Tuesday, August 31, 2010


In my job as a facilitator of paintball games, I’m often amazed by the lack of commitment and respect for others No, not lack of respect for others on the field, although that can be a problem as well, but I’m talking about the disrespect in lack of commitment.

Rarely do we get a group at our field where the total number of pre-registered guests show up at the field. This is even true for groups where the individuals within the group have paid a deposit. I’ve noticed for a long time that there has been a cultural change where people don’t feel as obligated to follow through on commitments they have made. For that matter, people hesitate to even make commitments these days. It’s almost like they know beforehand that something might come along that will keep them from honouring any commitment they might make, so they rarely make any. Almost all sports are suffering for it. Participation in virtually every major sport is down, paintball included, especially competitive paintball where the commitment is a big one.

In our own business (recreational paintball field), I’ve noticed a big shift over the years from advanced pre-booked groups to many more drop-in players. I constantly get calls these days asking if we are open because the caller and a couple of friends thought it would be neat to come and play paintball for a few hours. It’s spur of the moment decision making, rather than well in advance planning.

Statistics Canada says that participation in organized sports by adults was down to 28% (7.3 million) in 2005 from 34% (8.3 million) in 1998, and 45% (9.6 million) in 1992. That’s a substantial drop. Adults weren’t the only ones dropping out. Teens (15 to 18) went from 77% in 1992 to 59% in 2005. This indicates to me that the adult participation drop isn’t due to an aging adult population, although that does factor in. The number one reason cited was lack of time.

People have become busier over the years. I know I certainly have. My parents seemed to have a much less busy life and their parents even more so. There are just so many more things to see and do and take part in today. And we all seem to want to try so many different things. I think it’s part of the “me” generation. My generation was taught that we should do and try anything we wanted. And we want to try it all. Past generations did what was “expected of them”, giving up self indulgences for the good of their family. My kids’ generation is even more self indulgent and I assume the next generation will be the same or more so. There is no room for commitment anymore.

Is it any wonder that competitive paintball participation is sliding? Is it really all that much different than any other sport that needs participants to make huge commitments? Throw in the fact that it’s very expensive to take part and many sponsorships have disappeared, competitive paintball is facing a huge uphill battle. Those of you that have made the commitment to competitive paintball, I suggest you hold on tight, because it’s going to be a rocky ride. Things are going to get tougher before they get better

Monday, August 16, 2010

Speedball...a game developed during different times

For the longest time (actually for just about all of paintball’s history), paintball industry, competitive paintball, and even regular recreational players worked on increasing a player’s advantage by increasing dependable rate of fire. Competitive paintball evolved alongside this parallel evolution of equipment. The third parallel was the evolution of paintball production. Players shot more due to better, faster equipment, and paintball manufacturers were able to streamline production to meet the demands of those players with their new equipment. It really didn’t matter to them whether they produced 10 million cases or 50 million cases as long as their bottom line was bigger than their prior year’s bottom line. Heck, the paintball manufacturers even encouraged the high rates of fire. They sponsored and supplied teams with cheap and even free paint to encourage all the up and comers to shoot lots of paint just like the big boys. Shoot lots of paint and you too may stand on the podium at the Big Show one day and have your face and name in print.

So the competitive game evolved in that atmosphere. But that atmosphere is gone. The sponsorships from paintball manufacturers have been cut back drastically and even local fields and stores have re-evaluated their thoughts on their speedball portions of their businesses. Is it really worth it to give the big wig local team a free ride? What is the local field accomplishing by doing this? Free/cheap paint encourages lots of paint being shot during competition. But can the players/teams that need to pay for their paint keep up? Can they be competitive against the local big wig team getting their paint for free/cheap? Probably not. Not for a long term, sustainable period anyway. So what do the other teams do? Try for as long as they can and then eventually, when drained, drop out and find another, less costly interest.

I’m sure for those currently involved in competitive paintball, in the style similar to what the pros play, that they are having fun playing. But how long can it be sustained? And by how many? The writing is on the wall. And it has been for a long time...in big bold writing. The current game evolved during different times. Times that are now part of history. It’s time to write the future...if you want a future. Or...you can continue doing what you are doing and become part of history.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Maybe it’s because I’m older than the average paintball player, but I really don’t like high rates of fire. It was confirmed again this weekend during West Coast Pump Weekend. I played most of the day on Sunday during the “recreation” portion of the two day event.
There were a couple of times where I was “lit up”. It was by pump players using auto triggers. For those of you that don’t know what auto-triggering is, basically it means holding down the trigger of the marker and then pumping the pump handle of the maker continuously. Each time the pump handle is cycled, one paintball will be shot. So basically you can shoot as fast as you can move your hand (theoretically .68”) back and forth. Depending on how smooth (easy) the pump stroke is, auto-triggering can be quite fast. With the “hitman” mod, basically all a player needs to do is hold the trigger down and pull the vertical part of the pump arm, much like a trigger, approximately .68” and it’s not a whole lot different than any mechanical semi-automatic.
I’m an experienced player and getting hit 5 times in the span of a second or so, wasn’t that big of a deal for me. I certainly didn’t freak out on my assailants. As a matter of fact, I said nothing at all to them. But that doesn’t mean that I was happy about it. It just meant that I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of letting them know I didn’t enjoy the experience.
Paintball players have always looked for an advantage over their opponents. Pump players are no different I guess (at least some of them). During the evolution of our sport, auto-triggering was a big contributor to creating an advantage over other players. It’s interesting for me that history seems to be repeating itself.
In general, I feel pump players play pump to get back to the “honour” of the game. Back to a time when things were more mellow and more even for those who took part. Yet just as in the past, there are those that want an upper hand.
I don’t know if there is anything that can be done about the situation. It’s just an interesting observation. History does tend to repeat itself.

Monday, August 2, 2010

WCPW ’10 – The Aftermath

It’s over, for another year at least. The time leading up to West Coast Pump Weekend is always the most stressful time of the year for me, although it does seem to be getting a little easier every year (mostly because I just don’t care quite as much anymore about making everyone happy).

This year, the 4th, was the most successful event so far, not only as attendance goes, but also from the feedback I was getting from many of the players. Over the course of the two days we had over 70 pump players taking part, some just Saturday for the fun pump speedball event and some just Sunday for the recreational all pump games, but the vast majority playing both days.

I personally played most of Sunday in the recreational games and had a blast. I didn’t witness a single hostile moment from a single player. Everyone just had a great time.

I did not take part in Saturday’s fun tournament (other than organizing and overseeing that things went as smoothly as possible). The vast majority of the players had a great time on Saturday as well, but there were a few hiccups. What is it about adding the word competition or tournament to an event that makes people’s attitudes change? Saturday’s players were virtually the same players as Sunday’s players, yet on Saturday, during the “tournament”, some of the players just seem to feel the need to make the event much more serious than it needs to be. We don’t have prizes or even huge trophies. We don’t have a huge rule book, because we don’t feel we need it. It’s supposed to be a competition played for “fun”. It’s a bunch of pump players, playing the game we love and playing with honour.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a disaster. As a matter of fact, I’d say that 95% of the participants had a great time and even the other 5% had a good time the majority of the time. The ones that seemed to have problems were those that have gone from being pump players to also being regular tournament speedball players. And on Sunday, during recreational play, these players were their regular good natured selves again. But when glass beer mugs were on the line, the need to complain and throw fits surfaced.

Every year after this event, I reaffirm the decision my business partner and myself made, shortly after we started TNT Paintball, to not enter the speedball/tournament paintball business. It’s not that I hate speedball and tournament. I’m actually a competitive person by nature. But it’s a whole lot easier to run a paintball field (and a business) without needing to deal with the attitudes that seem to surface when the words competition or tournament are present.

So we will most likely be hosting WCPW’11, even if it is a lot of work and we make more money on a regular weekend with just recreational play. And there will hopefully be even more pump players taking part, coming from even farther distances. And we’ll put up with the attitudes that come with competition. But only to a point. If it gets too much, we’ll pull the plug. If winning a “fun pump speedball tournament” becomes too important for too many players, we’ll let others deal with it and we’ll bow out.