Life, The Universe, And Gaming: Who Was rAge 2013 Actually For?
There was a point in time last week Saturday when a quick stroll through The Dome would have taken the average expo attendee from a section of the floor containing stalls with people selling comic books, figurines and assorted trinkets, to another section of the floor containing tables in which various attendees engaged others in card games, which was next to a section of the floor entirely dedicated to board games. All of this could be seen while various other attendees strolled by in all sorts of cosplay… okay that’s a lie, it was almost always anime.¹
The thing is, when you ask someone to explain the name ‘rAge’ to you — perhaps because you’re a n00b or, as was very insultingly put in an article I recently read (but probably true), “the partner of the person actually interested in the expo” — they’ll tell you that it stands for really Awesome gaming event. Or they might say “expo” instead of “event” because they think they’re cool and hip and know things, and stuff. The keyword however, is gaming.
But over the years it seems that rAge has become less and less about the gaming and more and more about anything geek or tech related, in the local industry. And that’s not a complaint at all.
See, at this year’s rAge there were a few very important gaming stands that just weren’t there. Some were either minor stands this time around, sharing the floor space with some other company, whereas others went entirely missing. Others, such as the Asus ROG stand, served no real purpose on the show floor other than showing a name. But if you asked someone where AMD, NVidia or Intel were, they’d probably shrug and walk off in their perpetual hunt for free stuff.
Even the LAN attendees weren’t really that keen on coming into the expo and exploring, this year.
Meanwhile, Exclusive Books had some massive floor space with a whole lot of tables set up for the playing of various board games. Likewise, the ever-popular Magic: The Gathering area of tables and players was set up and always busy. The ‘eclectic tastes’ section of the expo, which is usually limited to a small area comprising a few tables, was much expanded this year, with a whole bunch of stalls bringing an assortment of things, the likes of phone covers, figurines, t-shirts, posters, wallpapers, comic books and more. And it doesn’t stop there. There were even a few stands set up for attendees to come in and take pictures of themselves with various people in cosplay.
The gaming? Well, Megarom’s stand was there and rocking as always. Microsoft came out in full force as well, showing off a few Xbox One titles and some Xbox 360 games as well. Electronic Arts brought Battlefield 4 and Need For Speed: Rivals (most beautiful game I’ve ever seen) on their Alienware rigs. Ster-Kinekor and Sony brought some titles to show as well, although nothing next-gen, disappointingly. The actual console was at least on display, so fair enough. Telkom’s Do Gaming stand was also around, for anyone who wished to check it out.²
Alas, that was about it for the show floor. The rest was dominated by FIFA 14. Seriously, we’re not even kidding around when we say that no game got as much coverage on the show floor as FIFA 14. The Microsoft stand had an entire section dedicated to the game’s revised FIFA Ultimate Team mode, which comprised a bunch of changes from previous versions. At one point, speaking to one of the guys at the EA stand, he told me that EA didn’t even need to bring FIFA 14 to rAge because every other stand had it covered for them.
Unfortunately, a few games were actually hands-off showings and so, attendees could only watch pre-planned gameplay rather than play it for themselves. These games included Watch_Dogs (which is so close to release now that it boggles the mind as to why it cannot be played yet), South Park: The Stick of Truth and Dead Rising 3. Further, there were some games that went entirely missing from the event, including Call of Duty: Ghosts, The Witcher 3 and the much-anticipated TitanFall.
Because fuck you, that’s why. Or maybe there were organisational hitches, or something. Most likely, it was just a grand old, “They wanted cosplay, let them fucking have cosplay! We’re sick of this shit.”
On the subject of attendance at rAge, Friday was actually quite quiet compared to last year. This is mostly due to the fact that this year, rAge was held a week after school holidays had already passed, thus on Friday people were either at work or at school. In direct contrast, Saturday was an absolute madhouse on the floor, with very little walking space, even given the extra space created by the lack of stands this year, and way too much going on, including a cosplay competition that I thought was very poorly handled. I mean seriously, how does that Black Canary cosplay win over Mad Moxxi? Seriously. Overall, though, even with the quieter Friday and the typically dead Sunday, the show still managed to break 32,000 attendees in total and set a new record for attendance.
So what can we learn from rAge 2013, exactly? Well, I want to say that it’s about time we found another venue. I quite like The Dome, don’t get me wrong. But I’d love an excuse to go to Cape Town, or indeed for the rest of South Africa to come to Durban. We definitely have a bigger venue on offer, and all-year-round summer. Most likely, rAge won’t move away from Johannesburg so long as the big companies are there. Megarom, Microsoft, Telkom, NAG, so on. But it would be really neat for a change of scenery, away from that abhorrently depressive hive of sand and flat tarmac, that is Joburg. I really hate that place.
It might have its name firmly etched into the annals of geek history now, but the other thing about rAge is that it’s no longer just about the games. In fact, I’d dare say that the gaming is fast becoming a side attraction, with the geek culture taking precedence. If you guys were there, you’d have seen just how much of the floor was dominated by other geeky things, the likes of board games, card games and comic book shops. Not that I’m complaining; I feel as if I must emphasise that.
It’s just that, as a gamer, if you’re going to rAge expecting games… well, it’s still a venerable gaming utopia compared to anything else in the country, but you’re definitely not going to get the likes of E3 or Gamescom. I’m fully aware of that now. However, if you want geek nirvana, then you’re always going to be at the right place. As much as rAge stands for really Awesome gaming event, what it really is, is a really Awesome geek event.
¹ Except for the picture above, which was my favourite cosplay of the event and so, deserving of a header image in my column about the expo.
² Strangely enough, the Telkom stand was the only one this year with actual “booth babes” whereas other stands had cosplayers or regular promoters.