If you had said to me a year ago that rAge was coming to Cape Town, I (and many others no doubt) would have been over the moon. Twelve months ago we had no major gaming convention to speak of, and no indication that we would be getting one anytime soon. Now things are a bit different, and as a result my feelings towards the rAge announcement are bittersweet.
Cape Town gamers have made do with community driven events, such as Cape Town Showdown and the Fifa events that take place at Trenchtown in Observatory. We all hoped that we would get something that compared to the almighty rAge, but it seemed that Cape Town was a gaming convention black hole. Every time it sounded like someone was finally going to deliver on a major gaming convention, something would go wrong and the event would just disappear in a puff of smoke.
So when EGE was announced earlier this year, many of us gamers in Cape Town rolled our eyes. Oh, a gaming expo? You mean like the one that was supposed to happen last year? Or like the one that was supposed to happen two years ago? Or like the one that was supposed to happen three years ago? All things considered, it was hardly surprising that Cape Town gamers were sceptical about the EGE announcement.
It probably didn’t help that when the EGE organisers, Impact Exhibitions, did put a website up, it was a bit uninspiring (to say the least). There was initially very little information about the vendors or companies that were involved. Heck, I even had to go onto their Facebook page and tell them that putting up a Facebook event would probably be a good idea.
But the weird thing is, despite how the event organisers seemed to be scrambling to get things together at the last minute, it all actually worked out. Sure EGE had some problems, but the interest in the event overshadowed the organisational issues to such a degree that they were almost closed due to there being too many people there.
I was also told that we were almost shut down on Saturday because of the numbers (so not in a bad way). What’s more important however was the turnout, proving that EGE was a long time in coming. I think a FEW Brain Surgeons in JHB missed a trick here. This could and should have happened years ago.
It’s no secret that the quote above is referring to NAG and rAge. NAG could have had the Cape Town gaming event scene locked down years ago, but they pretty much chose to ignore us until now. So what’s changed? Why is NAG now interested in actually bringing rAge to Cape Town?
The major factor, according to rAge organiser Michael James, is the demise of the magazine.
Michael James: As you know the July/August 2015 issue of NAG was the last NAG ever, and producing a magazine is a full time job, and each issued required weeks of hard work and endless deadlines from our whole team. rAge also eats up more time than anyone realises and while I have an amazing team working on rAge, the prospect of doing more than a single show in a year was daunting. Now with the magazine closed we have more time to expand our online and events side of the company. We’ve always known that there is a very hungry audience in Cape Town that needs to be fed but we’ve never had the resources to address the demand. 2016 is the year that we start realising this dream.
Look, I’m not even going to try and somehow twist this to be some kind of PR excuse or something. The response above does seem to come from a genuine place. I get drained organising small art meet-ups, so I can empathise when Michael talks about how taking on a second exhibition would have been way too much for him.
Still, I can’t shake this NAGging feeling that it’s no coincidence that this announcement is taking place only a few months after the success of EGE.
Let’s take a moment to give NAG the benefit of the doubt. Even if you temporarily ignore the issues around scheduling and manpower required, and ignore the fact that this was announced after the success of EGE, there is another reason why a company based in Joburg might be hesitant to organise a gaming event down here. Having lived in Cape Town for almost eight years now, it’s no secret that Capetonians have earned (yes, earned) a reputation for being flakey. Taking this into account, I can understand why NAG chose to hold back on an event down here, only deciding to do something after someone else tested the waters.
The thing is that even though I understand and empathise around all the potential issues with getting the event off the ground, it’s still annoying. It’s annoying because it was outsiders (outsiders in the sense that they’re not a company with any formal connection to gaming) who decided to take a risk (and it was a risk) that Cape Town would actually show up to a major gaming event. Not only that, but once Cape Town did show up (and in force), only then did NAG, the (former) premier gaming publication in South Africa, get on board with Cape Town.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am to grateful to Impact Exhibitions. Without them we definitely wouldn’t have EGE, and we probably wouldn’t have rAge CPT. It’s just that it somehow feels wrong that the first Cape Town gaming expo wasn’t put together by a gaming company who decided to take a chance on the community that supports them, but rather an exhibition company who actually just listened and made it happen.