Generally, my Nerf experience was mind-blowing and enjoyable if I were to put it shortly. Time to pour out my thoughts!
My Nerf Experience at Work
Since I work at a school in Manila, the Philippine capital, most of my students have blasters of their own – many of whom are aware of the prevalence of Nerf as a hobby. As a result, it was pretty easy to organize Nerf battles last school year, despite the horrors of the global pandemic.
Given that many of my students and there’s access to a ready and safe indoor venue (it is a relatively well-known and successful school in the heart of Metro Manila in the Philippines, which means it’s easy to reach), it should be said that the hobby has an audience there.
Still, it’s pretty surprising to see an attendance of 20-30 people per meetup; there’s a great spread of brands and types out there, from the Merlin blasters by Buzz Bee to the humongous Ultra Pharaoh blasters and everything in between. Girls even join in the fun with their Alpha Strike blasters – while many in the hobby would frown upon these blasters, it’s always better to have something than nothing at all.
The students usually play modes ranging from Elimination to Capture the Flag. Sometimes, they play “Fortress Breach” (one 15-person team tries to breach with unlimited lives, while a 5-person team tries to hold the fort as long as they can and fend off their opponents with a range of blasters). Then, there is “Conquest” (where two teams duke it out to finish the other team’s respawn tickets), which allows them to relive a video game experience…in real life!
Organizing, playing, and spending time with these students is a blast, that’s for sure!
A More Personal Nerf Experience
In June, I went to an island called Manalipa, which is 20-40 minutes away by motorboat from Arena Blanco in Zamboanga City. I decided to bring my entire collection of nerf blasters, consisting of Nerf, Dart Zone, and knockoffs, so my nephews could play at the beach.
Seeing my nephews and nieces play Nerf with each other on a smooth grass field surrounded by slender and towering coconut trees was a delight. For many people on that island, it was the first time they saw a Nerf blaster, let alone a “Nerf war.” Both the children and adults were extremely curious to the point that they flocked around while my nephews were playing Elimination.
Since I didn’t have a vast collection of blasters then, the other children on the island participated by picking up darts and giving them back to my nephews, thus sparing them with the necessity of doing a dart sweep.
Most of the time, we play CQB in the yard or the street in front of our house. It meant that flywheel blasters had the advantage of pouring down a hail of fire, while manual blasters could dish out some great hits (and surprise opponents who don’t check corners or the grass). There are times when we play inside the house, though it should be said that it’s the exception to the norm – five-meter ranges are virtually point-blank range for most of the blasters we’ve got in our respective arsenals.
I wish there were more players of Nerf in Zamboanga, but I guess I should be thankful that my relatives are willing to indulge in Nerf.
General Thoughts on Nerf in the Philippines
In general, Nerf makes the typical Filipino kid/teen/adult curious simply because it’s interesting to see how a toy could shoot out foam darts at a relatively high speed (as well as the cool factor of the said blaster itself). However, parents wouldn’t necessarily buy a foam blaster for their kids unless there’s cultural and personal awareness of Nerf as a toy or hobby. Indeed, the Philippine psyche is focused on the experience and feeling (thus the concept of “pakikiramdam”) and the personal – as a result, toys last for quite a long time here.
Nevertheless, Nerf isn’t as prevalent as it could be, despite a massive population interested in toys. Some reasons why Nerf adoption isn’t wide include high prices compared to existing toys and the lack of choices (it’s just recently that there’s been a push by the local toy distributors to bring in new models and to promote the game once again). On top of this, the lack of purchasing power and general awareness of Nerf as a toy product and hobby ensure that Nerf still has to leave a considerable mark here in the Philippines.
Still, there are significant signs of progress: From time to time, I see a kid on the street wielding a foam blaster; in my school, kids bring blasters from time to time, if just to show it off to their friends. Having a quick look at Philippine social media has also allowed me to learn that there are many people who are interested in the hobby; after all, why would they share it (and engage with their respective circles and/or audiences) if they didn’t like it in one way or another?
With that being said, it should be noted that the Philippines has a huge tolerance for models that would be otherwise mistaken as “real steel” due to the prevalence of the “pellet gun” culture, as well as policemen and security authorities knowing that these “lookalike” models wouldn’t cause any actual harm. Taking this into account, this means that there is a metric ton of room for the hobby’s growth, although the extent and the path wouldn’t be the same as in Singapore or elsewhere.
Also, while people may not be aware of the existence of Nerf as a hobby, many children have foam blasters at home, whether Nerf, X-Shot, Dart Zone, Air Warrior, or one of those Chinese-made knockoffs – we’re not counting the enthusiasts who go the extra mile and get Nightingales, Swift, et al. (In fact, there are two main groups here in the country: Nerf Club Philippines and Dart Zone Manila, as well as buy-and-sell groups and regional/special interest foam blasting groups right now).
It is safe to conclude that there are more and more children (and older people) who play Nerf as a pastime nowadays, even beyond the reach of metropolitan Manila. I would bet that if the local toy distributor (Bankee, LOOKING AT YOU) actually steps up its marketing and community engagement efforts, they would be able to sell more blasters – and actually help the hobby become more popular in this country.
These are great times to be in the hobby in the Philippines.
Should I play Nerf in the Philippines?
The answer is a yes. It’s a better alternative than playing with a BB gun, which is extremely common in the Philippine context. It is also more child-friendly than, say, paintball or airsoft. There’s also an emotional appeal to flinging foam that can’t be covered by other toy blasters (gel, BB, etc.) It can be due to the wacky or cool designs, the great gimmicks (yes, they’re not battle effective, but hey, they’re good for the kids), the performance, or the memories one gain when playing the game.
In addition, it is one of those toys that last and function for a long time – my nephew’s Disruptor has been around for nearly seven years now. If my other nephews had taken care of the Retaliator, the blaster would have also shared the same age as the Disruptor. As a result, they also make for great collection pieces, though they do surely take up space at home!
Finally, if one wants to move on to other hobbies, one can sell the blasters for reasonable prices and get value out of them. Even as your blasters leave your hands, they become a way to allow another child or person to enjoy the hobby!
What is your experience of playing Nerf as a hobby?
Frankly, my Nerf experience been nothing short of phenomenal. It’s easy to organize within a school setting, and there are clubs and people I could play with.
I am incredibly thrilled to have met this hobby and, of course, to be able to spread the love to my family, friends, students, and acquaintances!