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I Went to MAGFEST and I’ll Never Be the Same

MAGFEST was one of the coolest experiences of my life. When I had first heard of it, I said sure why not? I’ve been to cons before; this one seems fun. But no! This was nothing like any con I’ve ever been to before. It wasn’t just a concert series; it wasn’t just a con. It was a celebration of the comprehensive genre of video game composition. And it was so filled with incredible, innovative music.

Taking place at Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, MAGFEST (Music and Gaming Festival) is a four-day, twenty-four-hour convention dedicated to video games, music and all the avenues in between. There are game rooms, jam pods, concert halls, museums, improv areas and a crazy number of fun panels and events. Once I got the time off work, I was excited to attend with my community gamer orchestra but never predicted the scale and density of the convention. There was always something to do— anytime of day. That’s right, the twenty-four-hour thing is no joke. We were up till 4am every day. It was glorious.

I went to 6 concerts, all varying in style and presentation: two metal concerts, an acid/funk jazz show (they did P5!), a Meatloaf-ish 80’s power ballad band, a classical orchestra performance, and a string quartet dedicated to The Legend of Zelda. Each of these groups either played VGM or were heavily inspired by it in their creation process. We played 2AM video game trivia and almost won (but came in last instead, long story). I met up with a college friend and played so many sick games; I taught my fellow orchestra-mates the addictive power of rhythm games (shout out to Taiko and Groove Coaster!). I spent three hours in the jam room playing piccolo with amazingly talented strangers. Next to the escalators, we pulled our group together and performed some crowd favorites (a.k.a Clock Town over and over again…). We ate crab cakes and never stopped laughing. MAGFEST was, all-in-all, absolutely amazing.

Mary, you’re over dramatic. You had a good time at a con. How will you “never be the same?” Well, don’t rush me. This is my blog. I’m going to answer it, but here’s the short answer: I did not realize the extent of the impact video game music (VGM) had on other people. I thought I was a representative of a small sample size, but this fandom is immense and thriving…and oh so talented.

I thought MAGFEST was a video game convention with some performances, but it’s not. It truly is a “video game music” convention. Almost every panel involved how music— how it influences certain mechanics or designs, how knowledge of music theory can create a more layered gaming experience, how VGM can benefit education and fields beyond. It wasn’t a celebration of video games or a celebration of music. It was an all-encompassing love fest to VGM. I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect so many people to love it the same way I do. I also didn’t expect to become even better friends with my orchestra, be included in inside jokes and road trip down the coast with them for a jam-packed weekend.

So, in that regard, I will never be the same.


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