(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the February 2007 issue of GameCola, back when GameCola was published in a monthly online magazine format.)
College Park, MD 20740
February 1, 2007
Number of videogame conventions I have attended: 4
Number of videogame conventions that have given me, completely unexpectedly, dog tags with the name “Paul ‘gamecola’ Franzen” printed on them: 1
And with that, we have already established that MAGFest is, basically, the very best videogame convention on the entire east coast. The above statistics do not lie.
We—we being myself and my lovely girlfriend—arrived at the convention a little before noonish on its second full day, after stumbling around town for a bit because neither of us, despite being level-headed, soon-to-be college graduated pseudo-adults, had thought to take note of where the convention was actually being held, just that it was being held in a hotel in Vienna, VA: a town that—we were quick to discover—actually has more than one hotel.
(Note: We are now finished the run-on sentence portion of this article.)
After arriving, the first thing we wanted to do was visit this panel of videogame journalists (for some reason, I had a bit of interest in it) that was taking place at the convention, though we only ended up staying there for about five minutes—which, itself, was only because the panelists were four-and-a-half minutes late. The first thing they said was “OK guys, let’s all get in a circle so it’s easier for us all to talk with one another,” and the first thing we did was leave. Neither of us do the whole “talking” thing; we were kinda hoping we could be talked at for a while while we diddled with our “instruction manuals.”
(Note: We are now finished the “Wait, is that some sort of sexual innuendo?” portion of this article.)
These “instruction manuals,” since you asked, were actually the guides to the event, and they included sections such as “Getting Started,” which intro’d attendees to the event; “Characters,” which described the various guests in attendance; and “Playing the Game,” which detailed how to get in on the 24-hour game room, how to participate in tournaments, and how to check in any games that you brought yourself.
Check out these scans of it (click for a bigger view):
Yes, there really were “save points”—they were guest registries that asked you to fill in your name, where you were from, your class and your level, among other bits of identification. And the treasure chests? Those were there, too; they were scattered all about the convention, and you could open them up and take whatever was inside, provided that you left something in return for the next person. Sadly, we had nothing to give, so we left the condom we found in one of them behind.
The panel we abandoned was only one of several events scheduled for throughout the weekend; other top picks included “NES karaoke” (in which—you guessed it!—you make “doot” noises into a microphone in time with classic Nintendo games), concerts with videogame cover bands such as Smash Bros. and Year 200x, an auction, videogame Jeopardy, videogame a capella and loads more that were, unfortunately, way past our bedtime. (I mean, come on, who’s going to be able to stay up until 10 p.m.? Honestly….)
We did manage to check out MAGFest’s costume contest—or, at least, what we believed to be MAGFest’s costume contest but which later turned out to be a panel of Sonic characters making bad fart jokes. (And, while I realize that’s an oxymoron, these were definitely not in the upper echelon of fart jokes.) About halfway through, a pair of costumed characters, who had probably been looking forward to showing off their outfits, actually got up and left because they couldn’t take the bad comedy routine any longer. We were about to leave, too, until someone on stage said “OK, someone else’s turn! Just stand up….”, at which point my girlfriend forced me back into my chair.
We Sneak King’d our way out not too longer, heading back to the 24-hour game room, where, admittedly, we spend almost our entire time at the convention, playing games like Super Mario Strikers, Guitar Hero II, and a Japanese version of Tetris, which—and don’t you go thinking just anybody could pull this off—we managed to figure out without much trouble, despite that it wasn’t in our native language.
My girlfriend, for her part, did a phenomenal job of keeping me from buying things that I, in no way, needed. I was tempted by, in no particular order, a giant plus Super Mario mushroom, glassware and coasters sporting videogame icons, videogame-inspired paintings and sketches, Japanese DS games and more; but, as she pointed out, I probably didn’t need to be blowing a hundred dollars on a statue of ToeJam and Earl. There wasn’t as much for sale as there had been at other conventions, but the quality was much better—instead of filling table after table with things we can already get cheaper at GameStop, MAGFest clearly put a lot of effort into making sure what few things they had for sale were actually worth buying.
We did to a little shopping before hitting the bricks, if only to make sure I left the convention with less money than I came in with:
And then, it was over. And by over, I mean we decided to leave, as there was a good three-and-a-half hours before the next thing we wanted to see. For some reason, I wasn’t able to convince my girlfriend to just play Super Mario Strikers for three-and-a-half hours so we could later check out the con’s showing of River City Rumble.
My overall impression is this: We should have stayed longer. Like, the entire weekend. What a lot of people did was get a hotel room for the weekend so they could have a place to crash when there wasn’t anything going on that they wanted to check out, and now I’m thinking that might have been a good plan. What could have worked, too, was arriving a few hours later so we weren’t tired by the time NES karaoke rolled around.
Either way, though, we still had a great time—the 24-hour game room was a blast, and the whole time I was just incredibly impressed with the amount of work the MAGFest folks put into everything, from the program guide to the decorations to the vast array of events to the guest speakers. Totally recommended for next year.
A few quick announcements before I let you go:
Welcome to Team GameCola Andy Zintl, who I went to high school with (and basically copied all of my answers in our Cisco Networking class from). He’ll be handling the Poor Player’s Paradise column you all read in the Janish every month from now on.
We’re debuting another new column this month—Link’s Burden: Time to Save the World Again—in which lesser characters from the Legend of Zelda saga discuss the merits of similar adventure games.
If the partial Web site redesign is up, I’ll take this sentence out and write one about how amazing it is; if not, well, there’s something coming soon, guys, and I’m not telling what!
OK, that’s all I got.
editor in chief