Game history panels at Super MAGFest 2020
I’ve been posting a lot of updates and announcements this month because I’ve been busy on special projects… and here’s a big one!
I’m excited to announce that the video game history panel track is coming back to Super MAGFest 2020! Super MAGFest will be held January 2-5, 2020 in National Harbor, MD.
The game history panels were a big success at MAGFest this year, and we’re bringing together another incredible lineup of historians, archivists, and curators to talk about their work. Come learn about the untold corners of gaming history!
We have a bunch of returning panelists, as well as many new faces. Please welcome our returning speakers Andrew Borman, Kevin Bunch, Frank Cifaldi, Carly Kocurek, Kelsey Lewin, Anne Ladyem McDivitt, and Rachel Simone Weil. And our new speakers, Reyan Ali, Javon Goard, Alexander Mirowski, Laine Nooney, and Whitney Pow!
Here’s our schedule. Panels are listed with their time and room: [UPDATE: The schedule has shifted since I first posted this; please double-check panel times!]
Thursday, January 2
|5:30pm, MAGES 2||Indie Game Preservation and You
Game preservation is a challenge facing anyone who makes games, including indie game developers. Andrew Borman from the Strong Museum of Play will be talking about the museum helps preserve independent video games – and, importantly, how independent developers can help too! Andrew will be joined by a few indie devs (TBA) to talk about best practices for preservation.
Friday, January 3
|1:00pm, MAGES 2||The Arcadians: Exploring the History of Homebrew for the Bally Astrocade
Rachel Simone Weil, Kevin Bunch
The Bally Astrocade is an odd game system from the late 70s that didn’t get much support, but it has a decades-long history of fans making their own games. Rachel Simone Weil and Kevin Bunch are diving into the self-made history of the Astrocade, along with a chance to try it yourself in the MAGFest Museum room!
|2:30pm, MAGES 2||Gerald “Jerry” Lawson: Black Joy Expressed in Gaming History
Javon Goard, Alexander Mirowski
Jerry Lawson has been credited with popularizing the video game cartridge as part of his engineering world on the Fairchild F game console in the 1970s. As this panel points out, there was so much more to Lawson’s life, too, and it fits into a bigger discussion about black joy in gaming. Join Javon Goard and Alexander Mirowski from Indiana University as they dig into Lawson’s life and his impact.
|4:00pm, MAGES 2||Some Incidents in the History of Games for Girls
Carly Kocurek, Rachel Simone Weil
Carly and Rachel are two of the experts on the girl game movement from the 90s. Carly Kocurek wrote a book on Brenda Laurel, the founder of the girl game company Purple Moon, and Rachel Simone Weil runs FEMICOM Museum, a curatorial collection of feminine games. I’m not quite sure what they have planned for this enigmatically titled panel, but you’ll want to hear what they have to say on the topic!
|5:30pm, MAGES 2||The Glitch: Queer and Transgender Video Game History
If you haven’t read Whitney Pow’s powerful article in ROMchip about locating queer people in gaming history yet, give it a read! Whitney is bringing their expertise to MAGFest with a talk about three trans women developers from gaming history – Jamie Faye Fenton, Cathryn Mataga, and Danielle Bunten Berry.
|10:00pm, MAGES 2||Video Games, Hot Tubs, and Bo Derek: The Culture of the Early Video Game Industry
Anne Ladyem McDivitt
The early video game industry was kinda scuzzy. Anne Ladyem McDivitt is ready to dig into the corporate culture of the game industry from the 70s and 80s, including a cutting look at how sexism shaped the game industry. Anne challenged the audience to a fight last year, so get ready.
|Midnight, MAGES 1||Video Game History Hot Sauce Gauntlet
Phil Salvador, Andrew Borman, Kelsey Lewin, Laine Nooney
I’ll be on this late-night panel with an amazing group of video game historians, sharing some of our favorite unusual stories from our research… with a twist. While we talk, in the spirit of the YouTube show Hot Ones, we have to eat a barrage of hot sauces. (I’ll be talking about the epically troubled development of the 1994 game Millennium Auction.) Come to watch us suffer; stay to learn about video game history research!
I don’t know what we were thinking with this panel, but here we are.
Saturday, January 4
|1:00pm, MAGES Forum||Ask a Historian: A Discussion on How to Research Game History
Kevin Bunch, Carly Kocurek, Reyan Ali, Alexander Mirowski
Do you want to research game history? Anyone can do it, and we want to teach you how! This is an open-ended discussion panel with four video game historians about how to do research and share it with an audience. Show up with your questions about the research process!
|2:30pm, MAGES 2||The Uncredited: A Lost History of Labor in Games
From her years of research on the game company Sierra On-Line, Laine Nooney will share the stories of the people who worked behind the scenes who weren’t credited on games, like the sales department and tech support. The history of games is about more than just the game designers, and Laine’s talk will be a probing look at “our sense of ‘who counts’ in games.”
|4:00pm, MAGES 2||Inside The Making of NBA Jam: Blue Screens, Burger King, and BOOMSHAKALAKA
NBA Jam (the book) is the definitive story of the development of Midway’s famous sports arcade game. Author Reyan Ali joins us this year to share his research that takes us into the Chicago office where the game was put together.
|6:00pm, Panels 1||Video Game History Foundation – Three Years Later
Frank Cifaldi, Kelsey Lewin
Three years ago, Frank Cifaldi kicked off the Video Game History Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history of video games. Co-directors Frank Cifaldi and Kelsey Lewin reflect back on the history of their organization so far and what the future of game history preservation looks like.
|Midnight, Panels 2||Bootleg Games Pajama Party
Frank Cifaldi, Kelsey Lewin, Rachel Simone Weil, and more…?
End your Saturday night at MAGFest with a late-night celebration of the weird, wonderful histories of unlicensed video games. Featuring a selection of mystery guests! Knowing these panelists, this is going to be a genuine, non-mocking celebration of bootleg games, but it’ll also be a good silly time. Wear your pajamas!
I’m so proud of the diverse, incisive, sometimes silly collection of panels this group has put together. We’re making MAGFest into a place where fans and researchers can interact. Thanks to all our panelists for making this happen, and a big thanks to the MAGFest staff for believing in this panel track and supporting us. See you in January!
Visit the Super MAGFest 2020 website to register and see what’s happening this year.