Monday, June 28, 2010

Primal Instincts

It was another good day at TNT Paintball yesterday. Why a good day? People had fun. With about 100 people in attendance, playing in three separate games, there were no major conflicts, disagreements, or arguments. In all honesty, I consider most days at the field good days for those reasons.

We had our fair share of tweens and teens, mostly boys, a few women thrown into the mix and probably about 50% men 18 or older. It was not actually a totally typical day as far as demographics go (although it wasn’t particularly unusual either) as the number of women was a little higher than normal. Some days we can have 100 people and have no women at all. It’s always been the industry’s hope that more women would get involved in paintball. First to increase the numbers by widening the demographics, but also with more women at paintball fields, it’s only natural for even more men to show up. Funny how that works.

Quite often the women that do come to the field, play a lot less than the men do. They show up, play a couple of games and then sit and wait for the men to finish having their fun. Many even come prepared with a book in hand. That tells me that they knew before they even got to the field, that they may be bowing out early.

I’m not a Psychologist or an anthropologist, but I’ve always been interested in why people do what they do. As a paintball field owner, obviously I’m interested in why people play paintball and conversely, why they don’t. Men prefer to play paintball much more than women. That’s a given. But why?

My take on it is that paintball, although a game in that everyone takes part willingly and people play it for fun, is still basically a hunting or battle game. Players hunt players but they are also hunted. Throughout humankind existence, who have been the hunters? Men, of course. Women stayed back (and did basically everything else) while the men put themselves in danger hunting their prey, or while battling other tribes. Sure there have been a few women throughout history that have taken part in the dangers of battle (Joan of ark comes to mind), but, just like they are rarely seen at a paintball field, they were few and far between. It’s just not part of most women’s instincts. It is for men though. But even men have varying amounts of that primal instinct. There have always been men that take the leading roll in the charge of battle and also those that fall back a bit and take a little less intense roll.

But we are talking paintball, not hunting Sabre Tooth Tigers or fighting the battle of Stalingrad. It’s a game and a player can choose to quit anytime they feel uncomfortable. I guess that’s why some of the women bring books. The instinct to take part in battle is not strong in women. It probably never will be.

Next time we’ll try to analyze why players continue playing even though they may not have strong primal instincts and how they cope.


  1. I know that when I first started, I was quite scared so the ref gave me some good advice: "Play until you feel uncomfortable, then stop".

    Sure, for the first game, I called myself out when one person was shooting at me. The second game, it took two people shooting at me. The third game, I was actually was hit.

    That ref's advice gave me an out and let me push my comfort zone far further than normal. If I had felt intimidated to keep playing "until I was killed", I probably would have played two games and stopped.

    I love paintball because it put(s) me way outside my comfort zone!

  2. Thanks Legion. I agree that the ref on your first day gave you some good advice. It's a whole lot easier to push comfort zones by small amounts.

  3. I think the biggest reason is that women tend to make decisions to minimize risk while men tend to make decisions to maximize rewards. So if you have a choice between two situations; one where you will never lose any money and 10% of the time you'll win $100, or a situation where 4 times out of 5 you'll win $100 but one time out of 5 you'll lose $100, most women would choose the first situation over the second.

    I could hazard an evolutionary argument here: The female is heavily invested in the survival of offspring, which is enhanced by avoiding negative outcomes (don't take a small risk of death for the mom/child for a larger chance at some more food) while male is the opposite - small risk of death to the male is perfectly acceptable for a larger chance at more stuff.

    And I think this preference effects the activities that each gender considers fun. This isn't something I originally noticed in paintball, but more in noting which computer games have larger percentages of women playing them. Games that involve building things or cooperative efforts appeal to women. Games where other players can cause damage or take your stuff do not.

    If you look at the demographics of people who play laser tag vs paintball, you'll see a lot more women playing laser tag. In most laser tag setups, there is no winning team, no flags, no real score, everyone just runs around for 30 minutes. Paintball has "out" and "lose".

    I bet if the standard variant of paintball was 30 minute games with infinite re-insertions that women would find it more attractive.

    (Obviously this isn't true for ALL women, but I do think it's a trend.)

  4. raehl, much of what you said makes a lot of sense. I do believe women in general, have a stronger nurturing instinct. Women have since the dawn of time been the caregivers in societies. They preserve life and rarely risk it. In general thye probably take less other risks as well. I'm not sure what the statistics for compulsive gamblers are, but I bet there are more problem male gamblers than there are female gamblers.

    I'm not so sure I would agree that we would see much of an increse in women playing paintball if we allowed everyone to re-enter the game once they've felt the "pain" of elimination, for the opportunity to feel that "pain" over and over again. There is no pain in lasertag and it is for that reason that we see many more women willing to take part in lasertag than paintball.