MAGWest Brings Pinball Wizardry

The video game and music festival comes to Santa Clara
With 24-hour arcades and LAN parties, gaming panels and music, the East Coast's MAGFest rolls into Santa Clara.

MAGFest has been an event for gamers on the East Coast going on 15 years now. Originally known as the Mid-Atlantic Gaming Festival, the Music and Gaming Festival (as it is now known) made its name with 24-hour arcades, LAN parties, panels by gamer icons like Nobuo Uematsu and Sid Meier, and a wide selection of video game-inspired music. Since starting in 2002, MagFest has grown from drawing hundreds along the Atlantic seaboard to thousands, to tens of thousands.

The same format is being brought to Santa Clara this year at the Hyatt for the first ever MagWest, including the round-the-clock arcade and LAN parties. Musical acts include locals like Curious Quail and Super Soul Bros, a number of San Francisco chiptune acts, as well as musicians from farther away, like Seattle-based 8- and 16-bit musician boaconstructor.

While MAGFest was able to rise to dominance on the East Coast without too much competition, it comes to a Bay Area already packed with like-minded events: from Fanime and Furcon, to the Genesis gaming tournament, chiptune festivals and the recent ID10T Fest curated by Chris Hardwick.

So how will MAGWest distinguish itself from the pack? Largely, it seems, through the inclusion of many panels from gaming insiders, indie developers and a lot more. Panels at MAGWest run the gamut from a guide on how to play dance games, like Dance Dance Revolution, to a discussion on LGBTQ+ voices in game development.

"A pretty large percentage of our panel content has to do with diversity," says Yevgeny Dreyband, one of the primary organizers for the festival's first run. "I'm really happy about that." In addition to LGBTQ+ panels, there are a number of others tackling issues that were once out-of-sight-out-of-mind for the straight white male-dominated gaming industry. The theme of queerness in games, the role women play in audio and music for games, and "The Changing Face of Nerd Culture" all get the panel treatment from people who have lived and studied these experiences, marking a much-needed move away from the hyper-masculine, consequence-free culture that led to Gamergate, "Swatting," and the emergence of a crappy-looking frog as a symbol of hate. It's a step towards a more open and inclusive environment in gaming, and hopefully the only frog on the premises will be Arwing pilot Slippy Toad.

Aug 25-27, 10am
Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara

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