I may've only been to one MAGfest out of what's soon to be ten, but there's a lot of convention (and common) sense that can be applied to the Music And Games Festival. Most of this advice is geared towards first-timers, but perhaps even some of you vets or those familiar with different varieties of events may find some useful wisdom herein.
First and foremost, remember your four S's: Sleep, Shower, Sip, and Sup
As for sleep, you may want to try and do every little thing scheduled at MAGfest, on top of hanging out with and/or making new friends, and heavens forbid you're from out of town and want to tourist it up in D.C. while you're there... stretch yourself too thin, and you're going to die, or at least come home with a very nasty case of con SARS. It's not about getting to bed early and waking up with the sun; just crash when you need to crash and sleep in, or work out some sort of powernap schedule, and you'll thank yourself when your memories of the weekend are that much fonder.
Showering is more of a favor to other MAGfest-goers, though it also does help toward keeping the con SARS off you as well. Nerds come in all sizes, but it's a pretty universal fact that most of them sweat, and it's equally universal that enough sweaty bodies, compiled in one location, makes for a less than pleasant experience. You may not be able to count on everyone else keeping it clean, but be a dear and do your part to keep the nerd fugue in check. And, as a corollary, I'd be wary of entering any hottubs whose inhabitants' cleanliness you're unfamiliar with. There's this thing called "nerd stew" in which you just don't want to steep.
I'm not sure if the Gaylord even has hottubs, since MAGfest was at a different location last year, but I'm just sayin'.
Sip, in this case, doesn't refer to alcohol, though many of you of age are more than welcome, if not encouraged, to do just that. Rather, keep your water
intake up, regardless of how many spirits you're imbibing. Nobody wants to be that guy who gets dehydrated and passes out in the middle of an intense round of Dance Central
, and ambulances don't make any event a good time. It's easy enough to find some sort of grocery outlet once you get settled into your room and split a couple 24-packs of bottled water to keep you set for the weekend. Well, maybe more than a couple, depending on how many people are in your room, how hard you party, and how many partiers you expect to stop by and steal your hydro. Sports drinks are also an option, if you plan to be doing things that may sap you of electrolytes
Going hand in hand with that is the Sup end of things; get yourself fed. Having something in your stomach will help fuel you for all the wonderful goings-on that weekend, as well as providing a booze buffer to help you avoid alcohol poisoning. Room service is great if you're a high roller, but it's also just as easy to order a pizza (they'll ask for your room number and probably have the front desk call you down to get it), and there are restaurants and bars in-house, as well as nearby, to sate your hunger.
Now that those essentials are out of the way, let me move on to the suggestion end of things. While I've already said you probably won't be able to do anything, definitely do your best to try as much as you can, and don't be afraid to try something new. There's a LAN room if you can manage to bring a rig (or robust laptop) with you, a room packed
with consoles if you can't, a collection of arcade cabinets from across the ages that grows every year, and even tabletop and card gaming. There even tend to be a few booths, usually in or around the marketplace/artist's alley, where indie devs have wares to show off; last year, Pixel Junk was there, showing off Pixel Junk Halo and their earlier titles.
The other primary draw, obviously, are the live bands, which are going almost all of the time, and there's a jamspace room for those of you who actually play, if you want to get down with other instrumentalists. I've never, ever
heard of someone having a bad time at a MAGfest show, so there's no way attending one could possibly fail to amuse. I'll tell you right now that the EARTHBOUND PAPAS show is probably going to be hella packed, but the splitting of things into two stages, featuring chiptunes and more instrumental stuff, should help ease things a bit crowd-wise, if not with deciding which stage you want to be at and when. Personally, I'll be at the second stage, because mad <3 for The Minibosses all day every day.
Don't forget about panels and video rooms, too. If you've never heard of X-Strike Studios, or want to learn more about the Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin' crew and what they do, these are the places to be. There're panels covering a whole gamut of gaming-related goodness to attend as well, from sheer silliness to serious, industry and business related material.
My best advice on this front would be to look at the schedule as soon as you can, whether it gets posted on the official site
prior to things kicking off, or as soon as you get it at registration, and figure out what you want to do most. Developing a plan of attack will help save yourself frustration and/or (very unlikely) boredom as things progress, and coupled with some good map-reading, will make you one deadly efficient festivaler.
One thing you should know about events, especially some of the live shows, signings, and bigger panels, is that there will be lines
, so bring friends, a handheld, phone games, or something else to amuse you while you're sitting in them. The Nintendo DS and 3DS are most likely your best bets, if for no other reason than Dicktochat in the case of the former, and getting seriously hooked up Streetpass-wise with the latter.
While I try to stress not looking for love, or intending on even random hookups at these sorts of things, as such expectations lead to heartbreak more often than not on account of a) it being a sausage party, for the most part, and b) that hot cosplayer is probably not
legal, and her mother does not
know she's wearing that, more power to you if you do get lucky to any degree. Just don't be a fool, and make sure you use protection if the course of events leads to a situation where you ought to. The last thing anyone needs is a call/email/tweet/facebook post with a picture of two-week-old Pikachu Belmont that looks an awful lot like you and tickets to appear on Maury. Be safe.
On the off chance you don't want housekeeping coming into your room each day, or you really hate trying to pull sheets that have been turned down out from under the mattress every time you try to nod off, use your Do Not Disturb sign. It doesn't necessarily mean you're having sex, and if anything, you'll just need to ask for fresh towels at some point each morning, and to gather your trash as best you can once it's checkout time. PROTIP: leave a few bucks for the cleaning crew when you leave if you do this, because they're going to have a lot to haul out come Sunday.
Should it happen that you are
having sex and do not wish to be disturbed, necktie on the doorknob. Some people use a sock, but socks are gross, so yeah. Keep it classy.
For those of you who will be partaking of alcohol, especially in public areas away from bars and room parties, please be discreet. The con tends to be pretty chill about drinking, but running through the halls double-fisting 4loko tends to be frowned upon somewhat. Colorful mixed drinks that can pass for Gatorade go great in Gatorade bottles (though never, ever mix a sports drink with alcohol - bad things happened last year in a desperate rush to have a drink to bring to a meetup). Hotels often provide coffee cups each time housekeeping stops by, with lids, which can hold pretty much anything. And personally, I've found that drinking a bottle Coke or Dr. Pepper down to the top of the label, then replacing the lost liquid with your rum, whiskey, or bourbon of choice works wonders for taking the edge off of any day. If you do manage walk the floor with an open container, or anything that may end up being trash at some point, have the decency to clean up after yourself. Trash cans aren't hard to operate, and it's only fair to a venue putting up with so many people partying non-stop for three days.
If you're close enough to the event to drive in and are doing just that, I highly recommend getting in there fairly early (i.e. mid-day), even if your room won't be ready until later in the evening, as greater Washington, D.C.-area traffic suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks
. While this year's location may be slightly better for it, I distinctly recall sitting in a crawl for an extra hour on my commute down, between hitting incoming con traffic and rush hour. Not cool.
And, above all else, have a good time. You can expect plenty of your Dtoid brethren to be there and welcome you with open arms, whether you've been around and known for quite a while, or you're a lurker or first-time MAGfester with no idea what's going on. Don't be afraid to make some friends outside of the site, too; everyone who comes to MAGfest comes for approximately the same reasons, and even the staff are friendlier than your average convention, given that this is more a labor of love than a corporate thing for them. Jon St. John will most likely end up partying down with you at some point, and if you want to play Spot The Burches, good luck, as they're very tiny. Seriously, I saw them while I was in line the first night last year, and thought they were children who looked eerily similar to HAWP's cast until I caught them at a panel the next day.