Dear Startups: Fuck Your Nerf Battles

Nerf gun fights are tech culture's stupidest tradition.
April 25, 2017, 3:14pm

Nothing says "gender inequality in tech" like getting beaned in the head by a Nerf dick while you're trying to work.

Fraternal exhibitions of corporate machismo are commonplace at startups. Like, say, Nerf gun battles among male colleagues. Only, to many women, they can be non-inclusive and even threatening.

One female employee, up to her ears in foam darts, wrote to the Marin Independent Journal's advice column this week, asking for help.


"DEAR AMY: I'm a woman working for a software startup. We are all millennials. I really enjoy my job, except for this: Picture a group of (mostly male) software developers shooting Nerf guns at each other, with Nerf darts whistling past you, hitting windows, office equipment and other employees," she wrote. "There is nowhere to physically 'hide' from these battles."

Perhaps not wanting to annoy her (likely male) superiors, Collateral Damage Sally said nothing.

"I'm caught in the crossfire on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis and have gotten hit by darts multiple times. If it's somewhere below my neck, it doesn't bother me as much. But recently I was hit in the back of the head. I just think this goes beyond normal workplace fun, and is a huge distraction."

Okay, so. Nerf gun battles aren't cool. They rank as slightly less cool than dodgeball, but for some reason, Silicon Valley loves 'em. Tech companies have promoted office-sanctioned Nerf fights as a reason to work for them. Employees rank them as one of the best industry perks, alongside coconut water, and organic snacks.

They're not just for lowly staffers, either. At another startup, one woman was allegedly targeted by a C-level executive who told her: "Your hair [bright red] makes the perfect target." What the fuck!? After getting sniped a few times, her boss recommended she "grab a gun and fight back."

Most companies that stage Nerf battles say they're a form of stress relief. "So we get to take up all of our pent up aggression on each other without killing each other," a startup founder once told ReadWrite.

"We were a bunch of geeks growing up and because our mothers wouldn't let us play with them when we were younger," said another founder. (I'm no Freudian expert, but somethingsomething mommy issues.)

Call me square, but constant interruptions of pretend-fighting don't seem good for productivity. If you need a bonding activity, do paintball, or better yet, get drunk together. If you need a midday pick-me-up, visit one of San Francisco's many artisanal coffee destinations.

But for the love of God, grow up and stop shooting your comrades in the face.