Six Board of Directors Resign Following MAGFest Controversy

MAGFest Executive Director Paul Birtel

In the latest development in the ongoing MAGFest controversy, all six volunteer Board of Directors have resigned. The news comes directly from a statement on MAGFest’s official website. The new update is a result of concerns raised against the organization starting in November 2020. We have the full story and history of developments below.

In an earnest statement, the official website updated its community on the developing MAGFest controversy. Effective immediately, all six volunteer Board of Directors resigned from MAGFest. The organization voted on three new Board of Directors, and it promises more information very soon. MAGFest stated it will start by “healing some deep wounds, bringing in new leadership, and being transparent as hell about everything moving forward.” The new development comes after accusations came to light against three members of the Board of Directors and the Executive Director. Paul Birtel, MAGFest Executive Director, is still associated with the organization.

In recognizing the “systemic issues” within MAGFest, the Board of Directors concluded that passing on leadership by bringing in a “fresh perspective from inside the community” was the best course of action. All three new members have been involved with MAGFest over the years. The new Board of Directors consists of:

  • Carrie Snyder – President of the Board, Advisory Task Force, and Department Head of Arcade.
  • Cody Wilson – Treasurer of the Board, and Finance Task Force member, as well as former Mega Man-a-Thon/magFAST showrunner.
  • Jason Williams – Member of the Board, Advisory Task Force, and Department Head of Consoles.

The three members were transparent in admitting they have their work cut out for them. The new Board said it will start by re-enabling safe and candid conversation. The Board also admitted that MAGFest let its success “blind” it to the concerns of its community. The organization asked for fans’ support and patience as it works to rectify internal and external issues. The statement ended on a positive note that MAGFest 2022 will be better than ever.

MAGFest Controversy Timeline

On November 19, 2020, a website organization composed of regular staff and volunteers from MAGFest, named Friends of MAGFest, went public. This website’s purpose was “to inform the community that MAGFest is facing an unprecedented, existential threat—the MAGFest Board of Directors and Executive Director.” According to the site, the allegations were raised privately numerous times before. The website stated its concerns with the Board of Directors and Executive Director as follows:

  • Abuse of power by the Board and Executive Director.
  • Financial neglect of the organization.
  • Mismanagement of the Executive Director by the Board.
  • Mismanagement of the organization by the Executive Director and the Board.
  • Verbal and emotional abuse by the Executive Director.
  • Repeated and blatant disregard for community wishes and desires.
  • Perpetuating a harmful environment with no accountability.
  • Dismissing all concerns raised privately.
  • Retaliating against those who raised complaints.

Among the calls to action, the website requested the immediate removal of Executive Director Paul Birtel and three members of the Board of Directors: Joel Attanasio, Jack Boyd, and Eli Courtwright. Shortly after going public, MAGFest’s Board of Directors reached out to the website to reach a resolution. Friends of MAGFest stated that the Board listened earnestly and worked together to bring all parties to the best possible outcome.

Following these developments, the MAGFest controversy expanded. Executive Director Birtel fired the Events Director and three other members of staff–all of whom were members of Friends of MAGFest. Occurring on December 28, 2020, this decision split the Board in terms of support. Due to this, MAGFest canceled its virtual event less than one month before it occurred. The latest update is the Board of Directors’ resignation. Friends of MAGFest voiced its genuine support of the new members of the Board.

The Music and Gaming Festival (MAGFest) is an annual convention held in the Washington, D.C. area. In recent years, the organization has branched out to host similar events in multiple locations, such as MAGClassic, MAGWest, and MAGLabs. We will keep our readers updated on future developments.

Oni Dino
Oni Dino is a Japanese-English translator, localization editor, and podcaster. He has several video game credits and regularly translates columns from Masahiro Sakurai and Shigeru Miyamoto. When not knee-deep in a JRPG and wishing games had more environmental story-telling, he's attending industry events and interviewing creative auteurs to share their stories.