The End is Nigh!Armageddon. The end of the world. Or, this weekend, the creation of an entirely new one; If only for a moment.
Held in Auckland since 1995, the Armageddon pop culture expo is an annual fixture, a veritable venn diagram of internet fandoms, covering everything from video games to collectables to comics, wrestling, card gaming, candy, robots, costumes, fireworks, celebrities, and claustrophobia. It is a celebration that reaches far enough and wide enough for almost all to find something enjoyable. Whether you’re after imported candies, a replica Klingon Bat’Leth, a Weyland Corporation messenger bag, or a badge that says ‘Die In A Fire’.
We ran into the man behind the madness, one William Geradts, on both the Friday and Saturday, having met him last year at a Christchurch event. Friday’s was a three-hour preview evening, with Saturday being the full-on crowd crush that makes the convention’s name a rather apt one.Punters were likely to see more on a Friday, Bill told us, simply because there were far less people in attendance that night. It was true – Running from 6PM to 9PM,
Friday is the day for those who want to buy from the stalls. Those who want to try the many video games and products up for testing, and for those who don’t do so well in large crowds. It wasn’t long before I had a blat on Diablo III for PS3 (much better than the PC version), a tinker with the PS4 and a lingering look at the long line for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset in the Alienware gaming tent. After a few choice purchases, we were sated. The evening culminated in a ceremonial burning of a giant metal skeleton dressed as none other than V for Vendetta’s rendition of Guy Fawkes, this was the short, sharp spectacle to beat.
The crowds, however, are part of the whole experience, visceral and surreal, a feast for the eyes. Pop culture conventions like this one represent a coming together of minds who share one thing above all – passion. Here is a safe harbour, a place to break down stereotypes and forget all that postmodern nonsense about being too cool to care. Here, cultural norms are suspended – unicorns pass cigarettes to fairies, schoolgirls spoonfeed their beaus, space marines shake hands with zombies, teenagers scream and rush for photos with some like mind who dressed up as their favourite anime character, no matter how obscure the reference. But it’s not about knowing exactly whose feathers, spikes, swords, guns, and brightly-coloured hair comes from which franchise, the mystery is part of the fun, and these are the right people to ask if you’re at all curious.
There is passion, here, without the judgement that comes from such heartfelt enthusiasm in wider society. An environment to be open and honest about the things we love. So much, in fact, that it became overcrowded in Saturday’s heat, and moving from one end of the seemingly-endless ASB Showgrounds, turned into a virtual swim through the sea of fishnets, heels, bargain hunters, remote-controlled Daleks, and overpriced ice-cream vendors.
The magic wears off, and escape is necessary to preserve sanity. Yet what a thrill-ride and a treat for the senses. It’s worth experiencing just to witness firsthand the love so many here have for their hobbies. The shedding of their civilian disguises brings out their true selves, as the table full of furries in the cafeteria would have been able to tell you, I’m sure. We are forced to leave as it overwhelms, to retreat for another year from the carnivalesque parody of adult life. Yet, it is strangely compelling.
The beams on faces as photos are taken, as fans share a moment of unadulterated joy. Here is a utopian world where difference is celebrated and the currency is knowledge with everyone eager to learn. I, for one, will be back for more.
Reviewed by Nick Turner
Armageddon is on as ASB Showgrounds until 28 October. See all our pics from Armageddon Expo 2013 on our Facebook page.