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My First MAGFest

A beautiful celebration of all things gaming
May 19, 2016

Back in February, I attended my first MAGFest in National Harbor, Md. If you don't already know, MAGFest (Music And Gaming Festival) is "a four-day long event dedicated to the appreciation of video game music, gaming of all types, and the gaming community" (Source). I've gone to PAX East with my husband, Jimmy, and our friend, James, every year since 2012, but we weren't able to go this year for various reasons. James, who had been to MAGFest before, suggested Jim and I come with him to MAGFest this year. We all decided we'd "replace" PAX East with MAGFest this year, and it was the best decision we could have possibly made.

I didn't really know what to expect from MAGFest. PAX East is huge, and quite frankly, it was a little too big last year for my comfort. Honestly, the difficulty I had just purchasing tickets the past few years made me dread when PAX East tickets were going on sale. Ticket and hotel prices have steadily increased each year, and it just made it harder for me to justify going anymore. I brought up the idea of not going this year to Jimmy and James, and, to my surprise, they felt the exact same way I did. We were very fortunate to have gone to four PAX East conventions, and we may end up going again in the future. Honestly, though, I had more fun at MAGFest than I ever had at PAX East, and that’s saying a lot.

MAGFest is a celebration of games and the people who play them, run by people who are passionate about games and video game music. It's a four-day party that never stops (yes, it’s actually open 24 hours for four straight days). For those four days, life is all about video games and what they mean to us. It's about celebrating games and video game music. It's about having a good time and leaving all your worries behind. It's about meeting new people and forming relationships. For some, it’s about getting plastered and playing Dance Dance Revolution for four days. To each his own, I suppose.

On the first day of my first MAGFest, my anxiety started to get to me. It always takes me a little while to adjust when I go to events with large numbers of people. Having experienced four PAX East cons, you would think I wouldn’t have a problem going to MAGFest, which is a much smaller event in comparison. Still, anxiety is not always rational. My sweet husband asked if I wanted to take a walk and go get a latte from Starbucks. That was exactly what I needed, and after that, I was ready to let loose and have fun. It’s the little things.

One I loosened up, I played games. Lots of games. Some games I’ve been playing for years, such as Mario Kart 64, and lots of new ones I’d never heard of before. I got to play the Crazy Taxi arcade machine, which I haven’t had the pleasure of doing for years. In addition to playing games, I spent a lot of time in the marketplace purchasing unique, handmade items from all sorts of awesome vendors. I mean, where else are you going to get a Kirby hand towel and a Baymax bath rug? Besides all that, though, my most memorable experience at MAGFest was something called Journey Live.

Along with my closest friends, I got to experience the very first Journey LIVE concert, conducted by Journey composer Austin Wintory and performed by the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble. Journey is one of my all-time favorite video games, and the soundtrack is in a league of its own. In fact, Journey’s soundtrack was the first ever video game score to be nominated for a Grammy back in 2012. Journey LIVE started as a Kickstarter project, created by Fifth House Ensemble. The idea was to “present the first fully interactive live performance of the musical score to the video game Journey” (Source). Almost 2,000 backers pledged $52,505 to bring Austin Wintory’s idea to life. We were so very lucky to have experienced the very first one, live at MAGFest. We watched in awe as players powered through the game while the game's soundtrack was being performed live right there on the stage. There are videos of the entire performance on YouTube and Twitch, but they cannot possibly do it justice. I feel so blessed to have been there (in the front row!). I can’t even think about the experience without getting goosebumps and tears in my eyes. This was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I find it hard to put into words how magical it was. I hate to use this phrase, but, you had to be there.

MAGFest 2016 was the highlight of my year so far, and I’m not sure anything will be able to top it. I am eager for next year’s event, and I encourage every gamer in the area to consider going to MAGFest in the future. The Gaylord National Harbor Hotel (where the event is hosted) is just under two hours from my home in Lincoln, De. I cannot possibly recommend MAGFest enough. It’s worth every rupee and more.


Follow Cassie’s video game-themed Instagram account: @gottosaurus


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  • Cassie is a 20-something gamer and communications professional from the Milford, Delaware area. She has a passion for video games that sparked when she was given an NES Top Loader at age six. Her main console is a PlayStation 4, but she also owns a Nintendo Switch and Xbox One. She considers herself to be a single-player games advocate, and some of her favorite games are Heavy Rain, the Uncharted series, The Last of Us, and Night in the Woods. Follow her on... Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

    Cassie also has a photography blog, CGW Photos, here on BeachPaper.com. You can also follow her photography account on Instagram.