MAGFest stands for Music and Gaming Festival. It is an annual convention -now in its fourteenth year- that takes place every winter in Washington DC’s National Harbor. MAGFest is a great place to check out video games, board games, and roleplaying games, as well as geek-tacular music and panels dedicated to all forms of gaming. With a library of board and tabletop games, as well as an entire wing dedicated to retro arcade gaming MAGFest is also the place to be if you consider yourself a gamer or if you just like rolling a D20 every now and then. Independent developers set up booths to show off their latest games and allow fest-goers to playtest their products. MAGFest is a great opportunity to see a lot of impressive wares and interact with the men and women on the forefront of the Indie gaming community.
The NYRD sent a few representatives down to our nation’s capital to eat, game, and be merry, and this is five of the best and brightest products and people we think you need to keep an eye on. Check out what they found:
5. Ninja Burger
Ninja Burger is not necessarily what you might consider a new find. MAGFest offers a wide variety of old and new games in their board game library. Ninja Burger was created by Steve Jackson -who created the successful series of Munchkin games- and has been around for a few years now. However, it was new to the crew at The NYRD, so we felt strongly enough about the game that it deserved to be on this list. We found this game tucked in the far corner of the game library in a beat-up old box and we could not be happier that we did.
A wildly imaginative and not-so-serious game, in Ninja Burger you take on the role of a ninja in the Ninja Burger franchise. You must deliver your burgers to customers ranging from super spies to speeding car drivers, all without being noticed, in true ninja fashion. To do this you complete mission cards with a set of skills and fortunes. Failure means that you bring shame on yourself and the franchise, but success brings honor and possible a nice tip. Gain enough honor and you could be promoted.
This game was so fun that The NYRD crew had to go back for a second round of gaming the next day. We highly recommend this find to anyone who enjoys playing casual and hilarious card games with friends.
4. Just Beats and Shapes
Just Beats and Shapes is an award winning Indie party game. By far, the most frequently played Indie game by The NYRD crew at MAGFest. it is fun and challenging, yet the controls are simple enough that even the most inexperienced gamer can jump right in and play along. Just Beats and Shapes won multiple awards at PAX East and GDC, and the game has not even released yet.
You and up to three of your friends need to navigate your node around obstacles and impressive graphical side-scrolling shapes all to the beat of some catchy tunes. Even if you are not into dance music or techno beats we promise you will be toe tapping along with the songs on this game, mostly because you will have to redo level sections multiple times as you fight and maneuver your way through minefields of colorful lines, blocks, and fast-moving dots.
According to the developers the full version should be ready by the summer for release on Steam and most major gaming platforms. You can also follow the developers on their Twitch feed to get live updates and watch the progress of the game as it develops.
3. Eight Bit Disaster
A mix between the Dave Matthews Band and that creepy kid in college who did nothing but play Mega Man with the lights out, Eight Bit Disaster is the kind of band you need to experience live to truly understand. Immensely talented musicians this group of five gentlemen rock out to classic and modern video game, TV shows, and cartoon music remixes.
We definitely recommend checking out one of their shows if they are ever in your neighborhood or if you are ever in their vicinity of North Carolina. With a saxophonist leading the charge, old and classical video game songs become new again. There is also plenty of musical interludes where the individual musicians get to show their talent and jam out with guitar, keyboard, bass, drum, and of course saxophone solos. Eight Bit Disaster was anything but a disaster at this year’s MAGFest and both the audience and our crew members came away cheering and clapping.
You can check out their music on Band Camp, but -be warned- it does not do justice to their live show.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises for The NYRD crew at MAGFest this year, Liege, is a serious and dark Indie game done in the JRPG style with a twist.Created by CodaGames, Liege takes the classical turn-based combat approach of JRPG’s and gives the player a dynamic and innovative tactical element to go along with it.
Though we were only able to play the Alpha run-through the game looks not only mechanically fun but graphically beautiful. This is definitely a title we would recommend keeping your eyes on. Currently the project has over $81,000 but we would love to see this game brought to full realization. It is an exciting title with a lot of potential for fun and incredible storytelling. Any fans of Final Fantasy or other classic JRPG styled games would enjoy Liege.
Check out their Kickstarter to learn more and see if you want to pitch in some money to help.
1. Bit Brigade
By far the highlight of MAGFest was a band called Bit Brigade. They are a staple of the festival and they never fail to amaze. Their self proclaimed lead singer is a practiced classic video game speed runner. With a range of games from Contra to Castlevania he can blow through games in under an hour, often with one or less deaths.
However the real joy of Bit Brigade comes from the band standing behind the man who is hunched over a controller on a small 90’s mini TV. The band plays through the entire game, giving each level of classic 8 and 16 bit music new life with wailing guitars and reverberating drum beats. This year the band treated their crowds to performances of Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man 2. There is nothing quite like rocking out while also being transfixed by the skill and magic of a live speed run.
We recommend you check out their page, their skill, and their tour dates, because if you see one video game band live this year, it should be Bit Brigade.
The NYRD crew had an amazing time this year at MAGFest. It is a far cry from the media and entertainment circus that can sometimes be New York or San Diego Comic Con, but that does not mean it is a modest convention in the slightest. Instead it feels like a gathering of thousands of thousands of like-minded friends who just want to come together, play some games, and rock out to some quality musical groups. For anyone who has not attended we highly recommend the experience. You will not be disappointed.