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N.Y. / REGION | URBAN ATHLETE
A Chance to Embrace Your Inner Katniss
Archery Tag® Offers a Tame Version of ‘The Hunger Games’
By STACEY ANDERSON
MAY 8, 2014
Peyying Chi playing Archery Tag in Queens. Credit Agaton Strom for The New York Times.
IT is oddly satisfying to discover that, without question, you would be the first person to die in the Hunger Games.
Such was my epiphany one evening in Queens as I cowered behind an inflated yellow fort, foam-tipped arrows whizzing past my scalp, and shrill battle cries echoing in the humid air. My three teammates circled this makeshift base, drawing their bows with swift hands and pegging our opponents in the torsos and arms. Across the field, my so-called best friend, Diana MacDonald, 31, aimed an arrow directly at my forehead, eyes glinting behind her blue plastic face mask.
Our group of eight had traveled to the Indoor Extreme Sports complex in Long Island City, Queens, to try Archery Tag, a fast-trending new sport that combines dodge ball’s simple rules of snatch-and-fling assault with archery’s precision, replacing rubber balls with quivers of arrows. Since it was added a year ago, the sport has become a top draw at the 38,000-square-foot complex, which also features zombie laser tag, nonexploding paintball and other bruising enticements. It has developed into something of a fantasists’ diversion: Large parties often play while outfitted in costumes from such archery-heavy franchises as “The Walking Dead” and “The Hunger Games.”
“The cool new weapon in media is a bow and arrow,” said Peter Fermoselle, 47, a creative and marketing consultant for Indoor Extreme Sports, or I.E.S. He opened the center in 2005, calling it New York City Paintball then. “It’s old-fashioned,” he added. “It brings a little more nobility to shooting someone.”
Jonathan Keller, center, playing Archery Tag. Credit Agaton Strom for The New York Times.
It delivers a quick ego boost, as well; Archery Tag’s learning curve was surprisingly simple. After fumbling in the introductory round, dropping my hefty silicone bow constantly and managing to deploy only one arrow, I was in much sharper form in the second set, mowing down opponents with glee and sprinting into open terrain to grab wayward projectiles. (The game’s rules are similar to those of dodge ball. At the whistle, two teams race to collect arrows at the center of the arena, then aim at each other from across the field; a player is disqualified when hit by an arrow, and can bring an ousted teammate back into play if he or she catches an arrow.)
As my team’s play grew more skillful and frantic, the aerobic strain revealed itself; we staggered to the sidelines, flushed and panting, at intermissions. Our charismatic referee, Adam Vilella, 31, constantly shouted galvanizing words to revive us.
I’m happy to say the pain factor of Archery Tag proved minimal; my forearm stung for a few moments when hit squarely by an arrow, but it did not leave a mark. In contrast, when I volunteered to be shot with a paintball by Mr. Vilella, (a regrettable attempt at journalistic due diligence), that left a garish bruise on my thigh that lasted two weeks.
Archery Tag’s growing popularity owes much to “The Hunger Games” books and films. The sport was invented by John Jackson, the founder of Instinct Archery traditional gear, in May 2011, 10 months before the first movie hit theaters. Mr. Jackson, 51, who is based in Waterloo, Ind., said he was not initially aware of the action series, but he was quick to sync with it; he staged Archery Tag events at local premieres of both films so far.
Mr. Jackson holds a patent on the arrow used in the game, which resembles a rod capped with a marshmallow, yet flies accurately, and he gleefully performs William Tell-style trick shots in the company’s many YouTube videos. He estimated that Archery Tag has 170 licensed locations, mostly in the United States, but also in Russia, Peru and Saudi Arabia.
Ian-York Maxam playing Archery Tag. Credit Agaton Strom for The New York Times.
“I just got back from a trip to Singapore, where we had 1,200 kids playing tournament-style for big cash prizes,” he said. “It was a neat spectacle.”
Archery Tag drew raves from my evening’s assembly of athletes. “It’s a fantastic sport — very fun, competitive, with a lot of physical endurance,” said Justin Corinella, 24, a technical architect.
“It struck a rather good balance between the genders,” added Emily Smith, 34, an artist. “In regular dodge ball, the men can usually throw so much harder than the women, it’s unfair.”
The complex is the sole licensed Archery Tag center in New York City. It stages games on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The company plans to open a center on Staten Island this summer, where Archery Tag will graduate to a larger, dedicated outdoor field and can be staged daily.
In the meantime, the owners occasionally integrate the sport into the complex’s popular weekly Zombiefest, in which players direct both arrows and laser-tag guns at actors mimicking the bloodthirsty undead. (The same monsters also prowl zombie laser tag, chasing participants around a smoky, postapocalyptic arena. They snarl and lunge with genuinely unsettling ferocity; my teammates and I also played this game and were hooked immediately.)
Two days after my Archery Tag initiation, I remained extremely sore and quite giddy about the experience. Mr. Corinella felt the same. “I would absolutely play it another time,” he said, “but only once I can actually feel some of the muscles in my body again.”
Indoor Extreme Sports offers 45-minute Archery Tag games for $20 a player on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 47-11 Van Dam Street, Long Island City, Queens; 718-361-9152, indoorextremesports.com.