rAge Expo Chronicles: It’s This Thing in South Africa

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It may surprise some to learn that South Africa does in fact produce electricity. Granted the process involves several large natives on gyroscopic bicycles and a significant sacrifice to the crocodile god but the end result is way worth the effort. Why, only last week we managed to power a young couples’ two bedroom bungalow in the north-western province for over twenty minutes. Our national pride continues to soar.

When the local government is not selfishly using this precious resource to power hospitals, schools and other non-essentials, electricity is shipped in droves to power conventions such as the 10th annual Really AWESOME Gaming Event (rAge) gaming expo which took place from the 5th to the 7th of October at the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg. I don’t choose the names.

Seeing as events such as rAge are something of a rarity to my people I put off another weekend of not looking at porn to sample the festivities.

Day 1 – rAge Expo

rAge Expo

Main entrance

Arriving at the rAge expo gates, my concubine, Claire and I were greeted to a sight bordering on the stereotypical: a winding line of spotty white children all twitching feverishly due, partly, to their first real exposure to sunlight but mainly because they would have to go the rest of the afternoon without regular pants fondling’s. I understand. I was twelve once, although public settings never stopped me.

Seeing as we had the foresight to pre-book tickets before hand we sallied forth to the front of the line, eagerly awaiting the sort of five-star reception that only Computicket can provide. Nobody tried to stop us. They must have noticed my fine biceptarial definition from that push-up I did that one morning last Thursday and were hesitant to engage in confrontation. Gamers are a wise and cautious people.

What we found inside turned out to be an impressively sized collection of promotional booths, pop-cult stores and no beer.

The scene was all very festive. Cosplayers dotted the rAge expo frantically trying to find people willing to complement their plastic swords and someone had even let the Magic: The Gathering players out of their caves. It was a collage of shimmering monitors, greasy hair and tits, some of which even belonged to women. Booth babes pranced along the isles distributing pamphlets while simultaneously giving me something to think about in the shower and adverts continued to blare, constantly assuring the crowd that the Wii U won’t be as bad we all know it will.

rAge Expo

He is a bad man. He will get no hugs from me. That’ll show him…

Amidst the shuffling chaos, attendees could take part in the usual gaming expo shenanigans such as waiting in queues to purchase assorted gaming paraphernalia, waiting in queues to play pre-release betas, waiting in queues to be pelted with free merchandise or simply waiting in queues to join a queue. I believe this phenomenon is known online as “queue-ception”. I can quote humorous catch phrases from the internet; I am very funny and clever.

rAge expo also boasted a, rather sizeable, 56 hour, non-stop LAN, made up of over 2 460 gamers, which could be easily located by following an overpowering smell of ammonia or the trail of used tissues. I did not partake in the LAN. This was due to my wanting to give the competitors a fair chance and not because I burnt out my internet cap on Redtube and missed a chance to book. That would be a bad thing.

rAge Expo

Collective gamer sweat produces a chemical akin to Mustard gas

There were prizes too. In fact, I saw a man leave the expo with a comically sized check for R100 000, which is not as impressive as it may sound in Australian dollars but is a sizeable splodge of wonga none the less. He was promptly followed to his car by several heavy set African gentlemen clutching, what appeared to be, broken glass bottles. Perhaps they were celebrating his victory with him. It is the only explanation.

Seeing as there was no beer, the prospect of having to be sociable sober frightened me so we gave the beta queues a miss for the time being and hit the tech stands where I proceeded to pick up some new gear.

In the interest of accuracy, I purchased a Genius GX Imperator keyboard with a matching Genius GX Lychas headset. The salesman informed me that I was making a good choice and I believed him because salesmen are a trustworthy breed and we should trust them because trust is important. Trust me. The GX series also has little scorpion pictures on them which are indisputably hip and cool and will make me the talk of the playground for years to come.

I also picked up a CoolMaster Storm Spawn mouse, which is actually not too shabby, along with a Morrigan figurine from Dragon Age: Origins because, yum.

I proceed to take Morrigan home and not lock myself in the bathroom with her for 27 minutes exactly.

Day 2  – The Lack of Beer

I did not like day two. There were even more people there and still no beer. I like beer.

Queues once again kept us at bay from trying out betas but I did manage to meet the local head of solid-state hard drive distribution in the country. Despite him not giving me free merchandise, I found him quite pleasant and his product even more so. His team had successfully managed to modify little netbooks into state-of the-art portable gaming platforms and allowed me a, trouble free, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare play. A solid-state fan-boy I have now become.

Moving on, we found ourselves stuck in some sort of agoraphobics’ flee market. Wading through a sea of Lego Star Wars kits, Lego Star Wars key rings, Lego Star Wars games, Lego Star Wars lunchboxes, Lego Star Wars board games and Lego Star Wars advertisements we found something that was not Lego Star Wars. Namely, local artists’ selling off original gaming-related imagery. Their work was impressive but they wanted payment. Real artists only except good chi in return for services rendered. They must have been impostors.

By this point however, I had learnt that I had run out of cigarettes and really then, what is the point of staying anywhere? We called it a day.

Day 3 – Beta Gaming

Finally, with queue sizes being manageable, I managed to hit the betas.

There were several major titles ready for hands-on testing. The biggest being Assassins Creed III, Tomb Raider, Borderlands II, Hitman: Absolution, Far Cry III, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Just Dance Iv and (cringe) Halo IV.

First on the list was Hitman: Absolution. Striding up to the stall I was greeted by a Frenchman who promptly explained to me which game I would be playing. After making it abundantly clear that I could read the sign above him I grabbed the nearest controller and took control of the worlds most beloved chemotherapy advocate. Hitman: Absolution is a game that prides itself on using stealth and intelligence to ensure a swift and clean kill. I upheld this sacred tradition by grabbing the nearest security officer and using him as a human shield whilst firing wildly into a densely populated area. I liked that.

rAge Expo

We wanted him to fight “Connor” over at the AC III booth but he said no

Next I managed to rush into a game of capture the flag on Medal of Honor. An undeniably pretty game, I found the combat smooth and the atmosphere intense up until the moment that the teams switched sides. They do this by casually walking past each other, keeping their cool in a manner that would impress even Ghandi, especially considering that they are greeting the same men that not 10 seconds ago ruthlessly gunned down their brothers in arms.

The final stop took me to the Far Cry III booth. With Claire feverously screaming behind me in support, assuring me with phrases such as, “Why can’t I play?” and, “Jesus Christ, can we leave yet?” I took to the tropical hell in good stride. I learned quickly that, whilst a bow and arrow is a nifty little gimmick which suites and island shooter, it may not fare as well as expected against automatic assault rifles. So I died. A lot. Either way the game still impressed me and has found its way onto my pre-booking list.

rage expo

There’s a gardener joke in here somewhere

Although I had to give the other hands-on a skip I managed to catch glimpses of the game play. Assassins Creed III looks to be boasting a pretty spectacular multiplayer element and Tomb Raider isn’t looking horrible, a sentence I would have never thought to type.

I had to end it there sadly. One can only stomach the LAN smell for so long and my Morrigan was missing me. I can sense these things.

As A Whole

All in all the rAge expo felt a little safe. A small scale E3 would be a fitting description. There was something of a lack of diversity among what was on offer. We all expect to see the major titles making an appearance at any gaming convention but I’d hope to think that we would like to see something more. An indie title or two perhaps? Maybe some information on less mainstream titles such as the up and coming War Z.

This is no ones’ fault of course. What is put on show is what the developers and not the organisers allow to be put on show so perhaps I am just nit-picking.

In essence though the expo was a success. A huge turnout coupled with an enormous LAN is always a winner and it good to see the industry growing so far here in the heart of darkness. The location may have been a smidge to small but the stalls and hands-on betas were entertaining as well as informative so worth the claustrophobia. And the lack of beer.

Next week is the Retirement Expo. Now THAT is going to be a treat.

 Fun South African Factoids

  • Nelson Mandela is a powerful shape-shifter and can transform into a large terrapin at will. He can be frequently seen prowling rooftops at night dispensing vigilante justice or along muddy river banks guarding his eggs.
  • There are 11 official languages in South Africa which include English, Xhosa and Eel.
  • Braai-ing is a popular local social custom and involves the gathering of adult males around an open fire where they proceed to burn meat and watch their children compete for status through hand-to-hand combat.
  • South Africa’s national bird is the spotted tree frog.