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To Those Who Say It’s Dying

To Those Who Say It’s Dying

No, paintball isn’t on ESPN anymore. Yes, fields are closing. Yes, people are quitting, retiring, and playing less due to a tough economy. Our sport, however, is far from dying. New players are falling in love with this game every day, but the people who love it already have only to bring their friends for that to happen.

Last May, the author of this article was invited to play at a local woodsball and scenario field by a friend. I went, played with a rental gun all day, and was absolutely hooked from that point on. Less than a year later, I have made the transition from woodsball to airball, am a member of a team (comprised mostly of new players), and will be participating in my first tournament in two weeks. Given the people I play with, most of whom have been playing about as long as I have, I can say confidently that this sport is back on the upswing.

The economy certainly is also on that upswing, and that means people will have more spending money in their pockets. That newfound fun money could end up funneled back into the industry; jump starting the game, and the funding behind it. The number of professional teams is growing again, with teams like Omaha Vicious, Chattanooga CEP, Upton 187 Crew, Houston Heat, and Seattle Thunder filling out the pro ranks as teams like the Naughty Dogs, Philly Americans, and the New England Hurricanes dissolve. Many find the xball format to be much more appealing and understandable to the average sports fan than a haphazard, chaotic, yet somehow slow, seven-man format, and a much better bet if we really want this game to grow into a mainstream sport.

Something that will always be a challenge for those who play this game as a sport is the public view of paintball. Everyone that I mention paintball to asks if I wear camouflage, if I play in the woods, and what kind of gun my marker looks like. When I say no, that I wear black and blue gear, play on flat fields with inflatable bunkers, and that my gun looks like something comparable to a laser gun, they look at me like I have three heads.

The tournament style of paintball should be played up, and the military aspect played down, because as long as that is the public image of the game, certain people will be turned off by that wargame image before the game can be defended at all.

This sport has no shortage of potential players, either. I have taken my girlfriend out to play, and she had an absolute blast. I have played with some of my best friends, and introduced them to the game. I have told others about the game and talked for hours about it, and they have listened, been intrigued, and each independently said they wanted to play. If the people who play this game become ambassadors of paintball and introduce others to it, who knows how big this industry could get?

However, if we sit in our bunkers, and we play this game and have fun doing it, but don’t reach out and do what we can to make our hobby grow into the phenomenon that it could be, then paintball will die with us. Maybe your next-door neighbor is the next Oliver Lang, but without someone introducing him or her to paintball, they’ll never pick up a marker. I guess what this whole thing comes down to, meaning whether our game flourishes or fails, is whether or not you have the balls to ask.

Drew Goldman

Drew Goldman is a from central Indiana, a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and has been playing paintball since May of 2011. Look for him rocking tournaments all over the Midwest with his boys from Proving Grounds Paintball. P.G.O.D!

20 Comments
  • Undying
    April 11, 2012

    I can’t.believe this attitude is still.out there. Airball. Is.for show and woodsball is.for dough is the rule in paintball and always has been. Why do paintballers always try to disrespect other players style of play? I don’t really enjoy speedball. I LOVE scenario. Should I then go around recommending that we would get rid of speedball because of the bad attitudes and rampant cheating that are ruining the sport? The truth of.the matter is that there will always be a group of people that will hate the game just because our “markers” resemble guns. I’ve been playing this game for 18 years now. I lived through the push away from camo and the semantic games intended to make the game more palatable to people that would never accept the game as a sport or even an enjoyable pastime. There are people in this world.that will never accept football. Do you see the NFL running around changing what they call things.to please non-fans? Let’s just stop the cannibalism that our sport lends itself to. Just remember that while the speedball leagues were crying that the sport was dying, scenario attendance was on the rise and kept a lot of manufacturers in business.

  • wei
    April 11, 2012

    Great article!!
    More people should get involve into this paintball sports 😀

  • Bobert
    April 11, 2012

    He was in no way saying that scenario paintball should die, or anything in that aspect.
    He is talking about wanting speedball to become more mainstream because it is more sporty than woodsball. I play xball/7man personally, and I think that woodsball is the best way to play for friends and not have to worry about teaching them a million things. With airball, it is a sport, people come to the Events, watch, and participate from the stands. He isn’t talking about paintball in general though. He’s talking about the sport.

  • Elliott T Jackson
    April 11, 2012

    I can’t.believe this attitude is still.out there. Airball. Is.for show and woodsball is.for dough is the rule in paintball and always has been. Why do paintballers always try to disrespect other players style of play? I don’t really enjoy speedball. I LOVE scenario. Should I then go around recommending that we would get rid of speedball because of the bad attitudes and rampant cheating that are ruining the sport? The truth of.the matter is that there will always be a group of people that will hate the game just because our “markers” resemble guns. I’ve been playing this game for 18 years now. I lived through the push away from camo and the semantic games intended to make the game more palatable to people that would never accept the game as a sport or even an enjoyable pastime. There are people in this world.that will never accept football. Do you see the NFL running around changing what they call things.to please non-fans? Let’s just stop the cannibalism that our sport lends itself to. Just remember that while the speedball leagues were crying that the sport was dying, scenario attendance was on the rise and kept a lot of manufacturers in business.

  • Tom Ryan
    April 11, 2012

    Great article although I completely disagree with this: "The tournament style of paintball should be played up, and the military aspect played down, because as long as that is the public image of the game, certain people will be turned off by that wargame image before the game can be defended at all."

    They've been trying that for 20 years and failed. Love or hate the milsim/wargames "image" it's been the saving grace for paintball the last 3-4 years. Pushing all aspects of the sport is what is necessary. We are (should be) one big family after all.

  • James Moeller
    April 11, 2012

    people need to stop acting like it disappearing when in fact its us that need to share it with our friends.

  • Matthew Winkler
    April 11, 2012

    Well written article and although I dis-agree with your opinion on the "military aspect" being bad for business. To each his own you know? I have heard the argument argued both ways and have good friends on both sides of the "ideology". In the end, you have to find what you love about paintball and share that with the world. I enjoy both speedball and woodsball, but most of all scenario. I see scenario paintball as a merging of the two styles.
    Your right that paintball is growing. This weekend I'm going to a scenario game here in Texas that will have 400+ players. There will be all sorts of players there with all manner of styles of play. Players with pumps going up against Egos, Tippmanns providing covering fire for nerf launchers, mag fed pistols running through speedball areas, but we'll all be playing for fun and that's what it's all about.
    Have fun and make sure everyone else is having fun, that is how the sport will grow.

  • David Simmons
    April 11, 2012

    The economy is in noo way gettin better ! Things are going to get much worse …

  • Where have I heard this argument before, that’s right it was Jerry Braum, the owner of Paintball Sports Magazine (long gone) who was trying to sell the sport on wearing brightly colored clown outfits instead of camo and telling everyone they ought to be playing speedball, not woodsball. Of course Jerry had a vested interest in seeing things go that way and a lot of folks bought his brand of snake oil, but thanks to a few die hards paintball managed to survive.

    The economy isn’t getting better and if you think it is, you need to stop watching those mind control news channels and get out and look around. Thousands of homes in Cleveland are being dozed because their former owners couldn’t afford to keep up with their payments. Down here in Florida times are tough and in places like Vegas, and everywhere in Claifornia there about the same. So tell me again where is it that times are getting better??

    Oh, almostmforgot, used to be you could walk into any Walmart and buy a paintball gun, mask and pellets, but that’s also gone away. Today where the paintball stuff was there’s a lot of ‘AirSoft’ gear.

    There’s still a World’s Cup, but it’s not taking place at Disney, it’s down the road at a place called Fantasy of Flight.’ Sure there’s still plenty of vendors, but not nearly as many as there used to be.

    Tell me again about how things are getting better, cause I’ve got a bridge I’d love to sell you.

    Sincerely,

    • PB_DirtyBunny
      April 11, 2012

      I couldn’t agree more with Andy. I’ve been playing for about 15 years myself. Paintball used to be more a cyclic thing with more emphasis being placed on one facet of the game or the other. That was until the economy threw up on everybody and things went from bad to worse. I, for the life of me, still don’t get the industry’s fascination with having to turn anything paintball into something you can market and sell to a TV channel. Heck, if I could video from D-Day, ION or some other scenario game I would rather watch that (I still watch my Spplatt Attack DVD and we all know how corny that was but it still is awesome paintball none the less) than any kind of tournament ball. To each his own I guess.

  • Mike
    April 11, 2012

    I have been recently trying to get more and more of my friends to go and paintball. Whenever I go to my local field there are plenty of people with their families, and friends trying out the sport.

  • Ryan Close
    April 11, 2012

    I also disagree with the writer's sentiment regarding downplaying woodsball and promoting mostly airball. Don't get me wrong, I love both formats and I don't get to play enough airball as far as I'm concerned. But as much as some people are "turned off" by the "wargame" aspect, I think many more people would be turned off by the consistent bonus balling of airball. You can talk people into understanding that paintball isn't only about war scenario type play but it's hard to get someone to come back after the 3+ bonus balls every game from someone's gun set to ramping. At least for me, that's something I had to get used to and don't mind so much now as I understand the process. Explain "bunkering" to someone that's never played before and see their reaction. "Yeah, it's when someone runs up to your bunker as you're looking out the other side and blasts you at point blank range….hopefully in your pack……and hopefully 1 ball……………hopefully…………"
    Again, just to reiterate, I love airball too. It's fast paced and exciting as hell. I go to PSP and NPPL when they're near me and watch all the webcasts of the major tourneys. Just thinking about it makes me want to go out and play right now! 😀

  • Traci
    April 11, 2012

    I agree with the article for the most part except for the downing of woodsball/scenarioball. Each part of the game is fun in its own way….Besides paintball started with woodsball….and it’s what most people start paintball playing. On another note, I have first-handedly watched paintball grow MASSIVELY at the field I work at, Hotshots Paintball of Loxahatchee, FL. I see more new players, recball regulars, tournament players, etc etc every weekend. I see birthday kids return back asap at their friend’s birthday party. There is a crazy amount of interest for our paintball summer camps this summer. We have about 150 rentals, and we book completely 2 weeks in advance. There are always wait lists. I also run the Hotshots facebook, and take pictures of most of the players playing every weekend with my DSLR. People gp on the facebook, tag themselves, and then their friends see it and want to come play. It’s awesome.

  • Levi Vasquez
    April 11, 2012

    been playing for about a year and a half.i fell in love with the sport! since then I have tried to introduce people to the sport and what I see most of the time is that people are intimidated by airball.they feel they have to be a douchebag and buy 1000 dollar markers, look a certain way, or have some sort of different skill.personally I love woodsball! idk if its because I'm a veteran who used to play with sim rounds or because ANYONE can try and have fun! I once got taken out by a teenager who was playing for the first time using rental equipment and have to say, the joy it brought was worth the pain…THAT's what its about, fun.as for the economy, i have NO clue I play with good and bad 30 paint! what pays for all this? my Veteran G.I Bill.the only way I woulve continued.With that said I strongly believe MILSIM, scenerio, and woodsball will continue to grow.yes, active duty and veterans make a certain percentage but are (from what ive seen) by far the most loyal, respectful, and the most able to pay for the sport.i didn't even know paintball was on ESPN (just like the author before he like the sport) and quite frankly never cared.have fun and keep introducing people to the sport!

  • Erik
    April 12, 2012

    The SGMA shows paintball is down in overall participants a whopping 60% since 2009. And while I don’t believe this sport will ever die, we’re for sure in the first major lull the sport has ever seen.

    Having said that, may I urge the author to explore all that paintball has to offer. While X-ball style of paintball is appealing to the new player with less experience (capped/ramping and the simple 5-on-5 game format) I think once he experiences more of our sport he’ll enjoy every type of game, from 7-man to big games and scenarios.

    And really, if people want to dress up in military clothes and play in the woods, more power to them. If they want to dress up in bright jerseys and play in front of a crowd, I’m all for it. The fact is, the more people shooting paintballs the better for all of us. Don’t discriminate. It’s all paintball, and we’re all in this together.

  • wei
    April 12, 2012

    Some times….
    i even play paintball with my slippers 0.o
    Really!!

  • Karlos Kabezas
    April 13, 2012

    Well let me tell you that in my country paintball is growing at a fast rate there are more fields, and you always see tons of new people playing, and they rapidly get into it.
    But the idea of paintball should not change at all if you want to see it as army like playing or in tournament it doesn't matters most of us had started by playing in woods and then got into airball, actually I am doing it right now but I still don't forget to play with my woodsball team in all kind of scenario we can. Paintball started in the woods and is there were it belongs but airball has become the commercial side of it, I cant say I don't love it, but playing airball is what had weakened the sport becuase it is more expensive you have to buy a lot of paintballs and stuff while you play in woods you are more tactical you want to remain silent and don't waste paint.
    So please lets don't forget from where we come from.

  • Bryce
    April 14, 2012

    the problem is not a lot of people even know paintball exists!!!! i was 10 the first time i learned about it and i was INSTANTLY hooked and now i’v been playing for about three or four years now! every other weekend i go with my best friend and we play all day…. legit ALL DAY first ones in last ones out… some times wer there be for the refs get there!

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