A new community sport for all ages, blasters included
For four hours on a Sunday morning, the Arcata Community Center was a war zone.
Sounds of blasters and Nerf darts echoed through Arcata Community Center. Players ran for cover, slid behind tables and had a showdown in the center maze.
Cloth Boxes stacked on tables with cloth lining the tables making them walls to deflect flying darts. Tables flipped onto their sides and ends acted as personal shields as courageous players pushed forward.
Players were divided up into three teams and given a starting point on the outer edge of the gym. The Red, Green and Blue teams looked in awe at the new lineup of blasters provided for each color’s home base.
Bases were stacked two tables high with 10 to 15 different blasters from Nerf pistols to heavy automatic electronic dart spitting machines. Foam darts littered the tables for easy run-back reloads.
Players had to decide lightweight and compact for agility or heavy for more dart power. There were many combinations to choose from making each round strategic.
Participant Tanner Via, a 13-year-old from Laurel Tree Charter School in Arcata, fixed a jammed dart in his blaster back by his base.
“Green team is performing okay, we only have one win so far,” Via said. “This is my first time but the middle maze is where I like to be.”
The madness was tamed with three main match styles.
The classic single elimination: One hit anywhere on their blaster or body and players are out.
Pistol blaster only match: Players run out with low ammo and a smaller blaster trying to use close range and stealth type attacks.
And crowd favorite, King of the Hill. Players had to hold the center maze for a combination of minutes. The referee only counted seconds for a team if one or more members of that team was present in the middle and alive.
Trevor Hammons, a counselor at Zane Middle School, said he brought his kids to meet up with some friends from school and jumped into the action.
“If we’re in town we always go, we look forward to king of the hill,” Hammons said.
Hammons said taking the maze, setting up and blasting everything that moves was the best strategy.
The course didn’t always have an elaborate set up. Co-creators Patrick Sullivan and James Schaeffer started from humble beginnings. They were inspired by a bachelor party trip to Reno where they rented out a house and decided to bring Nerf blasters for all their friends that weekend.
“We had a great time and when we got back we wanted to find a way to keep going,” Schaeffer said. “Started out in parks with friends but the rain came so we reached out to Mike Rice at the ACC and he was open to an event and it blew up from there.”
Sullivan and Schaeffer are still active participants at events, taking turns playing mercenary for a team while the other keeps order and referees games. They are always trying new designs, courses, obstacles, new blasters and looking to video games for extra inspiration.
“We both play strategy games, James knows how to set up interesting map designs, constantly trying to make things better,” Sullivan said. “Looking to the future we’re going to try more outdoor events, maybe even back at a local public park.”