With a range of international developers, a feast of the latest video gaming and entertainment technology as well as interactive competitions, gripping games and a great diversity of stands, the Coca-Cola Dome was packed this past weekend as 28,930 tech-junkies sought their fix at the 10 th annual really AWESOME gaming expo (r A ge). The biggest year yet, r A ge 2012 was at times manic, at all times epic fun and certainly successful for both exhibitors and visitors alike. 28,930 is just over 8% growth building on the unprecedented 29% growth in 2011.

“We have never seen anything like it, the crowds were amazing,” says Michael James, Senior Project Manager at r A ge, “The growth is unbelievable. Just when we think that the show cannot get any bigger, we experience another r A ge and we are completely blown away. This show celebrates and feeds South Africa’s gaming culture and without our visitors’ passion and dedication, r A ge would not be the success that it is today.”

“Growth like this does not come without a few negatives here and there,” stated Michael. “We are already in discussion with the venue’s fire and safety team about widening the aisles to ease congestion. We’re adding more tellers at the front for rAge 2013 to process the queues, as sometimes the wait was up to an hour. We’ll be adding more ATM machines and insisting that all exhibitors use hard lines for credit card machines. As for the LAN we’ll be doing a completely different configuration for the Internet and network to ensure gamers in the LAN have a flawless experience. I really want everyone to have the best time possible at the show and my team and I will not rest until it’s perfect.”

The Coca-Cola Dome threatened to explode with the masses, as South African gamers packed into the halls to experience a gaming expo like no other south of the equator. Social networking sites were busy as visitors shared the fun and excitement of being at the event. Tweets were flying with comments like, “r A ge was INSANE!!!”, “Thank you best r A ge ever!!!” and “Last day of r A ge 2012, be there or be a non-geek!” Another r A ge 2012 visitor also said, “I’m 50 kilometres from home, but I’ve never felt more at home.”

Visitors were exposed to gaming technology and awesome entertainment that blew their minds from 5 th to 7 th October at r A ge. Not only was the latest gaming hardware and software on display, but there were live eSports events, gamer lifestyle exhibitions, including cosplay demonstrations, the Artist’s Alley and opportunities for visitors to get hands-on with a variety of collectible card games.

The NAG LAN was in full force this year, where over 2,500 gamers were hooked up to one network to engage in a 53-hour gaming marathon. Apex Interactive brought visitors something that has never been seen before – a chance to take on Angry Birds in real life in the Angry Birds Alley! The competition got heated as 50 Pokémon TCG players competed for the National Championship crown in the Senior, Masters and Junior divisions at r A ge this year. They also held ‘Learn to Play! Pokémon’ workshops with Pokémon Professors available to guide visitors through the game.

Another popular competition played out at rAge was the Entelect Software R100K Challenge. Requiring skill, experience and good old fashioned guts to win, the R100K Challenge saw candidates writing an artificially intelligent program that had the ability to play against an opponent in the game of light-bikes, as seen in the film Tron. Hosted by NAG Magazine and Entelect Software, the finals of the competition were presented at rAge, and in an adrenaline-fuelled  finale, Jaco Cronje walked away with the R100K, with Gustav Mauer taking the runner up position. Cronje, an Image Processing Researcher in the Optronic Sensor Systems group at CSIR, was thrilled and said “I enjoy working on difficult programming challenges with my experience ranging from embedded software development to game programming, 3D graphics, virtual-reality simulator development and more, so this challenge and winning it has been the most amazing experience.”

And of course let’s not forget the games, which is really what r A ge is all about. Over 40 new games were showcased at r A ge, and visitors were able to get hands-on with game titles that are set to be released in the forthcoming months. Megarom, EA, Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation were all there in full force providing visitors to the show with an opportunity to play exclusive, unreleased preview code.

“The amount of positive feedback that we have had, as well as the attention from the media, positions r A ge firmly on the international gaming scene. It is an incredibly exciting time for South Africa’s community in this regard. Without the dedicated sponsors, exhibitors and fellow gamers, South Africa’s gaming culture could not possibly be where it is today,” says James, “Keep on gaming and keep on growing!”


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