From swimming lessons to gymnastics to competitive sports, children’s lives are becoming increasingly busy, structured and scheduled.
But sometimes kids just need to run around, be goofy, and shoot each other with Nerf guns: that’s why Mike Innis is starting the Victoria Nerf Association.
“The rules are kind of silly and that’s kind of the point,” he says. “It’s not for serious at all, and you run around and blast each other with foam.”
There are 22 brightly-coloured Nerf blasters on a table in Innis’s Greater Victoria living room, all used toys he bought from VarageSale and Used Victoria. For ammunition, he has hundreds of dark blue foam darts, and 10,000 more he bought in bulk are on their way from China.
Innis, who by day works at a Victoria-area insurance company, said when he bought a Nerf gun for his three-year-old’s birthday, he remembered how much fun he had playing with the toys when he was younger. He and his friends would duck behind furniture and shoot back-and-forth at each other.
Now 32, he thinks kids and their parents together, and adults, could benefit from a fun, unstructured activity, something more casual and less intense than competitive sports.
The University of Victoria sometimes hosts an event using Nerf guns – Humans versus Zombies – but there isn’t a regular venue for this kind of play.
“How many kids’ sports are taken wicked too seriously by the time they’re like five and six years old, like hockey, soccer – definitely, on the Island,” he says. “Nerf’s not that. Not even close.”
Nerf isn’t meant to be played competitively, says Innis. The guns fire at an average speed of about 70 feet per second and even when fired at close range, the impact is so gentle you may not even know you’ve been shot. Unlike paintball, there is no visual marking that you’ve been hit, so players rely on an honour system.
“Within the hobby, that’s a big deal. You have to call your own hits,” he says. The hobby is typically so casual there isn’t an official national association or genuine rule set: “it’s kind of the point.”
In November, Innis started Foam Blaster Supply, a company that would supply rental Nerf guns and darts to the association as a way to fund the non-profit league’s insurance and facility rental fees.
He also hopes he can rent the blasters out for office and birthday parties.
“Give everyone a Nerf gun and let them go nuts … That sounds pretty fun, actually, right?”