Many years ago, I turned down my first opportunity to take part in a paintball outing. It was organized by a friend of mine and involved mostly people from his company and others involved with his company. The thought of feeling out of place amongst a bunch of strangers, especially in an environment I knew absolutely nothing about didn’t appeal to me (I’m quite shy by nature). The thought of getting hit with paintballs didn’t help. When he organized another outing again the following year, I turned him down, despite the fact that he insured me I was going to be missing out on a lot of fun. The third year in a row, I accepted his offer.
I had a blast. I was also mad at myself for turning down the two previous invitations. I could hardly wait for the next outing. Another friend ended up organizing an event about 5 or 6 months later and I had no hesitation in accepting the offer. After that, I couldn’t wait for others to organize games and started organizing my own groups of friends. Together with my brother-in-law we started organizing groups of 40 or so players about twice per year. A couple of years later we opened TNT Paintball.
Looking back at those first few outings, I remember having so much fun I can hardly put it into words. The thrill of hunting and being hunted at the same time, with adrenaline pumping about as hard as it could, was just exhilarating. Before we even started our paintball field both my business partner and myself knew to be successful, we needed to make sure our future customers had that same feeling, just like we had on our first paintball outings.
It seems to be working so far. Our customer base has grown steadily since we opened for business. The vast majority of those new customers have come from the general public. These are people who hadn’t played paintball before and had been lured into trying it (usually by their friends just like I had been) and after that continued to come back.
There has been a lot of discussion in the past about how the paintball industry’s growth has declined and how we need to get players back into the woods and stop promoting speedball so much, all for the health of the industry. Although I don’t disagree that it’s probably to the industry’s advantage to do just that, I get the feeling that there are many people out there that feel getting people to play paintball in the woods is going to rekindle the growth of paintball. I’m not suggesting that it won’t help to increase industry growth, but I really feel that many people are ignoring a very basic fundamental fact. That being, we need to make paintball fun. Whether you are playing in the bush on 10 acres or on a ¼ acre field with air filled bunkers is really irrelevant. Whether players are having fun, is the only real important question those running paintball games needs to concern themselves with.
If people are having fun they will want to do it again. If they are not having fun, or not enough fun for the amount of effort and resources they have put into it, they are not going to want to do it again. It’s that simple.
As a paintball field owner, I try to make sure my customers are having fun. Do I always succeed? No. Probably not with everyone, but I think we are getting it right for the majority of our customers.
As an industry as a whole, it’s the same thing. If we want our favourite pastime to grow, we need to constantly be asking ourselves, “Is everyone having fun?”