Geek Culture

Geek Culture
How To Bite The Head Off a Chicken

Colin Rowsell | 27 May 2008 12:05
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You may not have been to Armageddon, but you've visited the same battlefield: This is where the cosplay people roam. Anime, pro wrestling, laser tag, trading cards, figurines, collectibles, every half hour a new celebrity guest with tales straight from the set of Stargate. Vast Microsoft and Sony booths, Xbox 360 vs. the PS3, mini-skirted sales reps throwing rocks at each other's banners when they can get away with it. Endless lines of comic book boxes that you can hunt through for early Avengers issues or an original Big Numbers. The Weta Workshop boys have the rayguns, plus a life-sized Halo Warthog on hand. Pizza, ice cream and mania are everywhere.

It's small by overseas standards - this isn't ComicCon - and there's an extra emphasis on kids. Downstairs they go batshit for the laser tag and wrestling; upstairs there are long avenues of Magic: The Gathering tables. One of Armageddon's biggest moments sees two dozen sugar-fed little buggers onstage for the Dragon Ball Z Kamehameha contest. What better way to spend a Sunday than shooting a giant imaginary fireball out of your arms and screaming like a Japanese cartoon?

Unless it's being the mad Santa Claus that delivers the whole geeky apocalypse.

Bill Gerhardts used to work a retail job. He's a comics nut who wanted to meet some of his favorite artists and writers, so in the best Kiwi tradition he invented a show and invited them. Armageddon began twelve years ago as a sideshow on the third floor of the Avondale Racecourse stand. It worked, and it grew. Bill, whom the Testing Man would have said is mad as a hat full of mercury, now runs the yearly Armageddon expos full time (in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Melbourne), wandering the floors with a microphone and several thousand watts of volume.

Obsessions can take you far if you let them.

Dark Times
In 1997, as Bill Gerhardts was into Armageddon III at the Freeman's Bay Community Centre, I turned 18. The Chicago Bulls made their fifth NBA title run. I came out of high school and ran into a brick wall at college, got no sleep for six months and watched someone close to me get very, very sick.

1997 was not a sack full of fun. 1997 was when the gloves came off.

The joys of dinosaurs and wizards had been long gone, anyway - my late high school years were focused on bra mechanics and whiskey. But now, for the first time, I saw another side of obsession: a land of strange corners and blind alleys and that odd vertigo that comes from not quite knowing where or who you are.

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Real obsessions are those things that enter your head and won't dislodge. Dark relationships and behavior patterns. An obsession with trivia, grimly grabbing hold of the tiniest things like grappling hooks. Anxieties that were never there for Castle Adventure or carrier battles. Brain chemicals flooding the sluice gates.

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