For over 15 years, rAge has been the one and only must-attend gaming event in South Africa, with events like Geekfest merely nibbling at its heels. This year, however, the Yanks invaded our shores and brought their favorite son, ComicCon, along to show us Africans how it's done.
Was rAge able to defend its title as the king of all things geek or did it take a royal tumble from its throne of grace? I'm sad to say, it was the latter.
what to expect
As always, the expo floor was crawling with stalls of all sorts. In one corner you had artists showing off their most spectacular creations, next you had the local stores with massive weekend deals and then you had the global names like HP, Xbox, and MSI who did their thing. I managed to pick up some nice gear from brand new manufacturers like VX Gaming and Armageddon for next to nothing and so far I'm happy with my purchases.
There was a multitude of new and pre-release games on show, some, like Fallout 76, only offering a taste of the next trailer, while others gave you a chance to test your driving, shooting, and button mashing abilities in their virtual worlds. Here's the list of the most memorable games on show at rAge.
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
- The Division 2
- Call of Duty Black Ops 4
- Forza Horizon 4
- FIFA 19
- NBA 2k19
- WWE 2k19
- Lego DC Supervillains
- Boet fighter (I had to include a local production)
Without a doubt, the most impressive stand of the show belonged to Xbox. Not only did they have the largest floor space and the biggest number of games available, but they also had a kids corner filled with bean bags and consoles where Lego DC Supervillains could be played, and a massive Fortnite tournament where over 40 members of the public could join the same game.
The queues to get some hands-on time with these games can feel endless but luckily I managed to experience some of the heart-aching prettiness found in Forza Horizon 4. It was a fun filled few minutes, even though was limited to just the free roam mode, and for some reason, the only car I could drive was a pink Ford Focus, which I hope was in support of breast cancer awareness month, or someone seriously needs to reevaluate their sense of style. I also got the color drained from my face as I jumped off a building in a VR simulator and at another VR stand spent some time surviving the zombie apocalypse.
In support of breast cancer awareness month, rAge hosted the Overwatch Cosplay with a Pink Twist competition where competitors would be entered into a draw to win NAG hampers, Funko Pop and other figurines, as well as a set of custom made wings.
The biggest attraction for most though was undoubtedly the giant LAN. From R700, players could connect their gaming rigs to the largest network in the country and spend the weekend gaming with 1800 others until they satisfied their bloodlust or couldn't keep their eyes open any longer.
The biggest improvement this weekend was the increase in floor space. For too long now has the showroom floor been split among the expo and the LAN, with the LAN portion taking up more and more space every year and causing massive overcrowding.
This year, the LAN was split into 3 sections, each one moved to a different location within the venue which left the showroom floor open to the rest of the expo. The most basic of the LAN areas provided only the bare necessities for players to plug in and slay some monsters, while the others included a few additional creature comforts such as padded chairs and seclusion from the expo to reduce noise interference.
This hardware for this year's the LAN was sponsored by Nutanix, Aruba, and Mweb. With so many computers being connected to one network there is always the inevitable technical drama but apart from a brief power outage once the bulk of the players got connected, it seems the rest of the weekend was without any major issues. Good job guys!
A pleasant surprise was the number of kids zones which offered entertainment for the tiny humans in the form of a jumping castle and age-appropriate games. rAge understands you don't stop being a geek after having kids.
Where were V/S Gaming, the grid of progaming teams, and the cosplay stage? The exclusion of V/S Gaming, who usually erects giant stages to host eSports tournaments, left a definite hole in this weekend's experience. Instead, we were left with tiny stages which mostly hosted sessions with companies like HP, Dell, and Epson, which is all fine but I'm sure no one quivers with excitement at the prospect of hearing about Epson's latest inkjet range.
The MSI/Evetech stage hosted some 1v1 CS:GO and Quake Champions games but it was hardly a substitute for watching Aperture Gaming and Energy eSports duke it out. The lack of proper staging also meant that there was nowhere to judge the cosplay entrants this year, and the lack of a competition meant that many didn't bother wearing their favorite costumes. What I find strange is that rAge made the effort to run the "Cosplay doesn't mean Consent" campaign to stop the harassment of cosplayers, but then provided no proper platform for these artists to showcase their passion.
Additionally, the LAN event has decreased substantially in size, going from 2500 players last year to a mere 1800. Sure, that's still an impressive sized network but to lose over a quarter of the entrants in a single year does not inspire a lot of confidence in future of this event.
Finally, despite the extended floor space, the venue still wasn't large enough to accommodate the hordes. Just after lunch, I was standing on the balcony outside the press lounge and cringed at the thought of having to push through the rivers of bodies flooding through the hallways. This problem has persisted for so long and needs some serious attention.
The first ComicCon Africa event wasn't flawless by any measure but it showed us just how much our local events were lacking, which we hoped would inspire rAge to evolve into something more. I'm not saying they should copy what was done at ComicCon, but the Americans clearly did something right considering that I spent an entire day at ComicCon and desperately wanted to come back the day after, while a mere morning on the rAge floor left me satisfied and even a little agitated. Even looking at my experience at rAge in 2017, it's like I've come to a completely different event this year.
I truly hope this is not the start of a downward spiral for rAge, but if they wish to reclaim their title, they'll have to spend some serious time in the gym and come back next year, fighting fit. As things stand, ComicCon Africa has definitely stolen the show this year, leaving rAge to feed off the scraps.