I have recently been a participant of a game of Nerf Tag. As of today, I am officially out of the game—or more exactly, I was killed today by assassination. I had a wonderful time playing the game, hiding and running and chasing and tagging. At the end of my life, I had lasted about 83 hours as a target and had an accumulation of 7 kills. By my account, a well spent three days.
First, an explanation of Nerf Tag: participants sign up, entering their names in a huge drawing. The moderator then picks names, glues a picture of the person next to their name and hands out the cards to a different person. Now, upon receiving the card, that person becomes your target. You must find them, chase them and touch them with a little plastic ball for it to be considered a kill. The killed target must then sign the card and give you their untagged target as your next assignment. Unfortunately, there is a catch. Among the other participants, there is someone out there with your name and picture, aka your hunter. This is where the thrill of it lies. In hunting, you are hunted.
The game started with 70 people then quickly dropped to 25 in the first day. The second day brought more deaths with the number of people alive to 20. And when I got out, there were 12 and now as I type there are 10 alive still.
We are playing in an enclosed space and there are rules and safe zones to be observed of course but the rules are somewhat vague and the safe zones are few and far between so running and hiding and chasing is a constant. I expected to have fun which I did have fun. What I did not expect, is that anything would go wrong.
As I now think about it, I guess there is a lot that I should have expected to go wrong. I mean, once giving the objective “SURVIVE AS LONG AS YOU CAN” and “KILL YOUR TARGET” that just taps into the basest of all human emotion doesn’t it? Once I am fighting for my survival, I will do just about anything to ensure that. It is a bit different when it comes to killing, but if I had the opportunity to kill enough people so as to reach the person who was going to kill me, and then kill that person, I would work just as hard to achieve that end as to ensure my survival.
In real life of course. But this is just a game, not real life. I repeat, just a game not real life. No one is really going to “die” or get “killed.”
I suppose there is also the competitive spirit to consider, the drive to win the game. I guess now that I think about it, when you take the motivation to win with those two above objectives, give them to a grip of people then put them in an enclosed space and let them have at it, things are bound to get out of hand.
BUT that is not the problem with the game. In fact, I say, it has nothing to do with the game. The game does not promote any immoral actions or force participants to questionable decisions or to deception or any negative behavior. The game itself is not an evil monster, bent on the intent to spread disunity and disorder.
No, no, no. Timidly, at first but with increasing confidence, I say that the problem is with the participants themselves. In fact, I would go on as to say that one of the benefits of the game of Nerf Tag is to shed light on the character of the participants. And when I say character, I mean an overarching definition of who they are as a person, what do they value, their identity, their beliefs and also are they nice or mean, shallow or profound. The game poses difficult questions to each player exploring different ideas; ones that I think are very important are rarely explored, especially in the environment that the game is taking place in right now.
The questions cover an area of topics:
On the subject of determination, “will I really wait here for an hour for my target?”
On the subject of friendship, “who can I trust with my schedule of where I will be or who I need to tag?” “Who can help me tag my target?” “Who can I trust?”
On the subject of integrity “will I form an alliance only to backstab my allies?” “Will I lie to a question of the whereabouts of one of my friends?”
On the subject of sportsmanship “will I bow out humbly after I get tagged?” “Will I complain about my being tagged?” “Will I shake hands with my target or my hunter?” “Will I harbor feelings of animosity or any negative feelings toward either target, hunter, or non-player?” “Will I conduct myself honorably?”
On the subject of honor “will I be humbly about getting out?” “Will I take this game too far?” “Will I avoid those I love in order to win?” “Will I become so isolated in hiding that my life disappears?”
On the subject of mentality “will I keep trying to play the game until I am out or the game ends, or will I give up?”
On the subject of sacrifice “what am I willing to give up for this game?”
And more questions I am sure you or I could discover with more thought. But I do not want to go on and you don’t want me to either I think.
What I am trying to say is that this game really reveals a lot about a person as they play. I even have discovered a lot about myself while playing this game. The most important part of being able to do that though, is that the entire time I knew I was only playing a game. A game that would end and life would go on. A game not worth friendships, relationships, rude words, questionable behavior, any lie or backstab. It was and is only a game. And it is also a game I like and will continue to play if given the opportunity. I would also defend the game itself for what it is worth.
I think it is worth the friends I made while playing. I have now made something like an addition 10 Facebook friends from this game alone, not to mention the 25 or so real life friends I made as well, but Facebook is better (joke J both are good). These being people I did not share a common ground or have a way of really getting to meet them besides going up to them randomly and introducing myself. It was worth the conversations I had with people about the game and the ones I had with them after the game was over for me. The laughs about what was really happening while I was out back trying to find my target or revealing how long I really waited for them as they were walking or remembering the crazy near misses and the thrill of the chase and the agony of losing. I think it was and is worth these friendships and memories that will continue after the game. I think it is worth the lessons I learned about myself. Also, worth the stronger friendships and trusts I made and earned. It was worth the alliance I built which in turn built a bigger community that was looking out for me that is still something we can look back on as an instance that we came together for. I think it is worth all that and some more. I think it is worth doing again, with maybe some necessary clarifications and disclaimers.
I am not saying I was an angel or that I played perfectly and conducted myself to the standard that I am calling for while playing. I confess I did make some conflicting alliances to neither sides knowledge and maybe went a little overboard on hiding and hunting but not to the effect that anyone was or is hurt by it. In fact, I confessed of these things to them to which they laughed and shook their heads. But I will say that I always kept in mind that I was only playing a game, a simple game, not worth very much, and that when I got out I humbly bowed to my hunter, shook his hand, and went on with my life.
It has been said, “don’t hate the player, hate the game” but I think on some level, too, do not hate the game for the player’s conduct.