May 1, 2012
The thrill of the hunt; something many people seek out in a variety of forms.
There is a huge number of options when it comes to replicating that feeling of intensity.
Some people choose to play video games, others choose fishing.
Then there’s another breed altogether, who prefer to engage in intense battles where victory is the only option; or at least that’s one way of putting it.
I refer to Nerf wars, a colourful hobby that’s growing around the world.
Nerf wars involve players armed with ‘foam dart blasters’ such as Nerf (the most popular choice), Buzzbee, Air Zone and Lanard, fighting with and against each other in the name of victory.
My first experience with the blasters came when my friend David invited me over to his place to teach me all about this new craze back in 2010.
Over most of the day we were stalking each other in a heart-pounding game of cat and mouse throughout his house.
In early 2011, David invited me to an ‘official war’ organised by a group called West Nerf. Having bought my first blaster a few days beforehand, I went along and have been hooked ever since.
What really appealed to me was that suddenly I had met all these other people who also liked to run around and shoot each other with toy guns.
And that’s what is really at the heart of the West Nerf group; just having fun.
“At the end of the day we’re grown adults running around with plastic toy guns,” West Nerf administrator Mark Bird says.
“We’re all just there to have fun.”
Bird, 28, is one of five administrators and founders of West Nerf.
“We’re quite inclusive of anyone who wants to be involved,” he said.
“We’ve got international members on our forum who are still very much welcome.
“It’s just something different to do on a Sunday for anyone who wants to come along, because it’s certainly a fun time.”
West Nerf is not alone when it comes to Nerf-based communities. There are Nerf groups all over the world run by dedicated people.
One such person among Nerf is Forsakenangel24, who preferred his full name not to be disclosed.
Forsakenangel24, who is aged 27, is a prominent figure when it comes to events and communities.
He is also one of the highest regarded ‘modders’ (people who modify their Nerf blasters) and has one of the largest known collections of foam dart blasters in the world.
Nerf communities around the world provide a place for people to interact and meet others who share the same interest as themselves.
But these folk also like to get together to shoot foam darts at each other, which is why the events and games are at the heart of many groups.
West Nerf holds official events fortnightly, and a range of non-official events is hosted by various community members.
At the end of the day, the foam blasters themselves used in the games are designed for kids, and will only get you so far.
It is for this reason that many Nerf players have taken to modifying the blasters in all sorts of ways.
West Nerf is quite heavy on modifying, though it is certainly not a requirement at events.
Modified blasters are inspected before play begins at official events, and must pass a “welt test” – which involves the owner of the blaster being shot with the ‘weapon’ by an administrator from a distance of one metre.
If the dart leaves a welt then the blaster is deemed unusable.
“One thing that makes me proud of our community is that some of the members we have I would definitely consider them as some of the best modders in the world with what they put forth,” Bird says.
“I mean, I can only speak for what the internet shows us.
“I can’t say that there’s not some guy living in a cave that doesn’t use Facebook and has made these amazing blaster modifications.”
Arguably the most prominent and skilled ‘modder’ in West Nerf is Israel Van der Roest.
Van der Roest, 18, has gained quite a name for his modifications, and is probably in the top tier of modders globally.
“I find that the modding is sort of a mental challenge for me, and I enjoy the engineering aspect of it,” Van der Roest says.
Whilst being known for many innovative Nerf modifications (such as wrist mounting a fully automatic blaster), he also has a reputation when it comes to one particular game type; Humans vs. Zombies: Paranoia.
This game involves a team or teams of humans fighting a crack team of zombies.
While the modifying of Nerf blasters is very popular, some participants like to modify their blasters purely for creative purposes. One such person is ‘Nerfenstein’ who asked that her real name not to be disclosed.
She is known for her creative modification skills.
“The R2D2 Maverick I did last year makes me smile whenever I see him in my workshop area.”
Yes, apparently Nerfenstein’s weapon has a personality and gender.
Don’t ask me how that happened.
Photos: Sam Gibbs