Friday, May 14, 2010

Comfort Zones

People are all different. Early on as children we start to develop levels of social comfort zones. Some of us are outgoing while others are not. Some kids need or want very little assurances from parents while others can barely leave their parents’ sights. As we grow up and learn that the world is not necessarily as scary as we thought it was as young children, we expand our comfort zones. We slowly learn what the world is about and what is normal and acceptable social behavior.

As teenagers we struggle with this (some more than others). The “unknown” can be both frustrating and intimidating, and maybe downright scary. Even as adults, once we’ve discovered most of the secrets of life, we are still different. Some people want to climb mountains and jump out of airplanes, while others think twice about booking a flight on a commercial airliner. We all have different levels of comfort zones.

In paintball, there are people who can’t get enough of an adrenaline rush. Skilled athletes shooting 15 balls per second at them don’t faze them. Others cringe at the thought.

I’ve mentioned before how I turned down my first two invitations to play paintball, many years ago now. This was in the days when pumps were the norm at recreational fields. Of course that didn’t mean anything to me. It was an unknown to me. I had never seen anyone play paintball in real life or even on TV. It was out of my comfort zone. It was easier for me to say “no thanks” and stay home where I was in my comfort zone than to agree to participate in something I knew very little about (I knew enough that getting hit by a paintball might hurt). Of course I have expanded my comfort zone now and although I would most likely get my butt handed to me on a platter if I were to step onto a field with high level competitive players, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so, if the situation was called for.

One of the biggest challenges a field owner faces is getting people to step out of their comfort zone and onto their paintball facility. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. But there is a huge market out there for the paintball industry to tap into, should we figure out a way to do it effectively. But I think it needs to happen in small steps. We can’t expect someone with a very narrow comfort zone to automatically enjoy taking part in a relatively extreme activity. We would make them withdraw right back into their narrow comfort zone again if we try to do that. And yet over the years, as paintball has evolved, the experience, even at a relatively mellow recreational paintball field, has become much more extreme. It’s very difficult for a first time player to “ease into” paintball in present times.

It’s no problem for those outgoing, mountain climbing, skydiving types, but most people aren’t those people. I think many of the people involved for any length of time in paintball tend to forget that. Their comfort zone has always been big or has expanded after much participation in paintball and they don’t remember what it is like for those that aren’t at the same level of comfort zones. It would serve us well to remember that we are not all the same.


  1. Here's a funny story.

    My 6 year old nephew just quit paintball. His dad played. I played. And wanting to join in with the 'guys' he also wanted to play so without much thought his dad enrolled him in a weekly kiddies PB clinic where he did well and learned quick.

    One and a half month later he quits.

    As it turned out, in the 6th week of the clinic kids start shooting each other. He enjoyed being on the field. He loves the markers and the noise like all boys do. But when he realised paintball means getting shot at he stopped playing lol.

    Just food for thought.

  2. 6 years old? I've never heard of starting paintball that young. One of my teammates has a 10 year old son (minimum age to play at our local fields) and he is a bit reluctant to get his son on the field for fear that a bad experience (ie getting shot a few times) is going to make him not want to come out ever again.

  3. Yeah, even at 10, there are lots of kids that haven't widened their comfort zone enough to feel secure about getting shot with paintballs. I really can't imagine very many 6 year olds at all that would have the right mind frame yet. Our insurance company also doesn't let anyone under 10 years old take part.

  4. I've often wondered about the question of marketing paintball without players shooting each other.

    Would someone pay for a moving shooting range experience? For example, say a woods course where as they progress, they shoot at specific targets which do not shoot back.

    I know that the player vs player aspect is the most appealing long term but a player vs course field could get them in initially.

    "Team 1 completed the course in 15 minutes, can you do better???"

    In this sense, it could also be marketed as teamwork where there are obstacles (say a wall) that the team has to work together to get over.

    I'm not sure if this is marketable at all though.

  5. Legion...hmmmmmmm...the wheels are turning!

  6. There is definitely a market for paintball without being shot at, especially with the younger and female crowd. I don't know how many times I've heard people say, most often women, "that sounds like it would be fun if I wasn't being shot at by everyone else".