort.
The major event of the festival was a band playing arrangements of Final Fantasy themes. That’s relatively cool. What made it unbelievable was Nobuo Uematsu’s appearance with them! You heard correct. Nobuo Uematsu was at MAGFest. Unfortunately, I barely got to see him due to the huge crowd, but I hear he signed autographs for those who were willing to wait in line. E.P. and I were not, and so we decided to call it a night around 11:30 and take our adult selves to bed. Overall, it was a decent conference at an excellent venue.
Speaking of the venue, the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center is fantastic. Although I didn’t get to see the hotel rooms, the conference area, restaurants, and entertainment complex are top notch. We caught the festive holiday fountain show, saw Dreamworks characters roaming around, and even took the time to marvel at the giant suspended Christmas Tree.
E.P. and I both have backgrounds in Theatre, and we did a brief analysis of the lighting systems around the tree and the decorations. It is all brilliantly done. Add the spa, shops, and a separate ice-sculpture facility (complete with ice slide!), and you have a great venue right in the heart of the National Harbor, which boasts its own varied things to do. We ended up spending more time than we planned, but it was well worth it.
Of our conversations, one of the most interesting was on the subject of cosplayers and con-girls. I was explaining to Ewok Princess how, being over 21, it can be difficult to assess which girls are legal at conventions. She proceeded to give me a crash course in deciphering the ages of various young ladies at MAGFest. After contemplating how strange, or even frightening, the whole subject could be, we devolved into a discussion on what is appropriate for your underage daughter/ son when attending a con. This festival, however, had an interesting idea: hand out wrist bands with colors that indicate your age range. I can’t express enough how relieved I was to see that most of the scantily-clad con-babes were wearing over 21 wrist-bands, and I could cruise to my heart’s content. Not in a creepy way, though. Strictly gentlemanly. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.
E.P. and I decided to keep more up to date on the DC/ Baltimore Area Cons, and to better represent the Spillfam in some fashion as these things come up. It was a fun time, as these conventions usually are, and I’m looking forward to checking out some of the other events in the area, and maybe doing more write-ups like this.