Lab Warfare

By the end of the summer, 115 VanZoeren had been transformed from a cold, sterile computer room into some sort of geek heaven. But it wasn't due to the strong smell of coffee, the dozens of lab manuals scattered on desks, or even the Electronic Karate Fighters that bookended my monitor; the primary feature was the vast array of Nerf weaponry everywhere in the lab.

Nerf guns are the ultimate geek toy, neon colored and modern looking, they have all sorts of useless curves and bulges. Go to any Toys-backwards-R-Us store, and you will see an aisle of these wonderful machines: pistols, scoped rifles, double barrels, chain guns, and even Nerf grenades. Every projectile weapon man has created has been converted into hard plastic and is at a store near you for the modest price of $12.99.

Not that there weren't casualties in this high-power toy war, the most prominent being the foam core suction cup darts that littered our lab. The average Nerf gun may only come with three darts, but $3.99 will buy you a "refill pack" with another ten. This is a key advantage in Nerfwar endgame because while everyone else is scavenging for ammunition under chairs and desks, you can quickly reload and counterattack.

A typical Nerfwar lasted about three minutes from start to finish. Initiation can be as simple as unwarranted aggression (someone shoots at you for the hell of it) or be quagmired in layers of subtle trickery and conspiracy (everyone shoots at you for the hell of it). The best advice is to stay on your toes with your loaded weapon on your desk, and keep your eyes open for shifty movement. Drinking twelve cups of lab coffee is a good way to maintain alertness.

If you simply can't afford to spend time Nerfing, maybe because you have to code last week’s project before meeting with your professor in an hour, etiquette allows you to declare truce to potential assailants. Be cautious, however, because it's open season on you when you return from your meeting, so you may want to bring your gun with you, and at least have retaliatory capabilities.

Making our workplace conducive to Nerfing was a big ergonomic step for our Computer Lab, and it could probably help your workplace, too. Many authorities on the subject have attributed much of Microsoft's success to their "free-Nerf-toys" policy to employees* . So next time you feel like going crazy with a gun in your workplace: relax, mosey on in to the nearest major department store toy section, and purchase a few handy armaments to vent workplace aggression.


*I read this in Douglas Coupland's Microserfs. I'm sure he did his research on this one.