MAGFail: Or, “The Power of Guac Compels You!”

Jan 10

“Danger, Will Robinson!”

This past weekend I went, for the fourth year in a row, to MAGFest: the “Music And Gaming Festival.” It takes place outside Washington DC; it regularly features awesome rock bands, chiptune artists, and special guests from around the world; it’s also a great place for a guy like me to meet up with lots of wonderful people I once knew only via the Internet.

Let me give you the horrid details of what went down, for me, at MAGFest 11 (January 3-6, 2013).

For starters, I got a new job (yea!!). And as a result, I only had one day of vacation. So I missed all of Thursday (boo…).

Then, I arrive on Friday, and the first person I bump into is a fellow coworker from said new job (yea!). If only we had carpooled, could’ve saved money (boo…).

The first panel I go to is with the team behind the Legend of Zelda “Twilight Symphony” project, and I recognize Jeron Moore (yea!). But then, during Q&A, I stand up and ask an inane question with a predictable answer and I generally make an ass out of myself (boo…).

THEEEEN, the best part of the whole ordeal, I got to spend some quality time with Josh Whelchel, Chris Geehan, and others (yea!). I played a fun card game in their hotel room (double-yea!). We have serious discussions about an important project (triple-yea!!!!!).

After that, I finally find my old friend Mark, a fellow ex-RPGFan writer (yea!). We decide to head to the Gaylord bar, the National Pastime Bar & Grill, for food and drinks (yea…?).

He drinks ginger ale, I have one alcoholic beverage (a “June Bug,” which I learned about in the iOS game Bar Oasis). And we share some chips and guacamole. Within minutes of finishing the little snack, I’m feeling … strange. (ehhh??)

30 minutes later, severe diarrhea and vomiting begins (booo!!! gurgle-hurk, yuuuck!!!)

And so it goes for the next 6 hours. For myself and Mark. We need dedicated bathrooms, so we ditch our previous roommates and get our own room for liquid excrement party-time 2013 (ugggghhhh…..).

Let me give you more details than you could possibly want.

There was this one time when Mark did this projectile vomiting … in the shower. I thought I was done my dirty deeds by 3am, but when he did that, it triggered a further wave of nausea. At that point, food I wouldn’t consume until next week was sucked through a time portal into my stomach, and the fun started all over again. Me on toilet, Mark in shower. I hadn’t seen this guy in 7 years. It was an intimate, unforgettable encounter. As much as we like each other, we’d have preferred not to have this time spent together.

After a 3-hour nap, I wake up, munch on a piece of bread, and march down to the hotel lobby to report suspected food poisoning. Important-looking restaurant manager directs me to a fairly apathetic security guard who takes 30 minutes to find a piece of paper, an “Incident Report” form, where I give (in even further detail than in this blog) exactly what happened, and the circumstances that suggest this was food poisoning and was not influenza or norovirus.

Consider: incubation period for these illnesses is 12-24 hours. I only arrived at the densely-populated MAGFest at 2pm Friday. Mark may have had it, but even if he did, it remains true that only he and I ate the guacamole: our former roommates were ship-shape “A” grade healthy the entire weekend. Mark and I puked our guts out.

Consider further: secondhand reports from all over the place that a variety of guests who ate at this same bar&grill Friday night between 8pm and midnight were sick all through Saturday morning, and had to “sleep it off” (since we got no sleep) through the remainder of Saturday, the most crucial part of the convention.

So, the incident report is documented. I’m still under the belief that I have a scheduled interview with some of the special guests. This schedule was changed, without notifying me, and a colleague at another online publication handles one interview and *cancels* the other. Nobody tells me. I end up waiting in line to get CDs signed, and then go back to bed at 3pm.

Sunday: checkout, and some discussion with hotel stuff about how to proceed. The separate room was $500. Split between Mark and I that’s $250, as opposed to the $60 I would’ve paid with my former roommates (they reserved their room early, and paid far less per night than I did). I push for reimbursement. They tell me the claims office will call me this week. I am given a business card.

It’s Thursday. No one’s called. I’ve sent emails and left 5 voicemail messages this week. Nobody has spoken to me (mega-insane-BOO!!!!). EDIT — at time of posting, whomever runs their Twitter account did respond.

Conclusion: worst MAGFest ever. In fact, worst convention ever. Indeed, worst time spent away from home, ever. A complete waste of time, and a ruined experience, is all I got. This is a weekend I usually cherish. Now I’m just depressed. And very, very poor.

PS – don’t eat guacamole at restaurants. Or any dips for that matter. Just a little time unrefrigerated, or even under-refrigerated (fridge left open or temperature set too high), and you are up shit creek without a paddle. Literally. Bathroom humor is not funny when it happens to you.

PPS – a tiny silver lining: I got to host a new friend from Finland at my house for a week. This would not have happened without the power of MAG. Even when I’m desperately ill, that convention brings a little sunshine into my life by bringing “the VGM community” together.


  1. Dennis /

    I hope that justice is served in at least not having to pay for your room… and there were gummies. Always a plus in the midst of a lot of crap.

  2. My goodness. That doesn’t sound good.

    Hoping for the best! Perhaps I should stop my guacamole eating habit in public (same thing happened to my father on a cruise ship – it’s not pretty and really, really awful).


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