Baca Loco, author of The View From The Deadbox blog, begins his weekly column on 68caliber today.
It Came From The Woods
by Baca Loco
A great tide of woe accompanied Paintball out of the woods. Well, alright, it was probably more of a babbling brook of misgivings. Nevertheless, even as we stood blinking at the blue sky and bright sunshine the naysayers and doomcriers were already making a racket. You see, they were positive the move out of the woods and into the light of day would be the end of Paintball. After all, we played our game with guns. Folks wouldn’t understand. We shot people. You heard me right–shot people. That was two strikes against us from the get go.
Paintball–they said–was one high profile act of vandalism and/or assault away from a public hue and cry that would finish the game, strangle it in its infancy.
The (sometimes) unstated aspect of that fearful prediction was that those tourney players would be responsible. Those juvenile and irresponsible tourney players. Would ruin everything. For everybody.
It was almost as if playing paintball was somehow unnatural and needed to be kept hidden away from the uninitiated. Kept in the woods. Where it would be safe. Protected from popular misunderstanding.
Today that sounds like absurdly superstitious nonsense despite assorted lawsuits, gaggles of nanny state legislators and more than enough dim-witted vandalism over the years to fill up Cracked magazine’s annual almanac; The Stupid Things That Stupid People Do.
However, I’d like to revisit that debate. Why, you wonder? All the worst fears of the This-Is-The-End-of-Paintball types are looking, if not downright silly, at least wildly overblown with the occasional vandalism and/or assault mostly perpetrated by witless punks. And understood as such (mostly) even in our increasingly PC nanny state world.
Why? Because the real danger to the future of the game is still in the woods and if the word ever gets out we really are in trouble.
Some members of the paintball community are, not unreasonably, concerned about a variety of different trends. Things like rate of fire and the falling age demographic of the average player. In the past it was stuff like red paint (too much like blood) and disassociating the game from its martial overtones by calling the guns “markers” and choosing a sport-oriented look rather than the original military one. But while many thoughtful folks are reasonably concerned they are missing the forest for the trees.
Today the paintball industry is working overtime to connect with its inner GI Joe in a mad race to produce the gear the they think will save their bottom line. Not content to meet the market demand covertly they are openly embracing, celebrating even, the cranks and wannabe commandos corner of paintball; mil-sim.
Military simulation. Kinda says it all, doesn’t it? Ironic that 10 years ago it was how do we disassociate ourselves from the image of playing soldier and pretending at war and now the industry can’t get enough of it. There’s no turning a blind eye to this stuff. No explaining this away. Markers that look like real tactical weapons–on purpose. A hard corps cadre of players
wearing real military insignia and uniforms and huge scenario games based on real world battlefields. There is no holding this iteration of paintball at arm’s length and calling it a fringe activity. Not now. Not today.
Sure, this has always been an aspect of paintball but isn’t it just a little bit offensive? Grown men playing soldier while real soldiers die. And let me ask you this: What is more likely to offend a first timer to paintball; a fast, loud and colorful if abstract and hard to follow game or grown men in paramilitary regalia playing at storming Omaha Beach?
I’m not saying don’t do it but I am saying it’s more than offensive. It trivializes real heroism and sacrifice and infantilizes men and boys too easily inuring them from the reality of their game.
And if Paintball remains at risk from a judgmental non-balling society at large it is mil-sim that will justify their action.
Read more of Baca Loco’s take on things paintball on his daily blog - The Videw From the Deadbox.