“I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?” (Chastity, 10 Things I hate about you, 1999)
The above quote from the popular 1999 teen film ‘10 Things I hate about you’, perfectly sums up my experience at this year’s rAge expo at the Coca Cola Dome. This expo was a completely new experience for me and I was unsure of what to expect exactly. Upon first arrival, I was completely overwhelmed. There were so many people and above all, so many exhibitors that I didn’t know where to start. I decided to try and systematically work my way through the various exhibitions, and in doing so I ended up being decidedly underwhelmed.
Perhaps I should confess that technology and games are of very little interest to me. If I can play a game in which I only need to point and shoot, then I’ll play it. But the minute you put a controller in my hands and I need to press an intricate series of triangles, squares, x’es and o’es to perform a single action – well then you’ve lost me. Similarly, I was left somewhat numbed by the dazzling array of games and technologies on display, since my attitude towards these is indifference. Nevertheless, my personal lack of enthusiasm for video gaming should not be construed as an indictment of the event itself as it is clear that many of the exhibitors were very well organised and ready to engage with visitors both young and old. The success of the gaming and technology exhibitions was also evident through the glee of my two friends who tagged along, both of whom are well versed in the more esoteric aspects of gaming. At one point, I just left them alone to explore the myriad of new games and consoles on display, as it was clear that they were in videogame Valhalla. One need only to have looked around to see that their feelings of un-bottled joy were shared by most in attendance.
I then wandered around in search of something that would perhaps whelm me into excitement. When I reached the NAG LAN enclosure, I was taken by a feeling of sympathetic despondency as it was evident that the last dregs of this 52 hour event were starting to affect the gamers still in play. I had this feeling, whilst staring along with others at these zombies within the metal cage, to free them, take them outside and show them the sunlight. Instead I choose to heed the warning sign and let the gamers be.
It was there between yet another gaming console and the gamer’s cage that I finally found something which piqued my interest. Though it only occupied a small section of the vast exhibition hall, it was there where I spent most of my time, between the artists and comics, graphic novels and board games. I was again awed by the assortment of board games on display, which introduced me to familiar characters from popular television series such as The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory, now available as games to be played. The numerous collectables on display, ranging from bobble head to action figures to collectable figurines, had me visualising their pride of place in my flat, which is desperately in need of some comic book chic. In the end I had to choose between a zombie action figure (with real biting action!) and a Yoda bobble head. In the end, with Yoda I went as I knew the zombie would have given me nightmares. Despite rifling through several boxes, I didn’t find a graphic novel to take home as I am generally sceptical of new authors and suffering from the fatigue and sensory overload that a morning at rAge can leave one with. I do hope that this section of the exhibition will continue to grow, as the main gaming exhibits have.
Even though I may have missed the point of the expo, it being more about the games and technological aspects of the gaming industry, I will definitely attend the expo again… Even if it’s just to be overwhelmed by the controlled chaos of it all ΔΟ×.