lovehate: The Nerf Military-Industrial Complex

Two of the greatest toys I ever had growing up was the Nerf Football and Nerf Soccerball. Both spongy projectiles were safe enough to use inside against a wall. Of course they were dangerous to lamps and statues alike, but they allowed for a certain freedom that was important to young Canadian children who were often denied flat outdoor surfaces in the winter to hoof such spherical objects.

There was, at that time, a simplicity with Nerf. Not only in the name, but in the product selection. It was about sports and the ability to get hit in the face with a ball without splitting your lip or losing teeth. Part of this level of innocence came with the fact that every kid knew what Nerf was. They made sponge sport balls, and that was good enough for everyone... everyone that is, except for Hasbro.

In 1970, Parker Brothers released the simply named "Nerf Ball". That's it. Simple, elegant, 4 inches of sponge that sold 4 million units. When they expanded to the Nerf footballs and soccerballs and Nerfoops, all seemed a logical extensions. Through various acquisitions by Kenner, Tonka, and now Hasbro, Nerf has become part of the global military-industrial complex destined to drive our children in lives being destructive war machines.

I offer up the following evidence:


Where To Buy Print Take your blasting skills to the extreme with this two-in-one blaster! This blaster is more than three feet long and can launch arrows up to 35 feet away! Aim with accuracy and precision using the targeting scope. Two quick-reload clips hold a total of 12 STREAMLINE DARTS. There's even a fold-down bi-pod to help you steady your aim for important shots. Looking for a quick shot at close range? The blaster has removable parts to give you one-handed freedom with a single-shot blaster! In either mode, load up, aim, press the trigger and watch the darts go the distance!


Assess the situation and be ready to strike against your opponents! The RAIDER RAPID FIRE CS-35 blaster is the ultimate for any battle! The pump-action handle give you total control of our rate of fire, and the drum magazine holds 35 Clip-System darts, giving you massive ammo capacity. A clear window lets you see how much ammo you have left! Two blasting modes give you defensive flexibility – use the slam fire mode for multishots or the slide mode for single shots! This is the pinnacle of blaster performance! Blaster comes with drum magazine, 35 Clip-System darts, and stock.


Build your own blaster with five interchangeable parts that you can take apart and reassemble any way you want. Snap the parts in any configuration onto the TACTICAL RAIL, and gain the upper hand in any situation that calls for awesome  action. Other features include a flip-up sight for aiming precision, a barrel extension and a dual-mode light beam with red-dot accuracy that's perfect for night missions! Use the shoulder stock to steady your shot and store an extra clip of ammo.


Complete your N-STRIKE arsenal and prepare for the ultimate in battery-powered blasting! Be ready for any battle with the N-STRIKE VULCAN EBF-25 blaster - an awesome, fully automatic cannon! Load the blaster and fire at a rate of up to three shots per second! Watch as the belt feeds automatically through the blaster, letting the barrage of firepower continue as you battle your opponent. The piston-powered internal launching system makes it an unstoppable force! Switch to single-shot mode for precision blasting. The removable tripod folds for easy transport -- or a quick escape from enemy fire! Even your toughest opponent won't know what hit him when you unleash the power of the N-STRIKE VULCAN EBF-25 blaster!

What the fuck!?!

Even my beloved Nerf football now looks like a missle or bomb to launch at enemy territory, and apparently sound like one too.


The VORTEX MEGA HOWLER football gives you the ultimate football experience with awesome performance and a cool whistling sound like no other football! Go long and see how far you can throw it! Football howls with whistling action as it spirals through the air!

Why do I envision turf wars starting up between five year olds and their Nerf accessories. We'll have a six year old General planning the Tet Offensive while four year olds cower in their foxholes on the front line. Isn't a simple four inch sponge sphere enough.

I remember a time when all Lego had four corners, Monopoly only took place in Atlantic City, and the only game I could play on my TV was Pong. Now, I'm not saying that advancement is bad, but was this the only logical evolution of Nerf? I don't remember Slime becoming Bio-Chem Slime Toxic Warfare. I don't remember Jacks developing sharpened spikes that could be thrown at intruders. I don't remember Simon being electric-charged to shock and torture player who couldn't recall the correct light sequence. Nerf went the way of weaponry, and I just don't get it.

Maybe I'm just old... I need to go find a Space Invaders game and shoot me some aliens.

lovehate: 5 Retro Games I'd Rather Play Than Video Games

I have some friends who love console gaming, and I have to admit there was a period in time where I thought such pursuits were cool. I first owned the Hanimex system which morphed into Leisurevision; both were essentially cheap rip-offs of the Intellivision system which outdistanced the Atari 2600 for playability at the time. The PacMan clone on the Leisurevision system was lightyears ahead of the 2600. I eventually evolved to Colecovision and the cutting edge graphics carried me well into my Commodore 64 days. All this said, I don't think any of the games had the replay value of some of the board games I grew up with. I wish I had some of these around the house right now... of course then I wouldn't be writing.

Rebound kicked the llama's ass! How cool was it that with a plastic disc, some ball bearings, a piece of molded plastic and two elastics, one could have hours of fun. Kind of like the mini version of shuffleboard or crokinole, Rebound provided awesome replay value even in single player mode. I can't speak much to the fight mechanic except for the time I punched my friend in the nads for knocking out three of my pieces with his last shot. He didn't even try to fight back; must've been a "special" attack.

Here's the thing about Mousetrap. I owned this for years growing up and remember having a blast with it. The thing is, I don't know I ever actually played the game. The Rube Goldberg aspect alone was enough to keep me fascinated. I mean c'mon - it's a bowling ball in a bathtub! I don't know about polygons and refresh rates, but I do know how to build the coolest mousetrap in the world - if a mouse ever gets into the house, I'll need to visit the lumber yard.

Okay, I'll accept that the single player mode of Rock'em Sock'em Robots was pretty lame, but here's a game where the aforementioned fight mechanic shone. Who could resist fighting robots in glorious plastic opulence? We used to have to tape the ring down to the table due to our abuse of the light plastic form. This was an experience not be missed. It was also one of those games whereby 2 out of 3s rapidly became 4 out of 7s and eventually we lost count. We even created modifications whereby you got extra points for winner while throwing the fewest punches. At age 8 we were precision training to strike death blows on future Terminators after Skynet took control.

Again, a game where single-player mode was just as cool as head-to-head. Kerplunk required foresight, precision, planning and benefited the experienced player. It's a game where one could start to actually see patterns in the stack of marbles as they teetered on the point of collapse. Kerplunk became a metaphor for the tenuous nature of young boy's childhood during post-war Vietnam and the impending evolution of disco... but seriously - Kerplunk was also cool because you could always find replacements for any lost pieces. Marbles were never hard to find and you could always use kebab sticks if the fancy-colored plastic ones disappeared under the couch.

Alright! I'm Canadian. Deal with it! Some called it "rod hockey". Some called it "table hockey". No matter what you called it, I called it one of the greatest games ever. The magnetic seizure-inspiring vibrating football was pretty useless. The table baseball games were uninspired at best. I do have to give it up for Foosball which is great in its own right, but spinning a plastic Bobby Orr, dropping a plastic puck through a fake scoreboard for a faceoff, or slamming down on the goal light in frustration to pop the puck back out of the net are memories I'll never forget. If there's one thing I often consider buying a couple of decades later, it's one of the full-size arcade versions of this classic. I dropped many a quarter later in life on high school lunch hours at the local mall arcade. I'll take this over any video game at any time.

So there it is. I have not bought a video game console much less a board game in years, but there's something to be said in replayability, boss battles that involved going up against friends' skills instead of jacked up animated freaks, powerups that involved running to the kitchen for a couple Oreos and a glass of chocolate milk, and cut scenes that involved everyone getting called home for dinner.