Pop culture fans flock to rAge

The Really Awesome Gaming Expo (rAge) is back in town and gamers from around the country have flooded Northgate to test their skills against others.

Our northern hemisphere friends have Comic Con and Eurogamer but South Africans have rAge – a massive convention that gives everyone with just a bit of love of pop culture the opportunity to proudly fly their geek flag.

Although rAge is primarily a gaming expo – featuring the latest in PC- and videogames, and the hardware that goes with it, it's also a place where people buy comic books, partake in cosplay, wave around giant swords and invariably wear obscure T-shirts that hint at their pop culture pleasures.

Superhero T-shirts are costume de rigueur but even the more subtle messages written across people's T-shirts advise passersby to call the ghostbusters or 'Keep calm and kill zombies'.

Eighteen-year-old Megan Schempers said she came to Northgate to take part in rAge's flagship local access network (lan) event – one of the largest in the Southern hemisphere with over 2 500 gamers – but said she'd also come the hope of meeting other fans of pop culture.

"This is where you come to met other people with similar interests," said Schempers, a self-professed geek.

Play before you play
Gameplay presentations, demos, crazy sales on hardware, software and boardgames, and almost constant giveaways are par for the course at rAge. But one of the highlights at the expo is the opportunity to try out demo versions of games that may only hit shelves later this year. This can be a boon for those trying to figure out what to stuff into their favourite gamer's Christmas stocking come December.

Those looking for a peek into the future can look forward to:

  • a pre-beta demo (read: very early draft) of the rebooted Tomb Raider game, scheduled for release next March. This story-oriented version of the game features a more personable Lara Croft and story-oriented gameplay.
  • trying your hand at Halo 4 against other fans in the vicinity. Microsoft's signature franchise, Halo, is the most valuable in the world, and anticipation of the latest installment is reaching fever pitch
  • a sneak preview of what will likely the the bestselling game of the December period – Modern Warfare: Blackops II
  • testing out the latest console from Nintendo, the Wii U. It's predecessor, the Wii, smashed all records when it was released six years ago. The console, which offers a new gamepad with embedded touchscreen is expected to be one of the top-selling new gadgets over the Christmas period.

"If you want to plan your budget and what to buy over the next six months, you can do it here," said Lisa Trollip, editor-in-chief of gaming website El33tonline.

The gaming expo saw a 29% leap in visitors between 2010 and 2011.

"The expo thrives because of the passion and dedication of the video gaming community and its media," said Michael James, senior project manager on rAge.

According to market research company GFK Group, South Africa's video gaming market, hardware, peripherals and physical game sales, is currently worth R1.72-billion.

rAge continues until 4pm Sunday. Tickets are R60 per person. Kids under six enter free.

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