MAGFest, a non-profit organization that hosts a series of festivals in the video game, game music, and culture, has undergone upheaval within the last couple weeks following allegations of abuse. The allegations, spearheaded by a group of volunteers and employees, were posted publicly in November 2020 as the Friends of MAGFest (FoM), the original posting now archived.
Included in the list of allegations were abuses of power, financial neglect, and mismanagement levied against the board of directors and the executive director, along with a list of demands. The purpose of FoM was to “inform the community that MAGFest is facing an unprecedented, existential threat—the MAGFest Board of Directors and Executive Director” and call for their resignations.
As a result, the entire six-person board of directors stepped down, which MAGFest announced on January 16 over their social media channels and through this official post. Three new directors to the board were elected. From FoM in that official post, a message of support for the new direction at the board-level.
Friends of MAGFest would like to voice our genuine support of the new members of the Board of Directors, and the recent steps taken to improve MAGFest from the inside out. For the first time in a long time, we feel relief, and we feel hope about the future of MAGFest.
This week, Paul Birtel the executive director of MAGFest, also stepped down from his position.
The Executive Director, Paul Birtel, has resigned from MAGFest. The organization is currently in a rebuilding state with the assistance and direct input from the volunteers, community, and office employees. We continue to thank you all for your positivity and support <3
— MAGFest (@MAGFest) January 25, 2021
Last summer, Paul Birtel had been on the receiving end of an HR group complaint from all MAGFest employees, which the board ultimately dismissed, and no changes or improvements were alleged to have occurred. On December 28, 2020, Biirtel announced that their event director, Debra Lenik, had been fired along with three staffers — with punitive separation agreements. These firings also evidently limited MAGFest’s ability to organize events going forward.
One of the event-level impacts of these issues is the cancellation of Virtual MAGFest, which would have taken place online on January 22-24. So far, the event doesn’t seem to have been rescheduled, But as MAGFest moves forward, eventually with a new organizational and event roadmap, we’ll know what to expect down the road in 2021.