Alright, I’m going to try and make my thoughts as coherent as possible considering I just got off the road a few hours ago. Forgive me if there are any errors in spelling, grammar or punctuation as I’m exceptionally exhausted. However, I really wanted to get all my thoughts about NvZ down before I conk out for the night. So, if you want to read about my experience, the full text (which is rather lengthy) is right after the jump!
It’s difficult to find a good starting point for this, as this event has been so long in the making that my experience with it extends to before the beginning of my last semester of college. However, I think I’ll just start with the trip to Springfield.
I don’t know if it was a good idea but I managed to drive the entire way from Fredonia, New York to Springfield, Missouri in one day. I left Rochester on Tuesday and then stayed in Fredonia overnight, so that chopped off of a few hours of my total one-day drive time. I made the trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 3 hours to pick up two people from New Jersey (Sam and Brandon, shout out to them for being awesome). Then from there it was another 12.5 hours to Springfield. By hour 10 I was starting to lose my mind, but we managed to make it to Thunderdome in one piece (thanks to the power of Redbull).
Thunderdome, where do I even begin with that place? Walking into that house is like passing through the gates of Nerf heaven (not to be confused with Nerfhaven). It’s the Mecca of the NIC and I strongly urge every single one of you to make a pilgrimage at least once if you haven’t already. It’s hard to even describe with words, and pictures don’t do it justice. Every wall is covered in artwork, every inch of the place is loaded with blasters, it’s a modder’s paradise, and that doesn’t even include the backyard. The arena itself is on a whole other level. Rob Lehr, the creator of Thunderdome managed to get a beat-up old Ford Taurus (I believe) into this arena, strip it down to its bare essentials, then make it a functional piece of cover complete with blasters attached and a gunner platform in the trunk. On top of that there’s a walkway encircling almost the entire perimeter of the play area with two towers on diagonally opposing corners. The rest of the cover is comprised of human-esque creations and a repurposed kayak, all of which is crammed into a rather small backyard. Make no mistake though, this is not a crowded play space. It’s compact, but that just makes the battles so much more intense because there is almost no breathing room. It perfectly walks the fine line between dense and overcrowded.
There’s an expression about never meeting your heroes, I disagree with it to a certain extent though. I don’t see anything wrong with meeting your heroes, just don’t stay in the same hotel room because they might snore (I’m looking at you, Bobo). No joke, Bobololo is the loudest snorer in the NIC I can almost guarantee it. He’s lucky I’m a heavy sleeper because he’d have a pillow shoved in his mouth if I weren’t. All pillow asphyxiation aside, being able to spend my Thursday through Sunday in the same room as the Nerf Viking was something I didn’t think would ever be possible. If I went back in time and told my freshman year self that one day I’d be listening to that big grumpy giant snore his ass off, I’d never believe it. Yet there I was, in the same hotel room as not only Bobo, but some weird dude that makes clear parts for the Stryfe (his name is Hawki007, he’s not that weird. Seriously he makes some amazing stuff, check out his Etsy store).
Thursday was basically a “get situated” kind of day. We checked into the hotel, unloaded all our stuff, immediately trashed the hotel room with darts and blasters then went out to eat with a bunch of other players. It was a nice, laid-back kind of day that ended with some Thunderdome fun.
Friday was intense, in a good way of course. That day was DARTcon, the first ever Nerf convention. It had a bit of a rocky start, as no one really knew where to go or how to find the room we were supposed to be in. It took a while but eventually we had all the vendors show up and a massive line quickly formed outside the doors to the room. It was a matter of minutes before the whole room was packed with people. Venders included myself, Bobo, Drac, Hawki007, Zombona, Evan B. Nerf, Containment Crew, Duke Wintermaul, Gorilla Tacticool, 3DPrintedSolid, and Orange Mod Works just to name a few. The event was also sponsored by Zuru Toys, and they donated quite a few of the blasters from their X Shot line as door prizes. Over the course of 5 hours I got to meet some amazing nerfers and venders. I even tried sparring Jun of Orange Mod Works with a foam sword. He’s surprisingly agile with a spear; I couldn’t even touch the guy. One of the most surprising things was how many people wanted to take pictures of my work, even some of the OMW people wanted photos. It was both humbling and invigorating to be surrounded by so much talent and ingenuity in one room, and I honestly believe the community is better because of DARTcon.
I almost completely forgot about the SS It’s Only Smellz. This is what happens when I try to write blog posts at 4 am.
So to clarify, after DARTcon, we all went back to our respective hotel rooms, cleaned ourselves up and then went to Thunderdome. When I walked up the driveway, I was greeted by a massive metal structure made to look like a boat on wheels. Rob was constructing a vessel to carry over 500 pieces of loot. It was a ridiculous craft, complete with baby dolls and stuffed animals stapled to it in various places and positions. It was a perfect conglomeration of warped humor and actual functionality. How he managed to get that monstrosity from Thunderdome to the MSU campus I’ll never know, but when we arrived, it was there. Sadly I was unable to snag any loot from Trollin’ Tony (Rob’s alter ego). Still, it was a pleasure to watch Rob do his thing. Antics ranged from players having to be the first to tag Rob in order to pick something to having to catch tampons fired from one of Rob’s blasters in order to win. He even had people sing “I’m A Little Tea Pot” to get a prize.
Saturday was when things really kicked into high gear, Bobo was in a ridiculous rush to get out of the hotel room so I ended up forgetting a bunch of gear, including my knock-off camelback water bladder, a huge mistake in the Missouri heat/humidity. That plus all my tac-gear was a recipe for disaster, fortunately (but also unfortunately) I died right before lunch. I was fending off a small horde when one zombie rushed me, I got a shot off and tagged him out but not before he ran into my blaster, knocking my $250 gimbal out of alignment. Fearing it was broken, I took my attention off the rest of the horde to reset it. Once it beeped back into place, two tanks charged me. It was my mistake for not waiting until I was out of immediate danger, but to be honest I was relieved to not have to lug around so much gear anymore. Because I had died, I was able to drop off most of my stuff back at the hotel while grabbing the things I forgot.
Coming back after lunch and returning to the fray as a zombie was actually really fun, I didn’t mention it before but this was my first actual HvZ. So I only managed to get one tag as a zombie. HOWEVER, I actually managed to tag five people in a rush because they weren’t paying attention to the short dude in a tac-vest right in front of them. At the time I was unaware of the rule that zombies are only allowed to tag one person per rush. I was bummed but I didn’t bother disputing it. By that point I was too sweaty and exhausted to bother with fighting the rules. It turned out that by that point, a few people were starting to come down with cases of heat exhaustion, eventually we were told to go on a break and come back in a little while. I doubt many people came back, I sure didn’t. I was dead on my feet. Speaking of my feet, they were absolutely killing me. According to my Fitbit, I walked over 26,000 steps, which equated to slightly less than 11 miles. I was in pain. Good thing Walmart had Dr. Scholls, those inserts saved me a world of hurt on Sunday. Saturday ended with more Thunderdome shenanigans and I actually got a chance to sit down and talk with Rob which was super nice.
I didn’t think it was possible but Sunday ended up being warmer and more humid than Saturday. I was drenched very early on in the day. The humans had a mission to gather a certain amount of flags in an hour while defending themselves from the horde. I’m not entirely sure how that mission ended because I ended up going inside one of the buildings to try and cool off. About 20 minutes after I went in there, an admin came in and told us that everyone was to meet at human HQ. From what I was told, there was someone who required medical treatment due to heat related issues. We were told to take a break for a half hour and then the final mission briefing would take place.
The mission was simple, the humans would try to take the top of the parking garage, hold it for five minutes, and then move down and hold the two floors below for five minutes each. They were screwed. At one point they made it halfway down the ramp on to the second floor but then someone decided they should backtrack back up to the top, which is when they got cornered. Their tactical error was our gain. A few rushes later and we took everyone down except one dude who managed to break away and go unnoticed, so props to that guy.
As far as first HvZ experiences go, I think this is the way to do it. Gotta go all out the first time.
I’m a firm believer in the power of shared experience. I sincerely think that relationships formed through experiences are stronger than any other relationship. So this kind of event that takes place on a national level is going to form so many strong bonds throughout the years. NvZ brings us all closer together. This is what’s so great about this community, this is what sets us apart from paintball or airsoft, this is what defines us as a group. This event is so important and I’m so glad it exists.
I think it’s time for the thank you’s!
First and foremost, I want to thank Rob Lehr from the bottom of my heart. Your kindness and generosity knows no bounds. You pour your heart, soul and body into everything you do and I sincerely hope everyone recognizes how important you are and how much you do for this community. I promise, once I’m in NC I will pay you back in full for the kindness you have shown me.
Second, I want to thank all the organizers, moderators, and members of the Live Action Society of MSU. Your hard work has paid off. Despite the hiccups it was a kickass event and now you have experience to work off of for next year. Thank you for making this experience a reality for so many people, myself included. It was an absolute blast and I am beyond hyped for next year.
Third, I want to thank all the vendors/modders who were there, you guys produce incredible works and I can’t wait to see what kind of crazy stuff you all come up with for next year. Also, thanks for the shirt Bobo.
Lastly, I want to thank you, if you’ve read this far I give you props. You’ve managed to make it through the sleep-deprived ramblings of a physically, mentally, and emotionally drained youtuber. I’ve driven more in the last five days than I have in the last five weeks but I couldn’t be happier and more grateful to not only be in the same community as you, but to provide content for you all.
Thanks for reading!