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So Redneckotaku, How was MAGFest

MAGFest was a different one than the past two I had attended because I worked
the festival. It limited my time doing things, but it is okay because I
had a blast. MAGFest has grown massively and this will make the report I
give be a little bit more festival organizing focused.


How  much did MAGFest grow? Two years ago, it was capped at 3,000 people.
Last year, it was at over 6,000 people. This year, it was at over 9,000
people (Insert Dragon Ball Z meme here). It is on an unprecedented
growth spurt and at a greater pace than the 1999-2004 pace of Otakon.
That six year stretch led it from 4,000 people to 21,000 people. I can
see that happening by 2015 for MAGFest.  This leads into analysis part
of this.


Personal Highs and Lows
-The Driest place on earth is the Gaylord National and it was only dogged
determination that didn’t have me fainting at Union Station yesterday
evening. I think I may have to find an personal IV unit for Katsucon or
start drinking a mix of Powerade Zero and Water. I think I also pushed
myself way with the volunteering hours in too short of a weekend.


-Got fourth place in a Poker tournament. I am really impressed because I am not someone who plays Texas Hold ‘Em often at all.

-Didn’t get to hang with some awesome friends like Tyler Waldman or Viga, who I
must make amends on at Katsucon. How does a Thursday night dinner
together sound?


-Got to play a bunch of other games I don’t get to play at home due to no
arcades near me. Played games like After Burner, X-Men as Dazzler (My
favorite character in that game) and a bunch of pinball. I really love
pinball because it makes me remember Ocean City, MD and Trimpner’s
Arcade (still there I hear, but it’s changed).


What went well for the event
-It is growing into the space well. It felt naturally lively without it
being overcrowded. The lines didn’t snake into one another or things
like that. The growth is a game changer for them. Once you get to 8-10
thousand, you are able to reach out for new opportunities such as what
MAGFest on the road is doing in Austin next month.


-The most impressive thing about the Festival runners is that they think on
their feet. I will take an example from Saturday of the festival. They
were being overwhelmed by one day folks and led to a massive line. They
simply separated cash from Credit and were able to handle more folks
that way. This cut the lines down within 45 minutes of this being
implemented.


-Much better ran Tabletop tournaments. One of the worst experiences I had was
on Friday night during the Poker Tournament. They had over 200 people
play in that one tournament. I basically gave up at about midnight by
going all in instead of playing my game. They basically gave four
opportunities to play the game along multiple other tournaments.


-Better sound for the concerts. I was only in the room for 20 minutes of
Protomen (awesome, but my body was telling me go the bleep to bed), but
could hear a much better sound quality being in the Potomac Ballroom and
video setup than in Maryland Ballroom. If Maryland is used again, I
would go for the larger tower setup that was in Potomac this year.


-The low amount of hours worked to get fed. You have to work twelve
hours to get fed, but only one shift to get access. Food was under $5.00
in the hotel staff cafe in the place. It is motivation to show up
earlier in the weekend than later.


Whatdidn’t go as well (This will involve how things were run just as a
warning. It also comes from a long time Convention Runner. Nick The
Newbie don’t scream at me.)


-A stronger usage of Security-First of all, I wouldn’t use Security. It
doesn’t fit with the spirit of a Festival and invites legal issues to my
understanding of Maryland Law such things as Security have to be
specifically trained and be bonded.  I would call it Public Safety or
Attendee Management services. Secondly, I would use them in more places
that need it. I don’t think LAN Volunteer should be inspecting
Backpacks. Only a LAN or Public Safety Staffer (Blue Badges) should be
inspecting Backpacks. It didn’t felt right for me as a First year
volunteer to be inspecting people’s items.


-Better Definitons for First year staffers. I don’t think First year Staffers
should be used in places such as LAN where there is such trust needed or
in Money handling positions. I’ve seen them used in both areas during
the Festival this year. I think there should be clear definitions for
Returning staffers and First year staffers (aka Volunteers). I think it
should be clearer on things like Food. If I knew when I get food
privledges,  I may have done an earlier shift on Friday than I did. Next
year, I will probably get there Wednesday or Thursday of the Festival.


-I wish Non-musical Guests had more first time guests. There seemed to be
almost no new voice actors this year (just the same three gentlemen as
last year). I may have missed someone on the guests list who was a voice
actress. It amazes me that the likes of Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale
haven’t been to the Festival yet. They would draw amazingly well for
them, since they haven’t done a lot of events. I think they could also
adapt well to the environment there.


-There is a need for some new departments. I think several key people Guests,
Hotel Liaison and Treasury needs some help. I know their DH’s, so I see
this . When you grow to the Size of MAGFest is now, there needs to be
support for Guests, Treasury and Hotel Liaison. I have a proposal on
this for Guests. I think there should be a Guest Services Department.
These handle the on marketplace and  Panel needs of all guests including
musical guests. I won’t go into too much specifics here because it is
getting long.


-The Registration system works well when it works. The Pre-Registration
system works well when it works. The problem is that the Internet goes
down alot and UBersystem can’t handle At Door Registrations well. These
are my suggestions on Pre-Registation and Registration:


-Figure out what hours are your busiest and have nearly 15 to 20 people working
those shifts. My Guesses are Wednesday between 5 PM and Midnight
(Pre-registration only), Thursday 10 AM-10 PM, Friday 10 AM-10 PM and
Saturday 10 AM-4 PM. It may mean you use Hall A to handle the booths or
table space that takes. Put more computers for Data Entry on At Door,
also.


-Have  all At Door Stations take cash and Credit. The Festival at it’s peak
needs 10-15 Card Readers to process people. Most people have gone Credit
only on things like Festival memberships. There needs to be more
readers and signing devices for it.


-The Registration system needs to be separated from the rest of Convention
operations Server wise. MAGFest Pre-Registration works fine when it up
and At Door has been mentioned. When Ubersystem goes down, so does
Registration. This happened for three hours on Thursday.


-If the Festival can afford it, It should look at Hardwiring the computers
to the hotel’s Internet and process cards through the web directly. Many
other events bite the bullet and pay for Hard Wired internet from the
venue. It means that it takes a massive catastrophe to have you lose
Registration internet and a quicker fixing response hopefully.


-If you can offer, At door Registration through the net. Anime USA offers
At Door Registration at any time during the convention. You register
online, have your confirmation with you and you go to Pre-Registration
line to pick up your badge. This has reduced At Door wait times in half.
People sometimes do it on the smart phones while waiting in line.


-On the Harassment front, I think that if MAGFest enforced the currently standing policies then this would work itself out. Something did surprise me was seeing things such as SausageFest being said by official MAGFest Twitter manager. I wouldn't say those things. I am also afraid I would say something equally as stupid, so I avoid Marketing like the plague.

-Communication needs to be improved. MAGFest had some moments where I think it may be
losing the Festival aspect. One point was MPoints. Nobody communicated
with the other fan events who exhibited or The bands on this. I know
Anime USA would’ve accepted them all weekend, if we had known about them
before Saturday. The Protomen refused my MPoints on Sunday due to not
knowing. This reduces the value of them.


I think I’ve said alot on both sides of things and I enjoyed the Festival
alot despite the issues. Places like MAGFest remind me that any fannish
event is what you make of it. The Festival is at a point where it is
achieving greatness. What it needs most is a little bit more
Pre-Festival planning for ultimate success.  I’m ready for the next
mission just needing to know when.

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