So MAGFest is my “home gaming con” in the DC area and I’ve joined their MAGES (Music and Gaming Educational Symposium) initiative, which is the extra-geeky track of the con where we take a break from listening to music and playing video games to talking about music and video games and academic nerd debates.
This year I’m participating in several panels:
Friday, February 19, 2016 –
- Throwback Art Gaming (10:00 am, MAGES 2) – Many of the tropes we associate with the “new” or “avant-garde” indie scene in games are actually very old, and have been part of the experimentation in games since the beginning. Literary text adventures like A Mind Forever Voyaging or Trinity, games with strong political messages like Balance of Power, games playing with interactive storytelling in virtual spaces like Portal (not the Valve one, the one from 1986).
It’s on the one hand inspiring that art has never been “outside” of gaming but has always been within the core of the culture. It’s also sad that these efforts are periodically forgotten under the weight of corporate marketing and we keep reinventing the wheel, having the fight over what “real” games are over and over again. Let’s remember the past so we can build for the future.
- Empathy and Games (1:00 pm, MAGES 2) – The most common kind of fantasy games provide is the power fantasy, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But games are also an amazing tool for building empathy. There’s been many recent games that focus on *disempowerment* fantasy. It can be as minor as a single scene in a Call of Duty game as a civilian or a whole game built around that concept like This War of Mine.
Let’s talk about games that go beyond a simple idea of “fun” to making you experience grief, loss, pain, frustration — as deeply or more deeply than any other form of art.
- How to be a Good Ally (6:30 pm, Forum) – If you want to see more people in the industry and characters in games who aren’t like you, this is panel is for you. We will discuss things that we can all do to help move the ball down field on this important topic.
Saturday, February 20, 2016 –
- Advertising in Games (10:00 am, Forum) – We can explore advertisements appearing in games: trends, implications, prevalence, and integration with game environments.
- Politics in Games 2: The Quickening (2:30 pm, MAGES 2) – While the topic may still be taboo in polite conversations or fan driven discussions, the increasing gamesmanship of politics in the United States has pretty much ordered me to see what we as video game fans can do the examine this issue in the context of our medium, especially with the ongoing marginalization of gamers in the media.
I’m thinking the player as the major in Simcity (or countless other leadership roles in Sim games), the political philosophies espoused by Bioshock and Resident Evil, and perhaps even the often altruistic attitudes displayed by the RPG heroes that work together to save entire worlds, be it from tangible evil as a metaphor or even direct action against corporate malfeasance that may echo uncomfortably home for many a person (The Empire in FFII and FFVI, Shinra in Final Fantasy VII, Societal Monopolies in Vagrant Story, and perhaps even the effects of the Yevonite religion in Final Fantasy X )
- Bar Stories: The Drinking Panel (11:00 pm, Forum) – 21 and over only (at least for panelists). Have you ever wondered what industry folks talk about while drinking at a bar? Here’s your chance to be a fly on the wall and hear the stories.
This late night panel features an array of people in the gaming industry telling “Bar Stories” of their time in the trenches. Expect topics like “most embarrassing moment, worst business deal, best job interview trick, etc…” Alcohol will be served to the panel. Probably a lot.
Feel free to come stop by any of these panels to contribute, ask questions or just say hi! Check out the full MAGFest 2016 schedule here.