The Paintball Experience:  The Good, Bad, and Ugly

While paintballing is fun, intense and exciting, it also poses a risk.  Recent unscrupulous behavior using paintball guns off the course has created some minor controversy on the relatively safe sport.

Paintball 101

Paintball is an intensely competitive sport that involves shooting gelatin capsules that colorfully explode on impact of an opponent.  It’s not for the light-hearted, as it takes confidence, bravery, and skill—and running around blasting people like a Storm Trooper with a realistic weighty gun.  The experience is a joyful experience; one that reminds me of childhood.

The difference between full-grown adults and children, however, is significant.  For children, it’s acceptable to look at someone, point a finger (or toy gun) at them and go “Bang Bang!”  As adults, it is not.  The games that children like to play such as Cops and Robbers or Cowboys and Indians involve a not-so-tactical and unrealistic approach to the age-old opposition of one group versus another. 

And Paintball is similar. 

But we don’t give children a paintball gun and say, “have fun kid be back for dinner”—unless we want the house to resemble a Jackson Pollock painting.

Kids love guns though.  As one ages, those toy or finger guns get replaced with Nerf guns and provides the pleasant feeling of firing projectiles at other people—opposite of the fun of sitting through a 30-minute sermon on Sunday.  The enjoyment of chasing other kids (or adults) and watching them scurry from fear of getting shot is dynamite.  Wielding a gun gives power.

So naturally, this may eventually evolve into a fascination with guns, similar to A Christmas Story (1983) and Ralphie’s obsession with getting the Red Ryder, a carbine action, 200-shot air rifle.  A sweet BB gun. 

Lo and behold, a paintball gun is an excellent in-between once a kid grows in age to use it responsibly.  Unfortunately, not even adults can use these guns responsibly.  In October of 2019 21-year-old Edwin Perez assaulted a 14-year old boy by shooting him with approximately 20 to 25 paintballs in close range.   Ouch.

Welts and bruises can form from the velocity of a paintball. From close range without wearing any protection, the wounds can potentially be dangerous.

When paintballing normally, goggles are necessary, and so is covering the ears and face. In this case, the kid didn’t have a chance.

There is no end to evil behavior when it comes to human beings of course, and one incident in November of 2018 involved ongoing vandalism and paint splatters on residents’ doors in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Paint smears and tiny dents on cars and drive-by paintball shootings have been reported in the area which gives the community reason for concern.

And despite these ne’er-do-wells giving Paintball a bad name, it is a sport that continues to grow in popularity. 

These incidents have overshadowed the fun and popularity of the sport and growing paintballing trend that rose up in the early ’80s. 

Brief History Lesson

The guns for paintball were developed for use in agriculture and forestry in the 1970s to mark trees and for planning trails, including marking cattle by farmers. 

After the farmers got a kick out of shooting each other once in a while, a group of 12 got together to play a version of capture the flag which is still the main activity of paintball.

Eventually, the military got their hands on some guns as well and trained soldiers for combat situations with them.  Good thing too; paint is a lot of prettier than blood.

Paintball guns are even used by officials in an Arizona neighborhood where coyotes lurk about, which makes residents uncomfortable.  Although non-lethal, the guns scare the coyotes off and can tag them, so they can determine how many coyotes are milling about the area.  Those are going to be some colorful coyotes.

Paintballing 102

Paintballing is a fun activity for all ages and can be played by anyone—even clowns.  And even at weddings and bachelorette parties.  In honor of their soon-to-be-married Roller Derby teammate Chloe, members of the Charlottesville Derby Dames (badass ladies) took on a glorious day of paintball action in their elegant, and fashionable dresses.

One couple even did their wedding pictures on a paintball course, with their beautiful, classy weddings clothes covered in multi-colored paint hues.

Actually, there is a significant market for bachelorettes and bachelors hosting parties on the paintball field.  It is the perfect chance for a bunch of friends to get together, shoot each other and have a blast. Shooting friends never gets old. It’s also an excellent chance to give the groom to be a good shellacking before he gets officially tied down.  Some of the facilities even serve cakes and snacks in-between sessions.  How lovely.

Another popular endeavor is having a wild and crazy birthday party that kids of all ages can run around like crazy wild animals and shoot each other until their heart’s content.  The sport itself resembles a lot of first-person shooter games that kids love to play, so it’s a win-win.

Fun and Safety (and Death)

Overall the pleasure of playing paintball outweighs the negatives.  Many noobs to the sport are afraid of getting hurt, but the pain comes from getting hit up close, without protective clothing.

Some ways to reduce pain and damage is to wear multiple layers of clothing, protect sensitive spots, follow safety rules, and keep a strategic position.  Cover your privates and eyeballs people. 

Despite the relatively safe history of paintball, there have been some deaths.  RIP.  A few times men have died shortly after or during a game from heart attacks after they were shot in the chest.  “Shot through the heart and you’re too late, darling you give love a bad name.”

Getting hit when you least expect it is common and a shock to the system. 

Other deaths that have happened come from the CO2 tanks firing back at people’s heads like rockets.  However, when used as intended, it is impossible to get killed from a paintball.  The guns don’t shoot fast enough, and the projectile isn’t massive enough to do any severe, lasting damage.  It will make you super colorful though.

Gear and Games

If you’re thinking about playing paintball, it’s crucial to get the right gear (think of renting first) and understand how to play. 

There are a few different types of games, but the main one involves shooting as many players of the opposite team as possible. Other games are Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, Fort Assault, and Free-for-all (FFA).   

When you get shot, it’s time to leave the field, and usually, you have to self-report, especially if there’s no referee.  Always keep moving, and quickly.  Find cover and aim toward your opponent but aim accurately because the paintballs are heavier and slower than regular bullets.  Pay attention, be stealthy and conserve your ammo! 

And try not to die.

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