The really Awesome gaming expo (rAge) took place over the past weekend (9-11 October) at the TicketPro Dome in Johannesburg. The expo has become somewhat of an institution these days and is definitely the largest gaming show in South Africa. The expo has two large drawing cards, one being the showcase of yet to be released games and of course the famous NAG LAN, which sees serious PC gamers spending three days straight playing against one another.
I visited the expo on Saturday the 10th. I was childishly excited to attend after about a 7 year absence, my last visit being 2008. I attended the inaugural expo back in 2002 and I remember I won a gaming PC case from the Matrix stand, forever imprinting a love for the rAge exhibition. Arriving at the dome in the 34 degree Joburg heat I was immediately struck by the amount of cars, this was going to be a packed event. I received my media pass and was immediately ushered to the press lounge which was air-conditioned and provided a lounging area with refreshments. Before checking out all of the exhibitions I was allowed a 5 min chat with the brain behind the rAge expo as well as NAG publisher (New Age Gaming Magazine – now just online) Michael James. Here is a QnA from our discussion (paraphrasing Michael):
Me: Nice to meet you Michael! I have been a long time fan and supporter of both rAge and the NAG magazine. How has the expo evolved over the years? Michael: We are in our 13th year of the expo. It started way back in 2002 as a way to bring together like-minded gamers. Initially we had a few exhibitors around the main LAN event, but since then the expo has evolved into an entertainment hub for gadgets, comics and gaming companies. Q: The expo has certainly grown over the years that’s for sure. Every inch of real-estate is being used. Over the last couple of years I have noticed that rAge has become the South African Cosplay event of the year as well. Michael: It sure has. The expo visitors use the event to dress up as their favorite gaming and anime characters. Cosplay goes hand-in-hand with the interest of our visitors and the expo is the perfect platform for them to costume-play their favorite characters. Me: How much effort goes into planning the rAge event? I guess you aren’t short of exhibitors these days? Michael: Definitely not, we have a lot of interest in the event every year. We have many high-profile exhibitors every year including Megarom, Sony, Microsoft etc. We obviously also have a lot of logistical planning around the 2500-man LAN and planning for the event starts a few weeks after the previous one. Me: Thanks for the quick chat! I am going to go and enjoy the expo and all of its geekness right now!
So I left the comfortable air-conditioned press area and entered planet rAge and boy oh boy it definitely is a different planet filled with crazy obsessive gaming and gadget enthusiasts. They came in all shapes and sizes, from the stereo-typical late 20’s long-haired Dota expert to investment bankers and full time athletes. I saw and met a myriad of different gamers and I was surprised by how diverse the gaming population has become. No wonder the gaming industry out performs the movie industry every year. People LOVE games!
I couldn’t possible describe every single stand at the expo but some of the highlights included:
This stand was packed. Why? Because there you could play yet to be released games like Tomb Raider, Assassin‘s Creed Syndicate, WWE 2K16 and Star Wars: Battlefront on the Xbox One console. The staff was very anti-photographs, but after spotting my press tag I was allowed one or two snaps.
Sony’s stand focused on Call of Duty: Black Ops3. And they were very sneaky about it. They built a huge closed off room, where hundreds of people queued to get a 15min stab at the latest first person shooter on the PS4. Obviously I decided against waiting in line but the hype around the stand was incredible.
The stage, with accompanying grand stands, was used for preview showings of upcoming games and gadgets. They basically had a gaming representative from each blockbuster title present and hype their game on the stage followed by the teaser trailer and the inevitable prize giveaway.
Other highlghts included the Just Cause 3 stand, the Alienware stand, the Matrix stand (which offered great expo discounts) as well as the CNA and BT-Games stands which sold a mass amount of games over the weekend. What I found really interesting was the table-top gaming section of the event. Not only could you buy almost obscure every board game in existence but there was also playing tables set up with experts that would teach you how to play them! Cool huh?
I really enjoyed the expo this year, even if I had to push my way through the crowds to get a glimpse of whatever the exhibitor was peddling. I am marking down next year’s event on my calendar already. Check out some of the pics I took below. Were you at the event as well? Let us know your experiences in the comment section below!