If you didn’t know, MAGFest is one of the most popular gaming conventions. When I went, the event was already well-known at the time. But today, MAGFest has soared to new heights in popularity, to the point where you need to enter a lottery just to score a hotel room for the convention!
What makes MAGFest so unique and popular? And does the event really live up to the hype? These are some of the questions I wanted to answer in this review of MAGFest. Although I attended a long ago, I feel like my experience and perspective will be helpful if you’re interested in potentially going to this event. When I went, I stayed for the entire long weekend and stayed at the resort the whole time. It was a fun experience that I still remember to this day!
In this post, I’ll give you my MAGFest review. I’ll go over the pros and cons of this unique gaming convention in Maryland that happens annually in the winter. I’ll also go over the things I liked and disliked. Overall, MAGFest is one of the best conventions out there with a ton of programming and everything a gamer would want.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What is MAGFest?
I actually didn’t know this, but MAGFest stands for Music and Gaming Festival. And the name fits the convention perfectly, as the event emphasizes everything about gaming and music in video games.
The music in particular I truly find unique about MAGFest. There is no other convention that is dedicated to video game music than this convention. Not only do you have live cover bands playing video game music, sometimes the actual video game composers are present at the event (e.g. David Wise who composed the soundtrack for Donkey Kong Country). There are also tons of video game music panels that go further into detail regarding game soundtracks. I remember learning so much from panellists regarding video game music, it was very interesting!
And of course, MAGFest is all about the gaming. This event is not like PAX or E3 where those two have more of a trade show vibe that exhibits new and upcoming games. MAGFest in my opinion is a lot more laid back and casual that’s more of a celebration of gaming. MAGFest is more about gamers and gaming fans getting together to have fun. If you want to try out a bunch of video games from retro games to the modern consoles and PCs today, then MAGFest is for you!
Alright, let’s go over the pros and great things about MAGFest. There are a lot!
Best video game room ever!
No joke. Of all the conventions I have attended (and I have attended a lot), MAGFest has THE biggest and best video game room of them all. Actually, I wouldn’t even call it a room; I’d call it a gigantic video game hall!
Just imagine the largest comic con or Anime con you’ve been to with their dealer’s room, and multiply that room by 4-5 times. That’s how big the video game hall was at MAGFest! Just insanely huge with so many video games to play. I mean everything. From old and retro consoles and arcade machines, to the newest games today. It was wonderful to be able to play so many video games during my time at MAGFest. Because of the wide variety, I had no issues being unable to play a video game, even during the big crowds on Saturday.
It was truly a joy to be able to play so many different video games on one weekend. So if you want to play a bunch of video games, then MAGFest is definitely for you!
Awesome venue and location.
MAGFest is located at National Harbor in Maryland (close to Washington DC), one of the most popular resort/recreational areas in the U.S. The area is like its own little island full of entertainment and amenities, with a big MGM Casino, a Ferris wheel and the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, where MAGFest takes place.
Staying in National Harbor was so nice and relaxing. Despite MAGFest happening during winter, the weather in National Harbor was nice and warm, making it great for doing walks on the resort when you need a break from the convention. The area is beautifully lit and there are so many restaurants and entertaining places in the resort area. A perfect convention getaway!
As for the venue itself, the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center is epic. Not only is the convention center big and gigantic, the building is also beautiful inside and cozy. I was fortunate to be able to stay in the hotel inside the convention center, and I felt right at home all weekend long. There is a reason why Katsucon (another big Anime convention) takes place in this exact same building, great location and venue!
P.S. Yes, the famous gazebo is in this building. Back then, cosplayers went to MAGFest to get gazebo photos to avoid the crowds at Katsucon. But unfortunately now, MAGFest is too popular now and this trick doesn’t work anymore.
Huge variety of video game programming and activities.
As mentioned previously, if you are a video gamer, you will feel like MAGFest is Christmas for you! Not only do you have an insane amount of video games you can play all weekend long in the video game hall, but there are so many other things to see and do at MAGFest. There are several different panels that talk about all things gaming, from music theory in gaming, being a video game DJ to
There is also:
- Video game tournaments
- Video game concerts (all day long!)
- LAN gaming
- Tabletop gaming
- And much more
As someone who absolutely loves video game soundtracks, it’s great to see the appreciation of video game music at MAGFest. From the numerous panels and concerts, to the live performances from the actual video game composers, it’s truly wonderful to have a con as big as MAGFest dedicated to the tunes you hear in video games.
The convention is 24 hours, so you’ll never run of things to do if you appreciate video games!
Great atmosphere and crowd!
Things may have changed since I last went to MAGFest. But when I attended, the atmosphere was immaculate and the people at MAGFest were wonderful. It reminds me of Dragon Con with the casual, fun vibes. Much like Dragon Con, MAGFest was made by the fans, for the fans. Everyone was there to just have fun and it totally showed when I was there.
I remember a bunch of people pretending to “charge up” and go Super Saiyan; it was really cool and I appreciate the nerdy vibes we all have! The convention organizers themselves seem like they’re having fun too; there are a lot of inside jokes and Easter eggs hidden around the convention from what I remember. I know when I attended, there was a printing error with the programming guide and the organizers humorously printed that they’re run by a “bunch of idiots!”
Overall, the atmosphere of MAGFest is relaxed and casual, which is always a good thing.
Okay, now that I have discussed the pros of MAGFest, let’s talk about some potential cons…
Extremely difficult to get a hotel room
One of the biggest and probably most well-known drawback of MAGFest is being able to find accommodations for the convention. The event is incredibly popular to the point where you need to enter a lottery just to be able to book a hotel for the event. Yes, hotels sell out within the first day they are released to the lottery winners.
Of all the conventions that implement hotel lotteries, MAGFest is one of the most difficult hotels to actually get one. So unfortunately, you’ll have to get extremely lucky in the hotel lottery. Or you’ll have to stay at an accommodation off of the National Harbor resort. This just goes to show how popular MAGFest is!
To be honest, that’s the only con I can think of for MAGFest. Everything else is good!
There is a reason why MAGFest sells out all the hotels in all of National Harbor. The annual event is super fun and a true dedication to video games and their music. If you are a gamer and you can find a way to stay at a hotel for MAGFest, I highly recommend you do so! Although I only attended once, to this day I still remember that weekend vividly because I had such an awesome time. You will as well. 🙂
Overall grade: 9.5/10
I hope you found this MAGFest review helpful and informative. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave them in the comments below!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!