We’ve been covering MAGWest and MAGFest events for years now. MAGWest is a fun festival around the game industry with a heavy emphasis on music. The next event in the series is coming up on July 14-16, 2023 in San Jose, CA USA, so we had to speak to the team on why MAGWest is a great place to jam to the music of the hour while basking in the fun of the videogame industry. Here is what they had to say!
Events for Gamers: What does “MAGWest” mean and who is the event for?
MAGWest: The MAG in MAGWest is short for “Music and Gaming”. It’s an event that celebrates all things videogames with a heavy emphasis on music. When we say music, we mean you can find it on the main stage, the Jamspace, the pool parties, to impromptu performances in the hallway, to hotel rooms. Attendees often bring their instruments prepared to jam at almost any time. It’s hard to explain exactly, but it’s somewhere between a traditional nerdy convention and a music festival, with a lot of participation. If you like listening to or playing music, playing videogames, or even attending an event where something a bit unpredictable can happen, this is the place for you.
How did MAGWest get started and how has it gotten to where it is now?
MAGWest is a spin-off of MAGFest, which began in 2002 in the East Coast. As MAGFest grew they gradually branched out to other events. MAGWest officially started in 2017 as the West Coast equivalent of MAGFest, however as the years have gone on West has developed its own unique identity. As one example, the Pool Party performances started off as a “what if” idea from a staffer, and has become a centerpoint of the event. That’s something you definitely won’t see at MAGFest in DC in January.
What musical guests will be at this year’s show?
We’ve got over a dozen great acts just on the main stage this year including:
- The Living Tombstone; the massive internet sensations
- SSJ; a Dragon Ball Z band created by the composer of the American DBZ show
- Ross Tregenza and Graeme Norgate; two game composers with some impressive credits performing together as a new band
We also have amazing video game music bands such as Super Soul Bros and Extra Lives, rappers and beatmakers like Prowess the Testament and Keifergr33n, the game music DJ GWIZ, and chiptune band Crashfaster, and many others.
Since charity is one of your focuses as a non-profit, how can folks participate? We heard something about a 24-hour charity speedrunning stream…
Unfortunately our charity stream isn’t happening as it usually does, but it should hopefully return in 2024. For anyone interested in participating, like most convention-style events, we encourage people to volunteer. One of the great things about MAGWest is that often if you have an idea and the staff to do it, it can become a reality very quickly which is really the spirit of MAG in a nutshell.
Do you believe speedrunning or marathon races have helped to keep interest in older games going?
Absolutely, MAGFest and MAGWest’s roots are definitely in retrogaming but as the landscape of gaming has changed, people expect different things from them. With Twitch streamers and regular MAGWest guests like Ryukahr and DwangoAC (aka TASBot), groups like AGDQ, randomizer races, Let’s Plays and everything else, it’s given all of us new ways to appreciate the games we grew up playing.
What else can attendees look forward to at MAGWest that’s game industry centric?
MAGWest always has panels from industry professionals talking about their experience in games, whether it’s composers, game devs, voice actors and beyond. This year is no exception, with roundtables with composers like Chase Bethea and Mason Lieberman. We also have an indie game area which is a great way to connect with future game industry professionals.
For students and others looking to get into the game industry, are there any contributor opportunities they can sign up for at the shows?
One of the best ways to contribute is to submit panels or indie games. Even just attending and socializing can be great. While MAGWest is not strictly an industry event, it’s not uncommon to see industry professionals coming just as attendees, so you never know who you’ll see
What are your longer-term plans for MAGWest after this year’s event?
It’s always difficult to speak to concrete future plans in the lead-up to an event but it may help to talk about some of the things we’ve doing differently this year. In previous years most of our content has understandably been on the two main days Friday and Saturday. This year we’re putting more music and panels on Sunday, as well as slightly extending our content hours on Friday and Saturday, and even adding a bit of content for the dedicated attendees coming in on Thursday (aka Day 0). We want people to make the most of their time at the event, especially for those taking time off work and traveling long distances to be here.
Beyond that we just want to keep the spirit of gaming and video game music active throughout the year. We just put on a handful of smaller videogame music concerts in May and June and partnered with some local organizations for promotion, and we hope to continue to do so in the future.