The Mormon Student Center on Dalrymple Drive is an unlikely place for a battle, but on a sleepy Saturday morning in January, that’s what it had – a Nerf battle.
An image of the stone face of Jesus was seen during the commotion. Nerf darts were flying around the room and people were screaming as they ran from cover to cover, all to the sound of highly modified Nerf blasters going off in circles.
Of course, it was deadly, but since the arrows were made of foam no one was hurt. The event was the Louisiana Blaster League’s in-house Blaster Battle – basically, a Nerf battle.
Founded in August 2018 by Heath Vizier, the group hosts two festivals a month, one indoor and one outdoor. It is one of those teams scattered across the United States, the sport’s strongest on the East and West coasts.
His approach is remarkably similar. Battles are free to participate and open to people of all ages. Participants even bring boxes of Nerf blasters for those who don’t have their own.
Noah Billeaud-Lehotsky, who is always cheerful, is one of the members of the group. He became interested in Nerf games as a child and, as a teenager, formed a club at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.
His time in the Blaster community was interrupted by his time in the Marines. When he returned from his service in January 2022, he found the situation there needed to be strengthened.
“When I came back, there were only about four people in the group,” he said. “It was bad. I thought, ‘Let’s get this going.’ “
Using the lessons learned during his time in San Diego’s Blaster community (where he was stationed as a Marine), he joined the local Blaster League and, along with Vizier and other board members, helped strengthen the community.
“Covid has hit the club hard when it comes to morale,” he said. “But we’ve been working really hard over the last year.”
That push has paid off. The club has grown steadily: Although attendance varies, about 10 to 20 people attend regular meetings.
The game is full of variety. There are many modes (or single games) that can be played. Most of the Nerf blasters are also far away – with 3D printing popular in the blaster community, many of the blasters at Saturday’s event were customized.
Often, members seal their guns the night before the meet and use the next day’s fight to test it out.
The parts themselves are interchangeable. Although they start around 11 in the morning, they only finish when everyone has had enough.
One of the few limits is on the speed at which arrows are shot, which is 150 meters per second when children are present. To check this, the band has a Ballistic Precision Chronograph that allows players to track the speed of their blaster.
What hurts the most is the tattoo on the head. Even if they are disappointed, it is undoubtedly done in the heat of battle, and because of this, the participants always wear some kind of protection.
Board member Jacob Lewis, who has been part of the Blaster League for “almost exactly” a year, said it was the flexibility of the game and the culture that he loved the most.
“Compared to other war games, this one has very strong areas,” he said. “There’s also the ability to play almost anywhere. Some games require a lot of space, but this one can be anywhere.”
Lewis said that in games like paintball or Airsoft, players can get hit, “but in this you can play for hours and you’ll be fine.”
Saturday’s battle confirmed the evolution of the Blaster League. The group’s indoor events are usually held in the gymnasium, but since their regular venue was booked, they quickly moved to the Mormon Student Center building.
It didn’t take much to turn an office space into a battlefield. Tables were pulled out and bolted to serve as barriers, while the players leaned behind the walls and ran between the offices behind.
By 11.30 in the morning, there are brightly colored Nerf darts on the floor. The students ran around, shooting rounds from the most popular sculptures to the shelves.
As Lewis, who helps decide which races should be played, explained the rules for each race, one member boldly wrote “Oh, I’m not leaving anyone out.”
A few minutes later, he was lying on the ground, wearing bright orange darts, laughing.
There were many smiles. This, Billeaud-Lehotsky said, is a good point.
“We’re building and supporting the community, and we’re giving people fun things to do for free,” he said. “We just came to have fun.”