Looking for Punk in All the Wrong Places

David Blue
Written by David Blue

We found that a spe­cial brand of uncom­mer­cial­ized enjoy­ment was all MAGFest required to hard­en itself against our counter-cul­ture, prov­ing many assump­tions wrong.

[mks_dropcap style=“square” size=“115” bg_color=“#f6f7f5” txt_color=“7d6f65”]I[/mks_dropcap]f some­body told you that 20,000 nerds, cos­play­ers, fur­ries, and musi­cians had been annu­al­ly descend­ing upon a five-star, bil­lion-dol­lar Mary­land hotel for a decade just to play video games, you’d hes­i­tate, wouldn’t you?

In believ­ing it before con­sid­er­ing it, per­haps. I don’t know much about the healthy mind, but I’d think the con­ver­gences alone would heft some seri­ous con­se­quence.

If you’re won­der­ing why you’ve nev­er heard of it, that’d be its rel­a­tive egal­i­tar­i­an­ism in today’s cal­en­dar of events, orga­nized by insti­tu­tions that usu­al­ly main­tain unapolo­getic prox­im­i­ty to the titan­ic indus­try that feeds them.

But aside from a $14 shot of Tan­quer­ay, I sur­vived the Nation­al Har­bor — cor­doned Music and Gam­ing Festival’s entire week­end with­out a sin­gle in-house expense. They have a .org domain and every­thing!

We were there to meet a lot of peo­ple in per­son for the first time — both friends and staff — but to “cov­er” the event as well. Thanks to your sup­port, I basi­cal­ly got paid to drink and scream. The crux: I don’t play video games and I don’t make music any­more, so I (and a few of our sup­port­ers, I’m sure) spent a good amount of time won­der­ing why I was there.

To cap­ture and absorb the cul­ture? Orig­i­nal­ly.


Per­haps dys­func­tion­al­ly, I osmosed into this world of new, yet famil­iar ideas. My friend group — with whom I do not belong, but am treat­ed as if I do — did not par­tic­u­lar­ly belong there. We were some­thing like crit­ics in our flail­ing rage against the estab­lished silence, but — in painful self-aware­ness, as always — found it dif­fi­cult to legit­imize our­selves in what we did. And that’s the essence of punkness, I guess. A lot of laugh­ing about a lot of scream­ing. A lot of inside jokes. An excess of all man­ners of inter­nal suf­fer­ing.

Nobody else was there to work, which is dis­ap­point­ing, but expect­ed. (Pro­duc­tion Edi­tor Emi­ly Waters spent twelve straight hours play­ing Rock­band, for which she should be crit­i­cized immense­ly.)

[mks_dropcap style=“rounded” size=“65” bg_color=“#7d6f65” txt_color=“#f6f7f5”]A[/mks_dropcap]fter sleep­ing off the bliz­zard and my amphet­a­mine deficit for 14 hours, we snatched cof­fee from a bizarre mall filled with pet­ri­fied-look­ing men before again steer­ing the Son­ic East. We passed the NSA Head­quar­ters exit, which was unex­pect­ed and amus­ing. Though every­body else (for the most part) had actu­al­ly craft­ed macros to score Gay­lord rooms months in advance, our Red Roof exile end­ed up prov­ing fruit­ful in twice treat­ing us to the cozy majesty of the Potomac’s bed­ding, open­ing before us as we emerged from the hills on I-95.

The con­densed spec­ta­cle we were sub­ject­ed to makes it dif­fi­cult to remem­ber much detail. The lit­tle water­front city is real­ly just a grad­u­al­ly-descend­ing moat to its Gar­gan­tu­an Gay Mono­lith, and the whole scene is framed in my mem­o­ry — with vague mirages of heavy indus­try in the dis­tance — in a near-apoc­a­lyp­tic light. Not that it was dis­tress­ing in any way. The prac­ticed accom­mo­da­tion of the staff cul­ture was absolute­ly unbe­liev­able, and as I passed the orna­men­tal HENTAI Aston parked in the six-lane cir­cle dri­ve in front of its aston­ish­ing­ly-inbe­wil­dered five star hotel door­man tip­ping his peaked cap at an arriv­ing gag­gle of no-BS Fire Emblem cos­play­ers, the con­trast began to resolve itself through one not-so-per­plex­ing real­iza­tion:


nerds have mon­ey, now.

What assump­tions I’d brought with me lent toward a high prob­a­bil­i­ty of catch­ing a maid hys­ter­i­cal­ly sprint­ing and scream­ing from a shrug­ging, shit-smeared fur­ry in his door­way, or some­thing. And yeah, I heard a few sto­ries on the floor, but the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of our hosts and dis­cour­ag­ing, through-and-through decen­cy of our fel­low fest­go­ers pre­vent­ed the event from devel­op­ing even the slight­est ten­sion of a filthy, per­verse occu­pa­tion.

If I’m hon­est, some juve­nile edgi­ness deep with­in me had count­ed on the con­flict.

I want­ed to cor­re­spond from an all-out cul­tur­al war, like a real reporter, but my hunger for cama­raderie in the fan­tas­ti­cal & shock­ing upheaval of all moral­ist pow­er (read: a good par­ty) would remain unre­quit­ed, though I found enough in our repeat­ed, cacoph­o­nous assaults on “The Soap Box” (the free-for-all TEDx room, if you will,) to sati­ate my more pre­his­toric frus­tra­tions. (These are the sin­gu­lar ele­ments I actu­al­ly man­aged to account onsite in my Day One & Day Two entries.)

Once again, I had mis­judged cul­ture and counter-culture’s time­less dance and wound up — crowd­sourced — in the well-man­nered play­ground of 25,000 rea­son­able peo­ple

But I was there.

I don’t play video games or make music, real­ly, but I had to do some­thing. 

I didn’t bring a sin­gle mil­ligram of adder­all with me to the East — most­ly because of pro­cras­ti­na­tion on health insur­ance details, but in part because I want­ed to use the oppor­tu­ni­ty to prove to myself that I could still at least main­tain the min­i­mums of human func­tion with­out it in such a set­ting. I think I’m glad I didn’t, actu­al­ly. I doubt I would’ve been able to absorb the atmos­phere as pas­sive­ly as I did. Too much more exu­ber­ance, and I very well could have done some­thing wor­thy of kick­ing me out.

Crim­i­nal­i­ty proved exceed­ing­ly chal­leng­ing.

Some­how, every sin­gle one of the fuck­ers was in on some joke… some ref­er­ence to a leg­endary Pok­ing Man who’s par­ty trick is a pro­tract­ed vocal emis­sion of extreme agi­ta­tion — from bel­ly-bel­low to ban­shee-howl in a lin­ear upswing.

When in a sans-amphet­a­mine, intel­lec­tu­al­ly-com­pro­mised state, scream­ing has long been my go-to for a quick and easy punk­ing. But in this place… this bil­lion-dol­lar lux­u­ry labyrinth… my screams were no nui­sance at all, but instead a hor­rid siren call to the tra­chea behind a thou­sand foul neck­beards, regard­less of the hour!


And with the effec­tive­ness of my once-depend­able core luna­cy utter­ly nul­li­fied,


I found myself hope­less­ly-equipped against the earnest­ness of this

oppress­ing, sin­cere, and enthu­si­as­tic species.