Updated: September 3, 2013 at 7:13 am
It began as an epic battle should: Chris vs. Larry, brother against brother, in a glow-in-the-dark sword fight.
Then the siblings grew up and put away childish things, temporarily.
Fast forward 14 years, to a toy closet in a bachelor pad in Colorado Springs. Add a new opponent, Chris Jacobs' roommate and fellow gaming geek, Cooper "Coop" Christian.
"That's where this really started," Chris says. "Coop and I pulled out two Nerf swords and were in this really long grassy area beyond the townhome where we were living, and just started beating the crap out of each other."
No one remembers what spurred the carnage. Boredom, probably.
"We hurt our hands, like to the point where we thought we'd broken a couple fingers," he says. "We wondered who else out there was as stupid as we are, so we went on YouTube."
Oh, the Nerf videos they found! The "crazy kids" running around firing at each other, one even with gunshot sound effects.
"It was really crappy B-movie-type stuff," Chris says. He and Coop could do it better.
Chris had gone to college with an eye on film school but ended up studying television and radio and ultimately landed a job at KRDO. Coop was born in Hollywood, with an acting bug that eventually would slingshot him back to his hometown, but when Chris met him, he was working in the Springs and taking whatever acting-related gigs he could. The two often found themselves working on the same projects as production assistants. They eventually became roommates and started collaborating on an action/horror Web series.
After their inspired sword battle, they decided to create a Web series using Nerf weapons as props.
"We had a hard time getting everyone together for the Web series, so we decided to fill the time with reviews" of the weapons, Coop says.
Soon, the Web series drifted to permanent backburner status and, in October 2010, Click Click Bamf - named after the sound a blaster makes when primed and fired - was born. Since then, the LLC, based online and with a presence on YouTube, steadily has built a Web audience as a go-to place for exhaustive foam-weapon reviews.
Nerf entered the pop culture lexicon in 1970, with Parker Brothers' introduction of a 4-inch foam ball for casualty-free indoor play. Now owned by Hasbro, Nerf reins supreme in the world of foam-based weaponry. Products today are far more expensive and complex than that initial offering.
Chris sees live Nerf play as filling a unique role in today's world of online gaming. His challenge to couch-potato thumb warriors everywhere: Get up and take it outside.
"People sit in front of 'Call of Duty Black Ops' and they shoot at each other and they learn to talk to each other like they're a soldier out in Iraq or something, but honestly they're not getting a real dose of what's going on," Chris says. "I think having a physical way to play the game is a lot more important."
Chris and Coop, who collaborate remotely via phone and Skype, have formed a melee group - the Mountain Warriors - to pit blasters against each other in combat. There are rules of engagement in Nerf warfare, too, like avoid the head shots and sensitive areas, but welts happen.
"It's hard to aim perfectly with these things," Chris says.
Soon after Click Click Bamf began, Hasbro contacted the duo and began sending out products for them to review. The company has flown them to Manhattan twice for product-release parties.
"We hear 'You're too old to play Nerf, you're too fat to play Nerf,'" says Chris, who's 28.
There's no expiration date for "geeking out about cool new stuff and shooting your dad in the face without getting in too much trouble," he contends.
Chris is now married and living with his wife in an apartment in Cimmaron Hills. The toy closet is in the loft, just off the toy office, which looks like Christmas morning after the wrapping paper's been cleared. A team of folks helps with the tests and the YouTube videos, but it's still a family affair at the core. Chris' dad, brother and sometimes even his wife, Faran, join in.
Dusk hovers as the gunslinging brothers head out and turn toward the sunset, bound for a showdown to test the new Nerf Zombie Strike Hammershot Blaster.
Chris carries the big black canvas bag with the weapons and ammo. Larry's got the bright red and orange Nerf N-Strike Elite Mega Centurion, a nearly 3-foot beast. The brothers cut through the apartment complex's crowded playground, collecting mesmerized gazes as they pass.
They're heading for another playground, at the school across the street, which they're happy to find is empty.
"There's no one in the playground so we can take it over," Chris says.
As the brothers choose and prep their cache at an outdoor table, a school employee wheels out a large dumpster, spots them and calls out. He's just checking, he says, to make sure the neon-colored plastic blasters aren't real guns.
"It's safe - just foam," Chris says, then clarifies: "It's Nerf."
"Oh, OK," says the man, suddenly getting it. "Cool."