Magfest 2020 “New Year, Same Great Me” Review
TL;DR 9.6/10 I’ll start by saying that this year I took a completely new approach to the event, with my usual focus on photography all but flipped. So, for this review, keep in mind that I was able to shoot, cosplay, relax and more at this amazing venue. Much like the year the past, celebrating the start of a new year, and then attending Magfest complimented each other hand in hand, and was a welcome refresh from the hustle and bustle of December. Here are my thoughts:
It’s always easier to go through negatives of this festival, because none of them impact in a major way. So true to format, we’re going to start with the cons.
• Hotel Booking: It never seems to get easier, year after year, but the hotel block lottery was as bad as ever this time around, only allowing a select few people through for Gaylord/National harbor rooms, no matter if you had pre-registered, or regardless of the amount of time you waited in queue. Do note that for me, even if I hadn’t secured a Gaylord room, that I would have found some way to attend Magfest regardless
• Indoor Shoot Locations: This would have impacted me more if I had more of a photography focus during the event, but I noticed that many of the indoor shooting locations now had tables, chairs, stands and racks set up, which effectively prevented them from being viable photo shoot locations. It was less of an impact for me, but I know that this frustrated some photographers that headed to the event
• Saturday’s Rave: I simply wasn’t feeling it on Saturday. The DJ lineup wasn’t too impressive, and I was hit with another one of the rare instances where Friday night was much more dynamic and explosive, and Saturday just didn’t measure up
• Dealer’s Room: There honestly weren’t too many vendors outside of artist booths set up here, and even the amount vendors selling import games / retro merch seemed to pale in comparison to previous years. As for me, I didn’t find much Eva gear, and in the way of figures, there were little to none
Nevertheless, despite those few mishaps, this con still earns one of the best convention ratings I give, year over year. Here are a few of the reasons why.
• Games: You can’t attend Magfest and not enjoy the many options you have for gaming, from the tournaments, to casually playing Smash, to discovering new works in the Indie Gaming section to zombie tag and so much more. This year proved no different in offering some of the best gaming opportunities around, period. Gunslinger Stratos makes a return here, along with Project Diva and Jubeat machines aplenty. What’s the best part? 24-hour access.
• Programming: The programming at Magfest continues to be very good. I found myself visiting more panels than normal, and enjoying each and every one. Contrary to last year, most of the panels I attended had reasonable seating, even if you didn’t wait half an hour in advance to show up. Panels and guests were extremely enjoyable, and definitely worthy of a shout out
• Registration / Pre registration: Magfest remains the all-star king when it comes to badge pickup on Thursday, with one of the swiftest, most painless experiences of the many cons that I’ve attended on the east coast. From walking into the room, to walking out with my badge, less than 5 minutes transpired, and that’s with adding their cool pronoun stickers that should become a standard at conventions moving forward
• Down Time: Magfest is always a wonderful opportunity to hang out with anyone you’d like to, whether old friends or new. I enjoyed going out to eat with my friends and roommates, playing games and partying together in various hotel rooms. I have to mention this as a positive, because most conventions I’m seemingly so busy that my only down time involves recharging my batteries in my hotel room before making the trek back out to shoot. It wasn’t like this at Magfest, and that was a wonderful thing. Friday in particular proved a great day to catch up with people and to relax
• The Comedy Show: It had me rolling. Not only was it great to see a variety of great nerd humor presented in different styles, Magfest did a great job of showcasing age appropriate material and humor, in conjunction with nice LBGTQ representation that’s far rarer than it should be. It was a great time
• Cosplaying: I was able to cosplay on multiple occasions at the festival and it was a blast. From casual wear, to formal and back again, it felt really nice to be able to let photos take a back seat for once, and to walk around and do things in cosplay. Personally, this is an approach that I’m really starting to like, and it may shape the other cons that I attend this year. With regards to others cosplaying at Magfest, I didn’t run into any drama with them, and even if most people were saving their best cosplays for Katsucon, they looked to be having a really good time
• Roommates: Speaking of no drama, I had the best squad of roommates this time around. We ate together, drank together, laughed together, and probably learned more about each other than we needed to know. Even so, we were able to spend a good amount of time with and without each other, and brought along a positive energy that shined a huge light on enjoying the rest of the event
• The Music: This is Magfest, so to neglect mentioning the variety of music artists and performances would be a huge disservice. Therefore, I’ll comment here that the musical selection was pretty wonderful, and that there was something for absolutely everybody here. Whether jumping to the music in the concert hall (Shout out to Kabuki for straight wrecking it on Friday), rocking it out late night at Pose (Shout out to SK from Otakus with Attitude), or stumbling across the scattered Jam Spaces and pausing to appreciate the sounds, there were tons of great places where you could just vibe and enjoy yourself. This hasn’t changed year over year and is a standout feature. I had a particularly good time simply taking a load off in the lobby bar and watching Super Soul Bros jam out
• Alcohol/Party Availability: If you were looking to turn up, it just happened. Magfest has a generally amazing community across all standards, and as long as you aren’t the foulest person on the planet, then there were plenty of parties or places to get drinks available. Even if you couldn’t find any and you simply bought from the hotel and danced at one of the many music events, prices were reasonable enough that you could still have a very good time
• Parking: For me, even with Gaylord parking, it was a flat $54 for the entire weekend Thursday-Sunday. I don’t have to explain how great a deal that is for national harbor parking, especially with overnight access and come/go privileges.
In summation, this year I took a brand-new approach to Magfest, which involved taking much less photos than I normally do, and taking more time to enjoy and appreciate the event with others, and I must say, it worked. With much reduced stress, and the right company, I had a fantastic time that stretched from arcade, to restaurants, to panels and everywhere in between. Barring getting an actual harbor hotel room, there’s very little negatives I have to say about Magfest, and for me, it continues to hit peak after peak in what it offers. Value wise, it’s completely worth it. Experience wise, it’s completely worth it. 9.6/10 The best con to start off the year with
Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below and let me know what you think!!