Falldog's First Convention

So this weekend I visited my first convention, MAGFest 2012, held this year at the Gaylord Convention Center at National Harbor, MD.


So, what did I think? Well here, enjoy my random rantings...

  • I'd love to know the profit margin of an event like this. While I still haven't decided whether the entry fees are justified ($40 for a single day, $55 for all three days) I really want to know more about the finances of this (and other) conventions. My badge tag was #9469, and working under the completely baseless assumption that there are 9468 paying folks before me, I'm going to baselessly assume they pulled in $378,760 (which I'm also going to assume is on the low end, considering the multitudes who paid $55. It's also safer considering that not everyone had to pay for entry). That's quite a pretty penny. I doubt the hotel charges too much, they probably made a bucket load on their own through room rental and parking fees. I was informed that most of the bands perform for free, but what about the guest speakers? How much of the equipment/games/tables/etc were donated v. rented? I suppose it's just the information nerd in me coming through. Either way, I hope that margins are good enough to support holding the event at the same location next year.
  • The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center was awesome. Though I have gazed upon the Gaylord (who still uses that name in this day and age?) from the safe confines of Old Town Alexandria this was my first visit. The hotel and convention center was awesome. The large open air atrium was simply spectacular all decked out for Christmas. It's the kind of place I would want to stay at if visiting the area. Unfortunately I can't say too much about the National Harbor area. While it's nice that it has easy access to I-495 it's too touristy for my tastes, it lacks charm like Old Town across the river (sorry if I'm going too local for our random assortment of readers). Also, if someone knows, throughout some of the halls there are sections where the walls and ceiling were separated by foot wide aluminum plates... expansion joints, hidden fire doors?
  • Cat ears and or tails, really? While I can understand the random fetish nature of furries I don't understand people who dress normally but throw on a pair of cat ears or a tail of some sort. If you feel so jealous of our furry underlings then please, commit all the way with your attire.
  • The same goes for welding glasses. And welding glasses on top hats, especially when the rest of your outfit isn't remotely steampunkish. (On a site note, I saw a magazine for steampunk styles at Michaels. Is the fad officially over now?)
  • Cosplayers... could you at least not half ass it? I don't really have the highest opinion of cosplayers. Now, I don't have a problem with folks who want to dress up like their favorite character and have a good time. That's fine, I can see how that would be fun. You lost me when a handful of folks became "professionals" and with the development of some of the most pretentious photography ever. "Oh, you're Sephiroth? Well stand over against that wall, look to your right and think really hard about how much you hate Cloud." Okay, I've digressed from my main point which was cosplayers who half ass their costumes. I saw several folks who clearly spent time on their costumes, only to give up at the very end and wear tennis shoes or gardening gloves to complete the look. Go all in or not at all.
  • TURN THE MUSIC THE FUCK DOWN! This boggles my fucking mind. Scoping out the concert venue before the start of festivities I noticed a sign saying that they were selling ear protection. I was also witness to hotel room stashes and was even offered a pair later in the evening. At first I thought to my self, that's silly, I've never needed ear protection at a concert before. Oh, how I was mistaken. The music was terribly fucking loud, and not just 'I can't hear what I'm thinking loud' but 'every other note is peaking' loud. You have a relatively small, enclosed space, a crowd not normally characterized by their rambunctious audience attitude, and bands who's main repertoire consists of video game covers. So take it down a notch. There's no bloody need for things to be cranked to 11. Turn it down so the music comes through clearer and no one has to worry about tinnitus. Or at least start off low and turn it up as needed. I don't know, it all seems so obvious.
  • There's no crying at game conventions. Suck it up or go to your room. Or at least chat with all the passers by, pausing in an attempt to lend assistance.
  • The gaming areas were great but in need of refinement. Not only did MAGFest feature a decently sized LAN party but an even larger area for various board and table top games. So popular was the latter that finding a free table could be difficult at times. The hall next to it featured a vast array of electronic games ranging from networked consoles to pinball and classic arcade games. All very cool and a great experiance. Yet I couldn't help feel that something was just not quite right, that something was missing. In general single player games seemed far too prevalent. Where was the row of several Cruising machines? Why did I only see one DDR machine and the soul iconic X-Men arcade game (apparently the source of some infamous yell, randomly bellowed out and echoed among he non-committed crowd like a poorly executed wave)? I figure they would want to foster more friendly competition. The designated area for Nintendo DS multiplayer games had the right idea. Most perplexing of the whole situation was the folks sitting around playing single player classics like Mario. I understand you like Mario, we all do, but we also have it at home.


For as much as I love to bitch, everyone I met seemed really nice and definitely were enjoying themselves. The staff members I interacted with were all very helpful, though some were a bit blunt at times, something I can't fault them for considering the circumstances. One has to admire the folks who not only have to drive and commitment to put something like this together, but that patience to deal with thousands of tired/drunk/caffeinated nerds.

In the end, the most apt description I can give is that the whole thing is like a big high school field trip for adults. All the nonsense of late night room parties, running up and down hallways, and loud music with the easy acquisition of booze.

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