Has rAge Outgrown Itself ?
rAge is the premier event on the Johannesburg nerd scene, and has been a staple event for tech heads since the early days of my childhood. Initially a purely computer convention, featuring new technology and games that were on the way, it has grown over the years to include so much more. From comic books to cosplay, figurines to geek apparel, rAge truly has come to be the proverbial Mecca of the South African geek and nerd community.
But has its grown too much ?
Now before you all crucify me, let me clarify my point. I have been sitting here looking through the various posts from rAge, as one usually does after such events. I’ve been going through the pictures the various attendees (I happen to know) have posted, and I’ve started to realise: I don’t remember seeing most of them at the event or many of the stalls people mentioned, despite the fact I was there for most the day. As most regulars know, rAge has been hosted at The (insert constantly changing sponsor name here) Dome since I was a young child well over 15 years ago, I think… maybe. (Proof that men do not have memories. – Ed) As the event has grown over the years, this finite space has been consistently becoming more and more crowded. Now as a popular event crowds are to be expected, but I think this year has reached a breaking point.
It took our 925|Rebellion crew about 40 minutes to drive from our HQ to the venue, but it took nearly an hour and a half to find parking. The parking we did eventually find was completely separate from the venue and poorly demarcated. We easily spent a good 20 minutes going up and down the isles of occupied or cordoned off parkings where I would usually use going to The Dome, before a security guard from the nearby shopping centre took pity on us and told us of the extra parking lot on the other side of the main road. Slightly irritable from sitting in an oven on wheels in near standstill traffic, we put that ordeal behind us and excitedly make our was back across the road to the venue.
After getting our press passes we made our way upstairs to the press box to get the lay of the land and plan our adventures. I was personally very excited to try out the Oculus Rifts that were on display; and after a quick drink to rehydrate it was off the the convention floor, which despite having a map was a complex labyrinth and difficult to navigate through. When you did find a booth you were interested in there were just too many people around it for you to even get close, even with a press pass. I never even found the Oculus booth, assumed it wasn’t there until I heard mention of it from a friend after leaving.
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The cosplayers were, as usual, out in full force and must be truly commended for enduring their costumes, while inside an overcrowded stuffy room on one of the hottest days of the year. Again the sheer mass of crowds were against me as I was unable to find many of my friends amongst the cosplayers who I were excited to see again.
Now in rAge’s defence I did attend Saturday, the busiest of the three days, but like many others it is the only day I’m free to make. (That’s what happens when you get savaged by a hamburger: No days off for goofy behaviour. -Ed) Also don’t get me wrong the day wasn’t all negative, and in no way do I regret going, and I’ll be right back there next year, I just feel it’s time for the event to evolve to adapt to its ever increasing status. This was the first year I’ve had to park away from the venue, and while I’ll now know where the backup parking is in the future, I feel some better signage could be put up for it, perhaps even some notes on the website and social media. While I was happy to see more space given to the food stalls, I feel that the convention floor could be better laid out. Everything tends to be squished into the middle. For instance there are large open spaces between the ticket booths and the door, the booths could maybe moved right to the door leaving more space behind them, while the mass LAN could have a smaller player cap, or be completely relocated to the second floor also give more space to the exhibitors. After all the entire upstairs section is reserved for press/vip’s yet most of it stands empty, and we all tend to hang around in one area, so there is actually quite a bit of space up there. I’m sure there must be a way to keep the cafe and hospitality booth for this purpose but let the rest of the empty space take some of the load.
Obviously I’m not part of the organisers so I don’t know every factor they deal with, and such the above is purely my own speculation/suggestion, but I feel with the current growth of the event, some rejuvination of itself is necessary or it will become unattendable. For example, Africa Aerospace and Defence had major problems with queueing and parking a few years back, but by integrating with the Gautrain system and having their ticket selling booths just outside the venue and not at the entry gate itself, both issues were eradicated. While the same resolutions may not be needed, it shows nothing needs to be too drastic, just a few minor tweaks here and there can make a huge difference if done right.
In conclusion I’d like to say that rAge is still the king of the local scene, and one I always look forward to, and always enjoy. I do however feel that it needs to adapt to its growth in order for all to enjoy the full experience like I remember having in the old days.