MAGFest wows audiences with retro gaming alongside performances by Master Sword and Amanda Lepre

MAGFest, or the Music and Gaming Festival, was held in National Harbor, Maryland’s Gaylord National Convention center over the last weekend and it seems it was another huge success. The event, which was originally called the Mid-Atlantic Gaming Festival when it began back in 2002, hosts approximately 22,000 gaming, cosplay, and music fans. While the focus of the gathering is arcade, console and PC gaming, all kinds of games are celebrated at the event, including board games and live-action role-playing. 

Of course, music is also a key part of the exhibition. Originally the focus was on videogame music and so-called chiptune bands (a style of synthesized electronic music popularized by vintage arcade machines and consoles). However, now the scope has widened somewhat to include all manner of indie bands and musical acts influenced by the world of gaming. This year, Legend of Zelda-inspired heavy metal band Master Sword headlined alongside singer/songwriter Amanda Lepre, while festival veterans V-Jams, Aeoxis and Mӧtorizer were also on hand to provide tunes. All in all, over 64 musical acts performed over the course of the four-day event.

Special guests from the industry popped up as well to delight attendees. This year, noted voiceover artist Shari Elliker (known for her work in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: Azura and Star Trek: Legacy among many others), Twitch personality Elisa Meléndez and fantastical dance group Antipode were all present. In the past, strategy game titan Sid Meier and Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu have made appearances.

While many festivals claim to celebrate gaming and gaming culture, MAGFest prides itself as the true home of celebrating the actual act of playing games. Along with the more standard cosplay competitions and industry panels, there are multiple board game and arcade game tournaments. In fact, a key part of the convention is the festival’s arcade hall, which is open 24 hours a day for the duration of the event. The hall includes a range of fully playable classic, full-size arcade cabinets, along with pinball machines and more recent arcade stalwarts like Dance Dance Revolution. A console hall composed of over 100 screens along with attached consoles from all eras rounds out the available entertainment options.