So, latest on my litany of excuses for not posting has been skipping town to attend MAGfest, DC-area con centered around video games and video game music. This is right up my alley for obvious reasons, and also too, has become a bit of a social fixture among my friends in the past few years. Last year, one of my closest friends arranged to propose to his fiance at MAGfest via a completely made-up scavenger hunt- a sizable production that a bunch of us all colluded together over, and something you can totally get away with if you’re a regular and well-known volunteer at a small-scale con, apparently.
Anyway, this year, the already-awfully-burgeoning-for-a-small-con levelled up considerably, with a larger budget and swankier accomodations, and is suddenly looking much more like a sizable regional con. Or at least what I, late-blooming con-goer that I am, assume a sizable regional con might look like. It also found itself sporting some pretty major “gets”, namely Ellen McLain, a voice actress best known for GLaDOS, the antagonist the Portal games, and The Earthbound Papas, Nobuo Uematsu’s newest band, headlining the Saturday night concerts.
Last time around, I was primarily much too involved in conspiracy to really see much of the panel, and since I wasn’t staying at the hotel, missed many of the later-night events as well. Also, I spent way too much time in the game rooms. This time, I was determined to attempt to correct this, and booked a hotel room, planned a schedule around the panels I wanted to go to (with assistance from by the excellent scheduling app MAGfest used, Guidebook) and packed a bag with energy drinks and all the geek shirts I owned, for this weekend.
The panels were pretty great. The first one I got to attend was an OC Remix After Dark Panel; this being late Thursday night, rather than actually discussing anything related to OC Remix or music arrangements or editing in general, it quickly devolved into My Little Pony discussions/themed drinking, Treadmillasaurus Rex, and gratuitous shirtlessness by various panelists. Overall, the entire panel closely toed the line between Best Panel Ever and Complete Trainwreck, and was about as auspicious a start to a con as one could ask.
The voice-acting ones, however, were obviously an enormous draw for the con-goers, and they actually managed to live up to these expectations admirably. Joining McClain were her husband and fellow voice actor John Patrick Lowrie (Sniper from Team Fortress 2), as well as Jon St. John (Duke Nukem from the eponymous series), Wes Johnson (best known for a whole bunch of Bethesda stuff- Lucien Lechance, Sheogorath, Fawkes the Super-Mutant and Mr. Burke from Fallout 3…), Mike Rosson (also a whole buncha Fallout 3 stuff, especially the ghouls), Shari Elliker (Star Paladin Cross from Fallout 3), Chris Niosi (a character in Pokemon?), and [???]. It actually made for a superb mix of backgrounds, walks of life, and perspectives which made for a fairly lively, engaging panel discussion.
Ellen McClaine came across as a bit of a sweetheart. She was sedate, earnest, and, well, kinda grandmotherly, not unlike the stereotypical music teacher (and she does, indeed, still teach voice-as-in-singing on the side). Coming from an opera background, she spent of lot fo time going into detail about voice techniques and translating singing techniques into spoken acting. Also, she and her husband are LITERALLY the most adorable couple; they had a bit of a sing-along during one of the panels, with Lowrie accompanying his wife on the banjo.
The antipode to McClaine’s sedate, maternal, encouraging voice on the panel was Jon St. John. Who has apparently been somewhat of a panel regular, and always a huge draw in his own right. My friend Eliza (the victim/recipient of last year’s aforementioned conspiracy) described him, in her excellent two-part review of this year’s MAGfest, as charismatic, profane, boorish, and hilarious all at once. Many of the questions thrown his way were mainly intended to bait him into quoting lines of Duke’s dialogue, but even when he wasn’t lapsing into character, it was easy to see why he so fell in love with the character. He was clearly having a tremendous amount of fun, even as he was (or at least was pretending to be) badly hung over.
And then finally, there were the concerts. Last year, I had only had the opportunity to attend a few minutes of couple of the earlier ones, and boy did I ever miss out. Obviously this is a huge part of why MAGfest identifies as a “festival” rather than a standard convention, and I’ve always had a thing for music incorporating chiptunes, and arrangements of the more impressive video game music out there, and the concert series definitely delivered. I don’t really have much more to say here than “OMG. So. Awesome.” So I will basically leave it at that.
But all in all, an awesome, fun-filled, weekend, and even the ubiquitous My Little Pony fandom couldn’t really put a damper on it.