// MAGFest • February 07, 2014
Introduction to MAGFest
The first ever interaction with MAGFest was during Rockage 3.0, in February of 2014, at San Jose State University. As part of the campus' Game Development Club I volunteered some of my time to watch over our pride and joy student-built Arcade Cabinets. While here I had what I'll always consider to be a fateful encounter.
I met Dominic Cerquetti, former game developer, and at-the-time CEO of MAGFest Inc. I didn't know any of that of course. I only knew two things, and I needed to know one more. He had a Pebble on his wrist, and those had just recently gotten a store release. Did he get his Pebble on Kickstarter like myself, or at a store? I really hoped he'd obsessed over it on Kickstarter like I had, because I had yet to meet anyone with a Pebble like that yet, but he hadn't. Bought it at the store like everybody else. From here I learned a bit about his background as a game developer, and as a Freshman looking for his way in the world, I looked at him like the pinnacle of what I could ever be. I didn't see Dom again throughout my weekend at the event.
On Sunday night another fateful encounter occurred. The fire alarm in my building went off, and our waiting location was next door to the event center where Rockage was held. Instead of waiting in the cold, I decided to see if the event was still happening, but it probably wasn't. Inside the building I find a mass of chairs, some stacked, some not, and one Dominic Cerquetti doing all the work himself. The answer was clear to me, stack chairs to disguise my desire to get some conversation with this man. After that conversation I didn't see Dom for another year.
Meeting the MAGFest Family
One year after Rockage 3.0 came Rockage 4.0, once more at San Jose State University, but this year the event came with a "PRESENTED BY MAGFEST" logo. Upon arriving at the event to volunteer I discovered this, and raced to find Dom. I found him at registration where he was working on launching the registration server. Leaving him to work on that I went to move CRTs with Paul Good, President of MAGFest.
Upon returning from that task I returned to Dom where he informed me that the server was a bit busted, and registration will need to be run manually until he can fix it. Unfortunately, opening time was upon us. Lisa Hartsock, or Chaney, and Antigonus Jarrett, or Blue, were the people in charge of registration, and they immediately began on-boarding me to run registration with them.
This responsibility came with its stressful moments. I encountered a patron who didn't have a ticket, and didn't want a ticket, but wanted to come in for free. I did my best to let them know that I had no power, and was simply checking in people as I was instructed. Chaney stepped in here and solved that case for me. Soon though, Chaney and Blue had to leave registration as the line was manageable, and there were issues to be dealt with elsewhere. I spent my entire first day of the event running registration, and it filled me with Joy.
By the end of the weekend with these wonderful people I had found a group of weirdos I wanted to spend my time around. I felt indebted to these people, they were like heroes offering me a chance to shine. I told them as much, but their response was to tell me that I was the hero to them. Then they said words that could never be unsaid, "Get Thee to MAGFest!". I said I wanted to, but was restrained by the limitations of not being able afford the hotel, badge, and flight. They offered to take care of the hotel and badge, if I covered the flight. That was a deal. It was February now, and the next MAGFest was planned to be the coming February. One year, that's what I had to wait.
The First Step to West
Waiting around isn't my style. I've never been able to sit still, especially writing this. In the months following Rockage 4.0 I became much more involved in the local gaming community. I worked a variety of shows with the SJSU Game Development Club as our Arcade Cabinet Engineer. I helped establish the SJSU Pokemon Club with some friends. They did most of the work, I just built the website. Then I got involved with some others in the community as part of a group called ggSJ, or good game San Jose.
The goal was to be the hub for anyone looking to do gaming events in the area. We'd pair them with the right local community to try and help everyone get work. To establish ourselves we ran a few game rooms, composed of local groups such as the South Bay Button Mashers, SJSU Game Development Club, SJSU Tabletop Club, SJSU Library, and more. We provided the game room for the first Silicon Valley Comic Con, a prideful achievement. We were in the works on agreeing to run the game room for GaymerX 3, but the deal fell apart at the last moment for reasons beyond our control. Lost business was unfortunate, especially because I hadn't made any money for my work so far, but one door closed is another door open.
Dom reached out and informed me that GaymerX 3 was looking for MAGFest's help with running its Arcade and Game Room, and Dom wanted to know if I wanted to be the point-person for getting the job done. I couldn't say no. I even skipped a final to be there. Note: I could do that because I had been doing extraordinarily well in the course.
During GaymerX 3 I spent more time with the MAGFest Family and learned that in MAGFest if you want something to get done, you need to say you're going to do it repeatedly and then actually do it. It was over donuts one morning that I made my decision. I turned to Dom, Chaney, and Steph Prader, and told them I was going to be the guy who runs MAGWest, and I can't be talked out of it.
Throughout my time at MAGFest I have been repeatedly informed that my life decisions are bad life decisions if I want to have a calm normal life. Good.
That weekend was 2 years and 8 months before the first ever MAGWest 1.
I am beyond honored to have been the co-chair of the wonderful amazing people who came together and made MAGWest 1 the spectacular weekend that it was. The 100+ volunteers that put together this event are the next generation of MAGFesters. The 1214 unique attendees of MAGWest 1 came to our show, had a blast, and hopefully cannot wait for MAGWest 2 to come soon enough.
MAGFest is really special. Truly, dearly, incredibly special. The places and actions where people say "this is how we do it right", MAGFest tends to say "this is how we do it left".
We don't advertise and primarily grow by word of mouth. We don't accept sponsorship deals, we're not an industry expo, and we take extreme lengths to preserve the grassroots vibe that creates the magic MAGFest is so famous for among our insane, diehard fans. We strive to break down the distinction between attendees and staff- People don't just come to MAGFest to consume, they come to create their own content in areas like our indie developer showcases, makerspaces, or cramming every last inch of available hallway spaces with musical performances. At MAGFest, videogame music tracks from NES and SNES are like old-school jazz standards, riffed on and played by everyone everywhere.