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MAGFest 2016 Day 1 (02-19-16)

This post appeared originally on 02-19-16

I had expected something darker, bleaker, walled-off and bland. How wrong I was. The giant open atrium of the Gaylord (phrasing) really takes you aback. The atmosphere of the convention was right on. There were people shouting from the balconies of their hotel rooms, a solid mix of cosplay nerds and more casually dressed nerds. Fun was in the air!

I grabbed my badge, and stealing Drew’s joke, I branded mine with my Myers-Briggs personality assessment, “BAMF.” I walked into the giant arcade room and found an open Killer Instinct 2 machine and a guy named Eddie walked up and challenged me to a duel. Being rusty we agreed to a one minute truce to figure out some moves. This didn’t save poor Eddie from the ass-kicking that ensued. My button-mashing skills cannot be matched.

To spare him further embarrassment we switch to the Mortal Kombat 2 cabinet that was next to us. I can’t believe how old this game felt, I still have fresh memories of when it was released. The controls were clunky and not a button-masher’s friend. Eddie sealed his revenge.

I headed next door to the merchant booths and fell in love with the pixelated characters made with beads. I wanted an entire set but didn’t want to shell out the cash for something I really didn’t have space to display. Then, as if a gift from god, I came across a booth with an entire set of FFVI (my personal favorite of the series) character sprite magnets. Score!

In the indie game arena, I ran into Eddie again and we played a party game called Circles by Studio 217. It is pretty much a modern version of twister. A tablet is laid flat on a table and a minimum of three players must keep their finger inside a circle while it moves around the screen. This requires you to climb around your friends to maintain contact with the screen. If you break contact the game then insults you. Right on.

Next to Circles was another game called Mister Mart by the same developer. You played the role of a customer service rep who has to put returned items in a bin while swatting away annoying customers to keep your stress level from getting too high. It was a VR game and having never used an Oculus Rift I have to say the whole experience was underwhelming. It pretty much felt like you were sitting really close to the TV. The programming of the game was simplistic and clunky as well. The hand recognition was poor and I felt like I had no control over the game. Oh well, one out of two ain’t bad. Keep it up, guys!

I found another indie game with a beautiful banner and chatted with Ryan about his creation. A Tofu Tail is a puzzle game where you must traverse a maze where you collect power-ups. These power-ups allow you access to the ground that shares its properties. If you become an ice cube you can travel on ice, if you have lava powers you can walk on lava, etc. A simple concept and easy enough to start, but the challenge ramps up.

They introduce characters that start in a different section of the board and mirror your moves and can block you. Later on, you have to control two blocks of tofu and get them to the finish line at the exact same time. At the very end, they make it three. Just as I was feeling mentally exhausted I beat the demo. I fucking rock! The art design of the game was clean and memorable. The controls were fair and it was easy to backtrack a misstep or reset the level. This game has a lot of promise. tenouttaten.

I hit the bar up for a glass of Pinot and met this chick, Veena (I’m sorry if I fucked your name up, perhaps the wine clouded my memory). She regularly traveled to Japan to teach English and talked about how it is a great place to visit but a terrible place to work. Their culture plays a game of professional chicken where the last person to go home wins. Fuck the wife and kids, I’ll show my boss who works the hardest.

I parted ways with Veara (?) because I had a panel to catch. Ninja Sex Party was doing a Q&A and while I’m not their biggest fan, Danny is one of the Game Grumps, and for the past couple of years, I have faithfully watched their show every night before bed. Here’s an example of why:

When I got upstairs I learned the room had reached capacity and they weren’t letting anyone else in. It’s like they’re popular or something. Damn you, Vienna! Oh well, you know what they say, “close a door, open a window.”

I stumbled into a jam session with the Super Soul Brothers. They are a jazz group dedicated to video game music (go figure). These guys were on point. They played together like they’d done it their entire lives. Robbie, the ringleader, led discussions in between songs and then they slipped into each tune as smooth as butter. Each song was a killer jam session. Speaking of which, they ended with a killer jam session. They invited randos from the crowd to play with and the vibe in that room was off the charts. Even these death metal junkies (trust me, they looked the stereotype) were getting into it. This is where I learned about the Colossus roar. Apparently, it is a MAGfest thing.

Leaving that high I found a discussion panel on military representation in video games. Due to technical difficulties, they started 15 minutes late. It was like a real military briefing. They didn’t hold my interest, so I skipped on to the next panel about creating good villains.

They started strong with Darth Vader. What makes him scary? He has an entire fucking galactic army at his command with only one person to answer to. Honestly, I never really saw Vader as that terrifying a villain, but certainly memorable. John Malkovich! He was a villain in the movie Eragon, which is apparently a movie and four-book series that the panel seemed to shit all over, but read them all nevertheless. What was so great about Eragon? Seems they built the main villain as this badass for the entire series and when you finally meet him, he delivers. So, that’s the lesson. If you talk a big game, back it up.

Show time. I headed to the concert hall to cap the night with Metroid Metal. As their name implies, they play Metroid songs in the style of metal, except for the one Transformers song. I’ve got to dock points for veering off the theme. It’s like when your corn gets into your mashed potatoes. Stay in your fucking lane, bro.

Why were they good? They didn’t sing. Here’s a protip for metal bands: don’t (removed “sing”) scream and muddy up what actually can be some cool stuff. Here’s another thing they did that sets them apart from amateur metal bands: dynamics. Who would have thought mixing things up would keep things interesting for the listener? Well, most listeners.

I looked over at this daft broad skimming through Facebook on her phone. Here’s how I know I’m getting old because I am about to (spoilers) rant about a younger generation. Live in the god-damned moment! Life isn’t just something that happens in the background while you stare at your phone.

Settled? Cool. I was gonna call it a night, but the artist that followed caught my attention. I’m not much for Hip-hop, but Mega Ran was a hell of a showman. His flow and crowd work was some of the best I’ve seen. At one point he asked everyone to hold up random items and did a freestyle calling them out. It was brilliant! Just when you thought it was over he pulled up a couple of people on stage and got us all dancing, “Tanto! Jump on it!” Great end to a good start. tenouttaten. Here’s to day two, MAGfest!

~ Scott


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