In 2018 Comic Con stormed the shores of Africa to start a revolution. It returned in 2019, and let me assure you, the rebels will not be thwarted any time soon. It may only have been Comic Con Africa‘s second year but it inspires great confidence as to what’s to come. This is sure to be the one gaming expo all South Africans will look forward to.
No other gaming convention in South Africa gives you an opportunity to meet your idols. Despite many guests canceling at the last moment, this was still my favorite part of Comic Con Africa. Anthony Mackie, whom some might know as Falcon from Avengers, was a no-show once again. That’ll make it the second year in a row he’s disappointed fans. Isaac Hempstead Wright also had to pull out because he suddenly remembered he had to be at the Emmy Awards. A curious thing to forget considering Game of Thrones was nominated for just about every award the Emmy’s have.
Fortunately, some Hollywood celebrities actually know how a calendar works. It was my absolute privilege to see the legendary William Shatner on stage. Many know him as Captain Kirk or the voice from Rescue 911. For me though, he is and always will be Denny Crane. Regardless of where you saw him first, there’s no doubt that William Shatner is one of Hollywood’s all-time greats. He had so much fun answering questions from the audience even saying “He died, he was ground up, you would have loved it.” when asked about a particular victim from Rescue 911 whom he couldn’t recall at the time.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the antics of Troy Baker and Nolan North. These two voice actors have a resume spanning the length of the Pacific Ocean. Together, they’ve brought to life characters from some of the greatest games our industry has ever seen. Among their many accolades are game franchises like World of Warcraft, Mafia, God of War, Halo, Command and Conquer, Uncharted, Dragon Age, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Diablo, DOTA, Batman, The Last of Us, Destiny, Mortal Kombat, Avengers, Transformers, The Elder Scrolls, Metal Gear Solid, Star Wars, Far Cry, Bioshock, and hundreds more. It doesn’t matter which games you’ve played in your life, chances are you heard these two in there somewhere. Their chemistry on stage was incredibly entertaining and they even showed off some of their exceptional vocal talents for our amusement.
The Honorable Mentions
Also in the guest list was Daniel Gillies who is most well known for being in The Originals and The Vampire Diaries. Additionally, we saw a slew of artists and comic authors as well as two international Cosplay stars, Leeanna Vamp, and Lion Chiro.
GAMING AT COMIC CON AFRICA
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re quite keen on games. From retro to upcoming, from mainstream to bizarre, from console gaming to tabletop gaming, from Gears 5 to Bee Simulator (Why??), Comic Con Africa had it all.
The entire floor space of The Ballroom was decked with tables and dedicated to tabletop gaming. Obsessed hobbyists could not only discuss and play their favorite games but also show off their homemade miniatures. While tabletop gaming is present at most local gaming conventions, Comic Con Africa is the only one to recognize it as a true faction of the gaming community.
If button mashing is your drink of choice then Hall 3 would’ve had you tipsy as an 18-year-old on the old Hatfield Square. While a little light on the hardware side of things, there was enough gaming content to keep anyone entertained for the duration of the convention. A bunch of terrifying zombies hyped the upcoming release of Death Stranding but note, Troy Baker confirmed Norman Reedus will not appear naked. Apparently, this was a shock to some but I’m sure we’ll all survive after a disapproving Tweet.
I managed to get my hands on Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, however briefly. This game is breathtakingly beautiful and should make for an incredible multiplayer experience. I’m bummed that I didn’t get to try Borderlands 3 but the unending line around this game indicated that Pandora will soon be filled with Vault Hunters again.
Telkom and VS Gaming returned to a giant stage where they hosted some stellar CS:GO and DOTA 2 tournaments. My packed schedule didn’t allow me much time at this stage but cheering could be heard from afar so it sounds like things went well. In the end, Energy Esports and Goliath Gaming, two of the frontrunners in local Esports, went home with the CS:GO and DOTA 2 titles respectively. Second places went to Big 5 Esports and Sinister 5 Esports.
Comic Con Africa’s organizers recognize that many attendees are parents who would love to include their offspring in this experience, and so KidsCon became a thing. KidsCon could be found in Hall 2 next to the most incredible Lego creations. There were a number of fun activities for kids of nearly all ages to enjoy and the toy range would have you and your credit card sobbing in the corner.
The Cosplay community made itself visible, parading some of the best costumes I’ve seen yet. I particularly enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek approach of some. One person had a white mask with “EA” written on it and a briefcase with a note that read, “All the companies I’ve ruined”. Another wore a t-shirt and shorts, with a note on his back that read “I dressed up as a Game of Thrones writer. You can tell by the complete lack of effort”. One of my favorites was the Asian guy with a suit, shoulder-length hair, and a giant pencil in his hands. The overall Cosplay winner this weekend was Jinxkitty with her adaptation of Priestess Bathory. She’ll be representing Africa in the US at the Championships of Cosplay Quest for the Crown. This just serves as a reminder to the female cosplay community that there are characters other than Harley Quinn to dress up as.
Comic Con Africa played host to the finals of the Entelect Challenge. This is a coding competition where players build an AI to play a chosen game against their competitors. This year’s game was Worms, or at least a strange mutation thereof. Some of the AI’s made some questionable decisions, like running their worms into burning lava. Others overcame seemingly impossible odds with ingenious strategies, like dodging. The Winner, Willie Theron, and his AI, Metamorp, walked away with R70 000 (about $4600).
VENUE AND ORGANIZATION
What really sets Comic Con Africa apart from other local conventions is the amount of stage content. After planning my Saturday schedule I literally had something to see from 10AM to 5PM. An hour was opened up when Mr. Mackie canceled and I also missed the start of the cosplay judging to sooth my rumbling stomach.
The organizational team stepped things up considerably from last year, although there were still a few issues. Some of the stages were plagued by technical issues which took way too long to resolve and the security team was not aware of the arrangements for members of the media. The worst of all was the food. Gallager Convention Centre has its own food stations scattered around, which served the same dishes. This meant choice was limited, and quality was way below what I expected for the price I paid. I mentioned earlier that I had to miss the start of the Cosplay event to have lunch. This is because a lack of staff and stock had me waiting in line for close to an hour.
I discussed my concerns with some of the organizers who were grateful for the feedback and promised to handle it at their debriefing at the end of the day.
THE KING OF CONS?
This coming weekend, I’ll be attending rAge, the only real competition to Comic Con Africa. However, rAge will need to pull a rabbit out of its butt to keep its fanbase alive. Considering they haven’t made any noteworthy changes in the last decade, I feel confident in declaring Comic Con Africa the ultimate geek and gaming convention in South Africa. I can’t wait to see what Anthony Mackie’s excuse is next year.