Opinion Other

rAge 2016 Cape Town - The pursuit of geeky happiness

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rAge Cape Town. Call it a home turf advantage, but Cape Town rAge felt special. Operating in the usual relaxed way, the rAge organiser crew looked at home in the lazy Mother City, even if these zen gods were more likely forged in the depths of Jozi’s mines. Five, six, seven familiar faces – ‘Hey, I didn’t know you loved games!’ The often-manic rush between the press room and the rAge hall a mere thirty-minute drive from abandoned dishes in my own kitchen sink.

Even the cosplayers, dressed as they were from lands and planets far (far) away, kept a certain local air. I noticed all of these and then my eyes came to rest on the large groups of teenagers making like missiles in search of free merch. It was after this observation that I realised what made this rAge feel like home was not that it happened in Cape Town, but rather because it showed us to all be the same in our pursuit of geeky happiness.

Perhaps my Joburg colleagues have known this all along. There we all were. Imperfect, hopeful, curious.

The NAG LAN

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That is not to say that rAge Cape Town didn’t have its own flavour. In one effort to distance the exhibition from its bigger and older Jozi sister, rAge Cape Town’s NAG LAN swag bag came complete with a yellow rubber ducky. ‘What is the most random thing we can put in there?’, was the question organisers asked themselves.

The answer led to a heart-warming show of kinship among the LANners. A confused girl and boy duo look up and agree to an interview. Nervous they answer my questions until a squeak punctuates the air, then ten more, then a hundred.

It’s my turn to look confused as the couple explain, laughing. I say my goodbyes and leave them to their friends who they have before this only met playing online, but not before a straggler lets out a ‘squeak!’ so late it starts a less enthusiastic second round.

The Overclocking

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After buying your ticket or flashing your pass, you immediately come across the Overclocking World Champs booth. Overclocking, for those who don’t know, is the tricky art of running your CPU, GPU or other components at a faster rate than was intended by its manufacturer. If you’re not already down the expensive rabbit hole that is PC building, it might be difficult to wrap your head around this, but suffice it to say that there is a great deal of skill involved to make sure you get the best clock rate without overheating your components.

This overclocking presence was a first for rAge and a first for South Africa – the country making its first appearance on the HWBOT World Tour. I had vaguely heard of something like overclocking before, but it was awesome to see a new sub-culture at rAge to shake things up. Comment below if you’re an overclocker or you know of some big league South African overclocking champs.

The Sports

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There was a lot of eSports fun to be had at rAge, if one is so inclined. Personally, although I enjoy researching eSports and that I’m happy for where it is going in South Africa as well as more globally, I’m not someone to sit and watch three solid hours of Black Ops or CS:GO. This feels like that time I told my postgraduate English class that I thought Murakami was overrated, but don’t get me wrong. eSports can be fun, and they also open up so many doors for women, and wheelchair users. I just happen not to be as passionate about the actual sports side of it.

If you are, then rAge Cape Town was your jam. There were many different teams playing a variety of games, and it was great to be in the thick of things with shoutcasters screaming out the names of our countries eSports heroes.You can check out GameZone's rAge 2016 eSports results recap here.

The Stalls

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Plushies to my left, board games to my right. A sizeable hole in my sock reminded me of the reality of my finance situation, and my wan smile reflected in the many boxes and packets of Adventure Time-themed everything. Then I suddenly realised I was at rAge, dammit. And if nothing else, this meant an opportunity to buy Love Letter on the cheap – a privilege I had until then thought to reserve for October.

‘While I’m here I should probably look to see if there are any Rey dolls…’ was the last thing I said before new socks and October became my mind’s least interesting thoughts. The usual suspects made up the bulk of stalls – Wizards, Readers Den, BT Games. There were also two vendors in Artist’s Alley that provided handmade plushies for the discerning local-loving buyer. One crotched monkey coming up! Complete with mini crocheted banana that could be removed from monkey’s hands. I know.

‘You made these?’, I ask a woman manning the two stalls while the other vendor runs a quick errand. ‘Yup, nothing made in China here. Except for me!’

We laugh – me less so a few customers later as the joke is recycled, making more room each time for stagnant racial tension. Her colleague returns and the crocheted monkey and his crocheted banana are given a new home.

The Cosplay

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It was disappointing to find out there would be no cosplay competition, much like it would be sad to hear you’d just missed a favourite friend at a party. There were also fewer cosplayers in general. When asked why this is, the cosplayers were hesitant to badmouth rAge, and mostly chalked it up to growing pains.

In any case, the Ewoks, Alice’s, and Harley Quinns were all stellar, even if I had anticipated a few hundred more. I also left rAge early on Saturday, which was when I think most cosplayers came out to, well, play. I’m sad I missed it. Judging from emails between myself and other Cape Townian journos not otherwise involved in games or cosplay directly, it would have been exciting to see how a local audience would react to our industry's most colourful group.

Sure, there are cosplay events and community members at things like Free Comic Book Day, but the sheer size of rAge meant that it drew media new to anything ‘geek’-related, and it’s a pity to have missed those interactions. Comment if you saw or wore some extra kick-ass cosplay that I might have missed on Saturday; it’s your time to shine.

THE VR

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Speaking of VR. CityVarsity made up one of two stalls waving the VR flag, and the only one that had headsets not made of cardboard. I myself went to CityVarsity and it’s a fantastic school. The sweet memories of that year served me well in having what little patience I had to show the stall’s volunteers the day after excitedly trying the race car simulator.

I came to the stall the next day, having just passed the night exhausted, trying to look elegant at a friend’s wedding three hours from Cape Town, while also nursing a stomach bug picked up from a dirty headset. Not the way I would have thought VR would make me sick, but it made for an interesting Saturday night.

When a passive-aggressive note didn’t do the job of getting the CityVarsity team to wipe their headsets down, I went and specifically asked one of the students to do that. I think I might have gone a little over board and scared the student into a mild form of hygiene OCD, but in my defense, I was still a bit off and thinking of all the parents and kids who were at home at that instant, sick because that’s what you get for believing. Kudos for the enthusiasm, though.

And then something unexpected happened ...

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Apart from the games showcased at the NAG Jam, there was only one game and developer team showcasing at rAge. Named Westudio from Pretoria, the group of about seven young men were the best, most heartening thing I’ve seen at rAge, and in a long time in the local industry.

These events tend to leave me weary. It’s one thing shouting from your soapbox onto social media, where like-minded people are likely to interact with and share your views. It’s another to go out and see the impact that kind of thing is actually having; in my experience, not always enough to warrant the negatives of decrying the boy’s club.

This was different .... and I'll tell you why in the next article.

rAge 2016 Cape Town - Verdict

So, surprise. The verdict’s in. It wasn’t perfect. Sometimes it wasn’t good at all. It might have even made you sick. But come Sunday when all was said and done, you had to love it anyway. And all of this – the ups, down, and runs- made rAge Cape Town and everyone we met there feel like family.

Here’s to many more years.  

We'll upload the rest of our rAge Cape Town photos to Facebook later today.

More from rAge 2016 Cape Town

Aléz : Twitter | toofufu / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook


"nothing made in China here"

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