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Sunday, January 3, 2010

MAGFest 8

Happy New Year everyone. It's only three days into 2010 and I've already completed my first ambitious adventure. I must say that attending MAGFest was an exciting experimental undertaking. As such, I have decided to recount my underwhelming journey into the heart of video game nerdom.

The Hilton was a fine choice as far as locales go for a convention of moderate size. Parking was an absolute nightmare and the utter lack of accessible meals was frustrating, but I don't really want to dwell too long on logistics. The rooms accommodated the panels and recreational activities nicely and the whole shebang never felt too crowded or vacant.

I arrived at MAGFest on Friday afternoon just in time for Team Four Star's panel featuring a guest appearance by honorary member LittleKuriboh (the main reason I even decided to attend the convention in the first place). The Q+A portion was mildly intriguing, but the finale was something else altogether. It kicked off with MasakoX's exclusive debut of a side-project he had been working on known as Kampfer Abridged.

I'll make this abundantly clear. Kampfer is stupid and has no right to even exist. What was supposed to be an “ambitious” spiritual successor to Ranma ½ turned out to be lame, pointless, fanservice-laden garbage. Of course, all of this makes a series like Kampfer the perfect fodder for abridgification and who better to tear it apart with scathing, self-deprecating humor than Team Four Star?

I was higly impressed with the quality of humor in Kampfer Abridged. There was nary a second where the entire room wasn't laughing uproariously thanks to some of the most clever satire known to the Abridged universe. Some of my favorite gags (from just one episode nonetheless) included the “I have an irrational fear of buses” duck-out line, Akane's voice and personality (yes just the voice and personality), and the TF2-style ending shot. If the first episode was this phenomenal, this gag-dub will undoubtedly dwarf the series itself like all sublime parodies do, much to our appreciation.

The panel concluded with a live, impromptu reading of a chapter of the Dragon Ball Z manga. In particular, LittleKuriboh decided to ad-lib and demonstrated his firm grasp on improvisational humor. By far the best drop-in line was “I detest those who repeat themselves!” followed immediately by a deadpan delivery of “...I detest those who repeat themselves!”

The first panel yielded positive first impressions. Next up, the console room. The spacious ballroom had been transformed into a moiling sea of consoles, screens, and projectors as far as the eye could see. Almost every console was on display, from SNES's to TurboGrafx's to the current-generation staples, to obscure Japanese drum-set arcade machines. Given the sweeping variety, it's impossible to list all the games featured, but the competiive spotlight titles being broadcast on the projector screens included rhythm games such as Rock Band or Guitar Hero Metallica and beat-em-ups such as Street Figher IV or Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl. Oh, and of course there were Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Halo 3 tables set up all over the place.

I elected to sit back and catch some of the Smash Bros. Action. It was interesting to see all those advanced techniques performed live and it was readily apparent that anyone signed up for the official tournament meant srs busness. I'm more familiar with Melee than with Brawl, but I could still tell that no casual player would stand a chance against the flurry of combos that these seasoned vets had up their sleeves.

The marketplace was located just outside the console room and was rather insubstantial. Half of it was occupied by a cluster of arcade machines and the other half consisted of a few shops that sold meme-tastic shirts, retro/rare video games, original artwork, or cute plushies. Oh, and PEEEEEEEEEEEEEELS.

In the evening, the Video Game Improv troupe performed Whose Line Is It Anyway?-esque sketches based on video game trivia and once again I was surprised at how geuninely funny it turned out to be. The room was packed (for good reason) making it ridiculously hot and stuffy, but it was worth it to see the finest video-game humor performed live.

Day 1 of MAGFest concluded with a trip to the concert hall to sample the “music” part of the Music and Video Games Festival. I found the performances rather uninspiried but appreciated the video-game slant.

Day 2 began bright and early with LittleKuriboh's Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series panel, the highlight of which was the primerie of Episode 46, aka the Season 2 finale. The best part was the ending, which revealed that not only would the series continue, but that LK was finally opening up his show to the rest of the Abridged Universe that he had singled-handedly birthed back in 2006. Yes, the Season 3 filler arc will feature a variety of Team Four Star members, thus putting an end to LK's exclusively omnipresent voice. Season 3 should turn out to be an interesting collaboration between some of the greatest Abridged minds and I'm totally looking forward to it. I couldn't go without mentioning that Kroze's on-the-fly (mis)handling of technical difficultes were unceasingly amusing. KROZE...KROOOOOOOOOOOZE!!

The last panel I attended on the second day before milling about was the Voice Acting: Pro vs. Not-Pro featuring some top-notch video game voice actors in addition to our unprofessional (but most definitely not untalented) crew of independent Internet-project voice actors including LK, MasakoX, and Kirbopher. It was pretty interesting to see the ins-and-outs of voice acting at both a causal and professional level and I really got a sense of how demanding and rigorous the audition processes can be.

I finally got a chance to meet LK personally on the third day when I successfully answered a Kingdom Hearts trivia question at the Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series marathon and won a Yu-Gi-Oh themed mini-binder signed on the spot by LK himself. I'll admit I was both nervous and excited as hell and I literally couldn't stop my legs from shaking, as cliché as that may sound. Hey, this guy is a legend! He pretty much invented an entire genre.

After almost fainting from the electrifying contact with LK himself, I attended the Angry Video Game Nerd panel which was absolutely packed to the brim. Not unexpected considering that this convention was a celebration of music and video games and the Nerd is one of the most well-known Internet celebrities in that respect. Even with a room dangerously close to overflowing, the Q+A session proceeded smoothly as James made sure to answer each question not only quickly, but thoroughly and tried to give as many people a chance as possible. The session ended with a live performance of both James's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rant and the Angry Video Game Nerd theme song by Kyle Justin.

MAGFest wrapped up with MasakoX's voice acting panel, which was highly informative. It was refreshing to get a wildly different perspective on the world of voice acting. Independent projects are immensely helpful when trying to get one's foot through the proverbial door. Thus, tips from the guys who deal with (acclaimed) independent projects on a daily basis are invaluable. This is the advice you want to be getting: straight from the source, pure and undiluted. And of course, what better way to end an awesome trip to an awesome convention than with an encore showing of Kampfer Abridged? If this project truly was just a litmus of MasakoX's writing and directing skills for spoof humor, then I'd say he passed with flying colors. So far, the series is shaping up to be pure comedic genius. And I mean it.

Overall, MAGFest was a blast. The atmosphere was lively and the people were nice for the most part. There were, of course, some cocky, trigger-happy, competitive douchebags at the gaming tournaments but even they were in the vast minority and could be spotted from a mile away. I learned an awful lot from the panels and every single guest was incredibly humble and considerate. Above all, however, meeting LK is something I'll never forget. All I can say is: What a way to kick off the new year.

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