This past weekend I had the privilege of attending Geekfest. Having never attended before, I was highly excited and even took my wife and son along to enjoy the day only to have most of it spoiled by mother nature’s most basic tool of destruction, rain, rain and more rain.
This year’s expo was held in the outdoor event’s arena at the breathtakingly beautiful Montecasino Boulevard in Johannesburg. For me this was one of the highlights of the day, it’s been years since my last visit and it’s always a memorable experience walking through those cobbled streets. Unfortunately, this also turned out to be the biggest drawbacks since the entire event was held outdoors where we were unable to hide from the merciless storm. As a result, many of the scheduled attractions were canceled.
THE DAY IN A NUTSHELL
We all know how things play out at events like this which is why I arrived an hour early, a white chocolate mochaccino in hand. What was supposed to be an hour-long wait turned into nearly 2 when the unexpected rain prompted a prolonged health and safety check to ensure none would be crushed or electrocuted. I was slightly annoyed at the delay but in the organizers' defense, rain in the middle of May is highly irregular.
When the doors finally opened, we flooded through like those crazy people you see in Black Friday videos on Youtube. Upon seeing conditions outside however, we stopped dead in our tracks and questioned how deep our geek roots go before proceeding. It was only a moment’s hesitation though.
Being a car nut as well as a Geek, my eyes first shot towards the Ghostbuster’s van and Knight Rider’s Kitt parked just beyond the gates. Above you'll see me proudly representing my clan next to that iconic station wagon. Next up was The Troll Bow Project, a company who incorporated archery into a fantasy setting. They had a number of longbows on display which visitors could try out in their shooting range. As someone who’s dabbled in archery before, I can testify that this is not as easy as it looks.
The rest of the arena was filled with stalls showcasing various products that could only be appreciated by proper geeks. There were an abundance of clothing and jewelry from various game, comic and cinematic universes that included Harry Potter, Star Wars, Warcraft, Mortal Kombat, Marvel, DC, Pokemon, Dragon Ball, and many more. There was also a surprising amount of Steampunk paraphernalia ranging from goggles and pocket watches to mechanical corsets and highly decorative skulls as can be seen below.
I am furthermore a huge fan of the boy who lived so I was ecstatic to find loads of Harry Potter collectibles such as Deathly Hallows necklaces, Hogwarts house scarves and one particular stall where you could buy incredibly detailed wands similar to those featured in the movies. Of course, this event was also an opportunity for the unappreciated artist to showcase their talents and thus I found plenty of stunning art pieces I wouldn’t mind hanging in the man-cave my wife will let me have one day.
I proceeded through the aisles and enjoyed the first bunch of stalls when I heard a commotion coming from the stage. I rushed over to find an early showcase of the cosplay contestants and managed to take a few pictures despite the fear of drowning my camera. After this I soldiered on through the rain to see what else was on offer, becoming wetter by the moment until I could feel the water seeping through my hoodie. As cold as I was at that moment, I could scarcely imagine the misery of some of the female cosplayers who barely had covering at all. I appreciate a pretty girl as much as the next guy but I desperately wished some of them to would put some clothes on.
One item I was happy to see survived the elements was the Medieval Martial Arts. These guys clothe you in full medieval battle armor and teach you to fight with sword, spear, and shield. They are even available for corporate team building events which in my humble opinion could possibly mean the end to pesky office politics in the near future.
The remainder of the day's happenings featured more cosplay parades with an eventual prize giving, a game developer’s Q&A panel, Geeklympics and the ultimate geek giveaway featuring a collection of prizes valued at over R30 000 (about €2000)
I made a few stops throughout the day that deserves a mention here, either because they had superb products on offer or simply because they left a lasting impression.
Plato’s Beard – You might have noticed men growing obscenely long beards lately which has seen the launch of several beard-care product lines. Plato’s Beard offers just such a line of products including black shaving cream for those whose wives prefer cheeks as soft as a baby’s bottom.
Lewis Art – I don’t consider myself a great lover of art but I can appreciate a good piece when I see it. Some of the pieces on display at Geekfest were truly exceptional such as the drawings from Lewis Art.
Entelect– These guys and gals have me intrigued. Each year they host a coding competition where they select a game, Battleship being this year’s choice, and have entrants developing an A.I system to play said game in a tournament. They host various trials where contestants let their systems duke it out until only one remains standing. The grand prize on offer is a phenomenal R100 000 (Approx. €6900).
I must admit that the scene was lacking in gaming peripherals. I did come across some nice gaming hardware from brands I didn’t recognize and HP was able to show off the performance their new Omen gaming laptops, but that was about it. The first time I saw HP’s Omen laptop range I was struck by just how thin they were. I found this odd since gaming laptops are generally much bulkier to allow for better airflow and so in provide better cooling. According to Martin, the hardware expert from HP, they’ve developed a way to create a vacuum inside the laptop’s casing which ensures much better airflow and removes the need for bulky laptops. Call me old fashioned, but this sounds like sorcery to me.
WHAT WE MISSED
The rain slammed the brakes on various items on the schedule including the Robo Wars, one of the attractions I was most looking forward to. There was also supposed to be an inflated sumo arena and a play area for the younger crowd which were unavailable.
Nintendo had their own tent in the middle of the venue where visitors were meant to be able to try out the new Switch. Since moving through the arena felt more like swimming than walking at times, it came as no surprise then that this tent was closed all day.
The South African geek and gaming scene is a mere spec when compared to those from other continents, in the same way that most things from our humble country can’t compare to their counterparts from the first world. Rage is easily our biggest gaming event of the year and the NAG LAN party hosted there has grown to host over 2000 players. Unfortunately, this means that the rest of the expo subsequently gets pushed into a dark corner where there’s very little space to enjoy the rest the expo has on offer. It is because of this that I haven’t been to Rage for several years and also why I was so excited to attend Geekfest.
Unfortunately, the day was ruined by unbelievably bad weather which left the organizers with no choice but to cancel several parts of the event and had visitors rushing through the aisles to get a quick glimpse at everything there is to see before retreating back indoors.
I’ve mentioned that I’m quite fond of automobiles and as it turns out, there’s a Lamborghini dealership just down the road from where Geekfest was held. Of course, I just had to say hello to those Italian beauties before going home so the day wasn’t a complete loss. And besides, I found a pokeball with a Bulbasaur.