This past weekend saw art meet technology at MAGFest, an annual festival celebrating music and gaming. Held in National Harbor, Maryland, the convention featured a massive selection of console and arcade games on display, live music nearly every hour across multiple stages, and panels featuring composers and other game industry insiders.
The arcade featured dozens of classic arcade and pinball machines from the American Classic Arcade Museum (native to New Hampshire, oddly enough!) alongside a smattering of eccentric Japanese rhythm games provided by Bemani Invasion, and virtually every home console and retro computer you can think of.
In addition to the arcade, the expo hall also featured venders selling vintage games and consoles, nerdy tee-shirts, and fan-drawn posters. In addition, a few booths were selling quirkier fare, like hand-knit stuffed animals and hats, and in one case, lego sculptures of classic game sprites.
Musicial guests include Random, a hip-hop artist who got the nickname "Mega Ran" for rapping over the 8-bit Mega Man game soundtrack, Brentalfloss, a comedian and songwriter known for writing lyrics to the tunes of popular game music, along with more than 2 dozen other bands performing game music in rock, jazz, and classical styles, and some "chiptune" musicians who perform original songs using the sound processors from classic consoles. Industry guests included veteran composer Tommy Tallarico, indie game "Bastion" composer and sound designer Darren Korb, and a variety of voice actors, developers, composers, and web personalities from all sides of the industry.
All in all, it was exciting to be at a convention so fully driven by fan energy. Unlike major industry events like E3 and PAX, MAGFest has no real place for major game developers and other corporate entities trying to get gamers excited about the next big thing. Instead, the festival is dominated by a sense of celebration of the past, present, and future of the medium.