Music and Gaming Festival Invades Alexandria in January

More than 1,000 videogamers and videogame music enthusiasts will converge at the Hilton Mark Center at 5000 Seminary Road in Alexandria, Va., on January 3-6, 2008 for the sixth annual Music and Gaming Festival, a nonstop weekend of tournaments, concerts and workshops.

Three large rooms packed with videogames will be available free for all registrants at the festival, also known as MAGFest. In addition, video game tribute bands will perform rock, electronic, power-metal, and orchestral versions of popular game themes on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Unlike larger, more commercialized conventions, MAGFest aims for a laid-back atmosphere of fun.

"Our goal is to fuel the community of gaming and connect people with each other, whether they are industry leaders or casual gamers," said Brendan Becker, 28, who runs the festival.

For starters, MAGFest will offer 24-hour access to virtually every kind of gaming console, arcade, PC/LAN, or handheld. From the ancient Atari 2600 and the original Nintendo Entertainment System to the latest Wii, Xbox and Playstation consoles, all video game platforms will be available. Competitive types will be able to participate in dozens of tournaments for games such as Gears of War, Halo, Rock Band, Smash Brothers, and Wii Sports. Even tabletop gamers will have their space.

On the music side, Friday and Saturday night concerts will feature at least eight bands -- with names such as The Advantage, Armcannon, and Powerglove -- that specialize in videogame cover songs.

"We've become a videogame music mecca, of sorts,"� Becker said. "It's nothing short of awesome to watch all of these guys play on stage at MAGFest and see hundreds of gamers chant, rock, headbang, or sing along."

Visual effects at the concert will be provided by No Carrier and noteNdo, who use modified Nintendo game consoles along with custom software and a technique known as "circuit bending" to project mind-twisting images on the wall behind the performers.

Two of this year's musical acts defy the electro-rock stereotype and present classical treatments of videogame tunes. Select Start, a six-piece chamber ensemble which has been featured on National Public Radio, draws from a repertoire of more than 50 videogame theme arrangements. Daniel Brown, a solo pianist, will perform his arrangements of the soundtrack to Battletoads while the game is played on a large screen.

In addition to games and music, MAGFest will offer workshops by videogame artists, musicians and programmers, discussions on videogame culture, trivia and costume contests, dealer tables, an auction of videogame equipment, and a 24-hour video room featuring videogame-related movies and cartoons. Other special guests include:

* “Stuttering Craig� Skistimas and “Handsome Tom� Hanley of ScrewAttack, which provides videogame content for MTV's website
* James Rolfe, also known as the Angry Video Game Nerd, another regular on
* Brian Colin, CEO of Game Refuge, which has developed several humorous titles for Bally/Midway, others, and themselves
* Videogame-themed webcomic artists Applegeeks and Paradox Lost
* Jake "Virt" Kaufman, videogame music composer
* Overclocked ReMix, a site dedicated to fan-made arrangements of game tunes
* X-Strike Studios and Dark Maze Studios, two film groups that produce full-length feature films based on videogames
* Fargate Productions and Main Moon Productions, two more film groups who produce videogame-inspired projects and shorts
* Flavor Grenade Studios, a videogame design outfit headed by DJ Potatoe
* Robert Aldrich, who writes anime- and videogame-inspired stories
* Virtual Fools, a cadre of self-designated "videogame scholars" who offer academic critiques of videogames and surrounding culture

Registration for MAGFest is $35 in advance, and $40 at the door. Visit for full registration information or for a complete, up-to-date list of guests.

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