Thursday, September 6, 2012

Adventures in Johannesburg

I recently went on a work-ish trip to Johannesburg in Gauteng for something known as the A MAZE. Interact Festival (weird punctuation and all). The event describes itself as the meeting point for games and art in South Africa -- before attending, I had absolutely no idea what the hell that meant. Presumably, though, it was of interest to folks like me, and at the very least I could make myself useful around the Desktop Dungeons exhibit that my company had organised.

I'm rather jittery about travelling nowadays, the short story being that I've had quite enough movement and adventure in recent years and would much rather spend enough time in one place to grow some desperately-needed moss. Furthermore, it's well-known in my humble backwater hamlet of Cape Town that Johannesburg is the single most dangerous place in the known universe, marginally more perilous than the core of a star going nova and about as imposing and inevitable as the eventual heat death of the universe.


That said, I had a few friends in the area that I was desperately anxious to visit. Furthermore, attending the expo was an important way to personally touch base with the local game development community after several years of relative isolation. So I decided that one little trip in my home country wasn't going to utterly destroy me, and reckoned that keeping a diary of my experiences would be a great way to maintain sanity.

To ease my pre-travel jitters, I swallowed half a bottle of StressAway pills and drank a small can of Monster Energy. After further consideration, I took several lines of Ritalin and dropped a tablet of LSD for good measure. Washing it down with a small cocktail of PCP and Captain Morgan's (and chewing on several grams of what may or may not have been hallucinogenic mushrooms) I waved goodbye to Cape Town and clambered aboard my ride to the airport.


Pieced together my memory today starting at OR Tambo. Realised that I'd been fined approximately R600 for a "series of minor disturbances" aboard my Kulula flight. Spent an additional five hundred thousand rand on a ten-minute Gautrain ride to Sandton. Emerged in the heart of Joburg feeling optimistic and only slightly dehydrated. Unable to stop grinding my teeth, remained vigilant of potential attackers until my cousin arrived to pick me up. A suspicious man arrived trying to sell me wire animals, but I threatened to kick him in the face, so he left.

Cousin arrived in a typical Joburg vehicle: sufficiently armoured to withstand most small arms fire, yet still light and manouverable enough to run red lights or break speed limits whenever necessary or desired. Hoisted my massive bag of luggage, fondly known as Titanus the Destroyer, into the boot of her car before jumping at the sound of fresh gunfire coming from nowhere in particular. My dear cousin swore before urging me into the vehicle. Vaguely recall her explanation that rush hour was "totally the worst". Her head momentarily turned into Fur Elise by Beethoven. I was moved by its beauty.

Titanus. Contains a few t-shirts, a change of underwear and an extra large packet of Safari peanuts.

Scrambled for my seatbelt to ensure responsibility and safety, and she asked me where my combat helmet was. Stared blankly at her for approximately forty-five seconds (counted out loud). Cousin swore again, muttered that I could buy one if we made it to the next Engen station, then drove me off for a quiet and relaxing evening at her home.


Found it difficult to sleep last night. May have been withdrawal, may have been the constant whipcracks of neighbourhood gunfire. Cousin kindly offered some nondescript tablets, advised to take two and wait half an hour. Suspicious, I downed the whole bottle and raided her medicine cabinet for some cough syrup. Felt good.

Still have a couple of days before the festival starts, so I'm able to experience the city. Followed my cousin to a film school where she taught film school stuff. Asked her why she taught on a Saturday, and was also curious about the presence of the disco ball (reckoned it would probably screw around with the green screen). Cousin told me to stop asking so many fucking questions. Pills kicked in.

At some indeterminate point, I found myself outside, standing next to some guy's car. Referred to himself only as Q. Guy asked me if I wanted to drive back to his place and play Rayman Origins. Saw no downside to this plan.

Fuck you if you don't like this game.

Started trembling horribly. Asked Q if he had any tik. Settled for meth instead.

Firing up Xbox now and singing along to "We Like Them Girls" by Your Favorite Martian. Bonding.




Woke up at Q's this afternoon. Head splitting open, ears keep ringing. Helped myself to something from the lab. TV feed pointed at his front gate revealed some intruders posing as his grandparents. Took initiative and dealt with them.

Remembered with a sudden panic that I was supposed to be in Sandton. Persuaded Q to give me a lift, avoided talking about the misunderstanding with the grandparents. Some belligerent taxis attempted to ram us off the highway and I briefly manned the machine gun at the back of Q's vehicle. Q was busy screaming something at me the whole way but I couldn't make out what he was saying. He later explained that he was just upset about the new e-toll system on the Johannesburg highways -- I understand this completely.


Arrive at a casino city. Patted down by a concerned-looking security force, though had no concealed weapons ("Except my penis," I quipped. Confiscated). Ate at Spur with a friend and was offered some clove cigarettes. Delicious. Ate them all. Vomiting commenced half an hour later for unrelated reasons.


Woke up in Braamfontein at about 3am, sprawled across Titanus. Man in an elephant mask attempted to steal my slippers, so I kicked him in the face with my energy legs until he went away. Buzzing and enthused, my lips have gone strangely numb.

Vaguely aware of weaving through some Joburg ganglands, got caught in mortar crossfire. Phoned cousin in a panic, got told that I probably wasn't going to run into any cops. Relieved. Checked in at my hotel, which seemed to have suffered heavily from the recent fighting.

The view from my bed.

Introduced to two roomies who promptly asked me if I wanted any cat. I fucking love cats.


Preparing for A MAZE. Festival opening this evening. Should be good.


I now have a new nickname: the Non-Stop Nyan Cat. I gave it to myself and I'm proud of it. Festival opening was a little screwed up. People kept talking with horribly fake German accents, then suddenly everything was in French and we got shown a movie about gnomes in spaceships and kickboxing gangs fighting over turtles. Briefly considered whether I should just take it easy on the drugs. The light-painting afterwards was pretty cool though, and the buffet was awesome until an army of Johannesburg beggars stormed into the event, devoured everything in sight and then turned on us. Huddled together on the high ground and fought them off with Playstation Move controllers.

I really want this game.

Found a small corner shop this morning selling some strange herbal cigarettes from Cuba. Illegal because there were no ingredients listed on the box, but only R50 a carton. Score.

Attended the first AGM for the new South African game developer's association. Meeting held amidst the smoking ruins of last night's fest opening -- some beggars were still sleeping around the wreckage and we had to chase them off.

The group decided to name its new association Make Games SA, rejecting my proposal of The Hand of NOD. Applied for position of chairman, treasurer, committee member and undercommittee member. Failed first three, told the fourth didn't exist. Fascists.

Have to stop writing now, internal organs trying to perform mitosis.


Spent most of today guarding the Desktop Dungeons exhibition stand. It's hidden in a basement to avoid the worst of the Johannesburg violence. Entering the expo involves a five-step navigational process and a full bio-scan to ensure that only dedicated attendees make it through security.


Decided to unwind this evening with some light jazz, accompanied by my cousin and a fellow game developer. No idea where, cousin told me it's a demilitarised Green Zone in Joburg. The ceasefire has been in force for almost a week. Very relaxing. Started with one Hunter's Dry, three tequila shots, a double cane and cream soda, two black labels, some sort of brandy lime thing and a deep-fried baby elephant served with a side of chips.

After half an hour at the jazz lounge, we moved on to a nearby club (accidentally left my Cuban cigarettes behind, they will be mourned). Ran into a biker gang that turned out to be an indie rock group instead. Asked them if they were Desktop Dungeons fans. Replied with "FUCK YES" and gave me double high-fives for a solid hour. Both arms hurt but it was worth it. Gifted one of them with my Desktop Dungeons-branded t-shirt. Kicked out of the club a few minutes later because I apparently wasn't wearing a t-shirt. Fascists.

Official DD fanboys.

It's about 8am now and we're hiding in a shack at the end of some property that Biker Gang recently torched. Just asked them if they've got any weed, settling for cocaine instead. Never tried this stuff before, but I once snorted two kilograms of Omo washing powder with few ill effects. Seeing no downside to this plan.


ASFASGHIJDFG okay I am SERIOUSLY pissed off right now. Attended a series of talks at A MAZE. this evening after stumbling back into Braamfontein, and one of the speakers delivered a LITERALLY UNINTELLIGIBLE speech. I got so angry that I threw a fucking chair at her head.

Promptly escorted out of the venue. On the way, bit twelve men, three women, two teenagers and a pole (the architecture not the nationality). Kinda peeved, my mouth tastes like construction material. And why are the Johannesburg lights so fucking bright all the time? Don't they understand that's what the fucking sun is for?

Going to cool off with the other guys in my hotel room this evening. We've fired up a muted copy of Conan the Destroyer, accompanying it with "You Spin Me Right Round" set on repeat. Good times.

I could watch this video forever.

Apparently had some work to do, so I punched my laptop until the code compiled. I forsee no problems.


There were problems with work, got me feeling so low that I had to chow down my other half-bottle of StressAway. Feel a little better now.

Went to a game developer's workshop where we learned about the beauty and creative potential of chalk. Accidentally ate half a box because nobody warned me that it wasn't hard candy. Fascists. Designed an amazing sidewalk game that involved balance, poise, and trying to touch other people's arms a little too much. Ended up defacing half of Johannesburg (not game-related, just really enthusiastic with chalk).

Spending this evening at a friend's place. Have to be extremely careful about everything I touch, and I'm not allowed on the furniture (crazy roommate rules, I thought she knew me better than that). Retaliating with a plan to shed hair everywhere and urinate on the rug.

Ordered two kilograms of pork ribs from the Yanky's in Melville. Offered a menthol cigarette, but initially declined because I hear those things are fucked up. Contemplating trying them out though, I'm feeling pretty adventurous tonight.

Difficulty tier: Vicious.


oh god kharrak what the fuck is wrong with your dog that creature is not natural its legs and eyes and the way its moving its mouth jesus christ its staring into my soul kharrak its staring into my soul and burning everything away

help me im in hell


fuck airports