Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rant: "Those were the days"

Seems like there's an increasing divide between fans that you THINK would be a natural generational gap.  It's no secret that I'm a bit older than most of the fans of Nerf so growing up in the '90s meant that what most refer to as the "Golden Era" for Nerf and Super Soakers was my time as a kid.  From the Constant Pressure System water blasters that could knock you on your feet with a column of water to the long range arrow launchers like the Arrowstorm, Bow 'n Arrow, and Crossbow, this was the stuff used in backyard wars during my childhood.  They were a lot of fun... while the lasted.  I remember CPS pumping mechanisms breaking and arrows getting so bent they wouldn't fly straight again.  But nowaways, with all the new "Tacticool" blasters that Hasbro has made under the Nerf and Super Soaker brands, all anyone seems to talk about are the "vintage" blasters.  Not only does this make me feel like an antique, but it also makes me weigh in on whether this is just a case of folks in love with the Glory Days that they really never experienced.

It's been 22 years since my first Nerf Blaster, a Bow 'n Arrow, that I played with shooting imaginary Nazis out of trees.  It was the only thing I had for a long time and, truth be told, I really didn't want anything else.  I never actually owned a genuine Super Soaker, as my friends were spoiled with arsenals of Super Soaker 50s, 100s, and later the CPS blasters that would eat through a tank of water in no time.  There really weren't a whole lot of blasters to choose from, no exclusive blasters, no towers of extra ammo to buy for your blasters.  We had fun with what we had.  And when our blasters broke, if they didn't get replaced, we'd just do something else.  Airsoft and Paintball really weren't mainstream then, either.

Nowadays there's all kinds of drama and criticism and hate surrounding the Nerf and Super Soaker world I once knew.  There's new blasters for Nerf coming out every few months, with kids demanding more and more every time.  Super Soakers have all the bells and whistles that the Nerf line now has with tactical rails and accessories too, feeding a generation that has been influenced by the influx of First Person Shooter videogames that thrive off the new "Tacticool" angle these blasters have.  There are all kinds of motorized and electronic blasters on both sides that don't require priming or pumping to shoot.  It seems like there's as much love for the designs as there is hate for the performance.  And, at every corner, there's some 15 year old who's mom bought him a clear plastic Airsoft Pistol who now has a personal responsibility to flame and troll every foam-blasting fan on the planet.  Oh, and when he's not doing that, there's some other kid who was born at the turn of the century preaching about how the Recon sucks and then glorifying the Nerf Crossbow's greatness, a blaster he wasn't even alive to experience.

With social media buzzing around giving everyone a voice to promote or condemn the products out there, it makes me wonder... was the era I grew up in the glory days NOT because of the blasters, but because it was just fun?  Performance was cool and all, but we didn't know the first thing about modifying blasters outside of duct taping a flashlight to your Arrowstorm.  We just enjoyed them for what they were: toys.  In this era, it seems like every time a kid seems to think that the Deploy is cool, there's someone to tell him that it sucks and he's a baby for not shooting the neighbors cat with a Paintball gun.  Not only has the genuine unbiased love for blasters been threatened by the hostility of social media outlets, but there's an increasing promotion of juvenile delinquency.  Whether it's airsoft or just making your Nerf blaster leave welts on your neighbor, there's so much angst and negativity surrounding this once-pleasant recreational activity.

To me, when folks reminisce about the Golden Days of these blasters, I tend to think less of the raw performance power of those legendary hunks of plastic, but more of the untainted fun that it used to be.  Fans can sit and complain about overzealous safety requirements that toy companies now have, but with the increasingly violent nature that seems to get promoted more and more these days, I can't really blame them.  Companies have to take some sort of measures to protect themselves when a kid is in the hospital from taking a Nerf Dart to the eye.  Accidents happen, true... but I really think that safety regulations are where they are now because more kids are looking to cause physical harm to their surroundings than to just play a fun game with foam darts or streams of water.  Maybe I was sheltered or naive.  Perhaps the area I grew up in was just a social utopia of happiness and now I'm just a cranky old fan tired of hearing complaints.  Either way, the more I look at it, the more I miss those days for the fun, not for the blasters.


  1. The worst is when you HAD those blasters.

  2. I say this having been a kid during both the golden age and the early '00s-I feel like Hasbro was a bit stupid with some of their actions, such as switching away from Mega Darts and direct plungers, but that adding accessory capabilities to most of the blasters was a pretty good move, as was giving the majority a working clip. The water guns have, though, gotten MUCH less powerful and we're worse off for it, just because some kid's whiny parent sued them over a tiny bruise they got from something else while playing with one. Unfortunately, most safety warnings come from people like this, which also seems to be the cause of the laws regarding airsoft and paintball gun distribution.

  3. Excellent rant filled with insights.

  4. I agree, social networking has caused an issue for toy guns. In the case of Nerf, Nerfers are often called cowards by those who play paintball/airsoft.
    The nature of society where someone else is always responsible for something you did (e.g. getting harmed by the orig Recon, shooting someone in the eye) also takes some of the fun out of it because nowadays blasters are all 'tuned down' (even Elite is affected sadly).

    I think people should just appreciate Nerf blasters for what they are - fun toy guns which don't harm people when you shoot them - and not go on about how they're 'weak' and 'for pussies'.

  5. You are not alone Bazookafied, experiences of fun will always degrade over time. It's just human nature, the more we get accustomed to experiencing something, the less exciting it will be. Unless it's your passion (and I hope nerf is one of them), it will grow stale sooner or later. But back to your topic. There will always (and I mean ALWAYS!) be people who love saying "those were the days" or "things were better back in the day" or "Golden Era" as you put it, etc etc etc! Truth of the matter is, sad as it may be - Things were (are!) just plain more fun when we're kids. I'm not a psychology major, but did take a course in highschool... Now that we're adults or a young-adult I like to call myself (I'm 28 now, I know... *puke*) We simply don't have the same care-free, innocent, no responsibilities mind-set of when we were of young. This next story about my friend's super soaker will describe my mindset of when I was a pre-teen to where I am today. I hope you can relate :)

    Younger mindset:
    I forgot how old I was, but when my best friend at the time, Viet, got a super soaker and we abused the crap out of it. Pumping it till our arms gave out and the plastic felt like it was going to snap! I recall the the nozzle tip dripping out water even when we didn't pump it yet probably due to a bad seal. But that didn't stop us from having a blast. Sun + Super Soakers + water hose + girls in white t-shirts = fun

    Older mindset:
    I just spent an hour's wage on a super soaker and I had to make sure I had to prime it no more than ten times because that's what it said in the instruction manual. While playing water tag with my friends, I lose focus due to bills coming up and thinking of a counter argument to use on my girlfriend (in a fight I will never win). Nevertheless over time, the tip still started dripping even with intensive care. Instead of still having fun with the gun, I decide to go online and find other people with the same problem and rant about it. Not as much sun (causes cancer :P) + Super Soakers + water hose + girls in white t-shirts = fun

  6. I agree there is a lot of negativity around Nerf/other brand foam blasters (mostly from airsoft and paintball fans) but what's really your rant here? Are you angry that you grew up in an age without high-performing n-strike and vortex or just irritated that some people are spoiled with every new Nerf release?

    1. I believe he's angry that it's stopped being about the FUN and started being about the toys themselves. Gone are the days when you could have weeks solid of adventures with a dollar store toy gun, or even with just a few good-sized sticks.

    2. Well, you see, there lies the fundamental issue here. It's not so much that Nerf has stopped being about fun and started being about the toys, it's that for many people, nerfing has ceased to be about toys and started being about sporting equipment. There are a lot of people in the greater NIC now who have zero connection to the older philosophy of having some lighthearted fun with guns that were undeniably still toys, and completely lack all interest in reliving their childhoods or anything like that. You see a lot of stuff like HVZ nowadays, games conceived and played by adult or otherwise mature participants, college students, office wars, organized games in general. It's just a manifestation of the change Nerf itself has been supporting since the 2003 or so introduction of N-Strike. Nowadays you have Hasbro throwing around the term "lifestyle brand" in reference to Nerf and an increasing number of nerfers who come into the hobby for reasons completely unrelated to what nerfing was (supposedly) about in the '90s.

      Take me as an example: I didn't nerf as a kid, and I wouldn't want to dig up those memories if I did. I got into nerf in my senior year of high school due to the use of a modded, electrically primed, servo-controlled Raider on my team's winning entry to a robotics competition. There it is, my first contact with the NIC, wrenching on a robot. I proceeded to go to college and become an aggressive, envelope-pushing, weapons-developing HVZ player. For me, nerf is an optimization problem, an engineering challenge, a great hobby (modding) and a means to play a VERY fun and very hardcore game as effectively as I can. I just don't care for the toy angle, sam I am. I try my hardest to de-toy-ify and BAMF-ize my guns, if you get my drift, because I am a proponent of nerf's potential to be as legitimate and satisfying to adult audiences as one wishes it to be, and I don't agree with arbitrarily restricting it to uses that involve suitability for children. That is wasted potential, and I HAAAATE wasted potential!

      I want to close by noting that modding, building, HVZing, having my way with nerf... is a LOT OF FUN. What's important to realize here is that "different strokes for different folks" could never be truer than it is for the matter of how one builds and uses nerf guns, laser tag, soakers or anything else. If others want to play their games how they want, they can do that - as long as they don't try to cram their mentality down my throat as well *cough*Nerfhaven.

      While the predominance of the simple fun of '90s nerf may have been shattered by modern, highly engineered war and HVZ guns and increasing demands for serious performance numbers, that in no way threatens the ability to grab a few friends, a stock BBB and a nitefinder and have a little spontaneous free-for-all dart war. Modern nerf is not an evil juggernaut out to crush the good old days, it is just another way to have fun. And that's what it's really about, isn't it? Some of us just get our kicks from running the arms race with our fellows, pwning zombies, being competitive, modding and worrying/rejoicing over numbers like 130' or 360RPM or 75 round belts - as opposed to running around with youthful abandon and stock guns. That's not a problem now, is it?

    3. What do you mean, they weren't in the sport theme? what about the super ball?

  7. The older Nerf blasters are definitely better made, and are fun and entertaining, but those days have unfortunately passed and we are in a new age of Nerf products. I do think that Nerf should look back on there retro blasters and try to capture there quality and make there blasters a little more like they were. Who knows maybe this age, will be called the golden age, ten years from now.

  8. I don't think people is getting a base thing in this:
    Nerf, has always launched new blasters, and they won't stop, after all, what are they supossed to do?
    In some years, N-Strike will become vintage, and we ALL know it, so I should say to get them and store them so that when it comes the day, you will have "antique" blasters.
    The point is: Nerf has always, and EVER produced quality products, and that no matter what, if you're a true fan, you will praise their glory EACH DAY, even if it's the most of it in the Vintage blaster's side, the new ones are as fun as the others were, and you know you recognize that name every time you see or hear the word "foam"
    Also, they're "Tacticool" if you believe so,but when you get a blaster that you love, you know you wanna call it "Tacticool", beacause that's why nerf has made every little thing as realistic as possible, the tactical rail, the scopes, the red dots, the stock EVERYTHING, he made them appealing for kids, and for people that have our age, and after all, when it was created, it was appealing for kids too.