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MAGFest: Where Music and Gaming Collide

MAGFest: Where Music and Gaming Collide
Bitforce performs at MAGFest. (Photo by Kyle Gaddo)

If you’re looking to try new arts and entertainment experiences around the city, you may want to consider a music and gaming festival. Recently, the 2024 MAGFest was held in the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor, Maryland. The Washington Post wrote about the weekend as part of the best things to do in and around DC, describing the event as “nonstop action” featuring gaming showcases, discussion panels, stage performances and live jam sessions, LARP, and other hands-on activities.

For retro and modern game enthusiasts, the event was a long weekend packed with insightful looks at gaming and video game music production and educational content offered by panels on LGBTQ inclusivity in gaming or how to record professional-sounding podcasts.

Originally called the Mid-Atlantic Gaming Festival, the nonprofit organization MAGFest later rebranded to simply mean Music and Gaming Festival. The inaugural event was held back in 2002 as a small event in Roanoke, Virginia, as a means for people to “come together, play games, and rock out to some great video game cover bands.” Ever since, MAGFest has been held annually except in 2021. Since moving to Maryland in 2012, a smaller circuit called MAGLabs was introduced to hold events at the former primary venue in Virginia.

For those seeking new music-related experiences, watching out for future MAGFests may be an interesting and eye-opening time. Even if you aren’t into video games, you can get your hands on tons of music, live entertainment, and other activities. Below, we’ll look at some of the MAGFest highlights from this year:

LAN tournaments

Even if gaming isn’t your forte, watching a collective of video game fans and competitive amateurs take part in LAN tournaments — or LAN parties — can be fun. MAGFest hosts a range of LAN tournaments yearly, including games like League of Legends and Valorant. For many MAGFest goers, the event is a great opportunity to meet and compete in some friendly competition.

While certainly not an all-out professional esports league, MAGFest’s LAN parties are a great tribute to esports culture and can be a vital companion for those participating in esports professionally. According to these esports betting tips, watching and learning other players play a game — whether a MOBA or a tactical shooter — can be entertaining and educational. In fact, it is a recommended strategy when seeking to understand the competitions you’re wagering on, and the LAN tournaments can help you with that. In a time when most modern games offer only online multiplayer lobbies, LAN parties are also a nostalgic callback to the physically social elements of old-school gaming and community but still offer vital insight into modern-day esports.


You’ll want to check out another fun and exciting element of MAGFest: the variety of cosplays of video game characters and entities. Some, you may recognize, while others may be a bit obscure. All the same, whether hyper-realistic or super-stylized, a good cosplay can blow your mind and end up as a few memorial snaps and videos on your smartphone.

Last MAGFest, a 16-bit cosplay of the Super Metroid character, Mother Brain, made its rounds on social media. The cosplay stood out as it captures the 2D-pixel art aesthetic of the game, complete with an LED blinking eye and a light-up brain with really detailed movement, thanks to some crazy controls and engineering. Of course, cosplaying can be incredibly niche and is a time- and resource-consuming pastime. Still, it’s always fun to see what the real masters and nerds can come up with.


Finally, if you’re an avid follower of this blog, you’re probably looking for music — and how it plays out at an event like MAGFest. As mentioned, MAGFest hosts live jam sessions and standard stage performances around video game cover bands and other video game music productions.

The JamSpace, for example, is a community-curated stage where sub-communities can put together their own lineup of performances and jam with each other. One of the standouts from this year’s MAGFest is “kawaii-hop” artist TheGataNegrra, whose proud geek, catgirl, and otaku blend of persona culminates in a lively performance at the MAGFest JamSpace. Gata’s performances also heavily featured cosplay and her lively kawaii aesthetic.

While the 2024 MAGFest successfully concluded, it’s worth keeping an eye out for future MAGFests and other MAG circuits, including MAGWest, MAGStock, and Bit Gen Gamer Fest, all of which are nonprofit events aiming to make the world a better place through video games.

If you’d like to look at other things to do around Maryland to coincide with future MAGFest dates, you can also check out other posts from our blog. Last time, we highlighted Sarah Jarosz’s sold-out concert at the Historic Synagogue at Sixth & I and her stop at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts on Feb. 5.


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