Friday, February 4, 2011

Rant:Nerf Wars and Violence- Can we ever avoid the association?

Nope. No war influences here:)
Today we got news that the Australian National University has banned the use of Nerf blasters on most of the campus due to their belief that any form of gun is inherently a symbol of violence and hence associated with school shootings and war. It's funny how many people are actually slightly troubled at the sight of students walking around carrying the likes of Stampedes and Longshots slung over their shoulders and while I myself don't think it's a big deal, I guess out of context it can seem a tad confronting. Especially when those who are holding said blasters often look very counter culture (and hence stereotyped as looking like social misfit campus shooters) and from the wielder's point of view, it's hard not to hold a "gun" looking toy and not role play a little.

I don't know about you, but I would much prefer to see someone openly holding a brightly coloured Nerf blaster in public than to NOT see a concealed real fire arm. Still.. alarmist public outcry IS what it is, and mostly based around ignorance and fear of the unknown. I don't think anyone in the HVZ club would have done anything violent or anti social- so such a ban on campus has more to do with public perception rather than ACTUAL acts themselves.  Soo.. how do we go about educating the general public that this is really NOT a violent hobby?

Guns and violence tend to go hand in hand in the media; it's probably the reason why Nerf have spent so much time pushing fans to call them "blasters" in a bid to detach themselves from killing and inflicting any form of pain. It doesn't really help though, because whether Nerf want to admit it or not, they're producing toy guns and the fans, young and old go crazy for this sorta thing. Both performance and aesthetic mods just bring our blasters that one step closer to the real thing, and it really doesn't help when you've got over zealous fans (especially on the Nerf Facebook page) who make constant comparisons to REAL firearms and war situations (and then there's the odd psycho kid who talks about wanting to inflict actual PAIN) due to their love of first person shooters.
If I had a dollar for everytime someone said "but what if someone modified the darts with pins"
Nerf is a kids toy, and so it's 'normal' for a kid to want to play with them. When older people want them, it takes Nerf out of the mainstream, and into the counter culture segment. These 'guns' lie on the desks of the IT geeks at work, they're the staple for the steampunk movement, and SHOCK HORROR they're used in large scale "wars" where they simulate "killing". Right? Isn't that what happens? People who do this must be sociopaths! Right? Riiiight? Now throw in a "will someone think of the children" and we're all labelled crazy people for refusing to wear khaki drill trousers and enjoying Rob Thomas cd's like REAL grown ups.

The backlash against Nerf wars comes from the general public's lack of understanding that it's OK to like toys when you're a grown up. You can still pay your taxes and raise your kids and like toys. It doesn't make you a freak. Well.. it does to them. And to be brutally honest, you can't half blame them. We are, grown ups, playing soldier, holding pretend guns and hence pretending to kill people (even if they are pretending to be the undead) and this notion scares people. Because if we're pretending.. doesn't that mean deep down we have that inclination? Right?:P
Late night after hours access office lazer tag was the best..
At the end of the day though, we can get mad all we want about being misunderstood and persecuted, but so much of this is about educating the masses. Bringing Nerf blasters into a non-IT environment that was predominantly female was unheard of at my workplace, but after showing them that it wasn't just nerdy wannabe pretend violence but actually more like a game of tag had everyone, including the older conservative ladies sold (never seen so many middle aged ladies including my branch head packing Nite Finders on their desks!). People who belong to counter cultures often wish to reject the masses in the same way they feel rejected by those said masses in the first place, but this doesn't really help our cause. Sure, making it more socially understood and acceptable might feel like we're "selling out" but come on, we're talking about a popular toy from HASBRO sold at TOYS R US.. there's nothing secretive about it!
All ages waterfight. pic courtesy of
The other thing I noticed, is have you ever noticed how water fights are a LOT more socially acceptable.. and noone ever cries violence or killing. Maybe because wetting someone is relatively harmless and less complicated than foam;  once you get into shooting projectiles,  it sends everyone into some sort of crazy stuper that "you can take an eye out with one of those" :) Why I think this is, is the water fight, by design is about wetting your opponents any which way how (empty milk cartons and cups in highschool for instance). The water blaster is merely JUST another way of delivering the water TO your opponent's head, so it becomes less about the blaster, and more about the drenching. Perhaps if Nerf wars were MORE about the tagging and less about the blasters themselves, the public would stress less?

And finally, here's the thing though folks- the more kids ask for Nerf to replicate real weapons, the more likely 1) Nerf won't do it, and 2) people will just think you're a dumb fat kid with wannabe war fantasies 3) the media will have a field day with it, scaremonger the general public, and Nerf will have to dumb down their blasters so much that they'll look like something out of a Nickelodeon cartoon and boast ranges of 3 feet. Wanting to cause pain is generally not considered to be good social behaviour by most people's standards, and wanting to hurt someone is right up there with torturing puppy dogs and being below average IQ as far as the anti social scale is concerned. We want the public to embrace this awesome hobby and not see it as something bad.. and in turn we have to not given them any ammunition TO find anything bad:)

It's the whole ethos of Urban Taggers; dumb, out of the box blaster fun for the masses. Our fans wonder why we don't get into modding and wars? It's because we'd like to believe we're the guys smoothing things over to the masses so you guys can:)


  1. It's a shame really. When going around uni, I make it a point for my friends and I to conceal our blasters to the best of our ability (A part of a handle sticking out or a bright orange nozzle poking between the zipper isn't a problem). I encourage them to do this for the very reasons you have outlined above.

    There is a strong, almost unbreakable bond between guns and killing. And why shouldn't there be? Guns were made for killing... you only see a person inflicting pain and death with a gun. They... really don't have any other use whatsoever. I can see where the general (though somewhat ignorant) public are coming from.

    But what the general public, the media, and even some politicians need to realise is that these are toys. Toys made for the enjoyment and entertainment of children (and in our case, "kidults"). Violence isn't created by simply picking up an object and brandishing it a bit, regardless of its likeness to a firearm. Violence is created by past experiences and the child's conditioning from a young age. Violence slowly manifests itself, being fed by other people the person interacts with and events that transpire over the person's life. Violence becomes part of their psyche over time. Violence is not something that is instilled by holding said object. Guns don't kill people; people do. And toys certainly don't kill people (at least, it is never their intended purpose). But unfortunately, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" or in this case, foul. A gun is a gun, whether it be a toy or not.

    I wish there was an easy way for us to convey our messages, but there isn't. So, we remain marginalised, forced to be discreet with regards to our hobby while among the general public. It may sound exaggerated and dramatic, but in essence it's the truth. And our cause isn't helped by the fact that ignorance is a powerful, easily exploitable tool provided to the media by human nature.

    Right now, as it always has been, the ball is in our court. We have two choices: We can decide whether we want to feed the stereotypes by taking the realistic paintjobs out into a public area and sticking pins to our stefans, or we can make Nerf a friendly, informative environment in hopes that the public, the media, and the politicians will come to realise that we aren't a bunch of freaks with murderous desires.

    Our actions determine what happens from now. They always have and they always will.

    Pocket, I thought you didn't get into modding because you aren't blessed with that "skill" =P.

  2. From my perspective, this is something that will change over time.

    Just like playing computer games or cosplaying at conventions, I think adults playing with Nerf or water blasters in more public settings is something that will only become more common when we (the 'younger' generations that enjoy these emerging and "non-traditional" activities) finally move into positions of power as heads of security, university Deans, park wardens, etc.

    Like the recognition that adults play video games too in most societies, I think people will have to admit that not just kids play 'war games', especially if we can somehow get the public thinking that Nerf is just like airsoft, paintball or laser skirmish but with a DIY twist.

    On the topic of water fights, I think the difference between water blasters and Nerf is that after the first water guns looked like real guns, there was a pretty strong campaign to give them their comic "bubble-blaster" look. Ditto for laser tag.

    Super soakers have also been around (and prominently advertised) for a while. Even the older generations remember "Hey, the kids had one of those, and it was fun". I guess the brand has "familiarity" in some places that Nerf lacks a bit.

  3. Well you know what? Most people don't want blood and kills, or at least a LOT less than your average first-person shooter. I would rather get out there and run around playing a team game (or the occasional nerf free-for-all) than sit on my behind for hours shooting life-like people with real guns with a joystick.

  4. tl;dr

    I'm joking, you make a very good point.
    Also I agree with "more about the tagging and less about the blasters", the university should see that.

  5. and they dont complain about paintball guns. they complain about nerf guns. holy crap eventually the gun laws will b so strict in america nerf guns will be illigal

  6. The problem comes from the, well… “weirdoes” I mean how many normal people do you see using nerf blasters? ( by normal I mean what is expected of us) man when I was 12 ALL my friends were into nerf games, but by 15 we had to keep it a secret now that we are 18 and starting are lives “that’s stupid”
    So when they see us waving “guns” around they see freaks and social outcasts that would use gun out of anger
    Not to mention they are the PURE idiots that make them dangerous im not talking about moders that make it get crazy yards but don’t use it in wars im talking about needle shoving cavemen! I mean come on! Don’t be stupid!
    Alfamorrow out-

  7. I would agree that certain anti-social kids who act very unusually don't help the cause, but the same could be said for any hobby including gaming. Certain football players in certain high school teams are far more violent and aggressive than most Nerfers; in fact, I would argue that the percentage of high school football players who are violent and aggressive is far higher than the percentage of such players in ANY war game (be it laser tag, water warfare, or even Paintball). Gun games require a certain level of intelligience to work with blasters, markers, guns, whatever.

    But do I blame people for their unwarranted negative association with Nerf? Yes I do. The same paranoia is inherit in video gaming where adults want to ban as much as they possibly can, or at least blame them. What's the first thing people blame for the Columbine shootings? Doom. Nope, not the shooters' dimented thinking nor how they came to be that way; not the environment they lived in, nor the peers they went to school with. They blame the guns and the games. It's all they know how to do is to associate and blame things. The shooters could have undergone intense physical training and use knives instead and killed the same number of people. Guns make it a bit easier but don't stop anyone from killing.

    People have an irrational fear of just about anything remotely related to guns. They cannot understand it because they don't want to take the time to, so they simply associate it with violence.

    That said, only the Nerfers can do anything about any poor public image they may have. The public is just that, it is unrealistic to expect them to be able to understand how things work, at least on their own.

    Water blasters used to have the same issue or a similar one, believe it or not. They used to be modeled after real guns in the 70's and 80's which got to be a real problem. Now, the public associates them as goofy, fun, and completely devoid of violence, while the only people who would possibly be interested in serious water wars associate it as a kid-only hobby. That said, you see way fewer water blasters than Nerf blasters due to their seasonal limitations. (And perhaps the direction towards poor quality that they have taken in the last 8 years.)

  8. That's right actually, The Entertech lines from the 80's did cause quite a lot of stir, but it was due to them being somewhat black and realistic looking. Orange caps on the end of toy blasters came from this era I think.

  9. Vigilante here from Basic Nerf. I JUST ran into a situation similar to this. Literally about an hour or two ago.

    Basically I was trying to help my Senior friend in high school set up an indoor Nerf War for tomorrow, and it barely gets denied today? Anyways I'll type up an article and get that up on my blog in about 5 hours. Nice article Pocket.

    - Vigilante, Basic Nerf

  10. People want a scapegoat and something to be scared of. I've said things to my friends in real life that could get the SWAT team to my front door in ten minutes if I typed it over Facebook. Speaking of which, have you heard about the Facebook suicides? Some of them were not because they were being bullied by strangers over the Internet, but by real people in this new real life thing. And about violent video games: there was a headline that went something along the lines of "Man stabbed at GTA IV midnight release". The actual motive had nothing to do with video games, (it was actually a couple drunk guys, I think) but the way it's worded implies violent video games were the cause. Basically, people are stupid and paranoid and the media encourages it. And also banning guns or gun shaped objects would not stop violence and crime and armed robbery. When guns are totally outlawed in a country, gun crime goes way down, but knife crime spikes really high. Sorry for the rant, I dislike stupid people who think the media 110% truthful.

  11. I really, really REALLY hate that society feels the conformist need to stereotype EVERYTHING!
    And encouraging violence? Bullshit, I'm a reenactor, we run around parks in steel armour hitting each other with real weapons, but do we cause social outrage? No! Yet, being with a sword, even if it's blunt, hurt s a lot more than a point blank with a longshot.

    Another thing, what the fuck sort of gun is yellow?

    One more thing. There's no real out cry over drinking, but that's responsible for a lot more deaths and injuries than anyone with a nerf blaster.

  12. A yellow gun, I dont know about, but how about a pink, Hello Kitty, AR-15

  13. Maybe I'll paint my Longshot and Stampede pink too,lolz.
    Ches :D

  14. UPDATE:
    I just shot myself with a pinned dart, at point blanks rage in the hand with a longshot.

    It went like, 3mm in.

    I've gotten worse injuries from my straightener.

  15. Skawt-i-cide: real, legitimate swords are a-okay with just about everyone. Why? Becuase swords are associated with knights and samuaris or whatever, whereas guns are associated with killing and violence. Of course, until China discovered gunpowder, most people would use a bow, sword, or crossbow to kill people. Why else are there Nerf swords and Nerf blasters, not guns? I actually find it funny about all these parents being paranoid. What about when you were a kid and played football with no protection? I can guarantee that high school (American) football is exponentially more dangerous than Nerf, yet children everywhere play it. What has more force (F=MA), a piece of foam going half a kilometer per second (totally impossible, but let's pretend) or a three hundred pound linebacker moving at five meters per second? Sure the pretend dart is moving at supersonic speeds, but is exponentially less powerfull than the linebacker. Let's not forget: cars, stairs, falling in general, sharp objects, disease, and thousands more lethal things we encounter every single day.

  16. People can bring concealed guns (real guns here - bullets and no foam) into bars in Arizona. You can also bring guns onto school campuses (that means elementary schools) as long as the weapon is unloaded and in a vehicle. And people get all pissed off at Nerf weapons? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Now, I realize Arizona is not Australia, but still, its NERF.

  17. dont know if anyone else noticed but jimmy fallon was packing a maverick on his late night show last night. He tried to shoot the camera but unfortunately it jammed. Its still pretty cool though

  18. Australia is a bit funny.
    You need a gun license to own a BB gun, or in fact even a paintball gun.
    The aus. gov. loves to overdo it and punish EVERYONE HARSHLY for the failure of an individual. (guns used to be readily available until some disturbed fellow shot a bunch of people in the 80s)
    I often feel like this isn't a country but a school for special kids. :\
    Of course, again, as an individual, I can't improve things... but if I fuck up it gets the attention and they'll lash out on anyone they can.
    Just my 2 cents to this...

  19. ^

    Hey, chill there mate. We can't even own an Airsoft gun here in Singapore.

    Its sad that there are some kids out there wanting to ruin the fun we are having. I can tell you honestly that there are a couple of black sheeps running the Nerf community here and posing a potential to get caught in the wrong situation.

  20. I use a singled lonshot. I use the stock spring, a K26 spring and an ETRL Rapid Fire Shotgun spring. The thing hit 120 feet and can go through five sheets of paper maybe more and three layers of cardboard maybe less. My brother uses a Buzz Bee Big Blast with a hopper hitting the same range. And my other brother uses a Lanard Handcannon with three random Home Depo springs. It has an RSCB and still hits 110 feet. We use regular stefans with 1/4 in. slingshot weights. We live in a small apartment and have indoor wars all the time. It doesn't hurt at all. I'm 15 and my bros are younger and if i shoot them point blank, they dont cry or scream. And they're tooth picks mind you. If three tooth pcks can stand getting hit with superpowered blasters the rest of the world should be able to handle it. And people shouldnt ruin our hobby by calling the cops for shooting eachother in a PUBLIC park. That's the way I see it.