A while back, aabicus had a chat about what drove his imagination as a kid. It seems that both him and I had pretty wild imaginations as kids. Aabicus’s world though was pretty damn consistent. He had a fully fledged out lore for everyone and everything. In fact, some of his work ended up being used later on in life, as placeholders for characters in games. But while aabicus’s imagination was one of soldiers and secret missions, my childhood imagination was… uh… a bit more complicated.
I’ve often attributed my crazy, volatile imagination to a lot of things. The most common attribute is to Bionicle, the strange, lore-filled LEGO franchise that everyone loved. In particular, I always turned to the Bohrok-Kal. While I kinda missed getting the Bohrok, the Kal proved themselves to be cheaper and more readily available. I started off with a Tahnok-Kal and Gahlok-Kal and swiftly got a full set. While Bionicle did a lot to boost my imagination (since I could build what I wanted), it’s not what kick-started my imagination.
I attribute that to the TV show Robot Wars.
Robot Wars was a TV show broadcast in the UK on the BBC. It first broadcast in 1998, but what I mostly remember is the second series, which apparently also aired in mid 1998. Which makes it seem really damn old. Robot Wars is a pretty simple show where people build (admittedly rather rudimentary) remote-controlled robots and then make them fight each other. The US had a version called Battle Bots, but I only ever watched Robot Wars.
The earlier seasons involved various gauntlets and trials, where robots had to navigate mazes, avoid pits and knock down barrels. Later series ditched the trials and had nothing but robot battles. There were several House Robots, controlled by the Robot Wars crew, which existed to pick on any robot who got too close. They also smashed any poor robot who happened to break down.
Definitely a good show.
I vividly remember the first episode I watched.
The first episode I ever watched featured a yellow rectangle with two little lifting forks on the front, all the way back in series 2. The parents had recorded it on video, but I vaguely remember watching it as the show aired. This yellow rectangle, with a spider on the back designed by a school student, was actually taking on one of the house robots and somehow winning.
The robot was called Panic Attack, and this battle bot went on to win the series, defeating the heavy hitter and fan favourite Cassius. Despite being armed with nothing but a pair of black spikes that moved up and down.
Although, to be fair, back in 1998, most robots competing were insanely simple. The Panic Attack team just happened to keep on running with those simple spikes all the way through to series 7. Which is actually somewhat impressive since, after series 4, pretty much everyone had flippers, hammers and saws.
Anyway, I became obsessed. With an utterly twisted version of Robot Wars I’d made up.
Before I watched Robot Wars, I was kinda normal. I was interested in My Little Pony and Beanie Babies and dinosaurs. Robot Wars very swiftly changed that.
In my crazy, 8-10 year old mind, I created this strange parallel universe where humans were gone and all the robots from Robot Wars became sentient. And somehow capable of replicating themselves. I built as many robots as I could out of my very limited supply of probably-not-actually-LEGO blocks. I then spent a huge amount of time talking to my new imaginary friends. Of course, my real life friends thought I was crazy and pretty much none of them cared.
But that didn’t matter. I had Panic Attack. And Cassius, Chaos 2, Razer, Hypno Disc and all my other favourites. All made from very small amounts of LEGO. And all of them surviving in this post-apocalyptic world. A world with are no humans and zombie Beanie Babies are trying to kill everyone, while the robots try to find out how to bring the humans back. And over time, as I became better able at drawing, I began to draw these strange ‘characters’ as different versions of all sorts of things, including dragons.
A Panic Attack as an imaginary friend.
You know how people have OCs? Original characters? Well, my original original character was, as you guessed, Panic Attack. A descendant (somehow) of the original champion of series 2 of Robot Wars, Panic Attack (often just called Pani for short) was a happy, wide-eyed robot and the leader of a small group of survivors. Pani would lead his group from place to place and protect them from swarms of zombies, by setting up traps in advance and outsmarting any threats.
These robots all had personalities. Personalities that would carry over and leech through into all my future writings. For example, Pani had a mentor called Cassius, based on the robot of the same name. Cassius’s personality was that of a wise warrior who only fought when he needed to, preferring to use diplomacy instead. That personality, while unoriginal, still exists in various characters in my writings today.
Long story short, this crazy world ended up becoming… something?
Over time, I did move away from Robot Wars, especially as I got more into Bionicle, and had more LEGO pieces with which to make things. But elements of my insane 10 year old imagination continued. And while most of my Robot Wars-influenced lore disappeared, Panic Attack continued to exist in some way. Mostly by having that personality transfer over to other beings later on. Sure, the exact same personality and character doesn’t really exist any more (the closest these days is probably a character called Teekay) but Panic Attack and his buddies kick-started something crazy.
Where does this leave us?
Well, it leaves us here, with this article. And the person who wrote it, a very strange person. That yellow Panic Attack, and to a point, Robot Wars in general, put me on a very weird path. I changed from “pretty standard kid who likes ponies and stuff” to the crazy, imagination-filled person who makes zombie beanie babies and gives robots personalities. And that trend continued into adulthood.
Heck, it continues to this day. Half my writings now are for my fictional universe, the Phoviverse. You wouldn’t know it by simply reading (especially if you’re reading the Phoviverse 4.5 Periuniveral Void stuff) but all of this was built from my obsession over a yellow rectangle with a spider painted on its back, as well as its fellow other rectangles and ramps. Oh, and Razer, probably the most badass robot ever made for Robot Wars.
My Fictional Panic Attack lives on.
These days, there’s no robots trying to defend against zombie stuffed animals. It’s all about higher level beings, former deities and spaces between universes. But Panic Attack’s spirit lives on. The Banikans are a powerful race of beings that have a pair of horns on their head, which they use to ram into tanks and knock vehicles over. They are also well-known for pushing things into pits.
Just like that old, yellow Panic Attack.
If you made it through this godawful ramble, then congratulations, you deserve a cookie.