Category Archives: Editorial

Susan G. Komen Foundation, 68Caliber & Planned Parenthood

For several years now, 68Caliber has supported the Susan G. Komen ‘Drive for the Cure’ charity for breast cancer by helping to promote events that fund raise for the charity.  This has included numerous types of events, paintball among them.

Recently, the foundation has removed all funding from Planned Parenthood – funding that provided free breast cancer screenings for those women unable to afford them on their own.

68Caliber  views this move by the Susan B. Komen Foundation as a purely political one, a move that not only hurts those least able to defend themselves, but the very purpose of the Foundation itself.

Until such time as the Foundation reverses this policy, 68Caliber will not support its efforts.

Maryland Blind Paintballers Case NOT Based on “Blind Shooting” Statement

The original report found in the Washington Examiner on this story erroneously attributed the lawsuit to language in the paintball park’s rules regarding “blind shooting”. This is not the case: BISM is bringing suit on an alleged instance of the park’s refusal to allow blind players access to the facilities.

You can view the court filing here, courtesy of Pacer. The case itself is based on the ADA – American’s with Disabilities Act – and on Maryland State’s White Cane Law. (You can read the MD White Cane Law at the end of this article.)

The claims of the case seem to hinge on the supposition that Route 40 Paintball is a “public attraction” or “public accommodation” because the “public is invited to participate”.

Leaving aside the issues of discrimination for a moment, we’d need to take a very careful look at what the definition of “public” is, since it is pretty obvious that Route 40 Paintball is a privately owned business and, if memory serves correctly, the owner of a private business is free to refuse service to anyone they so choose (even, in some cases, on a discriminatory basis). A general understanding of “public place” is a location/service that is funded and maintained by the public, such as a public park, a court house, etc. (Special provisions in the various laws cover private businesses that serve the public, such as the necessity of including a wheelchair accessible bathroom in a restaurant over a certain size.)

But there are nuances there, some very tricky and case-law based ones that few have the resources to delve into.

Three questions based on 68Caliber’s reading of the court filing:
1. was an actual reservation made to use the facility? If so, were special needs mentioned at the time of reservation? (I have no idea how blind individuals would play paintball unless it included ‘spotters’ or guides for each player and, at the very least, additional reffing staff for safety considerations. If these needs were not made known prior to the BISM players arriving at the facility, it would be reasonable to assume that such additional facilities might not have been immediately available.)
2. The court document continuously references ‘legally blind’ when referring to the plaintiffs. This covers a lot of territory, including individuals who can “see”, but require assistance of some kind or other to engage in society. Were the players that showed up able to play without assistance?
3. Assuming that the would-be players did require assistance, when (if) does the field’s requirement to operate in a safe manner trump the ADA/MD White Cane Law?

Other speculations abound: only six players from BISM made the trip (along with two instructors). 68Caliber is not aware of any field in the country that makes their facility available to a private group of only six people (unless special payment arrangements are made – which are noted on Rt 40’s website). This would mean, then, that the BISM players would have been out on the field(s) with normally sighted players; some scenarios exist in which this would have been ok; many other scenarios exist in which this would not have been a good idea.

The court filing also claims that Route 40 representatives have refused to discuss or negotiate with BISM. Given that the police were called during the incident and that Route 40 was threatened with legal action, one has to assume that certain details of the incident were left out of the plaintiff’s filing – the ones that explain why a business would refuse to negotiate. Again, many, many speculations on that one.

Stay tuned for more

MARYLAND WHITE CANE LAW

HUMAN SERVICES

TITLE 7. INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES

SUBTITLE 7. BLIND, VISUALLY IMPAIRED, DEAF, HARD OF HEARING, AND MOBILITY IMPAIRED INDIVIDUALS

(Maryland White Cane Law)

 

§ 7-704. Rights of individuals with disabilities.

(a)  Public places.- Blind, visually impaired, deaf, and hard of hearing individuals have the same right as individuals without those disabilities to the full and free use of the roads, sidewalks, public buildings, public facilities, and other public places.

(b)  Public accommodations and conveyances.-

(1) Blind, visually impaired, deaf, and hard of hearing individuals are entitled to full and equal rights and privileges with respect to common carriers and other public conveyances or modes of transportation, places of public accommodations, and other places to which the general public is invited, subject only to any conditions and limitations of general application established by law.

(2) The failure of a blind or visually impaired pedestrian to carry a cane predominantly white or metallic in color, with or without a red tip, or a deaf or hard of hearing pedestrian to use a service animal wearing an orange license tag or orange collar and on a leash, or to use a service animal in a place, accommodation, or conveyance listed in paragraph (1) of this subsection does not constitute contributory negligence per se.

(c)  Housing accommodations.-

(1) This subsection does not apply to any accommodations or single family residence in which the occupants offer for compensation not more than one room.

(2) A blind or visually impaired individual is entitled to the same access as other members of the general public to housing accommodations in the State, subject to any conditions and limitations of general application established by law.

(3) A blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing individual who has, obtains, or may wish to obtain a service animal is entitled to full and equal access to housing accommodations.

(4) A blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing individual who is accompanied by a service animal may not be required to pay extra compensation for the service animal, but the individual may be liable for damages to the premises or facilities that the service animal causes.
[An. Code 1957, art. 30, § 33(c), (d)(1), (3), (i)(1), (2), (4); 2007, ch. 3, § 2; ch. 241.]
 

 

 

 

Section 7-705 is the service animal law.
§ 7-705. Service animals.

(a)  In general.- The following individuals have all the same rights and privileges conferred by law on other individuals:

(1) a blind or visually impaired pedestrian using a service animal and not carrying a cane predominantly white or metallic in color, with or without a red tip;

(2) a deaf or hard of hearing pedestrian using a service animal not wearing an orange license tag or orange collar and on a leash;

(3) a blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing pedestrian using a service animal in a place, accommodation, or conveyance listed in § 7-704(b) of this subtitle; and

(4) a service animal trainer who is accompanied by an animal that is being trained as a service animal.

(b)  Mobility impaired individual accompanied by service animal.-

(1) A mobility impaired individual may be accompanied by a service animal specially trained for that purpose in any place where a blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing individual has the right to be accompanied by a service animal.

(2) This subsection does not require a physical modification of any place or vehicle in order to admit a mobility impaired individual who is accompanied by a service animal.

(c)  Rights of service animal trainer; exception.-

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, a service animal trainer may be accompanied by an animal that is being trained as a service animal in any place where a blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or mobility impaired individual has the right to be accompanied by a service animal.

(2) An animal being trained as a service animal and accompanied by a service animal trainer may be excluded from a place described in paragraph (1) of this subsection if admitting the animal would create a clear danger of a disturbance or physical harm to an individual in the place.

(d)  Extra compensation prohibited; liability.-

(1) A blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or mobility impaired individual who is accompanied by a service animal specially trained for that purpose in a place, accommodation, or conveyance listed in § 7-704(b) of this subtitle may not be required to pay extra compensation for the service animal, but the individual may be liable for any damages to the premises or facilities caused by the service animal.
(2) A service animal trainer who is accompanied by an animal that is being trained as a service animal may not be required to pay extra compensation for the animal, but the service animal trainer organization that certifies the service animal may be liable for any personal injuries or damages to the premises or facilities caused by the service animal.

(e)  Violations; penalties.-

(1) (i) A person may not deny or interfere with the admittance of a service animal that accompanies a blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or mobility impaired individual in violation of this section.

(ii) A person who violates subparagraph (i) of this paragraph is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $500 for each offense.

(2) (i) A person may not deny or interfere with the admittance of an animal being trained as a service animal that accompanies a service animal trainer.

(ii) Subject to subsection (c)(2) of this section, a person who violates subparagraph (i) of this paragraph is subject to a fine not exceeding $25 for each offense.

[An. Code 1957, art. 30, § 33(d)(2), (f), (j)(2)-(4), k(2)-(4), (l); 2007, ch. 3, § 2; ch. 241.]
 

§ 7-706. Construction.

(a)  Pedestrian’s right-of-way.- This subtitle does not affect § 21-511 of the Transportation Article as to the right-of-way of a blind, deaf, or hard of hearing pedestrian crossing a highway.

(b)  Housing accommodations.- This subtitle does not require a person who rents or leases housing accommodations to modify the person’s property or provide a higher degree of care for a blind or visually impaired individual than for an individual without those disabilities.
 

§ 7-707. Violations; injunction.

(a)  Violations.-

(1) A person may not deny or interfere with admittance to or enjoyment of a public place, accommodation, or conveyance described in § 7-704 of this subtitle or otherwise interfere with the rights of a blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing individual under this subtitle.

(2) A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $500> for each offense.

(b)  Injunction.- In addition to any other remedy provided under the Code for a violation of this subtitle, a person may maintain a civil action for injunctive relief against another person who denies or interferes with admittance to or enjoyment of a public place, accommodation, or conveyance described in § 7-704 of this subtitle or otherwise interferes with the rights of a blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing individual under this subtitle.

[An. Code 1957, art. 30, § 33(g); 2007, ch. 3, § 2; ch. 241.]
 

§ 7-708. Training requirements.

Any organization or agency that requires a professional training program for the following individuals shall include a segment concerning the rights of individuals with disabilities who are accompanied by service animals:

(1) first responders;

(2) emergency shelter operators; and

(3) 9-1-1 operators.

[2007, ch. 241.]
 

§ 7-709. White Cane Safety Day.

The Governor shall take suitable public notice of each October 15 as White Cane Safety Day by issuing a proclamation that:

(1) comments on the significance of the white cane;

(2) calls on the public to observe the White Cane Law under §§ 7-704 through 7-707 of this subtitle and to take precautions necessary for the safety of blind and visually impaired individuals;

(3) reminds the public of the policies with respect to blind and visually impaired individuals and urges cooperation with the policies;

(4) emphasizes the need for awareness of the presence of blind and visually impaired individuals in the community and the need to keep roads, sidewalks, public accommodations, public buildings, public facilities, other public places, and other places to which the public is invited safe and functional for those individuals; and

(5) offers assistance to blind and visually impaired individuals on appropriate occasions.

[An. Code 1957, art. 30, § 33(h); 2007, ch. 3, § 2; ch. 241.]

BS Discrimination Lawsuit Goes After Paintball Field

According to the Washington Examiner website, Tom Maliszewski’s paintball field – Route 40 Paintball – is being sued in Federal District Court for discrimination against the handicapped – specifically the blind.

A non-profit organization named Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (founded by the Maryland General Assembly in 1908) is suing the field over language in their rules – specifically te prohibition against “Blind Shooting”.

The Examiner’s blogger correctly identified this suit as an attempt to get the field to settle out of court by pressuring them in the mainstream press.

Tom has been a mainstay of the paintball industry since the early pump days and has remained a staunch advocate for safety during that time. Nor has he or his businesses engaged in any discriminatory practices.

68Caliber attempted to contact Tom and is expecting him to return our query soon.

BISM will be contacted by 68Caliber tomorrow when they open for business.

In the meantime, every field and store that has rules, regulations, business related documents, images or anything else publicly displayed on their websites are urged to take them down and have them reviewed by an attorney prior to being reposted, as it is apparent from this lawsuit that even game rules can get you in trouble with those who have the dollars to take you to court.

You can read the article here http://campaign2012.washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/paintball-park-sued-blind/263976

Help Save Cousin’s Paintball

UPDATE: (Read below for more on this subject):

Thanks to the wonders of Youtube, here is some of the local news channel’s on-air coverage of the impending eviction of Cousins Paintball (the stuff that was behind a paywall is now FREE!!!)

Cousins Paintball has long been a fixture of the industry scene. It has also been an iconic emblem for paintball on Long Island.

The field grew out of an earlier field business – American Air Gun Games (affectionately known as “AAGG” (your editor competed in tournaments there back in the late 80s) and has been home to one of the biggest (and earliest) Big Games held in the country. (Complete with paragliders and controversial helicopters).

Several years ago the town of Brookhaven on Long Island purchased a large chunk of land for preservation purposes. Cousins had been using the land to run operations and the field owners negotiated a lease with the town which has been in effect since 2003.

However, members of various local environmental groups have taken issue with the commercial use of property that is supposedly reserved for nature. (If they knew paintball, they’d know that a well-managed field is probably the only viable commercial use of land that is supposed to otherwise be reserved for nature – and that similar compromises on land use that benefit paintballers, preservationists and the towns that must foot the bill for maintaining public property have been arranged all across the country.)

You can read an article (02/18/11) about the situation from the Long Island Business News HERE.

If you’d care to spent five bucks, you can also view video of the – we’ll call it a ‘debate’ HERE on the Long Island News12 site.

Dean Del Prete, one of the partners of Cousins Paintball, is putting out the call for political support to help fight this situation (which strikes us as the township trying to have their cake and eat it too) by writing to local politicians and joining their facebook page.

You can sign up for the page HERE (I did).

You can also find links for sending letters of outrage HERE  (I’m going to.)

This Is A Bit More Troubling Than Pink Airsoft Guns

Huffington Post has an article today detailing an incident that took place between officers on the Rochester NY PD and a citizen who videotaped them making a traffic stop. From the supposed safety of HER OWN FRONT YARD.

Watch the video and then check out Huffpost’s article here.

According to the piece, it is NOT illegal to videotape police in NY state.

I’m also a little bothered by someone – doing nothing illegal – being peremptorily ordered off of their own front yard and into their house.

I have a feeling that the phrase “I don’t feel safe with you standing behind me” is going to become as popular in PD usage as “exhibiting suspicious behavior” has been.

But one thing everyone should do is to check the laws regarding such in their own state. It can be a bit complicated as prosecutors are often pulling in communications laws (like, in some states you can’t tape a phone conversation without the consent of both parties).

A Monumentally BAD Idea

Dave Muhlstein from About Paintball brought this to our attention.

It seems that there is a paintball field that is planning on offering what it calls ‘Total War’ Summer Camp.

In their own words:

“Total War Paintball Camp is a new week long Military Simulation War Camp. We are very serious about being as true to military form as possible because we want the experience to be as real as possible.
Our camp is an all inclusive (meals, ammo, uniforms, weapons, etc…) experience that gives participants the complete experience of a soldier in the field during war time. This camp is structured down to the last detail so that players are immersed in the entire military atmosphere and process. This is not a “boot camp”. Players are drawn into the atmosphere and start the experience from the moment they arrive to our “War Zone” and are assigned to one of our two (2) opposing armies.”

Their promotional video ends with the catch phrase “The Way Paintball Was Meant To Be Played”.

That tagline is utterly, completely and historically wrong.

Furthermore, this kind of presentation has the potential to set our game back decades.

In the early and mid 80’s, paintball was illegal in New Jersey, players were regularly accosted by the police because they were perceived as survivalists, neo-Nazis or crazed Rambo-wannabes; fields and stores were denied zoning variances, loans and investment because of mis-perception, many, many Viet Nam era veterans* took issue with the game and nationally televised news programs questioned the rightness and the sanity of the games proponents.

Virtually every single television, newspaper, magazine and radio program that provided coverage of the sport did so in a sneering, look-down-upon way, negatively characterizing players and the industry as a whole.  (One famous nightly news program even brought in a psychologist who implied that there was something wrong with all of us. On national TV.)

It took nearly a decade of hard work by numerous unsung individuals to change that perception and to turn paintball into an activity that most people were comfortable with.

The game’s creators conceived it as a test of individual skills, a psychological competition between individuals.

Paintball was NEVER a war game.

Nor do we want it to be perceived as one now.

The climate in the US is changing from one that supports war for just about any excuse to one that wants to move away from involvement in such as far as possible.  Rightly or wrongly, that is the current climate.  The era we are in now is very similar to that we experienced in the late 70’s, when war toys were being removed from the shelves of stores, war-based television dramas were being replaced with police procedurals and the psychological climate was one desirous of getting as far away from things military as possible.  This climate prevailed when paintball was being started and was at least partially responsible for the bad reception that it initially.

We really do not need to fight those battles for legitimacy all over again.  It is going to be tough enough over the next few years to defend and start growing the game again without handing ammunition to the naysayers.

If people want to pick up toy guns and play army – let it be the participants in some other sport;  better yet, serve your country.  Instead of paying for a fake experience, let the taxpayers pay you for a real one.

Or move to Somalia where you can become a for-real pirate.  It’s a good move for those who like to play fantasy games.  After you get caught (if you aren’t killed – for real – you’ll get to play who’s the b***** in prison.  Two fantasies for the price of one!).

War is an awful, horrible, damaging experience that can not be successfully played as a game.  People die in war.  People are mutilated physically and damaged psychologically by war.

There’s honor to be had from being willing to sacrifice yourself for the good of your fellow citizens.  There is no honor to be had from pretending to do the same as a game.  Doing so diminishes the real sacrifices of others.

*Personal experience from the early 80’s:  Viet Nam War Vets were about evenly divided on the game.  Some wanted absolutely nothing to do with it, others embraced it.  Of those that embraced it, not a single one of them ever said they were or wanted to be ‘playing a war game’ within my hearing.  Some considered it to be marginally therapeutic, having the opportunity to work with a team and shoot a gun WITHOUT it having any real consequences.  In the face of what they had personally experienced during real war, it was not surprising to hear them sneer at and dismiss the comparison between playing (note that word playing) a game and the brutal reality of a situation in which people killed or were killed, often for no apparent reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Several of them were upset and angered by players who wore and used the names of real military units in their paintball play, stating that people had DIED to earn those associations and that those using them without the right to do so were dishonoring their memories.

Paintball and the Information Age

As some of you may recall, 68Caliber announced the introduction of its weekly newsletter a few weeks ago and then (almost as quickly) announced that “due to technical difficulties” the newsletter program had been suspended while we worked out some glitches.

I’m happy to say that those glitches have been worked out and we’re moving into the testing phase of the newsletter: selected individuals have graciously agreed to act as test monkeys and, presuming that they receive via email what we are trying to send them, we’ll go ahead and open the program up to anyone who wants to subscribe.

The experience has reminded me of a couple of things. First and foremost – read the fine print. In the case of our aborted attempt to get a newsletter out, I had developed a set of criteria for what I considered to be necessary for an email newsletter, I took a SWAG at the kind of volume we’d be seeing and then I went hunting for a email sender program or service that had the capability to service what I was looking for.

I signed up with a program that made it sound as if I could do what I needed to do;  that, of course, turned out not to be the case.

Which brings me to the second issue this experience has reminded me of:  just because something seems to be an obvious, no-brainer kind of concept does not necessarily mean that it is so obvious.

We live in the information age.  An age that provides unprecedented capability to the average, ‘unskilled’ individual.  Each and every one of us can download free software, pick the brains of experts (who give freely of their time and skills) and learn to do things like record music, make movies, put up websites, run radio shows, alter images and graphics, create animations and search – quickly and easily – for information that was previously unavailable.

What we are learning now, however, is that you can’t take a drink from Niagra Falls. Too much water and too high a pressure;  instead of quenching your thirst, you lose your head.

We’re drowning in a glut of information.  Which is why numerous individuals are racing around, working as fast as they can, to figure out ways to help us “manage” that information.

Which is what I was trying to do with the newsletter.  Who wants to get an unorganized info-dump in the mail once a week?  Who wants to have to work at extracting the information that is important to them?  Who likes spending even a minute reading something that they thought was going to be important to them, only to find out in the end that it wasn’t what they thought it was?

In this day and age – no one.  Not even me.  I spent a lot of time and effort trying to set the newsletter up in a manner that would let each recipient zone right in on what they were interested in, in a manner that allowed them to ignore all of the rest – only to find out that the capability to deliver the information in that manner did not exist on the supplier side (the email newsletter providers).

I have now, in fact, provided one such company with a “new feature”, one they are looking into providing to their other customers since my ‘no brainer’ obviously turned out to be ‘brainer'; everyone who I’ve shared this concept with has basically said the same thing:  “well duh, that IS a good idea”.

So now, through the wonders of technology and the acquisition of some new skills on my part, here’s what you’re going to get with the 68Caliber Weekly Update newsletter:

all of the week’s articles are organized by their primary subject category.

each of them is identified by that category in the title.

each article is summarized so that you get the basic info in a couple of sentences

each item is linked to the original article (or source), so that you can read the whole thing, should you desire.

Additional content is clearly identified as such.  If you really don’t want to read my ‘thoughts on the week’, it will be easy for you to skip it.

So, if all you are interested in is the Business News from the week, you can find those items easily because they are the entries titled “BUSINESS”.  Read the headline.  If that interests you, read the excerpt.  If you still need more, click on the item and read the whole article.

Now there’s no need to worry about getting your head ripped off by the flood. Pick and choose, waste no time and zone right in on the info that you want and need, safely ignoring the rest.

That’s the way to handle the information age and now, at least within paintball, you can actually do it.

Editorial #2: Spam, Infringement, Lame Marketing and Hacking

Yesterday I entitled the editorial as #1 since I actually thought that I was going to get around to putting editorial #2 up as well. That didn’t happen which makes both editorial titles seem a little weird. But as always, we forge ever onwards, so don’t let it bother you.

This editorial’s subject runs the risk of boring you all silly as it’s on a subject that I’ve harped on plenty of times before. There’s a new twist this time though. I’m going to get a little emotional!

I am sick to death of the time I have to waste dealing with stupidity, laziness and people who act as if they believe that the entire world is theirs for the taking, free and clear with no costs, no bills to pay, no consequences.

In short, I’m sick of internet cheats, hackers, spammers, script kiddies, scam artists, liars, thieves and propagandists.

Today, as we still recover from the server attack we experienced over the weekend, what did I spend my time doing? Fixing stuff up? Writing articles? Reading through stories to select something juicy for you all? Nope. I spent my time going through the comment que and taking out repeated comments from AIRSPLAT.com.

Who’s that? Purportedly some online seller dealing in airsoft and paintball gear who obviously doesn’t want to spend any money on advertising or marketing their services but would rather waste their time and mine trying to get comments through to the site that are nothing more than poorly crafted come-ons to get you to visit their site.

Here’s the latest: “I would have to say as a person that has been paintballing for years, that is horrible. I would say check this site out, I found that they have really good pricing and some great information.
http://www.airsplat.com/airsoft-info.htm

This comment was added to multiple stories.

I guess these guys must be pretty stupid – that, or the Airsplat management has hired a company that supposedly engages in spammy tactics, but is instead spamming Airsplat by charging for a completely ineffective service.  None of those comments got through to the site.

I suppose I should be flattered that Airsplat has directed their ‘attacks’ at 68Caliber.  I’d rather they just took some of their dollars and spent it on legitimate advertising.

As if that weren’t enough, I am also, today, in the process of issuing a DMCA take-down notice to WordPress.  Someone who thinks that sticking paintball in the URL of a website name and scraping content off of legit paintball sites has copied one or more articles, in their entirety, over onto the site http://co2paintballguru.wordpress.com.

When I tried to contact them – gee, what a surprise, no contact info and email is handled by an autoresponder offering me a chance to subscribe to the blog.  Dude – I’d be subscribing to my own stuff that you just ripped off!

Not to mention the server hack over the weekend.  Something that I believe happened to Social Paintball a couple of weeks ago and others previously.

They seem suspiciously targeted and timed to me (but then again, I’m just being paranoid, right?).  A website in paintball manages to get somewhere, makes some things happen, starts getting a bit of an audience and bam – denial of service attacks, server attacks, you name it.  If I weren’t so paranoid, I’d strongly suspect that someone in our biz has a few black hats on tap and just doesn’t like fair competition.  As it is, I’m paranoid, so I strongly suspect the Iranians rather than my own people.

What gets me the most tho, are all of you guilty-by-association types out there who have no idea how many man-hours are wasted dealing with this kind of crap behind the scenes and who happily suck up the swill you’re presented on the web without ever questioning its rightness.  I know there’s absolutely no hope in appealing to your better natures because you’re so focused on GETTING that wondering about where the GET came from, questioning its sources, its legality or the rightness of it all is just something that never occurred to you.

Which is good for you because you can go to sleep at night guiltless, happy and warm in the knowledge that ignorance really is bliss.  Who cares where the stuff comes from as long as YOU get some, right?

If I weren’t so pressed for time (due to the aforementioned time-wasters), I’d now spend a paragraph or two asking you to do the little things that might help make things better, move things in the right direction – like letting sites that steal content know you don’t approve of the practice, or of refusing to ever spend a dime with companies that try to cheat and steal your business rather than come by it legitimately, but then I’d be guilty of compounding the problem by wasting even more time on futile gestures.

The sites above have had their URLs changed in the links so that I do not send traffic to those yahoos!

Editorial #1: Proof in the Paintball Pudding

About a month ago I wrote an editorial piece entitled The Uncertainty Principle. (If you haven’t read it already, just click the title – I’ll wait until you’ve finished.)

The main point that I was trying to make (hope I did) was that there isn’t a single piece of technology out there, no special rules or killer format for the game  that is going to solve paintball’s new player recruitment problems.

Those approaches have been tried (such as 50 caliber, limited elimination zones, Billy Ball and all of the rest) with little to no effect.

I suggested that we are our own worst enemies when it comes to solving this issue.  Having played, having experience, wanting to win, wanting to be recognized as the best in whatever area of competition we’ve chosen, has led us all down a false path.

We’ve tried to make the game cleaner, more precise, more accurate, faster and more exciting and, while those are all admirable goals (ones which have been successfully achieved by some of the best and brightest in our industry), they are precisely the kind of thing we need to stay away from when it comes to new players.

I argued that new players need time and space to adjust to the game; they need to have a successful ‘first encounter’ on the field – one they can walk away from smiling, talking about, sharing with their friends and one that isn’t so overwhelming that they actually have FUN.

Ensuring that fun for the new player is the straight-forward answer to our recruitment issues and is, in fact, the ONLY certain path to success.

I then went on to argue that a slower paced, woods-based game is currently the only field/format/tech environment that we have access to that can guarantee that fun;  I said so because it was (and still is) my belief that larger fields in the woods provide new players with the space they need, the places to hide that they need; a pump or mechanical semi based game keeps shooting to a minimum AND, perhaps most importantly of all, all of those elements combine to create a playing environment in which NO ONE – not the new player, not the experienced walk-on, not even the tourney wannabe who’s goal in life is to ruin every other player’s day – possesses such an overwhelming advantage that they can dominate the field.  From guns to cover, this style of play introduces elements of uncertainty that provide enough time and space for the new player to be able to adjust.

During the Woodsball World Cup, I was handed a golden opportunity to see whether this theory of mine would carry any weight when it ran into the real world.  And it did.

Team Low Key attended in the unenviable position of being short a few players.  All of the other teams and staff were generous in their support and they managed to fill their roster on days one and two.  Come Sunday and who joined team Low Key to fill out some slots?

WALK-ONS.  Mom, Dad, kids.

Furthermore, Walk-Ons who had never played a lick of paintball before in their entire lives. Walk-ons using rental gear.

Walk-ons playing in a tournament for gosh sake.

Sure they got their butts kicked.  Any new player in their first tournament does.  That’s not the point though.  The point is – THEY HAD FUN!

There’s video (going up later today) of them all standing around the staging area smiling and laughing.  They had a great time, they learned some cool tricks and moves and they will be playing more paintball in the future.

In any other playing environment, we all know that this would not have been the case.  Those players would have been off the field inside of three seconds of the horn sounding;  they’d have been lost and would have looked lost;  they’d have gotten pummeled, stitched from top to bottom and probably would have been sent off the field followed by a few ‘nice’ words from their opponents.  They would not have ever come back.

This was a valid experiment;  these players went up against some of the best in the world.  Tournament Pros who will tell you that they do not care one whit about the experience (or lack thereof) of their opponents, or whether or not they’ll ever play paintball again.  If they are on the other team, the only purpose they serve is to get shot.  No mercy was shown to these newbies.

And yet they had a good time, a thrilling experience.  The difference, of course was the WAY they were introduced to paintball.  The field was large enough that they weren’t under fire right from the beginning; the cover was great enough that the first few shots that came in on them weren’t (and couldn’t be) right on target – they had a chance to find a good spot and figure out what was going on; the rate of fire was slow enough that they weren’t immediately pinned in place.  One of them was even left in the flag station by themselves against a horde of opponents.  He lost that encounter, but he had a great time trying to win it.

We all need to stop trying to introduce new players to the game we play NOW.  Let’s give them a chance to get into it before we show them how it’s really played.  Maybe they’ll stick around long enough to teach us a lesson or two.

Woodsball World Cup Report Coming

I had an absolute blast at the first ever Woodsball World Cup at Paintball Sports New York: I got to hang with a bunch of old friends – many of whom I haven’t seen in well over a decade – and to make a lot of new ones – ones who will become old friends quickly.

I took a ton of pics and got some great video (A-W-E-S-O-M-E! Video) – all of which will be going up later on today and tomorrow.

We’ll be featuring each and every team and player that attended, covering the staff and passing on some really cool information that we picked up.

It is going to take a bit. (I was up for 41 hours straight the first day and am still feeling the effects). But I think the wait will be well worth it.

I do have to say – TEN MAN WOODSBALL IS BACK! There were some pretty big arena ball names participating in this event and every single one of them – from the ones who started in the woods decades ago to the ones who’s first ever tournament in the woods was this past weekend said “this is freaking awesome!”

You’ll be getting to see why pretty soon, right here on 68Caliber!

Woodsball World Cup Weekend!

Do you live in or near the New York Metropolitan area? If you’re within a couple of hours, you might very well want to think about joining 68Caliber, Paintball News, Paintball X3 and the New York Daily News at Paintball Sports New York for this weekend’s inaugural WOODSBALL WORLD CUP!

It’s too late to get in to play, but there’s still going to be plenty for everyone to do: we’ve got tournament paintball legends (Nicky Cuba, Mooner, Frank Connell, Chuck Hendsch and Darryl Trent, Robert “Rosie” Rose, Dennis “Mooner” Mood, Bart Blonski and Alex Lundqvist, Renick Miller, Tommy Cole, along with many other members of the Master Blasters Traveling Road Show), a trade show featuring Valken Sports, a rumored goodie-bag giveaway, player’s party and plenty of hard-hitting, in the woods, ten player, mech-marker, paintball played the way it was meant to be action to watch.

Taking place on the 20th anniversary of the world’s first World Cup Paintball tournament, at the legendary Survival New York field (now named Paintball Sports NY), this is an event that you will regret missing – if you miss it.

Come on down and hang out with some of the folks who have made this industry what it is, taught everyone how to play real competition paintball and who know how to have a great time in the woods.

Heck, there’s gonna be so much press on hand, you might even get your picture in the papers!

A Loss for Paintball: Forest Brown

According to a post on Automags.Org, Forest Brown, founder of the Challenge Park field outside of Chicago and originator of CPX Paintball Park, passed away in his sleep yesterday (9/4).

Forest captained Team Farside, helped to introduce paintball technology to movie-making (as props and special effects tech), had one of the most fantastic retail stores you could ever imagine and was instrumental in creating both the Chicago area paintball scene and the national scene.

Few know that Forest had a prior career in the gaming industry, first working with a miniatures company called Martian Metals (they offered figures based on Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars stories) and later for FASA, which introduced the still popular ‘Battletech’ gaming franchise.

Among other things, Forest was a keen event promoter and worked tirelessly to improve the rules, competition and tournament experience across the country.

Thanks for all of your hard work over the years, Forest – paintball wouldn’t be what it is today without your contributions and hard work.

You can read more about Forest here

A First For Paintball

Lonnie Schuyler, writer/director of the indy feature film SPLATTER – Love, Honor & Paintball, is a paintballer himself.

His film (fresh off of winning yet another audience award at a film festival) will be a featured presentation at the upcoming Paintball Extravaganza (presented by 68Caliber!) in Annaheim, CA.

We recently received the copy of the movie that will be presented at the Extravaganza and quickly scrolled through to the credits: we wanted to see paintball’s first ever safety notice in a feature film. And here it is!

Believe me, it looks a heck of a lot larger when it is up on the screen!

Many thanks to Lonnie Schuyler from 68Caliber, speaking on behalf of the paintball industry and players everywhere: you’re a stand-up guy and we all greatly appreciate the responsibility and respect you’ve shown to our game!

Editorial Review: A Selection of Past Editorials

Want to know what we’re thinking?  Check out this selection of editorials posted by the editorial staff at 68Caliber over the past year or so.  Then let us know what you’re thinking!

The Uncertainty Principal
Paintball and Intellectual Property
Bringing People Back To The Game
Where We Need To Go
Limited Paint Paintball Tournaments
When Is Paintball Just Like The Federal Government
An Idea Who’s Time May Have Come
Paintball Legislation

The Uncertainty Principle

No, I’m not going to be laying cosmology and physics on you (though if you want, you can Google Heisenberg and Schroedinger), unless you count the ‘physic’ part of ‘physical’, because today I’m going to discuss new players.  Specifically how and why new players get introduced to the game, what they are looking for and how so much of the innovation and advancement of the past twenty years has contributed to the decline in participation.

New is better, right?  Farther, faster, more electronics, lowered costs, greater visibility on the field, a cleaner game, more and better protective gear. That’s all good, right?

Nope.  In fact, after quite a bit of pondering on the issue, I’m here to say that the driving technological advancement of “paintball – the gear” is probably the biggest enemy that “paintball – the game” has ever had.

Our technological advancement has been spurred by two motivating factors – profit margins (make it better for less) and precision.  Or perhaps accuracy and efficiency would be better terms.

Think about it: we pushed the lowly paintball as far as it could go and reached an upper limit on the range and accuracy that “the worst ballistic shape in the world” could hope to achieve.  We then attacked the issue from a different angle;  dump enough shots on a target in a short enough time frame and at least one of them is bound to hit what you’re aiming at.  Air systems followed along to support the volume, as did loaders, electronics and all the rest.

And that is precisely the problem.  We’ve removed so much uncertainty from the game that there’s hardly any room left for the learning curve. Which means there’s little or no room for a new player to fit themselves into a game with any degree of comfort or confidence.

The shift away from the woods and onto airball fields was the last straw.  New players were left with no where to hide as they tried to figure things out.  Airball fields are certain; they’re precise, clean and unforgiving.  The woods aren’t. They’re messy, uneven, shadowy and covered with a zillion places for new players to hide, hang back, watch.

Think back, if you can, to your first day of play.  Be honest. You had no idea what it felt like to get hit. You had no idea how good you’d be at this new thing called paintball.  Sure, you’re head was filled with all kinds of bravado – but it was also filled with all kinds of doubts and concerns – maybe even a little fear.  Maybe you shot a gun at a target range – but you still didn’t know what it would be like to shoot and hit a real person. And I’ll bet that moments after you were wondering what it was like to shoot someone, you were right back thinking about the fact that they’d be shooting at you.

New players do not rush into the fray, eager to feel those first few hits and get the initiation over with.  They hang back. They watch. They ask stupid questions in the middle of a game. They make stupid moves that get them eliminated because they really didn’t understand what you were trying to tell them as you vainly offered advice and encouragement from behind your own bunker.  They complain about things going too fast; too many people shooting at them, too many targets to sort out, too many places to be, too many unexpected occurrences.

At least that’s something like it was for me when I played for the first time – and I was out in the woods with a pumpless PGP 9 shot, hand-cocked wonder.  I can’t even begin to imagine how overwhelming it must be to be handed a semi-auto, a case of paint and pointed at a field that has teeny-tiny balloons on it, and a bunch of intimidating, space-suited looking guys cooking off rounds like Puff the Magic Dragon down at the other end.  You want me to do wha?

The older tech, slower paced woods game had an awful lot of uncertainty in it. Holes all over the place.  New player shaped holes.

Take the guns for example. Even though I’d gotten many days of play in (putting me in a class of experience that was light years beyond a newbie’s), I was still shooting the same gun they were.  Yeah, I knew how to load efficiently and could change 12-grams on the run, but when it came to point and shoot, I was in exactly the same boat as that new guy I just surprised the heck out of.  Even with good aim, there was a distinct possibility that my shot would go squirrely.  Instead of getting clobbered with a hail storm of paint, that new player just survived his first encounter unscathed.  After a seeming eternity, his wits will return and he’ll be able to make a decision on whether to fight-or-flight.

Ok, so maybe he decides that discretion is the better part of valor (after all, that guy that just shot at me does look pretty scary with all that cammo crap on his face) and he decides to run away.  Out on the airball field, that particular decision is a guaranteed elimination.  He just gave me his back and I’ve got all day to stitch it from top to bottom.

Out in the woods?  Just about anywhere the fool runs is safe, or safer.  Every step puts branches, mounds, twigs, trees and brush between him and my (extremely inaccurate) paintball gun.  I might be able to get off a few rounds as he disappears from sight, but chances are far better than even that I’ll hit a twig instead of him.

Now, instead of wondering what excuse he’s going to come up with to avoid playing another game, this guy has EXPERIENCE!  He entered into an armed encounter and survived. Heck, he must be Superman the way he managed to dodge all of those other shots.  Once he catches his breath, he’s going to realize that: A. he wasn’t hit. B. it wasn’t nearly as bad as he imagined it might be. C. in fact, even though he ran away it was still pretty darned thrilling and D. where the heck did that SOB who shot at me get to?

Now let’s suppose our friend the newbie gets tough during his encounter. That first shot whizzing by his head was all the proof of invincibility he needed. He takes aim (while I’m busy rocking and cocking) and manages to squeeze off a round. If he’s lucky, I’m hit and a new Rambo is born.  If he misses, well, me being an experienced player, I’m not going to stand there and let him take pot shots.

In fact, I’m going to find some cover.  “Wow” the newbie unconsciously says to himself, “I just made that guy dive behind a tree. THAT was pretty freakin cool!”  Maybe we trade shots for a while – plus for the newbie.  Maybe I try outflanking his position – plus for the newbie.

Or maybe, as can often happen, the newbie gets brain-lock the minute I step out of the trees and take aim at him. What happens?  I walk up and ask him to surrender, or I shoot him in the boot or the fundament – one single shot – and the “worst of all possible things” just happened and it wasn’t all that bad.  Maybe I’ve even got enough time to direct the guy off the field, talk about the game a little bit with him or even offer to let him stay in and get some more game time.

Uncertainty is the key.  We need to get away from knowing that every ball will break on target; that every shot will hit within a very small circle of accuracy; that there will be a ball in the chamber for every trigger pull; that the paint is pretty much going to go where we want it to; that ONLY certain well-marked objects can have a player behind them; that we can slide 25 feet on this kind of turf; that we can always see our teammates and that we can communicate with them across the entire width of the field.

New and inexperienced players NEED that uncertainty to give themselves the time to learn the game, to figure out how to play and to learn to love the experiences they have.

Look at it from the other side.  How many times would you want to play Monopoly if your friend said “Dibs on banker – I just foreclosed on all the properties, you lose!” before you got the lid off the box?  How often would you play football if you were ALWAYS the punt returner against an NFL team?  Would you ever slap-fight someone if they got to put on a helmet and chainmail gloves?  Would you ever visit a casino if the employees took your wallet at the door and said ‘thanks for playing’ as they booted you to the curb?

It’s all about the uncertainty and we don’t have enough of it in paintball anymore.

Paintball & MilSim Look-a-Likes Causing Problems Worldwide

Two mainstream press stories released today make the point following arrests in one country and the deployment of a bomb disposal team here in the US:  look-a-like weapons are often seen and reacted to by security personnel as the real thing – and for good reason.  They’re designed to look just like the real thing.

The Malaysia Star reports that five “paintball enthusiasts” were arrested after a raid on their property and charged with possession of illegal look-a-likes.  The five run a business that is described as supporting the paintball industry (details are not clear on what that means) and the story goes on to note that they were also in possession of real firearms and ammunition.  Owning & etc. look-a-likes is illegal in Malaysia.  (We presume that non-look-a-likes for paintball are legal, otherwise the business would not exist).

A quick check of airsoft sites reveals lots of folks warning other folks about bringing look-a-likes into Malaysia.

Elsewhere, none other than the Chicago Tribune reports that a prop used in a scenario game at the Sleepy Hollow Sports Park in Pleasant Hill Iowa was mistaken for a bomb by maintenance workers, causing local police to call in the Des Moines bomb squad.  The device was destroyed, after which it was determined to have been a game prop, not a real bomb.

Way back in the day, those of us who had at least passing experience with “toy gunners” being confused for real gun men by police (laser tag, paintball, airsoft) and getting shot and killed by them, we decided that our gear needed to look like anything BUT a real gun.  Thus was born the shiny, shiny red, purple, yellow, orange and way cool multi-colored anno jobs we see today.

68Caliber will NOT go on record as being against look-a-likes;  they are just way too prevalent and desirable in today’s market.  But we don’t think that it hurts to remind everyone that there was a good reason for moving away from that look two decades ago.

We also don’t think it hurts to remind everyone that if we start seeing a rash of incidents like the ones reported in the press, it won’t be too long before folks other than paintballers start making noises about our gear once again.

So, a general word to the wise for manufacturers and players alike:  don’t own these things if they are illegal to own where you live, make sure the local authorities are aware of your legal activities, follow Garrison’s advice when it comes to dealing with the police during a playing situation and PLEASE – don’t leave your fake bombs lying around where the bomb squad can find them!

Paintballers and the Press

There have been a couple of high-profile mainstream news stories lately (Israeli Commandos Use Paintball Rifles, Paintball Age Limit, Terrorists Used Paintball for Training) that have obviously made it necessary to once again revisit the subject of how we all should talk to the press when interviewed on a subject related to paintball.

I’m not directing this at any one paintball rep in particular, although some of what some of you have said leaves a bit to be desired.  Which is understandable – none of us are professional spokespeople and the first thing across our minds when confronted by a television camera is usually “this will be great for business!!!!”, rather than “I better watch what I say”.

Years ago, our problems with the mainstream press were so numerous and regular that several publications regularly ran pieces on how to comport yourself, ways to answer questions that didn’t leave you open to ridicule and provided a little insight into what was going on in the mind of the reporter.  I’ll recap a little bit of that here:

FIRST AND FOREMOST:  The television/radio/magazine/newspaper reporter IS NOT YOUR FRIEND! (Unless of course it’s a paintball media reporter.)  Sure, the exposure for your business will probably end up being positive (there IS no such thing as bad PR) – but do not make the mistake of believing that because this person is asking you questions about your favorite subject that they are interested, enthusiastic, positively motivated.  YOU and paintball are NOTHING MORE THAN A SUBJECT.

Do not make the mistake of conflating YOUR objective (getting a positive word out about paintball in general and your business in particular) with the reporter’s objective – which is usually telling a story that is .00001 percent your story and 99.9999 sensationalist, distorted, slanted, emotionally packed garbage.

Do not make the mistake of believing that what you say is what is going to end up on the air.  Chances are you will be heavily edited and, particularly where you say something that supports whatever scare-mongering agenda the story actually has, your words will probably be taken out of context to make it seem as if what you said supports what the reporter wants you to say.

Here’s a (slightly exaggerated) example:

During the interview:

Reporter: So tell me what kind of activities go on here at Kill ‘em All Paintball?

Field Owner:  Well, we have open games on Saturday and Sunday, we do groups for things like birthday parties and graduations, we host scenario games a couple of times a year, we have a tournament series and of course a lot of the local teams come out for team training on a weekly basis. Our home team is pretty hot on the national circuit.

Reporter: Is that what they’re doing over there (points to airball field) – training?

Field Owner:  Yeah. They train here all the time they’re not actually at a tournament.  We’ve got one of the better tournament facilities in the country yada yada yada

On Air:

Anchor: Homeland Security Officials have reported that a number of terrorists are using paintball fields for training purposes, so we sent our roving reporter out to a local paintball field to see what’s actually going on.

Reporter: To the best of your knowledge, has any terrorist training ever taken place here?

Field Owner: Yeah. They train here all the time…

OOOOOPS.

(And let me tell you from personal experience, they will NEVER go on air and explain that you were taken out of context.  No big deal though, you’ll be spending all your time having a nice, quite visit with the FBI, DHS and representatives of other three-letter governmental agencies.)

Do not believe that ANY airtime is better than NO airtime.  Everyone wants to be on TV but it may just not be a good idea.  Remember that you have a right to ask what the interview is about and you have a right to refuse to answer any question you aren’t comfortable with.  (Of course, non-cooperation will almost certainly guarantee that they won’t use your footage.)

Do NOT use your on-air opportunity to press a political agenda.  This will either result in getting you on air looking like a raving lunatic (with the audiences’ conclusion being that ALL paintballers are just like you) or getting your footage cut.  You may think gun control is stupid, the current administration are a bunch of communists or global warming is a crock, but getting highly emotional about a related subject (unless it is dead puppies) will almost certainly be used to make YOU look like an extremist.

DO get the name of the reporter, the station, the editor or producer, contact information and request a copy (you may be charged a few bucks).  Do conduct the interview in a controlled environment (nothing says paintball is for crazies when some yahoo in the background starts making gang signs or walks by wearing a t-shirt with “I Raped Your Daughter and She Loved It!” printed on it), DO set some ground rules (what’s the story about, no, I will not discuss injury rates) and if you have the moxy, figure out a way to mention the friends in high places that you have – off camera and off record of course.  It doesn’t hurt at all to mention that your brother in law owns the station or your mother happens to be a state senator, so long as those things are true of course.  Anything legit you can bring up that will make them think twice about twisting your words can’t hurt.

If you can get the upper hand during the interview, that doesn’t hurt either.  During a radio interview I once had I was able to take advantage of the radio host’s mis-identifying  my title to advantage:  I corrected him – politely – on air and he apologized.  So far as the audience was concerned, from that point on, his statements were subject to correction by me.  Psychologically it put him at a disadvantage and got the audience on my side.  Look to take advantage of opportunities like that when they are presented to you.

Always answer questions positively and as succinctly as possible.  Yes and No are not exciting answers, but it is difficult to distort their meaning or take them out of context.  If you have the opportunity to anticipate the questions you’ll be asked – REHEARSE YOUR ANSWERS!!! and while doing so, ask yourself how your worst enemy might distort their meaning to their own advantage.  Then, modify your answers to be as distortion-proof as possible.

Finally – remember to use specific names, stay away from paintball lingo, don’t use curse words and don’t engage in unprofessional levels of promotion (like saying “Play at Bills!” right when they’re closing the interview.  It will NOT make it on air and will ensure only one thing: the reporter will never be back to your field for another interview).

Controversy in Paintball Land: Are Half-Naked Chicks Appropriate At Events?

68Caliber and staff have, for quite some time, been pushing a ‘family-friendly’ agenda for the website, our news coverage and the paintball industry in general.

Our position has nothing whatsoever to do with morality or ethics, religious mores or personal views about the things that are or are not appropriate.  It has always clearly been directed at one goal:

making paintball as accessible to as wide an audience as possible

It is our stated belief that paintball – the industry collectively and its individual businesses – need to present a picture to the outside world that is non-controversial and as appealing to as wide a cross-section of the population as possible.

We think that, at least from a business perspective, this position is the logical one: what business wants to turn away potential customers?  Unless you have some kind of an agenda, the answer has got to be “none”.

By way of analogy, we have frequently referred to the independent video rental store business as a perfect example of how businesses with conflicting moral standards managed to succeed (at least until on-line movies became available): it is well known that most such stores made their profits by renting pornography.  It is also well known that the stores concealed that product in the back of the store while at the same time advertising family-friendly fare out the front display window.  Disney films were within touching distance of Debbie Does Dallas, Jenna Jameson (almost) right next to Snow White.

In this way, those businesses were able to gain the benefit of the attracting the widest possible audience, while at the same time profiting from the sale of product that is not universally acceptable.

In the case of paintball, the “product” that is not universally acceptable has, over the years, taken the form of wet-t-shirt contests, after-hours strippers, after-hours drinking and partying, questionably clothed and/or posed models in product ads and, in its latest incarnation, body-painted models wearing only shorts and pasties.

The analogy holds true: such product is used to advertise and promote to those who are already spending money at events or are purchasing gear and have already had the opportunity to gain perspective on the overall paintball community.

The question is though – are we in effect putting our paintball equivalent of porn in the shop window, facing the public street?

Anyone being honest has to admit that they have heard protests to such fare, usually along the lines of “if mom or dad saw what went on at the event, they probably wouldn’t let their kids play”.  Although relatively small in number (though no one admittedly has any verifiable numbers), the issue is given additional weight and credence by the industry’s very own actions:  we as an industry pushed very hard to get the age limit lowered to 10 (in the US), to  provide product that was affordable to teenagers and are constantly hawking our desirable 12 to 24 year old male demographic to anyone and everyone who will listen.

68Caliber would consider it a loss to the industry if even one potential player was kept out of the sport by parents who were offended by some of the things we do.

68Caliber was present at the Living Legends 3 event and took the opportunity to hire one of the models present. She was painted up with the 68Caliber logo across her breasts and wore covering that was, at the very least, in compliance with local law.  Several models doing the same thing for other advertisers were also present at the event.  No protests were raised (so far as we know) by event organizers or representatives of the local community.

However, now that the event is over, we ourselves are questioning the appropriateness of our promotional efforts at the event, and are asking ourselves – and you – several questions:

first and foremost – does anyone have a problem with what we did?  Do you think it runs counter to our family-friendly agenda, or does the fact that it took place at an event that allowed it remove a potential conflict?

Second – do such activities at our event  turn away potential customers? Perhaps more pointedly – are we losing more than we gain by engaging in such activities?

Third – how does the growing and increasingly vocal contingent of female players feel about it?  Does the presence of non-playing, provocatively clad models detract, enhance or have no effect on their feelings and comfort level?

68Caliber would really like to know how you feel on this subject – please weigh in.

Finally, after the fold and potentially NOT SAFE FOR WORK, 68Caliber Mallory, our model at the Living Legends 3 Event.

Continue reading

Paintball & Intellectual Property (Copyright, Trademark, Patent)

A recent blog post has prompted me once again to weigh in on the subject of Intellectual Property, which includes such things as copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade dress, trade secrets & etc.

The subject of the blog entry purportedly discusses the probability that an awful lot of scenario game promoters are breaking the law in some fashion or other by appropriating the names of popular movies, television shows, games & etc.

In most instances, the claims are completely incorrect and the understanding of copyright and trademark is (potentially) damagingly mistaken.

I don’t want to quote chapter and verse of legalese here (I’d lose you all in about two sentences), so I’ll attempt to avoid it wherever possible.

The blog post doesn’t focus on any specific IP, but the discussion makes it fairly clear that the concerns here are the copying of copyrighted materials, as opposed primarily to trademarks.

Perhaps the best way to delve into this is to look at one specific case being accused of ‘probably’ breaking the law – Clone Wars.

Let’s look at Trademark first. Certainly George Lucas is in a position to hire the finest attorneys and afford the filing fees to get trademarks for everything Star Wars under the sun. And in fact he has. There are currently FIVE trademarks applied for and registered with the USPTO – and several others that have not been granted yet.

If Lucas has one trademark for Clone Wars – why would he need five?

Because trademarks are issued for specific goods and services, the nature of which is recorded in a listing of classifications maintained by the USPTO.

Lucas has received a trademark for ‘toys, games and playthings’, ‘entertainment services, namely cartoons’, ‘entertainment related to science fiction films, DVDs, software, interactive games, and for accessories for use with the same – such as action figures’.

Lucas has not received a trademark for ‘live action role playing games’ (although he might have one in application).

Does that mean that someone else could use the name ‘clone wars’ for something else? Yes, they can. How and why? Because Lucas did NOT receive blanket protection for the use of those two particular words. In fact, he had to give up exclusive use of those two words because they are common words in everyday usage.

As is the case with anything legal, there are a lot of specific uses that may or may not infringe on Lucas’ trademark (which is one reason why IP attorneys make big bucks).

For example. Suppose I make toasters and I want to name my newest model toaster the Clone Warrior (cause every piece of toast comes out the same). Perfectly legit and mean ‘ol Georgie can’t do a danged thing about it.

My toaster gets so popular that I develop an entire line of home kitchen appliances and market them under the brand name ‘Clone Wars’ Appliances.

Still no problem. Appliances are about as far away from cartoons and action figures as you can get.

Then my graphics art department gets stupid and lazy and instead of inventing an entirely new logo, they just steal the font from Star Wars and it gets printed on my toasters, ovens, breadmakers & what-not.

Now I have a problem. Why? Because I am intentionally trying to create a connection between the Lucas property and my appliances. The specific lettering, colors, size, presentation & etc., of the words “Clone Wars” ARE protected by George’s various trademarks.

Here’s another case. A couple of decades ago some role playing game designers created an entire game based on Star Wars, the Star Wars universe, history, characters, etc. – even down to ‘light sabers’. They marketed the game as ‘Freedom in the Galaxy’ – because they couldn’t work a deal with Lucas Arts. The box art invoked Star Wars, the plot lines mirrored Star Wars – and the people playing the game played it as if it were Star Wars. Legal? Absolutely – though the game manufacturer would undoubtedly have made more sales if they could have associated the game directly with the movie.

Trademarks are tricky and the laws surrounding them and the rights they confer on the owner are not cut-and-try easy to understand or utilize.

If I were a scenario game producer looking to use a popular item for a game name or theme, I’d first check to see what the existing trademarks are; the further away from what you are doing any existing trademarks are – the better. (For example, if the only registered trademark for the name you’ve chosen is trademarked for a line of reed baskets, there’s little likelihood that anyone would try to or see a connection between the two.)

Copyright is a different thing than trademark/servicemark. Copyright is given THE MOMENT A WORK IS CREATED and is attached to the whole work.

There are important distinctions and even more nuances for copyright law than there are for trademarks. Just a little more explanation here:

The above sentence, being a portion of the work you are reading, is copyright to me. Does that mean that I can sue you if you ever say the phrase “important distinctions”? Certainly not. If that were the case, William Shakespeare’s estate would be suing everyone everyday of the year – multiple times.

That’s because what I own a copyright in is essentially the WHOLE work, in its particular form (this article).

Does that then mean that I can sue anyone for infringement if they write an article about intellectual property and paintball?

No, because the copyright doesn’t give me ownership of the concepts or ideas in the article – only this particular presentation of those ideas, in the manner in which I’ve chosen to present them.

Confused? Try this on for size:

there are legal violations of copyright that are allowed everyday and they fall under the general heading of “fair use”. These fair uses that don’t violate an owner’s copyright include such things as quoting for academic purposes, humor & etc.

The interesting thing here is, there is not one single catchall definition for “fair use”. A recent example concerns a one-line poem. One of the rules of fair use is that you can’t reproduce an entire work, but may only use a ‘fair’ representational portion. If I wanted to use that one-line poem in a class on poetry, it would seem to come under the heading of fair use (academic) – but what do I excerpt? A single word? Two words? Can I make the argument that since it is so short, I can reproduce the entire thing? (Or take the Mel Brooks movie Space Balls as a direct example. It’s a spoof on Star Wars, uses most of the elements of Star Wars – Darth Helmet is a character for gosh sakes – but it doesn’t infringe on Star Wars because it is satire – one of the legal exceptions.)

So how does copyright affect scenario game plots and story lines?

If I invited everyone to come and play Star Trek Federation Wars where I offer up three teams (Federation, Klingons and some guy named Kahn), I use Star Trek ship names, logos & etc., and dress everyone who’s going to be eliminated in red shirts, I’d be in trouble with not only Paramount but with the game company that licensed the rights to make the Federation Wars game.

It becomes fairly obvious that I am deliberately incorporating elements of the trademarked/copyrighted properties for their financial value. I’ve got their artwork, familiar plots & etc..

If, on the other hand, I created a game called Space Federation where I create three teams, the Confederation, the Falloffs and some guy named Bohb – but based my plot on the original, I wouldn’t be being too original, but I wouldn’t be trading off of someone elses property.

A similar trick is used when we simply change the name of an event by rearranging a couple of letters in a name – Star Drek, Sun Wars, etc.

The actual place where most scenario game producers get themselves into trouble is when they do something like the above, but skimp on their promotional artwork. If you’ve changed the name a bit but get lazy and simply drop your (so-called) new logo over the movie poster or book cover art work from the original, you’re right back where you started in infringement land.

First off, the artwork is copyrighted, and violating art copyright is just the same as violating text copyright. Secondly, you are now DELIBERATELY drawing a connection between your (supposedly not infringing) creation and the very thing that you are trying to claim was not the basis for your game.

(A number of years ago a major tournament producer AND* the publications involved in promoting his events were successfully sued by an artist because her work was used illegally for the background of promotional posters.)

What this means is that in a lot of cases, using the ‘name’ of a popular book or movie is not necessarily an infringing or illegal act (Avatar for example is pretty darned popular right now – even if the movie was an abomination – but the word ‘avatar’ is free and clear for anyone to use (here’s a trademark for Avatar clothing having nothing whatsoever to do with the movie).

The problem arises when you want to use the word Avatar for a game who’s plot follows the movie’s directly – and especially if you steal James Cameron’s movie poster artwork and slap “the scenario game” over it while using the same font style.

(As a huge science fiction fan, I can tell you that there are tons and tons of stories on which the movies you see are based, at least in part, and it would be far better to use one of those – better writing and plots anyways – instead of doing the whole movie thing. And probably cheaper to license.)

Concepts you can use: naughty humans invading a planet for resources and screwing over the indigenous population is a VERY common plot. Just don’t name your character Sully and don’t hire Sigourney Weaver for a guest appearance.

Your best bet is to come up with your own names and your own plots. Failing that – look to see if actual licensing is an economically viable option.

If you do want to skirt things – you won’t be doing anything worse than anyone else in the game has over the years, but remember that the folks who own the popular properties that you want to coattail off of have a LOT of money and probably an equal number of lawyers. If they get pissed about what you are doing – kiss your fundament goodbye.

DON’T steal artwork, DON’T steal fonts, stay away from using the exact same names and try a little originality for a change, you could be avoiding a whole world of hurt.

And finally – DON’T rely on the web to do your intellectual property work for you – hire an attorney.

(My personal recommendations for infringement-free game concepts are: borrow if and where you must, create your own names and build your own brand. In the long run, folks will come to your game because of the originality.)

*Think about that internet publications. You might want to think VERY carefully about vetting the artwork for events/products that look an awful lot like some other popular cultural icon, because you CAN get roped into a lawsuit simply by ‘enabling’ the infringement by publishing the ad

Pump Paintball is Coming on Strong!

Representatives of the National Pump League (NPL) have been attending numerous high-profile events over the past several months to promote the up-coming NPL-sanctioned WOODSBALL WORLD CUP tournament.

NPL reps have attended, amongst many other local events, the Spring Classic at West Point and EMR’s latest Castle Conquest and are happy to report that reception to the event and the entire concept of reestablishing competitive play in the woods has been very positive.

Old Schoolers have, not surprisingly, been the most vocal advocates and supporters of the concept.  They all remember the days of playing psych-out in the woods, crawling through streams, shooting longball over hillsides, waiting under that deadfall for the perfect shot.

Casual polling has revealed one interesting conundrum:  most old schoolers have expressed a real hankering to return to a pure version of the game, with players restricted to pumps and gravity feed hoppers only.

This is of course one of the ultimate goals of the NPL – to engender and support pump play in the woods – but the reality is that, at least at this particular moment in time, most of the players willing to step into the woods want to hang on to their semi-autos, even if they’re only mechanical semi-autos.

Players looking for pure pump play are being counseled to be patient, maintain a little flexibility and to help the NPL work towards popularizing the game sufficiently.  If we all keep on pushing, it won’t be too long before there are more than enough players and teams to fill out a national-level, pump-in-the-woods event.

What comes as some small surprise is the enthusiasm expressed by younger players.  Whether out of a sense of curiosity or just an adventurous spirit that is willing to try something new,  younger, newer players seem eager to give this ‘new’ version of the game a shot.  Sure there are some who think that pump play may be too slow, or who object to picking up another market ‘just to play that game’ (good pump guns are readily available and won’t set you back all that much, but if worse comes to worse, see above: pump players are looking for partners and opponents and will be happy to loan out their guns!), but the number of players saying that they think pump in the woods – or even pump in the arena – looks really cool!, far exceeds the naysayers.

(At a recent outing to observe the NH Blizzard arena pump team – they’re playing the whole NPPL pump circuit this year – I deliberately positioned myself to watch and listen to the spectators.  The game itself quickly drew a crowd.  The conversation behind the net was punctuated with expressions like ‘that is so cool’ and ‘I want to play that game!’, and the Blizzard players were followed off the field and liberally peppered with questions regarding play, their pump guns – CCM T2s, what events they compete in and much more.  In fact, the team captain remarked to me that response has been so strong that the field is becoming concerned that it won’t have any more semi-auto players by the coming fall.)

NPL reps will be attending the Living Legends game AND the PSP/UWL Chicago event in June.  Please feel free to ask them questions, make yourself known and keep on pushing the return to the woods.

And if this little editorial wasn’t necessary to convince you to try pump play in the woods, get off your butt and sign up to compete in the Woodsball World Cup!

Bringing People Back To The Game

editorial 125 buttonI was talking with one of my old-time paintball buddies the other day (like I have anything but old, old-time buddies) and, as is usually the case our conversation turned into a bit of “paintball then and paintball now”.

We spent quite a bit of time discussing some of the things we used to be able to do out on the field (like ten minute tactical conferences in the middle of the field, switching squads from one side of the field to the other in order to match lines like in hockey, 100 yard crawls and especially the palpable fear you could create in the other team by getting a few players behind them) – I think any conversation between old pros inevitably breaks down into remember-when – but then our conversation turned to the way that our friends used to operate their fields. (We were all friends with field owners – most of them played on our teams.)

We both seemed to remember a fair number of differences between the way we see things being run now and the way they used to be.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of that is, very often it is the very same people who changed their manner of field management.

And not necessarily for the better.

We quickly identified the reason.  Times are tough, money is tight and business has been off.  It’s a normal thing for business folks to pull their horns in a bit, avoid investments (and pretty much any expenditures of any kind) and to do anything else that keeps the bank account in the black and the operating expenses as little in the red as possible.

This is understandable, but it is also the wrong move.  Now is the time for fields and stores to be upping their efforts to bring in new customers, and there is one very good reason to concentrate on new customers rather than trying to squeeze more dollars out of the regulars: the regulars are tapped out, just like Mr. Field Owner is.  (That on top of the many other already good reasons to try and grow the customer base.)

However, that is not really the point I wanted to raise, merely the genesis.  As my conversation with my old-time buddy continued, we talked about how many field owners, in catering to the (thin trickle of revenue) regular customers (the ones who have spent thousands, understand that the game is about slinging paint and continue to purchase a case or two each for their play sessions) have set up a situation the is precisely targeted at turning off new players.

Many of you will recognize this situation when I quote the oft-quoted excuse used to justify what’s happening:  “But I don’t have enough customers on any given day to split players up and give all of them a good experience.”  And therefore you end up sticking the newbies with the experiencedees, the newbies are thrust head first into a fast-paced, confusing and often painful situation and they end up coming not coming back.  The regulars come back though, which only serves to reinforce the bad-thinking behind this whole situation.

And this is not even my main point (but we are getting there…).

When I worked for AT&T (before it was broken up) the company had a real corporate culture; if you knew what was good for you, you made sure to wear the same color tie that your division head wore, you respected the chain of command, you went to the parties that those up above you suggested you go to, you contributed to the charities that the company recommended and etc., etc., etc.  (That kind of stuff doesn’t sit well with me so I left after 11 years, but that’s beside the point.)

When AT&T got broken up, the culture didn’t change.  This was ultimately because those at the top, those whom everyone else followed, didn’t believe that the company needed to change.  (Even though it had gone from a government-protected monopoly to one of a handful of competing telecom companies overnight.)  The company lost oodles of money.  I mean hundreds of millions – perhaps billions – of dollars, all because it continued to operate with a world-view that was entirely inappropriate.

Philosophers have stated that in our kind of society and in the ways in which we run our businesses (which are reflections of our society), change can only come from the top.  The board at AT&T must have realized this because they dumped their CEO and replaced him with a new guy, one who had a better grasp on reality.  Shortly thereafter, everyone got memos and got scheduled for seminars and had to take classes because change was being instituted from the top and being forced down through the ranks.

So now comes my main point.  The changes at AT&T (ones which kept the company from going under) were initiated from the top because leadership picked a direction, pointed it out to everyone else and said ‘that’s where we are going’.  But that change would never have been effective if the rank and file had not bought into it and pushed together.  Truth to tell, at that point at the company, most of the rank and file were smarter that the high muckymucks in having recognized that change had been needed for quite some time;  however, if upper management had not presented their plans and programs in the proper way – if they hadn’t managed to convince the ordinary cubical occupant that they knew what they were doing and had a workable plan, nothing would have worked.

In talking with my friend, I realized that there were actually TWO elements that were necessary for fields to be able to attract new customers and turn them into regulars.  The first element I’ve already laid out previously:  the owners have to recognize the situation and put a plan into effect.  Change has to come from the top.

But that change is not going to be effective unless the rank and file buy into it.  No, I’m not talking about field staff and referees.  I’m talking about the regular players.

Regular players may not realize it, but they have a major stake in bringing new players into the game.  If there aren’t new players constantly arriving on the scene, eventually there will be no players.  And if there are no players, who are the regulars going to play against?

Back in the day (there’s that expression again), there were regulars at the field and then there were regulars.  The real regulars were the players that a field owner could tap to help out. They were the PAYING CUSTOMERS who the field owner could ask to put down their fancy gear and go help a team of newbies win a game or two.  They were the ones who might spend a whole day in the staging area helping newbies clean their guns, or giving them tips at the shooting range, telling (good, clean, fun) stories of play: physically, psychologically and mentally extolling the virtues of the game, minimizing the negative and helping the field owner grow his business.

Calling someone an ambassador for the sport used to mean something.  You knew that it was a guy or gal that you could count on to always have the best interests of the sport in mind, no matter what they were doing. (Someone who spent the week telling their co-workers about how much fun they had, rather than showing off their twenty welts and talking about how badly they got lit up.)

We’re talking about people who actually paid for the privilege of building up a field’s business.  Someone who’d lay down an entry fee, air fee and purchase a case of paint, knowing full well that they might never actually get a game in with their teammates because they were out herding cats with the newbies.

Help out with this birthday party group?  Sure, no problem.  Help that team of new players win a game?  Sure, no problem.  Help balance out the teams over in that game?  Sure, no problem.

Put down your electro-semi and pick-up a pump so this group of newbies can have a decent, fun game?  Ummmm – no thanks, I paid twelve hundred bucks for this thing and I’m gonna get my money’s worth out of it.

The preceding is what I see and hear most often these days.  “I paid my entry fee, I’m gonna play the way I want to” is very often the kinds of words I hear.  So what if that means you send a newbie or two home who’ll never play again. They’re newbs!  Gotta sink before ya swim! Serves them right for stepping out onto MY field. Hey, that’s what happened my first time and I’m still playing!

Yada yada yada.  Unthinking, uncaring, selfish noise.

We do need change from the top, but we’re going to need acceptance of that change from the rank and file.  Field owners, you’re going to have to find some way to turn your regulars into ambassadors. I know, try to turn a sows ear into a silk purse.  Well, maybe not that impossible, but I won’t suggest that it is going to be an easy task.

I do have a couple of suggestions though.  First – how about not extending any benefits to the selfish players?  I’m not talking about screwing anyone over or making huge time and labor demands of them.  Not at all.  But keep an eye out and spend you bennie dollars on those few who are acting the right way.

And don’t forget to put the right rules and organization into place.  Instead of getting the newbs to agree to play against the experienced players, MAKE the experienced players drop their high-tec gear and step down to the level of the newbies.  Get them to teach and pass on.  Get them to see the new players as someone who might become a teammate in the future, someone in whom they have a vested interest in seeing back at the field again.

In short – everyone who plays has a vested, survival-level interest in bringing new, repeat players into this game. Field owners are the front line in that regard and we all ought to be helping them out as much as we can.  Including the regular players.