Gamers shoot em up in Alexandria

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In the first room on the right at the video gamers convention, Execution on War Machine, was being played out on one of the flat screen televisions, with a trigger happy rogue running around an abandoned subway station with a shotgun.

The player at the control of this third-person game was code named Jackal, and his fingers flew across the game controller like a speed typist, turning the screen red with a direct hit. The two players at the controls were part of a team, and they congratulated each other on each kill.

Welcome to the MAGfest VI gamers convention, where video games are the center of attraction for this generation of competitors. Brendon Becker, a 28 year old resident of Charlottesville, is in charge of the event, which he pointed out its not a tournament, were about community, he said.

The community hes referring to were all gamers of one type or another, with a common theme. The idea is that we love games so much we wanted to share the love, he said. And if sharing the love is trouncing around a gothic-type train station with a shotgun blazing, then so be it. Becker eeks out a living as a gamer aficionado but admits to living on Ramen Noodles most of the time.

Gamers from all over the country filled the party rooms at the Hilton Mark Center, January 3-6 to test their video game skills, eat pizza, guzzle energy drinks and swap stories from their latest adventures. It is more hopping at midnight than it is at noon, said Becker, who has been the head honcho at the MAGfest games since MAGfest II several years ago when he took over.

In each game room, there are several televisions on the wall displaying a variety of games in various formats. There are the first-person shooters where the controller looks through the site of a gun, and third person shooters, where the controller moves the shooter from afar. There were also fighting games, and bemani games with dancing and music. The lobby area was full of tables displaying t-shirts and trinkets from the gamer world, and bands sporadically performed non-descript video music.

Anne Ward  is one of the owners of Fizz Man, a company that sells statue like figures from the gaming industry. One of their bestsellers was the Purple Tentacle from the Maniac Mansion puzzle game. Each one has got a different personality, she said, noting that the gamers develop a fondness for the different characters. Wards partner, Ben Howard, carves and paints the figures. Although the two are from Cleveland, and the trip to the MAGfest was just a weekend thing, their artwork is just a spare time kind of thing, Howard said.

Katy Boyd, who goes by gamer name Bunny X Ablaze, was on assignment as a writer for Game Pro website. The whole convention was social and potential, although she wasnt sure how to describe her portrayal. It was her third MAGfest, and it keeps getting better and better, she said. Last years was in Vienna. Her on-line column is a cross between a blog and marketing piece for the industry, and it supplements her job at Radio Shack in Lexington, Va. We have the ability to write about what we want, she said. Boyd was one of  a few young women at the fest.

Eldy Martinez and Robert Paz perused the crowd with a video camera. The New Yorkers were making a documentary of their experience, called Diary of Professional Gamers. It was the first event of 2008. We filmed the entire experience from when we boarded the bus, said Martinez. They planned on following it up with footage of another convention, The Gaming Nation which is in New York City the following week.

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