This past week, my 2015 convention season kicked off with my usual "first con of the season", the video game convention known as MAGFest.

Right off the bat, I knew that some things were going to be different in terms of this year's MAGFest when I learned of the dates of this year's convention. For starters, this time around, MAGFest was later in January, meaning that the convention wasn't happening at the same time as the Gaylord's usual holiday festivities (that doesn't mean I missed out on it this year, as I showed my family the lower level of the hotel during the Christmas holiday, with my niece loving the fountain and Peeps train). As such, MAGFest attendees had some more room to stretch this year while not having to share the hotel with families on Christmas vacation. The other difference this year: this year, the con ran Friday-Monday (instead of the usual Thursday-Sunday). As someone who only goes to most cons on Friday and Saturday (and in the case of MAGFest, Thursdays as well), it was tough to decide whether I should go on Sunday as well. However, between nothing really going on panel or tournament-wise for me to attend and the fact that MAGFest was happening on Royal Rumble weekend, I decided to only go two days this time around. That's probably a wise move given how the later con date meant I have less time to save for Katsucon (and there is some stuff that I want to buy before that con happens).

Another thing that was different in terms of my usual MAGFest trip: the video-game related competitions that I usually take part in. For starters, the Challenge Corner, which I usually spend a good amount of time at during the first two days of the convention, wasn't as great when compared to previous years. I think a good deal of the blame stems from this year's Challenge Corner not having any fresh challenges planned for this year (these are usually announced ahead of time to give those taking part in it some time to practice their skills) and instead recycled older challenges from years past. As such, I only took part in it twice during the weekend.

The other thing involved the change made to the pinball tournament that I took part in at the last two MAGFests. This year, the tournament was done using regular "pinball tournament" rules (which meant players had to play a certain number of tables in hopes of getting seeded for the elimination portion, which was held Saturday night). Between me having other events planned for Saturday night (it's hard when two things that interest you happen at the same time) and believing that my pinball skills were not up to par (i.e. getting half the score needed for a replay), I decided to pass on the tournament this year. However, just because I didn't take part in the tournament didn't mean I didn't have some fun playing pinball at the convention. For starters, MAGFest this year had a rare cocktail pinball machine called Night Moves as part of the arcade, with me spending a good amount of time playing it over the weekend. Second, following off the footsteps of Games Done Quick series of speed runs is Pinball Done Quick, which involves speed runs of pinball machines. At the convention, attendees were given an opportunity to speed run and get a jackpot in the Doctor Who pinball machine. To give an example of what I'm talking about: my fastest time in getting a jackpot on that table was 2:06, while the fastest time recorded (while I was at the con) was 1:01 (which was done by two attendees).

However, there was one thing different this year that pleased me a lot: there was a lot more great cosplay than usual this year. Usually, the amount of cosplay pictures that I take at MAGfest would be around that average amount that I would take at Anime USA. This year, on the other hand, there was a lot of good "photo-worthy" cosplay that it ended up reaching around the amount that I would usually take when I go to either Otakon or Katsucon. Given how Katsucon is only a couple weekends away (and in the same hotel as MAGFest), hopefully this will be a sign that I can expect a lot of great cosplay photo opportunities at that con Presidents' Day weekend. For an idea of some of the cosplay goodness that MAGFest had to offer this year, just visit here.

Meanwhile, the Merchants' Hall was once again filled with some neat stuff that I can spend my saved up money on (while still keeping in mind that I need to save some cash for Katsucon). As for what I did end up buying this year, a lot of factors were in play here:

1. The feeling of not second guessing myself in terms of what may be hot. In other words, one dealer had the Wave 3 Amiibos on sale, and while I already pre-ordered her from Amazon.it, the fact that she didn't ship with Lucario had me concerned about how hard it may be to get Rosalina, and with me not wanting a repeat of a disastrous Best Buy pre-order in which I ended up getting screwed out of a Pit Amiibo, I bought her here, with turned out to be smart, as she ended up being sold out on the very first day on the convention.

2. An interest in importing games that I feel don't have a chance of getting an American release. In case the of MAGFest, to save some love for Katsucon, I had planned to just get one Vita import this time around in the form of one of the Love Live! games (with me eventually getting the version with the figurines), while saving another game for next month. Unfortunately, that plan is pretty much shot thanks to the other game now being confirmed for an American release.

3. Me wanting to find other interests. In this case, I am interested in trying out a deck-building game, but don't have anyone else to play the game with. Luckily, I found one game that can be played solo, Marvel Legendary, and picked it up (with me now needing to find time to play it on my family's dining room table).

4. Cool items that caught my eye. More specifically, DVD's of a web show that's basically a video game version of "I Love the 'X0's" and a couple 3D perlers inspired by video game sprites (including one of the baby Metroid from Super Metroid).

Some additional notes from the convention:

-This year's con t-shirt was definitely one of the better ones that they had in years. There's two reasons for it. First, this year, MAGFest offered two different choices for the shirt: black and red. The other reason is that MAGFest gave attendees a good reason to buy the red shirt: while both shirts have a back design that resembles an Identity Disc from Tron, only the red shirt is capable of glowing in the dark.

-On Friday, one thing that I noticed was the amount of stuff done in tribute to Jewario, an Internet personality (and major MAGFest regular) who committed suicide this past year. First, there were a number of people wearing "JW" Wario hats in memory of him. Also, the convention held the premiere of a project that he was working shortly before his death. Now, if only they didn't schedule the premiere later in the night (and against the MAGFest screening of The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie).

-One thing that I was expecting at MAGFest that actually did appear at the con: custom paint jobs of various Amiibo figures. After reading about them online, I had a feeling that someone would be doing it at MAGFest this year. While I didn't buy one of them (it had more to do with the price and the fact that I'm looking for Amiibos to actually play with them), I did take a picture of them, to give you an idea of what was being offered at the con.

-To me, a trip to MAGFest since 2011 wouldn't be complete with me attending the Atop the Fourth Wall Live panel. While the panel was still your usual AT4W Live panel, which consists of a live comic book review (in this case, a Spider-Man comic done to promote the Spider-Man video game on the Atari 2600) and a advanced screening of the episode that will air on Monday, it was still a crazy time for those who attended it thanks to the filming for various videos that the show's host, Linkara, is working on (so tempted to mention what was going on, but I want to save the surprise for those who do watch the show), and some of the cosplay being worn by those attending the panel (from a group of people dressing up as Fat Grandma, a character that Linkara plays in other reviewers' videos, to someone dressed as the Pumaman from a certain Italian film made famous by MST3K).

-Besides Atop the Fourth Wall Live, there's not really much to say in terms of other events/panels I attended. I did attend the screening of The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie on Friday, and my Saturday panel line-up consisted of a panel for the "I Love the 'X0's"-type show that I mentioned earlier and a panel showcasing unintentionally funny moments in video games (i.e. bad Engrish).

While I wish I could have done more at MAGFest this year (I blame it on the Friday-Monday schedule this year, which messed some people up), there was still plenty of things to keep me busy at the convention this year. Currently, MAGFest is asking people whether to have another January con next year, or to move it February. Personally, I'd stick with January given the typical traditions of the con, the Thursday-Sunday date for January (compared to the Friday-Monday date if it happened in February), the fact that the planned February date is after Katsucon (thus being messy for those who plan to attend both cons), and the fact that a February date could end up interfering with something major that my family is planning for next year (but I'll get to that as we get closer to it).

Next up: Katsucon 2015.