Nothing personal against the man, but I shot my CEO on Friday. Earlier in the day, he ordered the elimination of various departments within the company. Accounting and Human Resources were the first to go. He and his team of suits killed a weakened Sales team that earlier struggled against the intelligence of IT. Customer service was pretty much the last department left. I stealthily tracked him to his corner office, kicked open the door, aimed my pistol at his head… and noticed the CEO had his pistol pointed at me. And his personal assistant was doing the same thing except he was armed with a rifle. We all pulled our triggers simultaneously. Their two shots hit me square in the chest as my one shot hit my boss in the forehead. The two of us collapsed and died while the assistant fled to announce the CEO’s death to everyone in the building. It meant only one thing: The war was over.
Fortunately, we were all firing toy guns that day so our deaths were not permanent. I lifted myself off the ground and helped the CEO to his feet. We shook hands and congratulated each other on a game well played. Other coworkers who were shooting each other or were killed during the day followed suit.
In an effort to promote teamwork disguised as a fun activity, the company decided to stage an inter company NERF War akin to this well choreographed version. It was a simple premise: Employees would bring NERF guns-or blasters as the toy manufacturer call them to have a more innocent connotation-and ammunition on the designated day. We then divided into teams based on our department and formed strategies to gain victory.
Elements of a NERF War
Unlike other company team building exercises, NERF Wars are simple to organize. We did not need to meet off-site. We simply scheduled it when we knew everyone would be present on a slow work day. The company building provided enough space and obstacles to maneuver around for the war. Desks could be overturned for barriers and cover. Cubicles provided ambush points. Balconies made for high ground for snipers.
Equipment was readily available at toy stores or retail stores like Target. Blasters are cheap ranging from single shot blasters for about $5 on clearance to battery powered automatic chain guns priced below $50. Most parents already bought NERF blasters for their children so they just borrowed them for the day. The blasters fire foam darts powered by compressed air, so there was little risk of physical harm-tough eye protection is recommended.
Given the venue and the equipment, we all received rules and objectives for the NERF War. Teams were assigned various starting bases and told how to take over other bases-essentially shoot everyone occupying the base and station your own men there. Since the NERF foam darts leave no mark, the honor system tells when one has been hit and killed when shot. The office also determined when and how casualties could return to fighting-two minutes after getting shot or if an indicated medic “treats” the casualty. Department bosses were priority targets who could not be resurrected once killed. Any department who lost its boss would disband and lose the war. Victory conditions for this NERF War included controlling a majority of bases or being the last department standing with its boss staying alive to lead the troops.
The intended teamwork element reared its head during the NERF War as soon as we were assigned teams. The bosses had to assign the limited number of people he had in their departments to various tasks such as defending bases and targeting other departments. Losing one member to enemy fire could easily spell defeat. We had to execute flanking maneuvers, sieges, ambushes, and priority targets whether planned or on the fly.
Another key element of teamwork was how the NERF blasters fired. Most of them fire one dart before needing to pump another round for firing. To survive a NERF engagement, people relied on their teammates to provide cover while pumping the next shot or reloading. It is suicide to charge into a group of enemies alone with only one blaster. Unless it was a rapid firing blaster and the one armed with it intended to do so.
Funnily enough, NERF blasters helped determine who could do what. We learned the basic revolver with its size, dart acceptance, dart capacity, firing rate, reloading speed, and $10 price tag made it the Jack of all Trades. My boss had us all buy at least one for ourselves. The pricier blasters felt more appropriate for specialized tasks. The aforementioned chain gun was our best defense for the main base and the spread and rapid fire of the shotgun covered narrow corridors. I would like to brag how the NERF sniper rifles were great for distant sniping if they actually functioned as well as they looked.
All in a Day’s Fun
Probably the best thing about playing in a NERF war was the plain fun and spectacle. A bunch of adults got to play like children when shooting each other with toy guns was a more innocent time. There were no office politics, no worries about deadlines, and next to no risk of injury. It was pure childish fun. The typical work day had us sitting in cubicles staring at computer screens. But on the day of the NERF War, everyone was running whether attempting to rendezvous with teammates or taking cover from incoming darts. I never saw a 40-year old man leap over a table and turn it over just to avoid getting hit by a foam dart until that day. I was surprised at how flexible I was as I leaned backwards limbo style to dodge incoming fire while simultaneously shooting someone who attempted to hit me from behind. One never discovers what his or her body can do while under adrenaline. We subconsciously learned the cooperation and teamwork intended for this team building exercise as we reloaded and exchanged clips within our department while waiting for two other departments to finish duking it out. As soon as one department fell, we sprang from our hiding spots and wasted the victorious department while it was still recovering and reloading.
The only downside to the NERF war was having to clean up and account for every orange foam dart that littered the floors, shelves, and occasional plant after the war ended.