The annual Really Awesome Gaming Expo, or rAge, is the closest thing the South African gaming and geek community has to a full blown Comic-Con, and this year was no exception. In fact, rAge managed to feel like an international event more than ever and that is mainly due to all the great exhibitions, the sneak-peaks and of course, you, the community. So if you found yourself missing out on a weekend filled to The Dome’s brim with pure awesomeness or if you just want to relive the expo in all its glory, here are the 5 best things we encountered at this year’s rAge.
5. The LAN
Does this come as any surprise? Even after all these years, people still assume that rAge is just one huge LAN party. Even though it’s so much more than that, the LAN does play a big part in creating the unique atmosphere of the expo and it also gives gamers the opportunity to show off their skills in front of a huge audience. I’m sure that it will never be as fun to be a spectator as it is to be actually competing in the gaming league, but it’s still pretty great to see the elites being presented a la SuperSport-style on a huge screen with each elite team playing on opposite ends of the stage, all while being narrated with two presenters in the middle. In a country that is as Rugby-obsessed as this one, it’s truly special to have a gaming event for the gaming community that proves we can be just as proud and supportive of our teams, even though there are no biltong or beer (or cursing at the referee).
4. Injustice 2
Two things never ceased to happen at this year’s rAge: The girl who cosplayed Alma from F.E.A.R never once broke character and the line outside the Injustice 2 VIP-esque room never got shorter. One thing is certain: people are excited for this game. Once you finally got the chance to enter the stylized private room for the R-Rated presentation you were treated to an action-packed demonstration of the game’s new features which includes extremely brutal special moves, great surround sound and some truly great surprises which I am not at liberty to discuss. This was all hilariously narrated by the in-house presenter and upon leaving, to make the experience even better, fans were treated with an Injustice 2 t-shirt that has the game’s very catchy slogan on it: Every Battle Defines You.
3. Lego Dimensions and South Park: The Fractured but Whole.
This is where the list gets difficult to rank. There were so much great games on display at rAge this year that it is difficult to say which one stood out the most. For that reason, taking the number 3 spot goes to the two games that meant the most to the South African gaming community in particular. I’m not only taking the actual game into account.
The physical presentation and accessibility itself plays a big part. In terms of great presentation and sheer fun while playing the game, South Park: The Fractured but Whole wins. Fans were treated with big cutouts of The Coon and Mysterion that gave many fans the chance to finally get a picture taken with South Park’s most famous, ahem, heroes. The demo itself is quite a long one and considering the game’s original December 2016 release has been postponed all the way to March 2017, this is quite the treat for those who can’t wait to get their hands on the new shock humor-filled RPG adventure.
Lego Dimensions took the win in terms of accessibility. The Lego booth set up an appropriate amount of booths to handle all the players wanting a turn on the genre-breaking game. It is especially great for South Africans, seeing as the actual Lego parts are nothing short of really expensive here and not everyone can afford to play the game to its full potential with all the Lego figurines that was on display at the booth. It was one of the bigger highlights of my experience at rAge, and a damn fun one at that. Even though Lego Dimensions has been available for some time in South Africa, many fans have been skeptical about forking out that amount of dough for something they don’t know. rAge provided many players with an answer: it’s worth it!
2. The Cosplay
Cosplayers have always been a presence at rAge, but never have they been in the majority as with this year’s expo. For every innocent bystander who just popped in to check out the newest tech there was a Deadpool or Harley Quinn or Lara Croft. It was fascinating to see the lengths people would go to in order to be reborn as their favorite Western pop, anime or gaming characters. The Cosplay tournament itself was exciting, offering the cosplayers a platform to compete in a variety of divisions while also giving the audience skit performances and the chance to get a selfie with Baymax or the Lich King.
The amount of cosplayers added to the geek-factor of this year’s expo, immediately making it feel more welcoming to any kind of fandom. rAge is no longer just for gamers. As the cosplayers and the variety of stalls proved, this is an event for every fandom and any type of person who considers him or herself a nerd by definition.
1. Playstation’s Arkham VR
The Playstation VR experience wins rAge 2016 by a landslide. It was a unique year in terms of getting to experience something as new and exciting as VR, a piece of tech that has not even been released in South Africa yet, for the first time. Playstation knocked it out of the augmented reality park this year with their presentations. They even managed to make me forget all about Xbox’s rather disappointing booth which blasted you with headache-inducing green spotlights and didn’t really feature any new tech save for a quick glimpse at the Xbox One S. Not only did Playstation have their new and surprisingly small Playstation 4 Pro on full display, they also had this year’s golden nugget with the Batman Arkham VR game.
Players were given the chance to become The Batman for more or less 10 minutes at a time with their slightly private VR booths, which came with its own VR headpiece, Playstation Move controllers, a TV screen and even a very friendly personal assistant to guide you through the demo. The experience itself was amazing. For a brief moment, you forget that you are at rAge and you are transported to the Wayne-mansion and the Batcave in all of its 3D glory. I immediately fell in love with the idea of VR gaming, especially if it means I can be the Bat of Gotham.
It serves as a testament to rAge 2016’s success that when I took the VR headset off, I was just as happy to find myself in the Joburg Dome with still a bunch of exhibitions and gaming booths left to explore.
Here’s to looking forward to rAge 2017.