MAGFest is a unique event. Somehow, over the past six years it has managed to perfect its blend videogames, tournaments, live game music and chiptunes, and a weekend-long partying into an festival that manages to continue to bring loyal attendees as well as new guests every year. MAGFest used to stand for the Mid-Atlantic Gaming Festival, but it has since changed its name to the Music and Gaming Festival. This makes total sense to attendees, who will tell you that MAGFest is the biggest and best videogame party/game rock concert out there.
Hit the jump to read about the highlights from MAGFest VI, which took place in the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, VA from January 3-6.
MAGFest isn't really a convention; it's far too laid back to classify as one. They prefer "festival," and I'd say that this fits. Sure, there's a schedule and planned events, but new attendees will quickly find that there's a kind of unsaid understanding between attendees and staff that says that things will happen when they should, and it always seems to work out. People come to have fun, and that really seems to be the only priority.
As you'd expect from a gathering of like-minded people, it's very easy to strike up a conversation and meet a new friend at MAGFest. Many attendees have been coming since the first event six years ago, and the familiarity factor makes for a sort of large, family gathering-type experience. What's great is that new attendees are easily and quickly accepted into the fold.
Gaming takes place on many fronts at MAGFest. This year, a large ballroom named the Game Room featured setups ranging from classic Sega Saturn titles to full Rock Band stages. Gaming, matches, and even tournaments ran non-stop for the 4 days of the event. It was not uncommon to run into attendees that have not slept, as they continue to game until MAGFest ends.
MAGFest VI also featured a large PC LAN room, several arcade cabinets (including great imports), tournament rooms, and even a dedicated place for table top gaming. Tournament players battled over everything from MarioKart 64 to Call of Duty 4, and much like the Game Room, tourneys ran constantly, breaking only for sleep.
There was plenty to do outside of gaming at MAGFest VI. Attendees could give their hands a rest while attending panels and events. ScrewAttack had a Q&A session this year, as did several game music remix Web sites. A video room aired a constant playlist of the best videogame movies out, and X-Strike Studios screened their newest film, Resident Horror. A personal favorite was the videogame music-themed Name That Tune contest, which lasted two hours and featured fierce competition.
The real focus of MAGFest VI was -- as always -- the videogame music rock concerts on Friday and Saturday night. This year featured an amazing line-up of bands over the two nights: The Advantage, Armcannon, Powerglove, Select Start, This Place is Haunted, Temp. Sound Solutions, Smash Bros. and more.
At MAGFest VI I witnessed some of the best videogame music covers I've ever heard -- and I've heard a lot of game covers in my day. There was easily over 12 hours of live music at this event -- too much to list -- but it all was worth the price of admission. Personal highlights included Armcannon and Select Start. The progressive metal style of Armcannon is an absolute treat live, and Florida-based Select Start brings class and style to game music with their classical instrumentation and brilliant arrangements.
MAGFest VI brought about a new addition to the music party: Jam Space. Jam Space was established to let attending musicians jam alongside guests, and the room ran at all hours. This was a totally separate room from the concert stage, though it featured a full lighting rig, sound system, keyboards, drums, and guitars. Aside from several impromptu performances, Jam Space saw a couple of chiptune concerts, with performances by virt (composer of Contra 4), Spamtron, and many more. Let's just say that if you like chiptunes in any way at all, you should be punching yourself for missing this.
MAGFest isn't the biggest gaming convention by any means, but it makes up for its lack of size with non-stop gaming and game music. You'd be hard pressed to find another event that has as much of a fun-loving, friendly party atmosphere, and even if you did, you still wouldn't be privvy to the amazing music that MAGFest dishes up. Come see for yourself when MAGFest VII hits next year.
Also, check out some Destructoid Community Blog coverage from MAGFest VI from:
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