Nerds and Nerf Guns: York’s Alternate Varsity

“Isn’t the wind going to affect the flight of the foam bullets?”
“Yes, most probably!”

If you have elected to spend your Sunday morning running around outside the Law and Management building on Heslington East shooting Nerf guns and throwing cuddly toys at one other, wind is unlikely to be the thing that phases you.

As I walked towards the scene of imminent foamicide, the bubble of infectious noise rushed up to meet me before I had seen a single toy gun. What unsuspecting Heslington East residents made of it all I coudn’t imagine, but they were probably just happy that something was happening in that ghost town that they call home.

This particular weekend would have seen a proliferation of the ghost population at the hands of modified, orange toy guns, with York hosting “UK Assassin’s Varsity”. With my counting skills leaving a lot to be desired, around 50 members of various university Assassin’s Guilds came from Durham, Sheffield, Huddersfield and Leeds, gathering on our campus for a weekend of shooting each other with toy guns.

What unsuspecting Heslington East residents made of it all I couldnt imagine

There are many variations of what boils down to running around in fancy dress and trying to shoot each other with foam bullets, but the premise of the gathering was more than that. In the room that they had hired out on Heslington East to host their visitors, it became apparent that an all night boozer had taken place, with many participants in the games functioning on very little sleep. The weekend had been about making friends from other universities over a shared passion, while also going out for meals and getting completely wasted. For people who are already aficionados of the Nerf gun, I imagine that their appeal and use can only increase exponentially after a few pints.

Because I am boring and don’t have many interesting hobbies, and also because I have apparently developed into the archetypal student troglodyte, the thought crossed my mind of how much players spent pursuing this hobby at the expense of additional pints and bottles of multicoloured alcopops on a Wednesday evening. “The Nerf guns themselves are not that expensive, but they do accumulate.” I was told by the Vice-President of the Huddersfield’s  Assassin’s Guild. Immediately images sprang to mind of a multicoloured plastic arsenal assembled in the middle of what is otherwise a shite place to go to uni , which made me realise the worth that events such as Assassin’s Varsity have.

I walked away feeling at peace with an otherwise crazy world. A strange feeling having just witnessed mass nerdicide

How great is it that whilst at University we can just spend time pursuing what makes us happy. And if that means running around a soulless courtyard outside a University Law & Management department building shooting people with foam bullets, then that is even more great. While some people might take one look at a game of Assassin’s and denounce the whole thing as pointless, we often forget that hobbies aren’t necessarily supposed to have a final ‘point’. Things that aren’t pointless are usually pursued as a means of pursuit of something else, usually happiness.

This may be something that we should be especially thankful for in the glorified village that is York. Talking to a bouncer  the other night about the subject of this article, he told me how he used to work at student events in Leeds, and told of how the Leeds Uni Quidditch society used to have to hire bouncers for them to be able to run their sessions. This was because  people had previously set dogs on them whilst they were chasing a quaffle around a notoriously dodgy public park. Maybe the dog and owners mistook the knock-off nimbus 2000s for an enchanting game of fetch, but it was probably more sinister than that.

The President of York Hazsoc is a lovely guy called James, who wore a permanent smile the whole time I was there, and most probably for the entire weekend, if not throughout every waking hour he’ll spend on this Earth. Not only did he take time to explain patiently what must have been a tirade of very basic questions about what was going on, but he told me just how happy he was with the turnout and success of the event. He explained that the reason that people were throwing cuddly toys around were that they acted as grenade-sort-of things, and if you get hit by one then an imaginary explosion of glitter and synthetic wool takes place. He also explained that fancy dress wasn’t mandatory, but people simply enjoyed getting in the spirit of the event, adding to the seeming ridiculousness and vibrancy of proceedings.

Despite not actually having a turn at unleashing unadulterated fire and brimstone upon someone with a magnitude of foamy fury, which I imagine would be a theraupeutic exercise, I walked away feeling at peace with an otherwise crazy world. A strange feeling having just witnessed mass nerdicide, but I will take whatever peace and tranquility I can get.mMaybe if the pro-gun lobby in the USA, and other connoisseurs of violence around the world swapped their deadly weapons for a plastic orange replica, we might see less death and more laughter. Laughter seems to be the answer to a lot of our problems, and if we had more people with the mindset of those who enjoy spending time running around with toy guns and enjoying imagined destruction and violence instead of the real thing, the world would become void of misery, and instead full of colour. That and we’d all be standing three-feet deep in blue-tipped, orange foam bullets.