or, Learning Why Your Hearing Doesn’t Matter When Nobuo Uematsu is Rocking Out Ten Feet From Your Face.

So, Lady Sephi messaged me out of the blue one day and asked if I was going to MAGFest in January. I had no idea what this MAGFest thing was, so I went and looked, and noticed two things of note:

  1. MAGFest is a four-day convention that features 24-hour board- and video-gaming rooms.
  2. Nobuo Uematsu was slated to be the guest of honor, along with his new band, the Earthbound Papas.

I was sold in a heartbeat; I called the hotel up a week later to make my reservation.

I’ll be honest; I’d never even heard of this convention, so I was completely floored when I first got there. First, because I’d never been to the Gaylord National Convention Center before, and second, because MAGFest is just that awesome.

Thursday, we booked it for MAGFest in the afternoon, and were a little late getting there, so Sephi ended up missing one of the panels she wanted to be at ( :( sorry, Sephi! ). We checked into the hotel, and then checked into the con, and went exploring a bit, being in a new hotel and all, with many things to see.

Of first, and most important, note: MAGFest features a 24-hour arcade. 100+ arcade machines of all different types, all set for free play. I felt like a little kid in a candy story.

Of second, and only slightly less important, note: MAGFest features music pretty much all day, every day, lasting well into the night. In the mornings, the space was basically open jamspace; in the evenings, it was scheduled concerts which completely rocked. It was awesome.

Thursday, I didn’t do much of anything, really; I hung out in the arcade and explored the convention’s offerings. I attended the panel on today’s video games sucking, which was pretty awesome, but then it was back to the arcade.

Friday, I hit the 1130 panel for OCRemix, a site I’m very fond of, and had a ball there. The OCRemix guys are all pretty awesome dudes, and it was a hugely informative panel. Following that, I hit the Orchestral Game Music & Society panel, where I was introduced to the Gamer Symphony Orchestra from the University of Maryland, and they were all pretty awesome, too. I promptly downloaded all of their music from their website (for, free, y’all!), because they are just that awesome. The recordings aren’t spectacular; there’s a bit of sonic bending in the environment that they perform in, but they sound pretty awesome in person. I was, unfortunately, disappointed with the Too Ugly For YouTube: Video Game Radio panel; it was basically an ego-stroking session for two online radio stations, and wasn’t very informative or interesting. Ah, well. Worse things could happen.

Friday night featured a trip back to OCRemix land; they basically had a party starting at midnight, and it was an absolute blast! There was a huge discussion about video game music, remixing, pushing the new albums, and generally having a great time. Prizes happened to the crowd, the panelists cracked us all up, and I really, really want to see them again next year. I had an absolute ball; thank you, everyone from OCRemix, for hanging out with us and letting us all have such a great time with you.

Saturday morning, I actually deigned to be awake for an 0930 panel. For the first time, I was exposed to Loading Ready Run–in person, no less!–as I got the live commentary from selected episodes of LRR. Totally worth being up at that ungodly hour of the morning, and besides, I made a new friend who had come all the way from Nova Scotia just to be at MAGFest. Later that day, I hit up the panel from the Smithsonian Museum, of all places, and learned about The Art of Video Games, an exhibit that opens on the 16th of March at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. The curator for the exhibit is, besides being pretty cute, also a huge video games fan, so when her director asked her to do something with video games, she jumped on it. The end result of her working with Chris Melissinos is looking to be a fantastic event, and I’ll be there on opening day, particularly for the keynote speech that night from Nolan Bushnell.

Saturday night, Sephi and I piled into the main ballroom at 1900 just to get good seats for the whole reason we were there in the first place: the Earthbound Papas were on at 1030! We survived the mess through Bit Brigade, who basically played a live backing track to a complete run through of MegaMan, The OneUps, back for their tenth-year anniversary mellow funk-out (since their first live show was at MAGFest I) to showcase a cover of Dancing Mad that they’d prepared before they even learned that Uematsu would be at the con, and Year 200X, a thrash-metal band who actually did a pretty decent cover of Battery. Then…the Earthbound Papas went on stage. Let me explain…no, there is too much. Let me sum up: AWESOME. Their music is fantastic. They’re all enormously talented musicians, and in some ways I’m really happy they’re not working with SquareEnix anymore, because now they’re not restricted in what they can play. We got their Introduction, which is a fabulous piece, and then a bunch of music from Uematsu’s (and his compatriots’) years of developing music for Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Bahamut’s Lagoon, and more. It was so fantastic, I didn’t care that I couldn’t hear much of anything for the rest of the weekend. If you have the time and money, take a moment and invest in a copy of Octave Theory (their first album); it’s worth every penny.

Sunday was pretty quiet; we hit the LRR Q&A panel and got to have some more laughs with Graham and Paul, and then we headed out ’cause we were just too exhausted to carry on. Sephi headed back home shortly after we returned to Herndon, and I promptly collapsed in bed. It was an exhausting weekend, and I’d had so much fun I just didn’t have the energy to keep awake much longer.

I am definitely going back next January.