written by: Eric Canzano
“If you’re a human being and you have all your organs in working order then you are always equal to others and have the power to be as good as them. I want to crush that false sense of insecurity. I want to just go out there and build.”
A Blip on the Radar
Kanishka Akalanka was 10 years old when he got his first computer. Sri Lanka was in its last years of a decades-long war, but inside his home, the only thing left unsafe was this buzzing box that he couldn’t leave alone. “I was crazy into computer related things. I installed my HDD full of themes or junk media players or games just to see what they all did.” Kanishka would consume games by the driveful. MS-DOS games, games on floppy disks, demos that came with Windows 98 – anything that he could scrounge up or get his Mom to buy would be thoroughly torn apart.
“Back then only my friends and I had computers and most of them would crash at my place to play games. Those were the good old days,” Kanishka said with a laugh. He’s only 24, one of the youngest modders to make it to the world stage.
His mother probably remembers his first mod well, a full tower that he wanted to spray with a tribal decal and his name. He just stenciled out the design, cut it, and sprayed away with his neon paint, modding his case and half of the wall behind it. “My mom had a few things to say about that,” he said, laughing.
His Dad had a few things to say about his penchant for video games as well. But when he hid the power cord so Kanishka could focus on his studies, Kanishka focused on how to be resourceful with what he had. He just used the cord from the rice cooker and put it back before Dad came home.
Kanishka and his friends were exposed to modding through the gaming competitions they would attend. Kanishka was a talented gamer and itching for a fight, but he was too young to compete. He would instead ogle at the windowed cases and “watercooled monsters.” Mind ablaze, he would go home and attempt to recreate everything, even if it was difficult to get the hardware. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. That I could take everything to t he next level and inspire some people to follow my lead. Even if I can’t reach it, at least someday some of us will and that would make me happy.”
Creation and Destruction
As Sri Lanka’s teconomy remained locked in internal struggles, hi-tech parts were hard to come by. Modding was almost an afterthought.
“The development of the gaming and entertainment industries was lacking. People were focused on other things,” Kanishka added. HDD drives were finicky and the internet unreliable. Kanishka was trying to connect from a USB modem, and it was already 2008.
This only augmented the already conspicuous lack of modders in South Asian countries.
Despite the unease of the times, Kanishka never lost his disposition to plunge his prying fingers under just about anything resembling a machine. His predilection for mechanics, to take apart and understand how things work, kept him pushing his builds to higher and higher levels of complexity. And kept him building submarines from PET soda bottles.
“I like to create new things. Gadgets and gidgets. My friend and I built a submarine from a plastic bottle. It actually worked. Until water got in,” he laughed.
When Sri Lanka’s war ended in 2009, a new country rose from the dust. Industry was booming and trade barriers broken. Buildings went up over night.
As Kanishka put it, “It felt FUCKING AWESOME.”
The country was in high spirits and so was he. As he stepped onto his new college campus he was filled with hopes for a better tomorrow after so many years of war. “I just wanted to make something that helps people and they could appreciate. It didn’t have to be modding but modding is my passion. I just love to build and tweak things.”
Kanishka is a sponge, and had just walked into a sea of people from all backgrounds. “I am no expert in anything. What I do is try to learn from different kinds of people. I learn as much as I need. I don’t overdo it.”
It wasn’t long before he became the surgeon for damaged, dysfunctional and needy PCs. He and his friends would get wind of someone buying a new PC, and would commence the ‘upgrade’ to help them get the most out of their build. This meant scavenging for second-hand or refurbished parts.
Kanishka was the assembler. “We would just tinker around with old casings and make them look and work better than brand new ones that my friend wouldn’t have been able to afford anyway,” he said. Kanishka and the “boys” did it for fun and to help people out. They never charged a penny. Just a large pizza. Or a few.
Inspiration came from all directions. “Take,for example, a carpenter. He’s not a tech guy but he has patience. Just watching him concentrate makes you motivated to use a dremel and just do it.”
And that’s exactly what Kanishka did. Against all odds and the many people, including his own parents, who said he was wasting his time, he pursued a makeshift career in modding.
Rising From the Trash
Trihexa 666, like its hellish name, comes out of the firestorm of protest that went against Kanishka’s entry into this year’s competition.
You see, Sri Lanka isn’t even on the modding map. How could some guy from this tiny South Asian country compete with the money and muscle of world-class mods from rich Western countries? “People said trying to win a global event was just a fool’s way of thinking. I had a few good words to say to them then though. And it wasn’t pretty,” Kanishka said.
True to form, Kanishka created a mod that went against all of the principles of a world-class mod. It’s trash. Literally.
“My friends and I visited an area that has a lot of junkyard sales. We just picked parts on the spot. You just have to Jack Sparrow it all the way down the stretch,” Kanishka said.
After combing through the piles of scrap, Kanishka began to draw on his peers and his years as a meddling modder to meticulously form his case around the concept of “assemble art.” You create a structure out of unaltered scrap parts that, by themselves, resemble nothing of the finished work.
Kanishka enlisted friends such as a professional welder to solve the riddle of his uncle’s 15-yr-old welding equipment and solder the scraps together according to his design. The LEDs were just strips and old wiring that Kanishka customized mostly himself, again with more support. Just to get the right brimstone glow, he took two days stripping an old PSU, soldering and sleeving every last wire.
The internals were just taken from his testbench PC. You know, the one that he uses when he can’t use the other one. The one that can only run DOTA. Nothing flashy; nothing extravagant; nothing expensive.
These weren’t reckless choices. The hell dragon wasn’t just slapped together. It was 3-4 months of work and a 72-hour sleepless sprint down the finish line.
“I wanted to prove that modding isn’t just for people with time and money on their hands. Or that people from Sri Lanka can’t compete in a global competition. People are afraid to do something new. I wanted to destroy that false sense of insecurity,” Kanishka said.
Making one for the Team
Now that his mod sits atop the prize winners of this year’s competition, Kanishka has gone some way in dispelling that “fear.” At least a few dozen modders, he said, have since approached him about doing case mods and looking for tips and guidance. New websites and YouTube channels are cropping up in Sri Lanka that focus on modding.
“Sri Lanka has a ton of raw talent. I have seen modders far better than I. But we don’t get the spotlight. It can be frustrating at times,” he said.
If what he says is right, the world should be seeing a lot more of Sri Lankans in the coming months. And being ablt to share the wealth is exactly what Kanishka had been hoping for.
“My dream is to build something that will benefit a lot of people. I just want others to be motivated by it. And not be in the spotlight myself. Write my name as Sherlock Homie.”
As we end this spotlight feature, another thanks to Sherlock Homie and a warm welcome to all Sri Lankans. May your mods and your voices be ignored no longer.