How Hasbro and Nerf May Have Saved the Human Race: ‘Star Wars’, guns and the skills learned while playing

It was a very nice Christmas at our house for many reasons but personally for me Star Wars had returned to it in unexpected ways starting with the fantastic soundtrack by Michael Giacchino.  Even though the song “Approach to Eadu” didn’t make it on the standard soundtrack—it is on the extended cut and is my favorite on the new Star Wars film—the first not to use John Williams as the composer.  I like the song played below quite a lot and for readers here to receive an answer to their ponderings, it is nearly precisely what it sounds like in my brain 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  That piece of music with that particular collection of instruments—and how they are played reflects more accurately than anything I’ve ever heard the type of thinking that goes on in my brain—and I simply love it.  Before talking about the point of this particular article it should be noted that the new Star Wars film Rogue One has done great business at the movie theaters pulling in an additional $140 million domestically the following week of its opening and that is before the Monday after Christmas tallies are added.  That is important for a whole lot of reasons but before continuing, lets enjoy that little Giacchino song.

As kind of a half joke, half serious present my mom gave me a new Nerf Star Wars gun for Christmas so I could play with my grandkids with it.  It was the small version of new Rogue One guns that are popularly sold at Target department stores these days—this one was the smallest Cassian Andor version.  When I opened it I thought it was pretty neat.  I had recently become very respectful of this little business relationship Hasbro has had with Nerf and adding to that the power of the Disney marketing machine with the Star Wars franchise fueling desire, the guns produced recently were far better than the ones I grew up with—that was for sure.  The Nerf cannons that were included on the new Star Wars toy ships particularly the new Millennium Falcon, the U-Wing and the Tie Striker were extremely innovative and actually work great.  No longer while playing dogfight with a couple of Star Wars ships is there any dispute as to whether or not one kid shot down another kid’s ship—the Nerf dart makes it undeniable.  Once I realized how good the ships actually worked I rushed out and bought them all and they are constantly used at my house these days—particularly when the grandkids come over.  I actually look forward to them coming to visit so I can play with these ships with them because they are so functionally good—with sounds, lights and fully firing Nerf dart cannons.

That has led me to being curious about the rather sophisticated market Nerf had on toy guns because if the cannons worked that good on those little Star Wars ships, they must really be good in the guns.  It wasn’t until my mom bought me one that I had a chance to actually use one so most of Christmas was spent for me shooting this new little wonder at empty pop cans set up at the desert table and I can report from about ten feet the guns are accurate enough to knock the cans over—without being any real danger to anybody.  This particular Cassian gun from Rogue One shoots at about 70 feet per second which really surprised me.  And the basic platform was essentially modeled after the real life AR—the cocking mechanism, the location of the safety switch and proximity of the magazine to the trigger are very close to the actual AR-15 dimensions, so kids are learning wonderful firearm skills with these new guns that I thought was important.  But that’s not all, on these Rogue One guns specifically, when you cock them for firing a little light comes on inside the barrel which lights up the dart inside and once you fire it gives off an electronic blaster sound propelling the dart with glow-in-the-dark light through low light conditions like a tracer—so you can see where it’s actually going.  This is great for gun battles with friends to give the illusion of a laser gun fight.  You can see the shots actually coming at you which can make for some really cool play action.

When I was a kid battles with other kids was my favorite activity.  We threw rocks at each other, dirt clots from the tilled garden, anything we could get our hands on to reflect the action of battle—where real consequences for not dodging an incoming projectile provided the proper motivation for moving out-of-the-way.  If we were inside we threw balls at each other—baseballs, footballs, ping-pong balls, bowling pins—anything and I never ever got tired of it.  When I was a teenager of 16 and 17 I would meet other kids in the woods for BB gun fights which was a lot more dangerous, but we had a great time doing this kind of thing and it taught you to be fast.  To this day when something happens that requires me to move quickly, my muscle memory formed from this period in my life gets me out of danger quick.  Nobody sneaks up on me without me knowing it and when I have to jump out-of-the-way from an out-of-control fork lift or a car trying to run me over on a motorcycle, I escape because my reaction time was honed as a kid playing battle all the time with my family and friends.  But what Nerf has done with their new products is give that sense of danger and ramification for unskilled players to suffer under without really causing harm.  If these guns had been available when I was a kid, there would have been a lot fewer stitches, broken arms, and hard feelings.  After playing with the Nerf guns during Christmas I am happy to see such options emerging.

Progressives will read that last paragraph and declare that such violence needs to be erased from our culture.  I heard a story yesterday about one of my very intelligent nephews who is in pre-school and was pretending to be on Mars with a space helmet.  As soon as he opened the helmet he acted like he was suffocating—because he was aware that there isn’t any oxygen on Mars and that there isn’t any air to breathe.  I see in the kid the early signs of real genius—and he’s not the only kid in our family like that—but of course the pre-school is trouble with him because he doesn’t follow directions well, isn’t interested in learning to write his name, he holds his pencil a particular way—and is hesitant to conform to the rules of the masses.  His values of not being able to breath on Mars do not match up with the values of the typical pre-school teacher who just wants the kid to learn the alphabet.  Those teachers and the society which supports them fail to understand that it is inherit in young boys—and some girls—to want to test themselves in battle—it’s in our DNA—and the lessons we learn in fighting—even for play, will carry us into all other endeavors.  If a young warrior needs to learn the alphabet to fly to Mars, they’ll do it—but for really smart kids, there has to be proper motivation.  They just don’t learn things like a mindless drone—they need context—which pre-schools are notoriously terrible at providing—and their public education destinations.

Our decision-making skills are modeled after the urgency of battle and its part of how human beings learn, and if you take that away from the human experience, we actually get dumber as a species.  For instance, I have a granddaughter who is just over a year old.  She’s not old enough to want to play “motherhood” by watching her mom and those around her handle babies and feed them while pretending to make food for people.  But those are just the things she most innately responds to, the gifts she likes and the kind of play she enjoys as a little person developing.  To deny that in her would be catastrophic for her later psychological condition.  Yet my oldest grandson would play fight all day long if he had the opportunity and from those skills will come most of his adult wiring for interacting in life.  To really understand this phenomena play any online game from Battlefield, to Battlefront or Titanfall—just pick one and you’ll see millions of people play fighting over Playstation and Xbox every day at all hours.  The desire to remove guns from society and to “teach” a tendency of violence from human beings has had the negative effect of actually destroying people away from their natural inclinations.  After all, the point of A Christmas Story  was for Ralphie to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas which was and still is the dream of most young people—especially boys.  Back in the time of that 1983 film that plays constantly on television during Christmas every year it was westerns which drove that mythological desire for gunplay and the justice that comes from them—but today it is Star Wars—which was always modeled after westerns but have embraced what we know of science and technology with the yearning to tame the next frontier beyond earth’s horizons.  The progressive desire to change that tendency in people has only resulted in stunting the growth of human beings at a fundamental level.

All this is just another reason that it’s good for more Star Wars films to be released which drive this need young people have for working through these primal desires for battle.  Nerf with a partnership at Hasbro have done some great work in making entry-level guns that kids can play with and not get hurt as a market need was created by Star Wars to satisfy the human desire for violence while minds are being formed—not at the late date of a 20-year-old who is too late to learn new things by the time they actually put their hands on a gun.  It is really infuriating to see young twenty-somethings at a gun range trying to shoot a pistol sideways “gangster” style.  You can tell by looking at those kids that they didn’t have a dad who taught them anything and that they didn’t work out these issues as a kid playing in the backyard, because shooting like that is completely inaccurate.  If you try that in a play gun battle with Nerf guns, you’ll get picked apart.  Those 20-year-olds simply mimic movies they’ve seen by rap artists and other progressive attempts at story telling—and are therefore unprepared for adulthood.  The time to teach kids things about guns is early in their life, not later and Nerf with Hasbro have given children that opportunity in a remarkable way fueled by new Star Wars movies.

Guns are a part of the human experience even though progressives would love to see a John Lennon view of the world where there is no violence or a desire for it.  They would prefer sex, drugs and rock and roll to the country singing cowboy teaching their son to properly shoot a .22 rifle for the first time—and that experiment has failed.  The best hope I have for the next generation is to learn more of these basic skills early in life in spite of their public educations—and through Star Wars—which Rogue One is certainly one of the great movies of all time—it gives me hope where Force Awakens took it away—that good things do come from our modern art culture that satisfies the innate needs we all have regardless of our gender orientation.  So in that respect, I had a great Christmas because I learned something about the trend of our society that had been invisible before—because I’m not a kid anymore.  But because my mom gave me a window into that emerging world I see an evolution in human spirit that wasn’t so obvious before except in that particular toy aisle in Target where a problem has been solved, and Hasbro and Nerf are the ones to thank.  Thank God for capitalism!

Rich Hoffman


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