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Why Archery Tag Is the Ideal Sport for Geeks

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Image credit: Tibor Kovacs/Flickr

Last month, I got a chance to play archery tag for the first time ever, and it was way more fun than it had any right to be. It was with the WhatNerd crew, plus a few other colleagues of ours, so that probably helped to multiply the fun factor—but regardless, the more I think about it, the more I think archery tag is the ideal sport for geeks.

I say “sport,” but it’s not really a sport. Not yet, anyway. It’s less recognized than paintball, airsoft, or even ultimate, and so an outing of archery tag feels more like a session of laser tag or axe throwing than a full-blown sport. But who cares? The only thing that matters, to me anyway, is that archery tag is 1) physical, 2) team-oriented, and 3) easy to play no matter how fit (or unfit) you are.

A crash course on archery tag: Imagine a bow and arrow set, except the arrows have foam marshmallow tips instead of pointed arrowheads, and the bows are simple recurve bows made of fiberglass. You wear protective masks and play in an arena full of inflated obstacles and bunkers, with several different game modes to choose between. It’s reminiscent of speed paintball, if you’ve ever played that.

So why is archery tag ideal for geeks? Here’s what I think.

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1. Archery Tag Emphasizes Technique, Not Gear

As much as I like the idea of shooting guns, one reason why I never got into paintball or airsoft is that they put too much emphasis on gear. A stock paintball marker is nowhere near as accurate as pricier alternatives, and the kind of ammo you buy can affect your performance. I also don’t like that rich players have an edge, in that they can afford to indiscriminately spam shots for cover.

On the other hand, archery tag is mainly about your firing technique. Even with a trash-tier bow, a semi-professional can easily wipe out a team of newbies—and upgrading to a better bow and/or arrows might improve performance, but not as drastically as it would in paintball or airsoft. Plus, you don’t have a thousand arrows on hand, so you can’t spam endlessly. Every shot matters.

2. You Don’t Need to Be Athletic for Archery Tag

Obviously, athleticism helps in any physical activity. What I’m saying is, you don’t need to be athletic to enjoy archery tag. If you know what you’re doing, you don’t even have to run around. You can play the entire game walking, as long as your aim is good and your awareness is keen and your game sense is on point.

At risk of dredging up stereotypes, geeks aren’t exactly known for their physicality. Even skinny geeks, like me, aren’t necessarily fit or healthy. The fact that archery tag gets you moving but doesn’t demand that you play at maximum effort all the time? Pretty awesome.

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3. Archery Tag Is Mainly Played Indoors

Indoor archery tag arenas are controlled environments. You have climate control, strict boundaries, and depending on the venue, you may even have the option to pay for recordings of your session. (It costed us an extra $20 to enable recording on all eight arena cameras and transfer the footage to a USB drive.) Archery tag is safe and comfortable, all year round.

4. Archery Tag Is More Satisfying Than Paintball

I’ve played paintball several times, and I do find it enjoyable. But as satisfying as it might be to land a shot against an opponent and hear the emanating thwack! of an exploding paintball against helmet, I find it much more satisfying to loose an arrow that whomps! into an opponent. Maybe it has to do with the emphasis on technique mentioned in Reason #1—when you strike someone with an arrow, you know what went into pulling off that shot, and that’s why it feels so much better.

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5. Archery Tag Is More Satisfying Than Laser Tag

I don’t hate laser tag, but I do admit that it sits pretty low on the spectrum of thrill-seeking activities. A lot of that has to do with the inconsistent nature of most laser tag systems, which feel like they’re stuck in the 80s. As a shooter, you’re never quite sure if you actually hit someone or the system just gave you the shot because you were close enough, and that makes each hit less satisfying. (It’s like playing an FPS with auto-aim or aim-assist, which is downright boring. What’s the point?) As a victim, it’s frustrating when you get hit even when you know there’s no way you got hit.

But if you get hit with an arrow? It’s for certain, and it feels good to be the shooter of that arrow.

6. Archery Tag Is Affordable and Good Value

Where we played, it was about $25 for a 90-minute session of archery tag, which included 30 minutes of training at a range with targets. Mask is included, unlimited arrows are included, which makes sense given that the arrows are infinitely reusable, and bow rental is included.

That’s great value, if you ask me. The fact that arrows are reusable is huge!

Compare that to paintball, which costs $25 just for field entry, plus $50 for rental of mask, gun, and air tank, plus $30 for 1,000 paintballs. Granted, the paintball rate allows for about six hours of play, but I don’t know any geek who can go longer than two hours before calling it a day.

And then there’s laser tag, which is about $8 for a 20-minute game, all gear included. That’s about the same dollar-per-minute as archery tag, but archery tag is a thousand times more engaging and exciting.

Note: Shoutout to Archery Attack Melbourne, which is where we played, for their affordable pricing and excellent venue.

7. Archery Is Primal and Freakin’ Cool

Archery taps into an ancient skill that we, as humans, developed a long while ago during our time as hunter-gatherers. There’s something deeply primal—and at the same time, geeky—about archery that makes archery tag more interesting than shooting guns. It looks cool, it feels cool, and it is cool. Few things are more visually impressive than someone drawing an arrow and popping a bullseye in one swift motion.

What are your thoughts on archery tag? Would you ever give it a try? If not, what do you think is the ideal sport for geeks? Let me know in the comments!

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Brian Boru
Brian Boru

“Is there anything cooler than archery? No, there isn’t.”
Oh yes there is. Darts.
Hey c’mon, if you’re a small guy it’s the same as archery is to a big guy, right?—Theory of Relativity, I believe…
Besides, masks are for sissies. Nothing beats the tension of knowing there’s a small chance the next dart will bounce off a wire and embed deeply in your instep.
But if you insist, then I want either Prophet’s high-tech bow from Crysis 3 or the old-school one from Far Cry Primal.

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