I cannot express how excited I am to write this review! Let’s dive right in!
Just by walking into the hotel atrium I could tell this was going to be a much different convention than Katsucon. Already there was a much more chill atmosphere. No one was rushing to get first in line for panels (except for maybe the Game Grumps signing on Sunday), or fighting over locations to take pictures. The Registration staff was beyond friendly, and they were super organized. We walked in, grabbed our badges, and walked out. Super easy.
The fact that the hallways were less crowded made moving around the convention and exploring much more enjoyable. There was no need for shoving through standstill groups, and the claustrophobia of Katsucon wasn’t at all present at Magfest. Aside from the music and gaming areas of the convention being rather spread apart from one another, it was rather easy to navigate.
The Dealer’s Room was where I spent the majority of my time, and although it usually bothers me that it was combined with Artist Alley, this seemed to work in its favor. Admittedly, the aisles were a little cluttered, but that’s to be expected at any convention. I was surprised to see as much diversity amongst the tables as there were. I felt like there was a perfect blend of culture to the area, using everything from figures, t-shirts, perler beads, and even flasks! Maybe it was unimpressive to others, but Magfest’s Dealer’s Room was nearly ideal for spending all of my money.
And how about all of those game rooms!? Arcade aside (we’ll talk about that later), I feel like everywhere had some sort of gaming going on. On the far right of the Dealer’s Room, all the way in the back (where the playable Japanese version of Earthbound was set up), was where indie and mainstream games united. There were plenty of developers showing off their hard work as well as tables set up for rounds and tournaments of both Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. Honestly, I hadn’t given this room much of a look until Sunday, but when I did, it was all down here from there.
As a fan of music AND gaming, I found myself immediately absorbed in a game that was set up along the far wall towards the back. I didn’t play it at the time, but I must have stood there watching the people that were playing for a solid twenty minutes. It seemed simple enough - hit the corresponding button at the correct time in order to continue playing the song. Stef then turns to me and says, “I think that’s Vocaloid.” A part of me died then, because I swore Vocaloid off like the plague for years. Now we both own Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F2, and I am more acquainted and infatuated with their synthesized voices and outrageous outfits than I ever wanted to be.
Ahem. Moving along…
The Arcade – Where swarms of con goers flocked to at all hours of the day and night (seeing as it was open 24 hours) to get their DDR game on. I myself played some DDR. I was also under the influence of RumChata and dressed in a Gabumon kigurumi. You do that math.
Anyway, my biggest disappointment in the arcade was a severe lack of Guitar Hero, and although I did very much appreciate the throwback computers in the back of the arcade that were loaded up with old PC games like Oregon Trail, I was also disappointed by The Island of Doctor Quandry not being amongst them. But alas, it is what it is.
The lighting was just right for an adult arcade – dark and mildly casino-esque without the blackjack tables, considering all of the lights and sound and such. We didn’t spend too much time here, but enough that as casual gamers, we were impressed and enjoyed ourselves. (We would suggest more water jugs and cups to be set out though, just to be safe.)
From what little of the music aspect I got to experience, I can honestly say I was in Heaven. So much talent, and so many people that just wanted to have a good time. I picked up a free demo CD from one of the booths in the Dealer’s Room, and when I got it in my computer to listen to, I was super enthralled. Everything from Super Guitar Bros and Brentalfloss to what is quite possibly the most badass remix of Strike The Earth from Shovel Knight.
If you were in the mood for a dance party, you probably headed over to the hallway DJ that was pumping tunes all night long. We stumbled upon them Saturday night before we hit the arcade and it was intense. I’ve never felt more comfortable in an atmosphere of sweaty bodies moving to the beat and just enjoying the music as I did in the moment. Plus, surfing beach ball. It’s not a party without a beach ball.
What was also nice was the Orchestra that performed Sunday afternoon in the Gazebo. I didn’t get to go up to watch, but while we were waiting around in the hotel lobby we could hear it, and it was quite lovely to just wind down the weekend with.
Cosplay. I don’t normally cover this subject, but seeing as Magfest isn’t an anime convention, I expected to see less of it. While this was pretty close to true, there were more cosplayers there than I had expected. Because the Gaylord National is the same location where Katsucon is held, it made sense – people where trying to get a use out of the awesome scenery the hotel has to offer for photoshoots before the huge rush of Katsucon came. I’m equally impressed and disappointed in that line of thinking. Although I can see the logic in wanting to use the scenery before the crowds, I also feel as though the people that went just for that reason didn’t get to enjoy the con the way it was intended to, and thus paid hundreds of dollars for a three day photoshoot.
That’s not to say that everyone that took advantage weren’t there to also enjoy the convention. We were also there in cosplay (Androids 17 and 18 (DBZ) on Friday, Rikku and Gippal (FFX and X2) Saturday afternoon, and Patamon and Gabumon (Digimon) Saturday night), but we also took the time to enjoy the music and gaming aspects as well.
One of the biggest highlights for me personally was getting to meet Jirard Khalil from That One Video Gamer, and he wasn’t even on the guest list. It was great to see that there were as many guests as there were, however. While we personally were only mildly interested in them, I can say with confidence that many people were happy with the guests invited to the convention. (Shout out to Arin and Danny of Game Grumps!)
Overall…WOW! What a convention. I loved the toned down atmosphere. It really gave us a chance to just enjoy what was going on. There wasn’t any pressure to be anywhere at a certain time, and it was nothing short of wonderful to be there. Magfest is definitely a convention that we will be attending again in the future.