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Nerf has adapted to the post-apocalyptic child

In case you've missed out on updates in Nerf technology, the company's newest toys are now powerful enough to handle any post-apocalyptic nightmare that might come our way.

The video above depicts masked children roving parking garages with foam-propelling guns. Though Nerf owner Hasbro has not revealed the backstory for the video, it's safe to assume it occurs in a deserted suburb of Tucson, some time after President Trump has fired the state of Arizona.

The Nerf Rival is just the latest in a series of amped-up "blasters" (Nerf nomenclature for the guns). The Nerf Rival, depicted in the above video and below, requires six (yes, six) batteries and has a safety. The foam balls (dimpled for stability) shoot at 100 feet per second, and the gun is supposed to be for users 14 and older, which makes it perfect for DINKMPs (Double Income No Kids With Misplaced Priorities). Masks are sold separately.

What's really going on with blasters like the Rival is probably adult post-apocalyptic fiction trickling down to the kids. Nerf's marketing to boys is heavily inspired by The Walking Dead (hence the "ZombieStrike"), while the new girls' line, Rebelle, has gone full Hunger Games (without the burden of licensing the official property, thanks to Nerf brands like the "Strongheart Bow").

It's tempting to think of technology as Nerf's chief challenger — kids these days are always staring at their phones instead of trying to kill each other with foam balls! And that's probably part of it — after all, the blocks of Minecraft have a crucial eight-corner advantage over Nerf's pitifully cornerless balls. Kids today love computers, and they love corners — Nerf has neither.

But rather than blame technology, it might be more telling to look at the shifting morality of Nerf toys. As Marvin Kaye recalls in A Toy Is Born, the toy started out in 1970 as a simple round ball. The goal was obvious — a ball that wouldn't hurt. That was followed by the success of the Nerf football, which tried to make even a game of catch more gentle.

But over time, Hasbro made the product more martial (that can be seen in the list of slogans on Wikipedia):

  • "There's only one Nerf." (classic)

This first slogan suggests that Nerf is an inimitable product.

  • "It's Nerf or Nothin'!" (current)

Current slogans encourage kids to realize that non-Nerf products are offensive and that anyone who gives them a knockoff should be destroyed.

  • "Enlist, Engage, Enforce" (N- Strike)

This is inspiring for kids who like their toys to sound like rejected US Special Forces slogans.

  • "Bend the rules of Battle" (Vortex)

The Nerf universe now accepts the necessity of guerrilla warfare and, if necessary, torture.

Today's Nerf weapons have come a long way. The 1988 instruction manual for Nerf fencing actually recommended a penalty for "ungentlemanly conduct." The Rival's slogan? "Power and accuracy combined," which is perfect for putting down rebellions after civilization's collapse.

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