Boxwars: King Of The Losers

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Words By Isabelle Tolhurst
March 31, 2015
Boxwars. It’s a world rife with opportunity for puns of the “adult variety,” but founder Ross Koger has no interest in those, for he takes the greatest pride in allowing others to be creative, and living as the self-proclaimed, “King of the Losers.”

So what is Boxwars? Put simply, it’s people doing battle in cardboard. It’s an opportunity for adults to play like kids, for people to explore their creativity, and for all involved to revel in the horrifying speed with which that creativity is obliterated.

In fact, it’s this part of Boxwars that Koger loves best, saying, “When you see people’s minds just split as these things get destroyed…I love it!”

Like all good ideas, Boxwars was born over a few beers with mates in the backyard. It started back in 2002 as an avenue to explore imagination where day jobs offered little, and offered the opportunity to insert another step in a piece of cardboard’s journey from factory to consumer, to, most often, the tip, where it was taken to landfill.

But from humble beginnings in Melbourne have come grand victories more than a decade later. Boxwars now has many international factions, with Koger confirming there are thriving cardboard communities in France, Edinburgh, The Netherlands, Russia, the U.S. and Canada.

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While there are “no excessive rules” that govern “boxwarriors,” there is one that has remained rigidly in place since its inception.

“In the battles, there are no winners, there are only losers. If you’re in the Boxwars you’ve already lost,” laughs Koger. “It’s a good thing, and it keeps it about creativity, and takes out the competitive element. That’s been there since day one. It’s more about having fun and being a kid again, you know?”

There are two other elements that Koger works hard to keep alive in the Boxwars evolution, and that’s a commitment to reuse and recycle, and an everlasting exploration of creativity.

Creativity is shared and taught via a technique Koger calls “additive,” where, “you get different pieces of cardboard and put it on. You’re not making a final design…you just start building, and finally you’ll end up with something that looks amazing.”

“It’s common that people in workshops say, ‘I’m not creative, I didn’t do art in school…you guys do it for me,’ but that’s why we teach the additive method,” he continues.  “Because it doesn’t contain any preconception about what you’re going to do or build.”

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Settling on themes for both the open and closed events go down at Boxwars Council meetings (yep, there’s even a council). Koger admits the list of potential themes is long, and given the time it takes to prepare and organize each event, it isn’t getting any shorter. Of all the themes however, Koger’s got his hopes pinned on the prospect of a giant chess game.

“That would be brilliant, because it brings all the geeks and the Boxwars together into one show!”

As for the theme of the looming Boxwars at Boogie 9, a music festival held in Tallarook, Victoria over the Easter long weekend, Koger wouldn’t give away much. He did however, ensure good times ahead. “The hint is, whose cuisine will reign supreme?”

As for the cardboard itself, initially it was sourced from retailers, but as the size and enthusiasm for the event increased, so has the need for its staple resource.

“At the moment we’ve been sourcing it from industry; they throw out a mammoth amount of cardboard. We’re there to collect that and obviously give it another step to the process before it’s recycled… Boxwars is just a tiny little speed hump in its existence. We certainly endeavour to keep to that and recycle wherever we can.”

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Given its popularity, and the fact that all things Boxwars is now a full-time job for Koger, he’s also taken to prop and set making. And if these things combined didn’t amass to enough success, if Koger gets his way, there may soon be box on your box.

“At the moment we’re actually working on a TV show for Boxwars, which we’re really excited about. Unfortunately I can’t say much about it…it’s all under wraps –  oh I mean cardboard! – but we’re just putting the pieces together for that, and really looking forward to seeing what that means for those who are always on board…”

“We’re still losers though,” Koger adds hurriedly, “We’re the King of Losers!”

 See Boxwars at Boogie 9 this weekend. 

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