Intense. Crazed. Confused. Rushed. Scary. Cool. Fun.
If you’ve chosen a good field to play at, before your very first game you’ll be given a safety briefing that will explain how to play without losing your eyeballs (making sure to keep your mask on at all times when on the playing field – no matter what!) and will have had a chance to test fire your paintball gun.
Test firing your gun should not be an exercise in blowing off as many rounds as you can. Instead, you should take the time to learn what your gun can and can’t do – how to reload paintballs into the loader (magazine), how to know when you are running low on gas, how accurately it shoots, how far it shoots, how fast it shoots.
Other than your mask, your paintball gun is the primary tool you’ll be using during the day. Knowing its capabilities before stepping onto the field is key to helping you have a good experience.
Everything else that happens from here on in will depend to a large extent upon the type of field you are playing at and the kind of game you’ll be playing (arena style, woods style or some hybrid variation), but all styles will have some things in common:
The rules for the game will be decided upon and explained. Most new players will be introduced to either “capture the flag” or “elimination” style games their first time out.
In capture the flag games, each team has a base and a flag and the objective is to capture the other team’s flag and return it to your own base.
In elimination games, the objective is simple: wipe out the other team.
Your group of players will be divided up into two teams of roughly equal size. (Good fields will make up teams that are as equally balanced as possible; they may ask some players to wait a game or two, or might ask those with their own gear to swap it out for rental equipment; they may put more experienced players on one team than another – balancing experience against numbers. Unfortunately, very few playing fields will have enough bodies on hand to divide their games up by experience or equipment or both. For this reason, you may want to consider putting together your own group of new players for your first few times out.)
You’ll be taken out to the playing field, each team will be sent to it’s own flag station (or base or starting spot) and will then be told how the game is going to start (countdown, shouted command, airhorn, etc.)
You’ll be given a few minutes to prepare – make sure your goggle’s lens is clear, there is paint in your loader, the air tank is attached and supplying gas to the gun, your gun’s safety is off (so it can be fired) and your barrel bag (the safety device over the end of the barrel) is removed and in a pocket. You may be told to do each of these things, or it may just be suggested that you “get ready to play”.
Then the game will start, usually as a mad rush by all of the players to positions on the field that are closer to the other team and offer some cover, the ability to shoot at opponents, or both.
This is where the confusion generally starts. It may have been suggested that you go to a particular location to shoot from, or that you stick with a more experienced player, or that you head out ahead of everyone else. (The “use the new guy as cannon fodder ploy”).
Just remember that YOU paid for this experience, but you weren’t inducted into a uniformed profession. You can politely refuse to do whatever is suggested to you – or happily go along, hoping that you’ll learn something during the doing.
We recommend that you do anything but become a “Rambo” – a foolishly aggressive, easily eliminated player.
We also recommend that you leave whatever military, martial arts or law enforcement knowledge you may have off the field as well. While paintball may seem to resemble such things, it is an entirely different animal. Mentally start from scratch and you’ll have a better experience and will learn more, more quickly.
We also recommend that you spend your first few games observing and asking questions rather than jumping into the fray. Watch where other players go and how they do once they get there. (Something may look like a great spot, but if everyone who goes there gets eliminated, there’s probably something wrong with it. Figure out what it is. If you can’t do that, ask the players who got eliminated how they got eliminated.)
Try to remember the three basic things you need to do on the field in order to play well – observe everything, communicate often and make aggressive moves – but not too aggressive. (You won’t learn the difference between ‘foolishly aggressive’ and “intelligently aggressive’ until after you’ve got many, many, many hours of play under your belt, so you may as well start trying stuff your first few times out to see what you can and can’t get away with.)
Eventually you’ll take a hit (if you don’t during your first game, you were hanging back too much). If someone tells you that you’ve been hit – check it yourself (especially if it was someone from the other team who tells you).
If you are hit, follow the instructions for eliminated players (a variation on getting a hand or the gun up in the air, announcing your elimination loudly, putting the barrel bag back on your gun and walking off the field) – but your game isn’t over yet.
Once you are off the field, trade stories with your teammates. Where did they go, what did they see, how did they get eliminated? All of that information is part of your learning experience and will help you improve and inform your play all that much faster.
When the next game begins, remember what you’ve learned and try to put it to good use.