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A Fateful Encounter
My journey with MAGWest began during Rockage 3.0, in February of 2014, at San Jose State University. As part of the campus' Game Development Club I volunteered some of my time to watch over our pride and joy student-built Arcade Cabinets. While here I had what I'll always consider to be a fateful encounter.
I met Dominic Cerquetti, former game developer, and at-the-time CEO of MAGFest Inc. Read that tale here.
Skipping Ahead In Time
If you've read my project about MAGFest you'd know how I ended up with the title of Co-Chair of MAGWest. Well, that's not entirely true. You'd know how I ended up with the title Chair of MAGWest.
Becoming Co-Chair was not something forced upon me, but a decision I made for myself. Throughout building MAGLabs I worked with three other people. Out of these three, I picked one with whom I would split my power and give them equal creative authority over MAGWest. Sheva Goldberg received my offer, and much to my relief accepted it as well. Giving equal power was of course more of an ideal than a reality, but it is something we have worked hard to reach.
Building A Base
With a co-chair at my side the next goals became more clear and focused. I began reaching out to the network of folks within MAGFest whom I trusted to possibly run a department at the first ever MAGWest. MAGWest is not something I could ever build alone. Just breaking down the acronym: Music. Atmosphere. Gaming.
I trust myself to build an atmosphere and games, but music is one of my current shortcomings. I'm not a musician, or a stage manager, or a stage tech. I needed someone I could trust to fill this role. For me, this was Ian "Angel" Nixon. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for him, the candidate whom had originally agreed to be the department head had to back out due to getting a once-in-a-lifetime job offer that would make his availability something we could not depend on. Without Angel we began a scramble to figure out a new department head. I ended up making the call that for the first year of MAGWest, Dominic Cerquetti - CEO of MAGFest - would be the department. This came with some obvious drawbacks, but I still believe this was the right call to make.
The management of our staff operations, or STOPS, was taken on by department head Ryan Cho. Ryan Cho is a former staff member of Fanime, a participant in LARP communities, and someone I could trust, by extension of my trust in someone else. We're still getting to know each other, Ryan and I, but working with Ryan was a pleasure. Ryan's duties included on-boarding new staff or department heads with document locations, and training on our Registration and Management System, as well as putting together the hotel room assignments for staff during the event. Ryan encountered many stressors that happen unexpectedly, and handled them as best as he could. As co-chair of the event, he made me proud.
In addition to staff operations, another crucial department of the event is our tech operations, or TechOops. This department was run by Ted Hahn, a Seattle-native and California transplant whose technical prowess I have learned to believe in. As with most departments in MAGFWest there comes a heavy degree of autonomy. Ted received more autonomy than I'd know what to do with. He knew what to do with it though. TechOps was responsible for setting up radios, panel room A/V and in-house internet. They also did a heavy amount of gaffing. Ted assembled his own crew, planned his own shifts/coverage, and in the end, created a cornerstone of MAGWest going forward.
With TechOps, STOPS, and Music having established department heads it was time to find the people who would receive autonomy over their own space and budget for MAGWest 1.
A Call For Help
For the next phase of recruitment Sheva and I decided to put out a form where anyone could tell us about themselves, and we'd do our best to reach out and see if they were right for running a department at MAGWest. Now, I don't know if you could guess, but getting information from random strangers online, calling them for a single conversation, then determining if they are the right person for the job can be a hit or miss strategy. We had some hits, and we had some misses. Other limitations included the maximum number of staff we could support in our first year, and the amount of event space we could give to department heads.
Honestly, reaching out to these complete strangers was tough for me. I didn't reach out to everyone, and that isn't something I'm proud of.