The Nerf Gun Effect

When I was a kid, I had Nerf guns. If you’ve never heard of these… then I guess you live under a rock? On Mars? But just in case – they’re plastic guns that fire foam darts, and they make satisfying noises when they do so. Your little cousin also makes satisfying noises when you nail him right between the eyes with those little orange darts, it’s so cool.

Anyway, like I was saying, I had these as a kid. And truth be told, they were okay. Not particularly inspiring, but neat. They usually fired a few darts before you had to run around collecting them and reloading, they were pretty simple overall. But they were really fun fuel for the imagination and kids everywhere had a great time with them.

Well, pretty recently I saw a Nerf gun in a store. At first I was just pleasantly nostalgic about their continued existence. But then I took a closer look… and they were AMAZING. Way better than anything I had as a kid! Look at these things!

These are way, way cooler than the ones I had as a kid. I did a little digging, and found an interesting answer for why these toys suddenly got so good.

They’ve been around long enough that the people that are currently designing them were the kids who played with the first ones.

That’s the answer. We’ve hit second generation. It made me realize that happens with all sorts of things. I liked cartoons as a kid too. And they were totally fine! But I’ve also watched some series with my children, and they’re incredible. I’m not just talking the animation technology – I’m talking about the story, the characters, all of it. They’re just better shows than what I had.

When I was a kid, The Simpsons was the greatest show ever. The Simpsons is still on… and it’s pretty terrible. Why? The same people are still making it. They never passed the torch. The kids who grew up watching The Simpsons started making their own shows, and they’re standing on the shoulders of giants. The giants, meanwhile, are starting to stoop.

If you create something, and you really want it to thrive – at a certain point you have to give it to fresher minds. New blood. Willy Wonka really had the right idea – the person who loves what you’ve made so much that it practically defines their life is the right person to take it over from you. Give it to them, those eager souls. Let new minds into your creation, let them take it from you and don’t worry about it all.

Those guns are in good hands.

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