Like any great product, Nerf products were born out of necessity. For anyone that grew up in the age before Nerf or just did not have a Nerf product around the house, things were kind of tense. Picture this - two friends are at home during the winter and they have a rubber ball. In some areas of the country, like Minnesota or Pennsylvania, spending time outside in the winter is a very stupid idea. Between the cold and snow, there is a strong possibility of frostbite so going outside just is not worth it. But the kids are still kids and would like to play with a ball. So, as kids do, they throw around the rubber ball, kick the rubber ball, and catch the rubber ball. (Regular kid stuff.)
The problem is that most things in the house are not made of rubber. When that rubber ball hits lamp, television, vase, or computer, one of those two friends will be sent to an early grave by their parents. Few things in the world move in slow motion like a priceless item in the house falling and hitting the ground in dramatic fashion.
Enter Nerf in 1969. The whole purpose behind the Nerf line was to have something that kids could play with inside the house without injuring themselves or any of their parent’s stuff. Starting out as just a regular foam ball, Nerf has expanded into a plethora of different products that has spanned nearly two generations. However, even though most people have heard of Nerf, there is a lot that they just do not know about it. So, enjoy the 15 things you did not know about Nerf.
15 Nerf Used To Be Just A Ball
Today, Nerf is synonymous with a variety of products. Most notably, Nerf has gun blasters and water guns to fulfill just about any guys’ Call of Duty fantasies with soft, foam darts. In fact, the term “Nerf” is really the brand name of the line of products that are sold under it. It is kind of like Apple selling a variety of products under its brand name. And just like Apple, the simplest ideas can take hold and create an industry within an industry.
Back in 1970, Nerf started out as just a foam ball. Nowadays, if a kid received a foam Nerf ball for the holidays they would probably wonder what they did to receive such a terrible gift. They would likely immediately start apologizing for all of the awful things they did to get their real gift and beg their parents to take back the stupid ball. However, the technology was so unique forty years ago that the concept that kids could play with a ball indoors during the winter or hot summers was amazing. This spurred so many ideas that have allowed Nerf to set the industry standard.
14 Nerf Has An Awesome Inventor
So many products are created in the boardrooms of major companies. Usually, middle aged men sit around with accountants, marketing personnel, and other executives to discuss what major launch is going to come next in their line of products. It could be a new pasta they are trying at Olive Garden or coming up with the newest flop at the box office. Sometimes there is a hit (e.g. iPhone) but many times the ideas created in the boardroom are total failures (e.g. Blackberry).
However, Nerf was born out of such a simple idea by a prolific inventor. Reyn Guyer, a Minnesota native, came up with the idea for Nerf and pitched it to the toy maker Parker Brothers back in the late 1960s. Obviously, his idea created not only a whole new line of products, but a whole new way for kids to play. Oh, Guyer is also the inventor of one other well known product, Twister.
13 The Super Soaker Is Legendary
For most people, they have at one point felt the awesome power of a Nerf Super Soaker. For the poor souls who have not, here is a quick synopsis of what it does. The Super Soaker is essentially a water cannon that squirts out water over far distances. The toy is so awesome that it can be taken virtually anywhere there is space outdoors to play. Relatively inexpensive, a whole family can take a Super Soaker on vacation and have the time of their lives. Whether they can explain why they have a pump action rifle to airport security is an entirely different story.
Regardless, the reason the Super Soaker is so much fun has been highlighted by other toymakers in the industry. Back in 2015, the Super Soaker actually made it into the Toy Hall of Fame. This is the same Hall of Fame that includes games like The Oregon Trail, Game Boy, and the Radio Flyer Wagon.
12 Nerf Is A Cash Cow
The problem with toys is that they are often one-hit wonders. Because of the changing nature in technology and the fact that children eventually grow up, toy makers have to come up with new ways to entice people to buy the products. So, every year the toy makers have to think of new toys they want to market, refurbish old brands that they have, and find a way to get parents to separate themselves from their hard earned money to pay for their spoiled kids’ toys.
Some product lines, like Troll Dolls, hit a spike in popularity throughout the years and then their sales decline. However, Nerf is a different story. For decades, Nerf has experienced sales that make it attractive to investors of its owner Hasbro. In fact, 2015 saw Nerf as Hasbro’s most profitable brand across the considerable landscape of Hasbro’s empire. To help make sense of this, Hasbro owns a license to make toys with Transformers, Star Wars, My Little Pony, and even Play-Doh. Nerf, it seems, may be about imagination, but its money is real.
11 The Origin Of The Name Is Not So Weird
A wacky line of products needs a wacky name. For example, take the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Although the brand has been one of the most successful in toy history, take a step back and consider the reality of those four words. The brand is centered around teenagers; the world’s least understood people. Not only are they teenagers, but they are mutants. The words “teenage mutant” is enough to make the product seem weird. Then throw in the fact that they are ninjas and are nature’s most benevolent prehistoric creatures, turtles, and there lies a whole brand that leaves room for nothing but the zany adventures the Turtles get into.
It would be easy to think that a product line that includes toy guns, foam balls, and military style water guns would have a name like Nerf. It is easy to imagine that the inventor of the Nerf product line was getting as high as a hot air balloon on mushrooms and thought to himself, “Let’s call it Nerf!”
In reality, the term Nerf is reported to have come from racing. To “nerf” someone is to basically nudge them gently in racing. As such, racers created “nerf bars” to help protect against it but also use it when they are looking to bump people off track. Essentially, they are modified fenders, ready to thrash people like in Mad Max.
How the inventor connected the dots between a race track product and a toy? Who knows? It was probably still conceived while high on mushrooms.
10 People Modify Nerf Products
For a product to last for nearly 50 years, a few things have to happen. Of course, there has to be a solid product which Nerf has totally conquered. There has to be smart marketing to children and their parents. There has to be a commitment to excellence of the product. Most importantly, there has to be a genuine emotional connection from the consumers to the product that is virtually irreplaceable.
For so many people, there are fond memories of throwing a Nerf ball around the house, soaking their dad with a Super Soaker, or blasting their friends with a dart when they were least suspecting it. Those happy memories pass from generation to generation and with the aforementioned things coming together, a product like Nerf can survive any changes in technology and science to be still one of the most popular products ever made.
As such, people have taken their love of Nerf products to a whole new level over the years. There are hundreds of different ways people modify their Nerf products, mostly the guns, to fit their fantasies. People, usually dudes, modify their guns to have lights, look like real weapons, or just look like plain crazy weapons right out of science fiction. Seems like great minds think alike.
9 Nerf Leagues Actually Exist
Everyone has that friend that is really, really into paintball. For whatever reason, they spend a lot of their time looking up the latest gear to help hide them in the imaginary battlefield. They trade with other people in the area for the best kinds of paintball weaponry. They also like to accost their friends and beg them to go paint-balling early on Saturday even though their friends just want to shake off their hangover. It can be annoying, but it is obvious that their love of acting like a real soldier is just a lot of fun for them.
For those who have not experienced it, just replace “paintball” with Nerf. Throughout the world, Nerf leagues are a real, competitive thing similar to any other sport. These leagues, mostly using Nerf dart guns, have rules, customs, and even the support of its parent company Hasbro. In fact, even military bases, like Camp Pendleton in San Diego, allow people to rent out space to have their own Nerf wars and battle it out with their friends. They should probably warn against actual soldiers laughing at these people though.
8 Nerf Guns Can Shoot Super Fast
One of the reason Nerf Nerds can pretend as if they actually fight with guns is because some Nerf products have the kind of capacity to mimic warfare. Of course, the guns are usually colored some shade of dragon green or dandelion yellow so the fantasies can only go so far. However, with some of the previously mentioned modification, Nerf guns can kind of look like the real thing.
One modification that is not needed is the kind of firepower a Nerf gun has. Wired.com reported that one of the Nerf products, the Hail-Fire, is so powerful that it can shoot darts up to 50 miles per hour. How does this happen? Apparently, instead of using air, some engineers at Hasbro came up with the idea that propelling the darts through some wheels would be sufficient in scaring the bejesus out of a kid’s friend’s when a dart comes at them like a car down the highway.
7 George Clooney Loves Nerf
George Clooney is an international movie star. He has made a countless number of films that have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars in his long and illustrious career. He has come a long way, coming from a hardly used character in the show Roseanne back in the day to throbbing the hearts of millions in shows like ER and the Ocean’s 11 remakes. The dude even started his own tequila company, playing off his suave and sophisticated image.
But he is also a big jokester who loves Nerf. Anna Kendrick, the child-posing-as-a-woman, starred alongside him in the movie you probably did not see called Up in the Air. She says in an interview when she was trying to be serious and prepare for scenes, Clooney would throw Nerf balls at her on set. What is even more interesting is that Ryan Gosling also had to deal with Clooney’s Nerf antics when the two were working on a project together a few years ago.
6 Nerf Is Not Just For Boys
Of course, it is probable that the original idea for Nerf was to help keep boys from breaking their parents’ stuff. Boys are extremely well known to be irresponsible, destructive cavemen who find great pleasure in trying to find ways to destroy things for no good reason. Nerf and Hasbro have known this and realized that their parents will gladly buy them toys that keeps their boys occupied and keeps their valuables in tact. However, Nerf is beginning to realize that girls like to play with more than just dolls.
Historically, girls tend to gravitate more toward dolls and other non-competitive toys. More socially skilled and self-aware, girls have an entire toy market to themselves that is almost exclusive of Nerf toys. That is all changing with Hasbro’s latest line of Nerf products. With the introduction of the Nerf Rebelle, Hasbro is doubling down on the fact that girls want to go outside and shoot their friends as much as boys do. At least now the whole family can get involved.
5 Nerf Material Is All Science
Ever wonder why people have to buy Nerf products through some sort of retailer? Unlike tacos, a person can hardly just make Nerf in their own homes. With the amount of science that goes into a Nerf product, it is possible that the feds would think they are building their own meth lab.
To either impress friends at a barbecue, or annoying them, pay close attention to what Nerf material is made of. The key term for Nerf material is “polyester resin.” What the heck does that mean? Well, of course the term “poly” means many. So, start off by saying that the Nerf material is made of several types of resins that give it its unique material. Second, a “resin” is basically some form of liquid that hardens permanently.
If the audience is still awake, tell them that using carbon dioxide in the process, the spongy, airy material gives the foam the lightweight feel, allowing grown men to enjoy shooting darts at their kids. Like most things that are fun, such as alcohol and narcotics, Nerf’s background is all about the science.
4 Someone Built A Massive Nerf Gun
What is it with men? Guys not only love toys, but they love to figure out ways to manufacturer the biggest and most ridiculous toys in the world. A good example of this would be trucks. Trucks, built out of necessity for consumers, looked normal for years. Then, of course, dudes across the country decided they should not just build trucks, but modify them to monster trucks, drive them over smaller cars, and charge people admission to watch them do it. Come to think of it, that sounds kind of fun.
Anyway, someone did the same thing with a Nerf blaster. A former NASA engineer, Mark Rober, decided to build a gun that is as big as he is tall. Not only that, the gun can shoot gigantic Nerf darts close to 70 miles per hour. This thing is so big it would make sense if Optimus Prime just replaced his cannons with this one.
3 Not All Nerf Products Are Cheap
One of the most common things that toy makers like Hasbro or Parker Brothers knows is that their products have to come cheap. A lot of parents have a hard enough time paying their light and cable bills so the idea that they would spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a kids toy is out of the question. Besides, most kids grow out of their favorite toys in just a season so it is kind of a waste of money. Generally, Nerf products are relatively inexpensive, which just adds to their unsurprisingly popularity.
This is not the case for all Nerf products though. Because Nerf has survived a generation with its popularity in tact, some Nerf products are geared toward those who are old enough to pay those big bucks for the right kind of product. In particular, the Nerf N-Strike Longstrike CS-6 Dart Blaster retails on Amazon.com for nearly $550. Would it not be easier to just buy a real gun? Maybe not.
2 Nerf Has Had Popular Spokespersons
Back in the day, Parker Brothers, the company who originally bought Guyer’s Nerf ball concept, decided to go all in with the marketing of the original ball. In some of the earliest commercials, Parker Brothers contracted with The Monkees to help sell the product on television. It is basically a campy commercial where The Monkees are just jovially throwing the ball around. Nothing special now, but looking back, it was very special.
The reason this is the case is two-fold. First, television at the beginning of the 1970s was still in its infancy. These were the days before a person could download an entire television series to their iPhone and watch it every time they go to the bathroom. Getting on television back then was a really big deal and coupled with The Monkees, the American-slash-British band, pushing the product sent the Nerf craze into overdrive early. In addition, actors like Devon Sawa and Seth Green have appeared in commercials to push the brand.
1 Nerf Is Not Just For Kids
Remember earlier the discuss of those leagues where men run around shooting Nerf darts at each other? Well, would it not be just ridiculous if they had to play with their son’s Nerf blaster? A grown man should absolutely, positively have his own plastic toy gun that he can shoot at his friends just like his son. This is a problem that, apparently, must be solved.
Hasbro, the owner of the Nerf brand, has found the solution in two words: Nerf Rival. Not only does the Nerf Rival brand sell guns with manly names like Zeus and Apollo, the brand actually has gear like face masks for people to buy. There is a good chance that the face masks are there just to protect the Nerf players from embarrassment, but they will be sold to them as “protection.” It is clear that Nerf should probably change its slogan from “It’s Nerf or Nuthin’,” to “Nerf: Play With It Until You Are 50.”
Sources: Amazon.com, Fool.com, Time.com, Thrillist.com
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