I learned a lot about myself and my mental health at MAGFest earlier this year.
Thursday morning, January 5, 2017. Day one. I'm feeling anxious, depressed, and I already miss my cats. I've been looking forward to MAGFest all year, and now that it's finally here, I'm feeling horrible. I wake up early, take a shower, put my face on, throw on my The Last of Us shirt (along with my other clothes), and reluctantly leave our beautiful Gaylord hotel room with my husband and the rest of our group.
After we grab a bite to eat, we get in the extremely long line that leads to the Marketplace (the part of the expo hall where vendors sell their merch). It's insanely crowded. Hot. I feel a panic attack coming on. I really don't like large crowds. I put my headphones on and blast MCR's Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. I start to feel a little better, but I'm ready to get into the Marketplace and get some much-needed retail therapy. We finally get in; I spend way too much money on things I don't need - but things that make me happy - and head to the console room with hubby. We spend the rest of the day playing games, laughing, and having a great time. I'm really starting to feel better by the end of the day.
Friday. Day two. We walk about a mile to the closest Starbucks, and I get an iced mocha and a chocolate croissant. We head back to the Gaylord and play some games in the arcade and console rooms. Then, we buy some more stuff in the Marketplace. I attend a couple of panels. Later that afternoon, I go to the bar with my husband and friends. We're marveling at all the amazing cosplayers, and we enjoy a couple mixed drinks. Then, my phone screen goes black, and my phone won't turn on. Out of nowhere, my phone is suddenly inoperative. Great. Now I have to get through Friday night, all day Saturday, and part of Sunday without a phone, and consequently without music or a camera. I start to panic. Now I can't go anywhere on my own and feel safe because I have no way to get in touch with anyone in case I get lost. I also can't take any more photos or videos to document my trip. I'll have to rely on my husband and friends to do that for me. How did people live without cell phones? (I'm kidding, but it's amazing how much we rely on them now that they're commonplace.) I spend the rest of the day pissed off and anxious because I have no phone/music/camera. I end up having some fun in the arcade and console rooms and enjoying a nice dinner at the hotel sports bar with my husband and friends before calling it a day.
Saturday. Day three. The big day! Saturday is when all the really awesome cosplayers come out, and when you can expect to see the most people. I'm excited, but anxious. I am constantly trying to turn my phone on to take photos, but to no avail. My group and I walk to the same Starbucks, and I get the same thing as the day before. We head back to MAG and shop in the Marketplace ... again. At this point, we have spent way too much money, but we're having fun. Later, we go to the same bar, yet again, for mixed drinks. This time, we randomly run into David Wise. THE David Wise. For those who don't know, David is the video game music composer behind the Donkey Kong Country series, among many others. I got my picture taken with him, because how can you not take a picture with David Wise in a bar at 11 a.m.?
Just chillin' with David Wise in a hotel bar.
After having a couple of drinks and meeting David Wise, suddenly my day starts to get better. I'm finally starting to feel the anxiety go away, and I'm finally enjoying myself. Jimmy and I play this silly game called Ribbit King on PS2, and we have a blast. We spend some quality time together, and enjoy being off of work for a few days. At midnight, we all go to the Super Soul Bros. show, which was probably the highlight of the weekend for me. The Super Soul Bros. kill every time, and I love seeing them play. (Check them out at supersoulbros.com.) I danced and sweated and made some awesome new friends. I hate crowds, but when I'm in a crowd at a concert, the music takes the anxiety away. After a late night, we decided to leave relatively early the next morning and head back to Delaware to rest up for work the following Monday.
Going to MAGFest - or any other social event, really - is always a challenge for me. It's something I love and am passionate about, but something that I know is going to take a lot out of me. On top of having an anxiety disorder, I'm also an introvert; so after something like MAGFest, I need more time to recover than most of my friends. Jumping back into work immediately afterward is hard, and I usually end up coming home from work and going straight to sleep for the first few days following a huge social outing like that.
For a long time, I considered this a character flaw, but I have realized that being an anxious introvert is part of my personality, and it's something I have adapted to and accepted. Anxiety can be crippling, but it doesn't define you.
If you've made it this far, thank you for reading! I'm honored to be back writing this column for the fifth (!) year in a row. I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences with games and the industry at large.
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