I spent the past weekend at the rAge 2019 gaming expo and it’s gotten me somewhat worried. I’ve attended rAge a few times in the past and my biggest complaint has always been that they need a bigger venue. The venue hasn’t changed but this year it never felt overcrowded.
Does this mean that rAge is on a downward spiral that could see its numbers dwindle into obscurity? Perhaps, but I sincerely hope not. Here’s what we found at this year’s rAge.
One thing rAge does better than any other convention, is gaming. It doesn’t matter what level of gamer you fancy yourself as, rAge has everything gaming related you could possibly need.
Esports tournaments is a must-have for a convention like this and rAge 2019 did not disappoint, with several huge stages hosting CS:GO, Apex Legends, Overwatch, and PUBG. There were also numerous stands provided by the likes of Playstation, Xbox, ATK Arena, Acer, and HP where games could be played at your leisure. Some of the games available this year include MotoGP10, MediEvil, FIFA20, Gears 5, Borderlands 3, and NBA2K20.
We also got a first look at the upcoming Predator Hunting Grounds. This game takes the plot of last year’s Predator movie and turns it into a human vs Predator multiplayer experience. This game was a popular attraction with players constantly lining up to give it a try but I’ll admit the almost cartoony color scheme gave me some reservations.
Acer, in conjunction with their premium gaming brand Predator, had an impressive stand with several gaming laptops on display. The main attraction here was most definitely their Thronos gaming chair that gave us mere mortals a glimpse of what gaming heaven must be like.
If you’re in the market for a new gaming rig, headset, or peripherals, there’s no better place to go shopping than rAge. The country’s biggest retailers including Matrix Warehouse, Evetech, BT Games, and Incredible Connection were present, offering a slew of fantastic promotions. I’ve often heard local gamers hold off purchasing new hardware until they can make it to rAge, and this weekend I was reminded why.
And finally, we come to the LAN hosted by NAG. Gamers who are tired of having to explain why you can’t pause a multiplayer game can game from Thursday through Sunday, uninterrupted. This giant network, managed by Mweb, provides a couple of thousand connections to ensure the NAG LAN is the biggest LAN party of the year.
RAGE 2019 PANELS
Several other stages were spread across the convention floor where panels of all types were hosted. Topics on discussion ranged from game development to cosplay and everything in between. Two sessions that stood out for me were regarding the future of Esports in Africa, hosted by Electronic Sport Africa, Mettlestate and Paul “Redeye” Chaloner.
Ryan Macquet, who used to play professional Esports for Energy Esports and then worked at a little tech company named Intel for nearly a decade, is now the founder of Electronic Sport Africa. Their goal is to help gamers all across Africa find a platform that will help them excel to international standards and make professional gaming a plausible career option. Things are still in the starting phases for them but it’s through companies like this that Esports may one day be accepted as a mainstream sport and career. I’m sure I speak for all gamers when I say, we are all rooting for you!
Paul Chaloner, who some may know as Redeye, is an ex-professional Esports player and current Esports caster for some of the biggest gaming tournaments around the world. His love for professional gaming has brought him to our shores to discuss the future of Esports in Africa and offer some advice and encouragement for those aiming to build a future in this field.
As part of his presentation, he showed the humble beginnings of Esports as seen above. This is the very first event that can be seen as an Esports tournament. The year was 1980, and the game being played was none other than Space Invaders. Compare that to the madness of current Esports championships which can be seen below.
Having been involved in the professional Starcraft 2 scene for many years I was eager to hear Redeye’s thoughts as to the future of RTS games in Esports. In his opinion, RTS games are not disappearing any time soon. Despite Starcraft 2’s casual player numbers decreasing steadily, professional players are still going strong, and attendance numbers for their events are higher than ever. He also still has hope for Warcraft 4, although I’m not sure I share that hope.
rAge 2019 also gave a lot of attention to cosplayers, offering them one of the larger stages to show off their characters. This stage also hosted several panels surrounding cosplay like how to pose and how to add electronics to your outfit. This weekend’s cosplay winners walked away with R15 000 in cash as well as a 3D printed figurine of themselves.
The final stage worth mentioning was dedicated to showcasing robotics. Several local enthusiasts of all ages brought their robotic creations along to battle it out in Robot Wars, or to play matches of soccer with no input from their creator, but rather relying on sensors.
VENUE AND ORGANISATION
The venue, although not the biggest convention center available, offers a good layout where everything is easily accessible. I’ve voiced my concern about the venue’s size in the past but as mentioned above this did not seem to be a problem this year.
The Esports stages were great and offered plenty of seating for spectators. The other stages were on the smaller side though, and while this wasn’t as big of an issue as I initially thought, I did walk past the main stage several times while looking for it because I was looking for something more grandiose. At least there were tons of giveaways this year which saw me walking away with Lego sets worth nearly R5000 (about $300), guess what I did the rest of the weekend.
Food arrangements were better than expected. Food quality was good and the lines were constantly moving. There are few things as frustrating as missing an event because you’re waiting in line for a hamburger.
rAge offers many things that all geeks will enjoy but it’s definitely more focussed on gaming. Whether you’re a follower of professional Esports, if you want to try the latest AAA games, or if you’re just looking for a good deal on your next gaming rig, rAge 2019 would not have disappointed. Don’t forget the massive network that allowed players 4 days of uninterrupted gaming fueled by junk food and energy drinks.
The non-gaming merchandise on sale was good but not amazing which is understandable as this is not the main focus of rAge. There were still many fantastic merchandises of the geek variety available if you were looking for a new shirt or coffee mug.
rAge 2019 did, unfortunately, disappoint me in one area. In the past, rAge let you play not only games that have already been released but also games that no one else has seen before. The only such game available this year was Predator Hunting Grounds, which I’m not too enthusiastic about.
All in all, rAge 2019 was a fun experience, but to be honest I am concerned that they’ve settled into a comfort zone which is causing attendance to wain. I would like to see some major changes next year to ensure the excitement is not lost. Unless that happens, I would probably skip a year or two before returning.