Thursday, April 7, 2011

Will Paintball Ever be Mainstream?

Ever since I have been involved in paintball in a more serious way, I have heard and read about how we as an industry need to get paintball to be accepted as mainstream. I've also heard many different opinions on what we need to do to make paintball mainstream. But what is mainstream?
Mainstream, in a broad sense, means to be widely recognized and accepted. Does paintball fit that definition. Maybe not quite, but I think we're actually quite close. Does your 70 year old grandmother know what paintball is and does she acknowledge and approve of it? Well, there is a good chance she knows very little about it. The other members of her knitting circle probably know very little about paintball as well. How about your 14 year old cousin? Yeah, there's a pretty good chance he not only knows what paintball is but he could very well have played paintball. But maybe he has never played golf. Does that mean that golf isn't mainstream?
Paintball is not an activity that is as widely played as something like soccer or baseball. There aren't too many kids in the world that have never kicked a soccer ball around and played at least a makeshift soccer game. So I guess paintball is not as mainstream as soccer. Or baseball. Or basketball. Or many other activities. But it never will be. Paintball needs more equipment and needs a fairly unique physical environment to play in. That is not easily produced by a few kids wanting to go and play some paintball for a half hour after dinner. But the same could be said for a game like ice hockey. It's considered mainstream, but also needs equipment and fairly unique physical location. In our neck of the woods, where ponds don't freeze over very often and kids can't just go and play a pick-up game of shinny hockey, and one has to pay a hefty ice time fee to play ice hockey, there are probably more kids that have played paintball than have played ice hockey.
Does your 70 year old grandmother know more about hockey than paintball? Sure, she most likely does. But hockey has been around since before she was born. She was about 40 when the first people played a paintball game and older when the first paintball field showed up in her town. Will your 14 year old cousin know as much about paintball as they will about hockey when they are 70? That will depend totally upon his interest. Admittedly he will most likely be exposed to hockey more than paintball (unless he ends up being a regular paintball player), as paintball does not present itself well as a spectator sport, unlike other games like hockey, soccer, and such. But there is a good chance even if he doesn't play paintball regularly, he will know as much or more about paintball as he will know about bowling, another game considered to be mainstream.
Paintball will never be participated by everyone, just the same as any other sport. The fact that paintball needs special equipment and a specialized physical venue, will mean that the participation will never be the same as an activity that doesn't need that. But that doesn't mean that paintball won't be, or perhaps already is, mainstream.

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