Decades ago, I made a pact with myself that one day I would attend a computer / gaming / technology / geek culture expo of world-shaking proportions! It was this very dream that led me to discover the then-fledgling rAge expo.
As with most of my ilk (hopefully if you’re reading this you’ve indulged in some aspect of geek culture in the last 24 hours), our sarcasm level is always way beyond 9,000 and would make even the most hardcore Saiyan back away in fear. So, my expectations were tempered with equal parts wariness, excitement and generous dollops of sarcasm. There was another problem: for me to make this gaming pilgrimage I would have to travel the land far and wide on a quest that would eventually lead me to the mighty metropolis of Johannesburg. But that is not this story, and little did I know that my quest would eventually come in search of me.
Of course, this wasn’t an undertaking for the fainthearted. As with most journeys of its kind, it would be paved with blood, sweat and tears. Those of you who’ve wanted anything as badly as I’ve wanted to attend rAge will have a deeper understanding of this that surpasses the metaphorical. So what did it take for me to get to the 14th rAge expo at GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World in Goodwood, Cape Town?
Like many a Hero’s Journey, it starts with a search, for something far greater than what the present can provide. Joseph Campbell dubs it “A Call to Adventure”, and mine came via my favourite social media channel, Twitter, in the last quarter of 2015. Two years prior to that I had desperately attempted to make plans to get to rAge Jo’burg – the Gaming Mecca of my delirious dreams. Alas, it did not come to pass; but there was no way I could ignore the opportunity to attend rAge Cape Town 2016, which was taking place right in my backyard.
When attending these kinds of events, it is of course imperative to be dressed appropriately, to show your people that you are not some outsider (Gaijin, the Japanese would call it) and that you truly belong, that you’re among friends, among family. This makes the organisers’ hashtag #escapetoplanetrAge all the more relevant, because for three short days a world is created expressly for the purpose of immersing yourself in geek culture.
I would of course be driven to tears of joy at several intervals while traversing this corner of the galaxy and exploring every nook and cranny of planet rAge. From the familiar faces of Frontosa, Logitech, MSI and HP, to the booths of Reader’s Den, Wizards, Tshirt Terrorist and Thug Mugs, and all the way to PlayStation, Xbox, Monster and, of course, the fabled NAG Shoppe! The surrealism was so potently felt that I had to brace myself more than a few times in the shadow of one of the overhanging displays or the cool comfort of a nearby wall, falling short of pinching myself to reassert my reality. A dream was indeed unfolding before my eyes, one two decades in the making, and I was surrounded by people who all shared this very same dream, regardless of age, race or gender.
Let’s talk about dedication. Thato and his friends from Westudio travelled by bus all the way from Pretoria to present their body of work and an exciting-looking new game they’d released a few hours before I met them. Upon having a brief chat with the team, it turned out that they weren’t even supposed to make it there. With terrible disappointments in their travelling schedule and a major shortfall on the finance side, it would have been all too easy to give up, but as was said by the studio’s founder, “We do it for gaming!” They got themselves there by sheer force of will. This is the courage and determination that this culture creates. Let them laugh at you if they want, you’re well on your way to achieving things most people can only dream of.
Let’s talk about passion. Two students from Ravensmead high school were playing one of the Disney titles on offer when I caught up with them. It was a school day and when I enquired why they weren’t in class, they laughed. Apparently a call went out at their school, asking who the avid gamers are and whether they would consider pursuing their passion for gaming as a viable career choice someday. A few of them answered the call and showed up en masse dressed in their school uniforms, looking neat, smiling with glee, a sparkle in their eye. I’m looking forward to the future these youngsters will create.
There were plenty of light-hearted moments too of course: posing for photographs at the LEGO exhibit, watching people experience virtual reality for the first time, meeting Monster Energy-fuelled Monster Energy guys at the Monster Energy booth, people marvelling at drones taking to the sky and cosplayers striking poses all over the show.
It was a day filled with wonder and excitement. I just wish I was able to share it with more people. By writing this, I guess I’m doing just that, and since I have your attention I’d love for you to spread the word as well! Tell your friends, your neighbours, your mom, your dad, your uncle, your aunt, your dog, your cat… no wait, tell your cat and then your dog, about the wonders of rAge expo, and if you couldn’t make it this time, you’ve got time to prepare for the next one.
Oh, before I forget: there was a young boy there who flew all the way from Johannesburg to be there. Not alone I’m guessing, because he had a young lady (sorry, girl-who-I-thought-was-his-mother) with him and she was explaining to me how he wouldn’t miss this for the world. I’m sure there were so many similar stories, Easter Eggs, hidden power-ups and secret locations to discover at rAge, but as is customary for those of us relentlessly pursuing our goals on this rock spinning through space, I had a limited amount of time available to me and had to leave after a few short hours there.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved for making this dream a reality, not just for me, but for all those kids, gamers, geeks and brave dreamers from far-off lands, who only saw rAge as a pipe dream up in Jo’burg that would never be realised. Thank you for bringing it to Cape Town and I trust that we have shown enough support to warrant rAge’s appearance in the Mother City for many years to come.
See, dear reader, you might have this same vision of the future in your corner of the world. Believe, hope, pray, wish upon a star, keep doing whatever you’re doing, because sometimes dreams do come true!