Sunday, February 21, 2016

MAGFest 14

I refuse to call it "MAGFest 2016".  The reason for changing the numbering was, and I quote, "sequential numbering was too confusing".  Well, congratulations.  You've only changed from one sequential numbering system to another.  Wow, you accomplished so much.  I will refer to it as "MAGFest 14" because IT'S THE FOURTEENTH MAGFEST.  I will refer to it as "MAGFest 2016" after we have 2002 more MAGFests and actually get to that number.

...Now that I've gotten that off my shoulders, MAGFest!

My staffing schedule this year was much like previous years: overnight console room desk staff.  Except this year, instead of the position being called "desk staff", it's "inventory specialist".  Ooh, now I'm a specialist!  The gist of it is that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, beginning at midnight, I worked the desk in the Console room, which I've gotten great enjoyment out of in past years due to it being an awesome department in general.

As usual, I left on Wednesday evening.  I may decide not to do this in future years.  There's less and less incentive for me to get there on the butt-crack of Thursday morning.  I'd like to get there early enough that I can get to registration and get my staff badge without issue, but I could accomplish that and leave several hours later if I so desire.  The main issue is that parking is incredibly expensive in National Harbor, MD, and MAGFest staffers haven't gotten a discount basically since MAGFest 10 when due to a fluke or a glitch in the system or whatever it was $11 for the entire weekend.

I originally planned to do a day-by-day summary, but it wouldn't really say the things I want to say, so here's a series of categorized summaries and some closing thoughts.

On Randomly Selected Roommates

Every year, I take advantage of MAGFest's 30-weighted-shift-hour staffing perk: a free hotel room.  This has saved me a lot of money over the years, and I'm quite a fan of that.  However, beginning with this year, rooming with randoms is kind of beginning to suck.  Here's how it went down, names not mentioned because I either forget them, or never learned them in the first place.  (to be fair, we do get sent an email with names and contact details of everyone who's going to be in the room, but I always forget that information)
  1. I checked into the hotel on Thursday, and as usual I was the first one in the room.  Put my stuff down between the closest bed to the door and the wall, as if to claim that area and hopefully sleep in that bed.
  2. Later on, $NON_OBJECTIONABLE_ROOMMATE arrives and drops off his stuff.  I happened to be in the room at the time.  We exchanged pleasantries, which for whatever reason didsn't include introductions.  Whatever.
  3. Later that evening, $GUYS_WHO_RAN_ROCKSMITH showed up while I'm out and about.
  4. I got back from my staff shift, after 4 AM.  All of the Rocksmith equipment is neatly packed into one corner of the room (so it was as out of the way as it could possibly be, indicating some small level of human compassion).  One of them placed his stuff on top of my stuff.  Both of them were fast asleep in the bed I was hoping to sleep in. *sad trombone*
  5. My stuff had been covered up by one of theirs to the point that I had to carefully and quietly extract my toiletries bag so I could get ready for bed.  I decided to move the rest later after they were gone.  Perhaps I'm too nice.
  6. I inspected the sink and bathroom area to see that it's now a total disaster area and that someone doesn't know how to flush a damn toilet, which would be a recurring theme.
  7. I proceeded to spend the rest of the event picking up after them in various cases.
On Cell Phone Chargers

Apparently, it's now standard practice to charge your phone with someone else's charger instead of getting out your own, if someone else's charger is available and not currently in use.  I wouldn't have a problem with doing this, except that one of the $GUYS_WHO_RAN_ROCKSMITH plugged his phone into my charger and then proceeded to go to sleep.  I came back from my shift while he was asleep and was then unable to charge my phone while I was asleep.  Yeah, I'm too nice, I should've just unplugged his phone.  It worked out in the end, though, because of the difference in our sleep schedules.  They got up and left, which unavoidably woke me up in the process since they had to move all the Rocksmith equipment, so I reached over and plugged in my phone really quick.  My phone charger spent the rest of the event in my backpack, except when I was using it.

On Methodology Of Staying In A Hotel Room

So, when I stay in a hotel room, I keep all my shit together.  All of my stuff stays in my bags unless I'm using it.  Once I'm done using it, it goes right back in the bag.  I don't leave shit everywhere around the room, and I always put any trash I generate in the trash can.  I consider this to be the most efficient and courteous-to-hotel-staff method of doing things.  Keeping everything in my bags means packing up to leave the hotel takes about five minutes tops, and putting the trash in the proper place as soon as possible makes it even more clear that I'm not leaving anything behind by accident.

Apparently, though, other people have other ideas.  My roommates, for instance, had their shit everywhere.  $NON_OBJECTIONABLE_ROOMMATE kept his stuff mostly together and wasn't really an issue.  The $GUYS_WHO_RAN_ROCKSMITH, however... as I said above, the sink became a disaster area.  They just left all their toiletries strewn about, taking up a maximum of space and forcing me to rearrange their shit just so I could have room to put my shit down while I used it.  It was exactly two people's worth of stuff, and it didn't arrive until they arrived, so I know it wasn't the doing of $NON_OBJECTIONABLE_ROOMMATE.  Also, their stuff consisted of two pre-made, store-bought "men's travel kits".  One of them had a tiny can of Barbasol and a generic blue two-blade shaver.  I didn't even know they still made generic blue two-blade shavers.  All the rest of their stuff was "travel size", i.e. tiny.  For contrast, my toiletries bag contains stuff I grab out of my regular bathroom stuff and just chuck in there.

Also, during the first encounter with housekeeping, they got two fresh towels and didn't exchange any of the used ones.  I, however, was the only one there for the second encounter with housekeeping, during which I exchanged ALL the used towels and got five fresh ones, even though there were only four of us.  You can thank me later.

On Hotel Shower Design

Why is it that hotel showers never have exhaust fans?  Every single time I showered, I was sweaty going in (event with lots of people in the same space = all that body heat combines = con funk), and sweaty coming out.  The only thing that had happened was that I had cleaned myself in the meantime.

On Highway Design

So, whatever asshole decided it was a great idea to have a 495 and a 95+495, that are mutually exclusive with different sets of exits, and even crossing the Potomac on different bridges, needs to die.  I lost two hours of my life and a quarter tank of gas due to having gotten on the wrong 495.

On Foot Pain

It fucking sucks.  I don't know what I can do, to be honest.  I got a brand new pair of supportive shoes specifically to wear to events like MAGFest, and nowhere else, and my feet are still completely in pain at the end of each day.

On The Best Department Of MAGFest

Shoutouts to Consoles for having the best staff and the best organizational layout.  Everyone from the department heads, managers, and mini-managers, to the rest of us floor staff, inventory specialists, and runners, are a great bunch of people.  We're all serious about getting our jobs done, but we don't let that get in the way of having fun.  Every position's duties are helpfully laid out on easily-accessible sheets of paper for the duration of the event, and as long as you're doing the things you're supposed to be doing, you have total autonomy.  It's macromanaged rather than micromanaged, and it's completely refreshing (not to mention ideal) for an introvert such as myself.  To be allowed to make judgment calls on minor things while still elevating more major things to the appropriate people is awesome.  To be allowed to do my job without someone coming around every 5 minutes asking for a status check, is also awesome.  If this was eBay-style feedback, I'd probably say something along the lines of AAAAA++++++++++ WOULD STAFF AGAIN.

I've staffed a few other areas of MAGFest, but the current Consoles department is the one I'll gladly work overnight double-shifts for time and time again.

On The Staff Suite

I've been hard on them in the past, and even again this year, having tweeted "Dinner is over an hour late. Staff Suite business as usual(tm).", but they don't really deserve it.  Staff Suite provides those of us staffers who work enough weighted shift hours with food for the duration of the event.  They keep us alive and able to do our jobs.  Every year, Staff Suite has gotten more and more streamlined and improved in its operation.  The system before Staff Suite became a thing was to fill Fest Ops with packages of cup ramen, snack-size bags of chips, Pop Tarts, and other things, and just let people try to get a decent meal from that.  A lot of people went out for food.  I was a gopher at MAGFest 5 and at one point ended up with the task of taking people's orders and money, and driving around the area grabbing food to deliver to them.  The point I'm trying to make is, the current system is way better than the way we used to do it.  If they need an extra hour to make sure we get fed, go right ahead.  Just don't do it too often, okay?  Also, can we get some spicy brown mustard?

On Music And Gaming

That's the entire purpose of MAGFest, after all.  It's right in the name.  Music And Gaming Festival.  I played some games and I listened to some music.  But wait, that description isn't satisfactory in the slightest, now is it?  Well...  I played some Muchi Muchi Pork, I cheesed a new high score on the MAGFest-hacked Arkanoid Machine and entered "XUL" as my initials because it went past T and doesn't have a backspace, I discovered that I suck at Mario Kart Wii, and then there was this arcade game called Killer Queen.  No, it doesn't involve the Queen song with the same name.  It's actually a really neat idea, and it's really well executed.

Killer Queen is two connected machines that support up to five players each, and the group on one machine are playing against the group on the other machine in an attempt to defeat the other group and win.  There's three ways to win: Military, where your group takes down the other group's queen three times; Economy, where your group brings back enough of these little purple blob things to your base, one at a time, and unable to defend yourself while you do it; and Snail, which involves getting a snail that spawns in the middle of the stage to your team's side of the stage, again, completely vulnerable while you do it, and also moving really slowly because it's a snail.  It makes for some hectic and incredibly fun action.  It's sorta like Joust, except all the characters on screen are controlled by players, and with other goals than "kill the enemies".  Games are fast, strategic, and can swing either way at a moment's notice.

Also, the console room had a "MAGFest Plays Pokemon" thing going on.  There was a projector displaying Pokemon Red on one of the walls, and eight buttons were randomly located throughout the room, each connected to a specific input for the Gameboy.  Predictably, there ended up being a Pokemon nicknamed "Penis", and while I don't really know my Pokemon, it knew Poison Sting.  It pretty much ground to a halt because the wall was also lit by ceiling lights and gameplay eventually progressed to a dark area, which resulted in nobody being able to see what the fuck was going on.

Music-wise, I went to the Psychostick concert, which was every bit as awesome as I'd hoped it would be, except maybe for the parts that were more awesome.  Psychostick is very much a crowd participation band, and it's an incredibly fun and awesome experience.  If you ever have the opportunity to see them live, I totally recommend it.

...On Music And Gaming

Every year I have the same set of emotions in roughly the same order regarding MAGFest.  For most of the year I'm eagerly awaiting the next MAGFest.  As it approaches, I gladly retweet announcements, spread event dates, etc.  I eventually sign up for shifts once they're available.  Then, about a week or so before MAGFest, I start to feel uneasy about the whole thing.  It's hard to describe because I'm not currently in that state, but I do know that the act of leaving for and driving to MAGFest has never felt right to me, for whatever reason.  It feels like I'm doing it on impulse.  "I could do all this other stuff, or I could go to MAGFest!" kind of sums it up.  Even if "all this other stuff" is actually just everything I do in a normal sequence of four days, which isn't much because I'm unemployed.  Then I get to MAGFest and the hype is back.  The hype stays until the end of the event, when I pack my stuff and leave.  Driving home has a much different feeling than driving to MAGFest, as I spend the drive home reflecting on everything I experienced.  Then I spend about the next month or so recovering, because I totally reverse and go full extravert for the duration of the event, and it eventually catches up to me.

This year, the uneasiness came with something I'd never experienced before: the thought that either this might be my last MAGFest, or that I might switch to going to MAGClassic instead.  I can't say for certain what's going to happen because I'm in "of course I'd go to another MAGFest and you'd be silly to think otherwise" mode, but I've noticed that I spend far less of my time at MAGFest actually roaming the festival, playing games and attending panels and concerts.  It kind of feels like going to MAGFest has become more of a habit and less of a desire.  Maybe I'm entitled to think that way after having gone to eleven of them and having staffed ten of them.  I dunno.

On The Summarization of Summaries (Sup Dawg)

MAGFest 14 was great and I'll probably go to MAGFest 15, if for no other reason than to staff the overnight console room shifts.  Hopefully by then I'll have a job, and therefore a budget for more than just parking and gas.  Might even leave the hamster habitrail, you never know...

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