Overlooking the countless humans populating the maze of thoroughfares between the booths, eyes filled with a Technicolor spectrum of flickering screens, floodlights, flashes, neon and LEDs. Looking out from the media balcony, Microsoft’s stand is to my left, Sony to my right and Nintendo just off centre, each showing off the next generation of their hardware due to be released at the end of the year. Amongst this to my far right is the annual NAG LAN, the largest in the southern hemisphere, where over 2100 people link computers to compete against each other in multi-player games. Dotted throughout the scene is a cornucopia of companies sowing off their games, new technologies being flaunted and people dressed up as their favourite characters from the fictional worlds they love.
I love rAge. I haven’t missed one since 2005 and I have made the pilgrimage with a devout fervor at least twice upon the weekend of which it falls, every year, without fault, often ending up in the aforementioned LAN, huddled under the desk that my computer is resting on, fighting the cold concrete floor for a sliver of comfort once the inevitable need for sleep arrives. And I loved every second of it. Being a gamer is being cool these days, as shown by the thousands upon thousands of attendees that grows every year without slack. Furthermore shown by the fact that trap was blaring throughout the show from the main stage. We have arrived.
Likewise multi-player gaming has arrived; the LAN has hosted a number of competitions sponsored by Telkom, of which the winning team was rewarded with R25000. Might I just mention that a multi-player video game is the national sport of South Korea. I got the chance to play demo versions of next-generation games whose code was only completed a few days before the event, making event goers some of the first in the world to play these games. This shows how South Africa has risen to the state of an European nation, at least in a gaming and media way, further cemented by the attendance of Daniel Matros of the Swedish video game developer DICE of Battlefield fame, continuing the lineage of members of the international video game developer community presenting at the event.
It’s inherently heard to talk about an event whose primary mode of interaction is by the user to the product, it’s hard to describe about how far gaming has come as an art form. rAge is true testament to this shifting of respect towards this form of entertainment, staring out as a meagre event and has grown into an event that draws attendees in their droves from every province in the land. In turn with this, the expo has been increasing in quality, with more games on display and available to play than that of stalls selling wares. It’s this tug of war between rAge being a gaming expo and that of a trade expo which has seen the expo itself take a slight slump in the late 2000s but I’m glad to see that the organizers are pushing it back into the stream of making games playable for gamers, and I think the event is well on its way to matching the brilliance of its 2005 and 2006 iterations.
Again I love rAge, and I loved this year’s expo. This is a R1.72 billion market in our country and rAge stands as South Africa’s testament to this great culture. Whether showcasing local indie games, triple A titles with budgets of millions or providing a place where everyone can fly their proverbial nerd flag from their broadswords, rAge is just it.