rAge is pretty big as far as expos go. Its nothing on the scale of, say, Gamescom or E3 or the Tokyo Game Show but it does a damned good job of representing gamer and nerd culture in South Africa. With that said, there are plenty of gamers, nerds and every other sort of person coming into the Coca-Cola Dome to see exactly what weird people like us get up to in there.
Perhaps they hear screams from a booth nearby and think we’re torturing someone, or see the quick-time-events from God of War and think that gamers know how to do those things, so they slink away quietly.
Step One: Comfortable shoes
I was lucky enough to have been sensible and bring some good shoes with me last year. My brother, not so much. Standing in line is the most soul-destrying thing in the world because for that brief one hour of waiting, time seems to stand still. There you are, standing in line with your friends to play the next Assassin’s Creed and you’re not really moving. Everyone else, though, is scurrying this and that way, looking a lot less bored than you are.
So bring some good shoes with you, you’re going to need them. And for those of you who may want to calculate how much time it’ll take until you have your turn, its usually five to seven minutes per person. With a little maths and a lot of money, you can play every game in the expo – just pay other people to stand in line for you and figure out when you want to play the game before you place them in a line!
Step Two: Bring a backpack
I’m being serious. Forget about looking like a tourist, backpacks will be a lifesaver at the expo. Standing in line and need a drink of water? Reach into your packpack. Hungry for a chocolate or a packet of chips? Look in your backpack. Need a place to store your swag? Backpack.
New hardware? Backpack. Collectible pins? Backpack. Breath mints? Backpack. Money? Backpack. Sharks with frickin’ laser beams? Keep it in your backpack. Bought a new backpack? Put your old backpack in that backpack. It’ll save you so much time and effort running around and losing your place in lines because you needed some nourishment at that exact moment.
Step Three: Spare cellphone battery
Now this does seem odd, doesn’t it? However I can confirm that even a Nokia E52, with that massive 1500mAh battery, couldn’t make it through a full day at rAge. Why? Mostly because of all the other people there. There were so many people with cellphones and wireless hotspots and tablets that my phone was just constantly searching for signal, even on the GSM setting. In addition, making a call, Tweeting, posting your twerking videos on Facebook and trying to look for a map online is nearly impossible due to the huge amount of people all trying to do the exact same thing.
So you have two choices. Either bring a spare battery for your phone if you plan to be at the expo the whole day, or find yourself a “dumb” one for calling and SMSing others. Dumb phones like the Nokia 3310 use a older GSM frequency that isn’t very populated any more and would enable you do at least do something that isn’t internet-related. If you’re packing something that has LTE, at least that should allow you internet access without too much hassle.
Or you could just disable all your e-mail notifications and your social networking stuff OR turn the phone off. But what’s the use of it then?
Step Four: Money, money, money
rAge 2012 was a tremendous success for everyone, including the vendors selling anything at the expo. But the lack of dedicated telephone lines meant that the card machines that operated on cellular networks suffered the same problems I did – no throughput thanks to the gazillion people walking around with a smartphone in their jeans pocket. The card machines would frequently see no throughput and any transactions done with a card were regularly declined. Anyone trying to purchase something with a card was recommended to draw money from a nearby ATM.
So if you’re planning on buying anything at rAge, draw some money beforehand. Bank notes are unique in that they don’t run out of power or need an internet connection – and you can fit them in your underpants or bra for safekeeping (unhygienic though it may be). If you’re determined to not carry cash, make sure you stop by your bank and increase your withdrawal limits and your swipe limits – because chances are you’re going to need to draw money anyway.
Step Five: Water….need…water
Last year the Dome was packed – at one point in time it actually had to close to the public for twenty minutes because there were too many sexy gamers in a single square kilometre. And being Johannesburg, in October, that weekend averaged 29 degrees Celsius. Put that temperature with over ten thousand people in the same building with no air conditioning and it can get a little warm under the collar. So if you’re going to be doing all that exploring and standing in line and playing games, bring some water with you in your backpack.
At the same time, heat can cause headaches and no-one likes the feeling of their head pulsing with pangs of pain while you’re trying out a new game on the Playstation 4 or Xbox One. If you’re prone to heat headaches, bring some aspirin with you. Everyone who’s involved in organising the expo, from the magazine staff to the companies with stands want you to enjoy rAge 2013 and so do I – so bring those pills along just in case.
Step Six: A friend indeed
A games expo is fun, but its more fun with a friend or a few. Its hard to get excited about something you’ve seen or played or touched at the expo without having someone to tell your story to. Maybe you’re the lucky one who got a picture with Master Chief, or hugged some of the booth babes or got to play a new game no-one’s seen before – all that is more fun if you have someone to share it with. So bring your friends and girlfriend/boyfriend along for the ride. Its fun and something you can only experience once a year (like your birthday, or Christmas!) and sharing your hobby with someone else is awesome.
At the same time, try to bring your parents along. Sure, they may not like it but its a chance to see how much nerd culture has been entrenched into our society. Sometimes parents don’t understand how big and well run the gaming industry is, or how these experiences we have through a monitor actually do change who we are and how we perceive things.
We’ll never be the same again after the ending in The Last of Us, or dare to doubt how one person can change history forever playing as Master Chief, or seeing how Isaac loses his mind in Dead Space.
Roger Ebert always contended that games aren’t an art form but I believe that we all view it differently, even though we all share and go through the same experiences. And as much as people like to think that gamers are antisocial, we’re just indulging in a better form of storytelling compared to books or movie and are more prepared than the average human to deal with a zombie or alien invasion.
So make sure that you check out the rAge expo if you’re in Johannesburg for the weekend of the 4th to the 6th October, or follow everything here on NAG Online. It is certainly set to be the biggest one yet.