Monday, January 9, 2012


Got back from MAGFest a bit after 2 AM.  If you've been following my Twitter, then you may very well recognize some of the stuff in here, as this post was constructed by taking each 140-character-or-less tweet and expanding upon it, and also adding extra information that wasn't in them to begin with.  This post will be using a different style from last year's.  Last year I based the post on the tweets, but paraphrased them.  This year, I'm going to just quote them directly, in chronological order, and put blurbs of text offering further explanations and any omissions.  Also, outside of the tweets, the entire thing is in the past tense, whereas I think I used present tense or an odd mixture of present and past tenses last year.


I left around 7 PM, after eating dinner, just to make damn sure that I wouldn't be involved with rush hour in either Fredericksburg or Washington D.C.  Part of the trip involved being on 495, and 495 during rush hour is as close to hell as a mortal can get without dying.  I would know, I've experienced it while trying to go to Katsucon in the past.

Also, after I got on 95, driving fatigue set in and I began yawning.  Through a sheer stroke of luck, there so happened to be a rest stop on the stretch of 95 between Fredericksburg and the Mixing Bowl, so I stopped there.  Walked around, relieved myself, and bought a Mountain Dew from the vending machine.  I think the walking around and self-relief helped more than the caffeine, to be honest.
I am officially at the Gaylord National!
Found a spot close to the entrance of the parking garage, though in retrospect I should have gotten a spot closer to the elevators as every time I came back into the parking garage I walked around in confusion looking for my car.
Holy fuck, this place is ginormous.
The Gaylord National is a very big hotel.  As I was crossing the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge I could see a huge building colorfully lit up across the river, and I said "that's probably the hotel..." to myself.  Yes.  It was.  Once I was actually on that side of the river it was slightly difficult to locate it just because it was nighttime and the street signs were difficult to see.  But I prevailed, and located the non-valet parking.  Because fuck paying even more for parking.  I just drove two and a half hours on the highway, I think I can park my own damn car.
Laser-engraved badge get!
Staff (and super supporters) got laser-engraved badges this year.  The staff ones were green and we got to specify a name to be engraved on them.  The super supporters got silver ones and didn't get to get their names engraved on them.
That awkward feeling when you recognize someone but can't remember their name.
Walking around talking to people before things really began, I happened upon people that I really thought I should have known their names.  It's in the general MAGFest experience to be treated by everyone else as their close personal friend, but they seemed to recognize me and I'm horrible with names, especially when the names go with faces I only see once a year.


No sleep occurred between Wednesday and Thursday.  Even though I had a hotel room, I didn't actually check in until later Thursday.  After sitting around LAN for a while with a friend, watching anime on his phone just for shits and giggles, we decided to go to the hotel staff cafeteria.  This entails going through the bowels of the hotel, which is always an interesting experience, and the Gaylord didn't disappoint.  Each hallway had "adopt-a-hallway" signs with varying departments' names printed on them.  There was this weird picture of Inspector Gadget almost molesting a little girl or something as well.  If I'd had a camera, I'd've taken a picture.
Ultra-cheap hotel cafeteria FTW
Seriously.  I got two pieces of french toast, some bacon, and unlimited drink refills for just over $2.  This is the only non-expensive thing at the Gaylord.
My 10am techops shift just turned into a LAN overwatch shift. Whee!
Starting what would become a theme for the weekend, Hachi didn't need me right away in Techops and sent me downstairs to do LAN overwatch for a bit.  I ended up going back up after a while.  LAN overwatch is rather boring, but it's my go-to shift for filling in holes in my staffing schedule since it's so easy to do.
Also signal here is awesome because expensive hotel can afford direct lines to cell networks and tons of RF repeaters.
Five bars everywhere.  Enough said.  Rant about the meaningfulness/significance/technical definition of a "bar" omitted for your convenience.
TechOps - Doing It Live (tm)
The very first thing that needed to happen was Opening Ceremonies in Panels 1.  Fifteen minutes prior to the start of Opening Ceremonies, there was no sound system, no projector, and no projector screen.  We worked feverishly and got the sound system done with maybe two minutes to spare and random attendees watching the entire time.  We didn't think Opening Ceremonies was going to use the projector so we didn't bother with it, but then they ended up wanting to show a video and saying "if we had a projector set up in here..."

Legs already aching from walking around. Feet have hurt since sometime Thursday.
The Gaylord, as previously mentioned, is ginormous.  There is a lot of square feet of space.  Which equals a lot of walking around.  Which equals sore leg muscles.  My shoes don't really happen to be very good convention shoes.  I need to fix this.
But at least I got my staff hotel room sorted out, so I have a place to sleep and shower.
I don't know if I missed an email or didn't read one fully or what, but it took a conversation with the head of Staff Operations (aptly abbreviated "STOps") for me to figure out that I could get my room key by going to the check-in desk in the hotel lobby.  Went and did that, and dropped my stuff off inside.  Note that my bag had basically stayed in my trunk, out in the cold, for over 24 hours.  This is important because when I got up to the room (all the way up on the twelfth floor of the hotel), I took a shower.  With ice-cold, very viscous soap and shampoo.
Guitar Hero Arcade is weird. It's GH3 with tracks missing, entirely new tracks, and heavy controllers with stiff strum bars and no whammy.
Mini Guitar Hero Arcade review: As tweeted, it's using the GH3 engine.  Since there's no whammy bar, it auto-whammies star power sustains for you.  Which fucks up some star power paths.  Also, since there's no buttons on the controller other than the fret buttons, you have to tilt to activate.  Oddly, if I tilted when there weren't notes around, it seemed to register an overstrum.  The strum bar is incredibly stiff and doesn't give the same feedback as the console guitar controller, which makes alt-strumming harder.  Also, the principle is great on paper but doesn't work too well in reality.  Arcades have lots of background noise, which makes it difficult to hear the track you're playing.  Which is very important.  I dropped so much stuff because I simply couldn't hear the song.  The machine definitely needs some headphone ports.

I got my first sleep here.  Five hours of it.  Total sleep so far: Five hours.
In line for the Jon St. John panel.
The big panels always have lines.  Simple as that.  Jon St. John is an awesome person and his panel was great.  The Q&A had some extra flavor when it took a turn towards Alcoholics Anonymous.  Basically, he had everyone who came up to ask a question introduce themselves, and then the whole room would say "Hi, <name>!".  If a person came up again, it was "Hi again, <name>!".  One specific guy came up twice and stayed up there talking for way too long the second time, and there were shouts of "Bye, Eric!".  Some of them by me.

Also, I attended the panel previous to Jon St. John's, which was the Hey Ash, What'cha Playing? panel, hoping I could be clever and dodge the line by just staying in the panel room, but apparently it's now policy to clear the panel rooms between panels.  Oh well.
That feeling when you realize you can either buy AVGN volume 5 or get out of the parking garage.
I was standing in front of the ScrewAttack table in the dealers' room ready to buy AVGN volume 5 when I realized it was going to take money to get out of the parking garage.  The quoted figure was $11/day for staff.  I looked in my wallet and realized after counting it three times that I only had $77 and was planning to be there six days.  I had no choice but to go with the responsible choice.  Even though parking ended up not actually costing me $66.  That's okay, I can buy the DVD online, but there's something special about buying it at an event and talking to members of the ScrewAttack crew in person.  Maybe it's just because they're awesome.
Just directed James Rolfe and Mike Matei to Panels 2.
After that, I wandered around a bit, which took me back up to the area around Panels 1 and 2.  Not really finding anything of interest, I went back down the escalator, and who would I see at the foot of it but James Rolfe and Mike Matei, of Cinemassacre.  As I got closer, Mike noticed my staff badge and said "hey, you work here, right?  Where's Panels 2?".  I pointed them off in the correct direction, thanks and small conversation were had (they were on their way to the Pat the NES Punk panel), and we went our separate ways.  I try really hard to not be "that rabid fan", so I kept it short.
Realized I hadn't eaten since midday yesterday and fixed it.
Food at the Gaylord is a bit of a touchy subject.  All of the restaurants (yes, plural) inside the hotel are expensive.  To further complicate things, they don't like outside food, and didn't want MAGFest's chefs making any food for us during the event.  We got around that... by ignoring it and keeping it on the down-low.  Premade wrapped sandwiches and packets of mustard/mayo were delivered to various departments in conspicuous cardboard boxes, and the staff suite was basically salad, sandwiches, and soup.  In other words, stuff that was both easy to prepare and clean up after.  Hopefully we can get the Gaylord to actually let us do the whole staff food thing in the future...

Also, the reason why I hadn't eaten for over 24 hours is because MAGFest is so entertaining of an event that it makes you forget about basic necessities.
Everything drawn on this whiteboard that has a knee has an arrow sticking out of said knee. #OverusedJokes
Outside of the concert room was a whiteboard with dry-erase markers, available for people to draw on. This was, I guess, the replacement for the usual "blank slate" arcade machine from previous years that we got to draw on.

If you've been anywhere near social media since the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you've seen the plague that is "arrow to the knee" jokes.  For the uninitiated, some city guards have the random quote "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee.".  Well, apparently a fair number of Skyrimfags managed to tear themselves away from their computers (or consoles) long enough to come to MAGFest.  I heard plenty of people shouting "FUS RO DAH!" and there were lots of people wearing the iconic iron helm with horns on the sides.

Also, I didn't tweet this, but I noticed a My Little Pony on it, and drew an arrow in its face.  Fucking bronies.
I don't get how a mechanical bull is so insanely entertaining to these people...
It was my plan to stay inside the hamster habitrail for the entire weekend, but when you have friends at an event and they don't have such a plan, you end up walking to nearby restaurants for food.  Also, having friends that are generous enough to cover your part of the bill is an amazing thing.  Thanks, Jon!


We went to a bar/grill place and had some hamburgers.  They had a mechanical bull there and there was periodic loud cheering as people would ride it and get thrown off.  In retrospect, I think alcohol played into it.

By the way, I refer to the hotel as the "hamster habitrail" because it's where I sleep, clean myself, entertain myself, and eat during MAGFest.  Which is exactly what hamsters do in a hamster habitrail.


I got another solid 5 hours of sleep, bringing my total amount of sleep up to 10 hours.
In before live recording of ScrewAttack's Sidescrollers!
In case you've been living under a rock (or not following ScrewAttack), they have a feature every Wednesday called Sidescrollers, where they go through gaming news, current events, and other stuff in under an hour.  Because ScrewAttack is video gaming news/reviews/etc. by fans for fans, they decided to record an episode live at MAGFest, a gaming event by fans for fans.  It'll be up on the site on the 11th.  Also, they gave all of us who attended the panel a code for a free month of ScrewAttack Advantage.  Because they're awesome.
At the Ellen McLain panel. This is a triumph.
Among other voice roles, she's perhaps most famous for voicing GLaDOS.  You know, the main antagonist in Portal and Portal 2.  Very interesting panel overall.
Entire panel room singing Still Alive FTW
And how else could the panel end.
Just saw Waldo and Carmen Sandiego together.
So that's why we're constantly having to search for them...
Holy fuck, the line for the AVGN panel is long.
Whoever schedules the panels needs to put AVGN in Panels 1 or Panels 2 next year.  Panels 3 was much too small for the number of people that wanted to attend the panel.  Luckily, I got in at the beginning.  AVGN will be on hiatus while the movie is in production, there will be plush Shitpickles, and James doesn't care for My Little Pony.  There, panel summarized.
Mixed thoughts on Guitar Hero Arcade. It's neat, but sorely needs headphone jacks.
I can't live without Guitar Hero.  I played the game every opportunity I got.  It was split fairly evenly between GH: Arcade and Muchi Muchi Pork, actually.  You know, the danmaku I spent almost the entirety of MAGFest 9 playing?  It's apparently got an Xbox 360 release, and sources say it's region free which means it'll work on US 360s.  If I ever get a 360 and have enough money, I'll have to look into importing a copy...
lol people standing still on a non-moving escalator
On my way from the game room to the Earthbound Papas concert (Nobuo Uematsu's band), we happened upon this group.  It was like they were standing there expecting the escalator to move, except that it wasn't.  It was kind of funny, actually.  It played tricks with my brain whenever I looked over at it, because I would think that it had just stopped every time.
Nobuo Uematsu doing the Colossus roar lol
Yes.  This happened.  For what it's worth, his English was pretty good.

Penultimate staff shift begin!
This shift was immediately after the Earthbound Papas concert.  Meaning I missed their encore.  Oh well, no choice in the matter really, plus it's up on YouTube so I can go watch it and see what I missed.  Just search "magfest earthbound papas" on youtube and you too can see the concert.  Except you weren't there live.  Neener neener.

Anyway, the shift was supposed to be Floor Staff, which entailed walking around the room doing stuff, but it got immediately changed into inventory because they needed that more.  It worked well for me because doing an inventory shift instead meant I got to sit down and my feet were already in great pain by this point.  I described my walking to people as "limping with both feet" when they noticed how awkwardly I was walking.
Just noticed like 5 promo copies of GH Van Halen for PS2 sitting here... if they're free for the taking I'm totally snagging one.
GH Van Halen get.
There was a bunch of random stuff in the general disorganization of the table for the console room inventory, and I didn't notice the pile of GH Van Halen for a while.  Asked around, apparently they were dumped on us by someone from Activision or something.  After making sure they weren't there as prizes (having the PS2 version as a prize would be a strange thing, but I wanted to make absofuckinglutely sure), I snagged one.  Which means I now have every Guitar Hero game ever released on PS2.  Dubious accomplishment yay!
My console room Floor Staff shift has been changed to Inventory and now Checkin. Whee!
Checkin on Sunday morning... so boring. It's Checkout that gets all the traffic...
Apparently someone didn't show up for a shift or something because I got moved to checkin.  Checkin on Sunday is a rather slow-paced job because not a hell of a lot of people have stuff that isn't already in the system.  Stuff that's already in the system is retardedly easy to handle thanks to gerg's barcode inventory system, it just takes a couple scans with a barcode scanner (one on the badge and one on each item) to check something in or out.  So yes, it was boring, but I wasn't complaining.

After this shift, I realized that I had plenty of time to get lots of good sleep, and did exactly that.  I got 10 hours (!), doubling my total to 20 hours.  I would get no more sleep at MAGFest.
After all the confusion surrounding staff hotel rooms, it's nice to know that yes, my room goes through tonight.
Some doubt was cast on this, so I went to the front lobby of the hotel and got it confirmed.  Simple as that.  I'm quite introverted, so this may come as a surprise that I'd go talk to people of my own volition who are wearing much nicer clothing than I'm wearing and want my money, but to paraphrase a lot of psychology-related stuff, and most recently Ellen McLain (since she talked about it in her panel)...  introverts expend energy in large groups and recharge by spending time alone.  MAGFest is my big energy expenditure of the year, essentially.  And come to think of it, I didn't really leave the house much in the weeks leading up to it.  See?  Psychology knows its shit.  I guess this means that convention-goers are disproportionally introverted?  I dunno.  That's something that would be interesting to run a study on.  I already know that I'm a Meyers-Briggs INTJ.
My shifts keep changing... my techops teardown shift got turned into badge checking for the loading dock. 
Which basically just entails making sure that only dealers get to go out there.
Plus, on this shift I get to watch over the shoulder of someone playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
Oh and obviously hotel staff get to go through the door.
One thing's for sure, I wish I had my jacket. It's freezing outside, and every time the door gets opened, a cold breeze rushes through.
Basically, I was supposed to assist in teardown of panel rooms and so forth, but I wasn't really needed and there was a need for some security on the door to the loading dock in the back of the game room/dealer room/tabletop/LAN room, which were all basically in the same room.  This security was for the dealers' sake, so that no non-authorized people would be back there and thus nothing would get stolen.  Badge checking is easy enough, plus holding doors for people so they can push their loaded-to-the-brim handcarts through makes them really grateful.
Hotel-supplied jazz on the PA system in con ops FTW
With the event over and teardown winding down, we got classy.  Props to the hotel for having like twelve different PA music genre choices.
Sitting around with some other staff waiting for pizza to arrive.
A large order to Papa John's was placed, and pizza was had.
Hmm... I don't feel as tired as I thought I would... I might just drive home tonight.
The whole reason I had requested a hotel room through Sunday night was because of my very last shift, which was seven hours long.  I hadn't anticipated being able to get 10 hours of sleep prior to it, and had instead anticipated being very tired afterwards.  You could say I was thinking cautiously, but I prefer to say that I know my own tendencies and I tend to not get a lot of sleep at MAGFest.  I ended up only having been awake about eight hours at the end of the shift...

...and yes, I decided to drive home. Stopped to get out and stretch in Fredericksburg.
I was going to tweet after getting out of the parking garage, but there wasn't a good place to stop and do so.  So I drove to Fredericksburg, and stopped in a parking lot at the Central Park mall to get out, stretch, and post tweets.
I think I've learned the importance of stopping periodically on long trips with this MAGFest trip.
Conventionally I've used caffeinated drinks to try and stave off driving fatigue, but it doesn't really work.  I need to keep myself active.  In most cases this means I need someone to talk to, but this time I was the only person in the car.  So instead, just like on the way up, I had to stop and walk around for a bit.
Also, I ended up not getting raped in the wallet for parking after all.
The parking payment machine first tried to rape my wallet, but I said "bitch, please" and tried again. Ended up only paying $11.
The Gaylord has an automated machine in the parking garage for paying your parking bill, that you only need to use if you're not going to charge parking to your room.  You put in your card that you got when you arrived, it tells you how much you owe, and you can either put in cash or swipe a credit card.  Once you do so, you get 15 minutes to GTFO.  I wasn't about to stick around and find out what happened if you took longer than 15 minutes to GTFO, so I GTFO'd.
And I'm home!
You know I'm here because I'm typing this text that you're reading.
Actually, now that I read the receipt the parking payment machine gave me, the machine didn't actually try to rape my wallet. 
It just presented a rather confusing screen that made me think it had applied an $11 discount and was asking for $85 for parking. 
When in reality it was the other way around, it had applied an $85 discount and was asking for $11 for parking.
That screen was confusing.  The $85 discount was printed higher up than the final price of $11, and the labels for each dollar amount it was showing me were smaller than everything else, and I wasn't quite sure what was what.  Regardless, only having to pay $11 to park at possibly the ritziest hotel ever outside of Las Vegas is definitely not bad.
Gaylord National, thou art expensive.
Truth.  My parking bill was going to be $96 before the discount...  The room rate for attendees was $150 (with internet included!), but the hotel seemed like they would readily charge a lot more than that for a room.

Hotel ramblings

The Gaylord National is a rather ginormous and exorbitantly expensive hotel right on the National Harbor just over the VA/MD border.  It's a very nice place for a variety of reasons, a few of which I'll mention here.
  1. Being a large hotel, it's natural to think that one might get lost, but they've got these touchscreen maps to help with that.  You can see a view of each floor, plus in the event list you could find a specific MAGFest room, named with its specific MAGFest name (i.e. Video room, Panels 1, etc.), and touch a "map it" button and the thing would tell you how to get to that room from the touchscreen you're currently standing in front of.  I was referring lost attendees to it the entire weekend.
  2. Since it's so expensive, they have a lot of money to throw around.  This means that they can afford direct fiber-optic connections to all the major cell phone providers and can then blanket the hotel with RF repeaters to have perfect cell phone reception throughout the entire hotel.
  3. They have tons of parking.  TONS.  It may be exorbitantly expensive to park there, but... you will NEVER, EVER need to worry about not finding a parking space.
Now, because I have mixed feelings about the hotel, here's the other side.
  1. As mentioned before: it's exorbitantly expensive.  Even the restaurants in the atrium area.  I know hotel restaurants are generally more expensive than they really should be, but these are more expensive than THAT.  As in, the "special MAGFest deal" for the sports bar/grill was $12 for either half a sandwich/cup of soup/beverage, or salad/cup of soup/beverage.  Anywhere else, either of those combinations will be $8 tops, before any special deal.
  2. The bathroom light.  It was two round fixtures with a long fluorescent bulb mounted above them.  It took at least a minute for it to reach full brightness.  I've gotta piss NOW, not a minute from now...
  3. The shower.  Now, hotel showers pretty much universally suck, but these just... sucked more.  I can't explain this properly with text, so instead you get a rather crudely drawn MSPaint image.

    Also, the temperature zones shown above are only made more confusing by the extremely long amount of time it takes the shower to actually change temperature when you adjust it.

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