Saturday, December 24, 2011

Commercial Paintball vs. Renegade Paintball

I've never played renegade paintball. In close to25 years of playing paintball, every single time I have played paintball, it has been at a commercial field. This not something I am ashamed of, or proud of, it's just what happens to be true and I wanted to state this right off the top.

I have no problem with renegade paintball, if played by consenting players in a safe manner. As a field owner, I don't fear renegade paintball and don't consider it to be a major threat to my livelihood. Sure, as a business owner I would like to have as many customers as possible and if all renegade players abandoned renegade play and started visiting commercial fields, it would be good for those commercial fields. But that will never happen, so I don't even worry about trying to convert renegade paintball players to commercial field players.

Renegade players play renegade paintball for a number of reasons. The first reason is probably value. Many don't see the value in spending extra money for what they get at a commercial field over a renegade field. I totally get that. We are all different. It's really no different than the person who chooses not to eat out because he doesn't feel he is getting as much value for what it costs, or the person who only goes to inexpensive fast food restaurants because "the higher priced restaurants are not worth the extra cost". We all find value in different things and at different levels and trying to convince others to see value as you do is akin to trying to talk someone in to voting for another political party or converting to another religion.

The second reason has most likely to do with the character of the players. Many renegade players like independence. They don't like being told what to do and when to do it. They don't want to feel like they are being herded around like a herd of sheep. As a grown adult who prides himself in thinking for himself, again, I can totally understand this. Renegade paintball definitely has more of a casual feel to it. Breaks can be as long as players want them to be and the types of games that are played is as unrestricted as the imaginations of the players involved. I could see the appeal of that.

So why do some players choose to play at commercial fields rather than renegade fields? This question has more to do with regular playing gear owners than renters obviously. It would be difficult for rental players to organize themselves, rent gear and then find a place to play renegade paintball, although I've had a few phone calls over the years from people who wanted to rent our gear for just such purpose. But overall, it would be difficult for most to accomplish. There are several reasons many prefer commercial fields. The first is that some people actually like a more structured environment. Yes, on occasion they may feel like they are being hurried out to a game or play a game that is not their favourite, but at a renegade field, that player would need to convince the other players present, to play when they want to play. They would also need to decide what game they will be playing, for how long and what the rules are going to be. I don't know about you, but I have found that whenever there are multiple people gathered for an activity in a loose and unstructured environment, sometimes it's very difficult to get everyone on the same page. It's the same reason I very rarely let my staff ask our customers what and where they want to play. There are always several different opinions, and in the end, whatever is decided will leave at least some people feeling like they weren't listened to or that they didn't get their way.

When it comes to value, that's a subjective issue that everyone has a different opinion on. In today's society, convenience is a big draw. We seem to have less time, so to have others organize and produce something for us, is something we may be inclined to play extra for. Most renegade paintball is played in an area of undeveloped forest. That's fine, but playable "bunkers" may be sparse and most likely not placed in the most convenient locations. The area may be difficult to navigate. In our area, we have a lot of undergrowth for instance that would be difficult to walk or crawl through. There is value seen by many to have fields built and maintained specifically for paintball.

Being able to go to a location and being assured of others to play paintball with is also, I'm sure, high on the "value" list. I remember as a younger person trying to organize events like a baseball or soccer game among friends, and it was difficult to get enough people out at the same time at the same location. It almost always resulted in less people than we would have liked. I'm sure organizing a bunch of renegade paintball players would not be much different. I know there are some "regular" renegade games that happen where people will show up on a certain day and time, and there will often be others there to play with. But I think, around these parts anyway, if 7 or 8 guys show up, that's a good day. I've often heard that people have gone out to a scheduled regular renegade game only to discover that no one or maybe only one or two others have shown up. Going to a commercial field knowing there will most likely be 40 or more people there, has its advantages.

I've seen threads and pictures of some really good renegade fields. Fields where one or more people have put in a lot of effort to build bunkers and structures that rival many commercial fields. Having built a few fields, I look at them in wonderment and am amazed at the efforts that these individuals have made. But these are few and far between and take much more effort than most renegade players are interesting in committing to. These fields are usually built on private property as not many are going to put in that much effort on someone else's property, risking that it may be removed or denied access to. On private property, the issue of liability comes in. As a field owner, I am very aware of the risks involved in having people play at my facility. I have insurance. I hate paying the high premiums, but I do it, because I don't want to risk mine and my family's well being. There is also value in it for my customer, knowing that if something catastrophic were ever to happen while they are playing paintball, and someone else were at least somewhat accountable, there is at least a good chance they could get some compensation. I know commercial field owners and I'm sure there are many non-commercial field owners that do not have insurance, that if a player were looking for compensation and were awarded compensation, the chances of actually collecting any of that compensation would be very slim.

I don't begrudge the free-spirited renegade paintball player. I know there will always be those that will not see the value of a commercial paintball field. I will never try to debate the value of commercial paintball to a hardcore renegade player. As a commercial field owner, all I can do is provide as much value as possible and then let the consumer decide if it is of value to them. In the end, hopefully we will all play the game we love in a way we love to play it.


  1. I think playing in commercial and renegade fields has some very big differences from country to country. In Finland it is very common for paintball companies to "rent out" equipment for people to go play on their own property, there is even some companies that don't have their own fields at all. (If I may say so, insurance is much more sane here, people are mostly expected to not do stupid things and blame others here :)).

    Nowadays commercial fields are more prevalent, but especially in '90s I would say almost all playing here was renegade. There are some cultural differences too, registered sports associations handle lots of games here also, which probably would be considered renegade in States.


  2. Thanks for your comment, atshii. Liability and how it is handled does tend to be quite different in different areas of the world. Even here in Canada, people tend not to sue as often as in the USA and when they do, even if found negligent, the amount of compensation seems to be more realistic. I think that has to do with the judicial system in various countries more so than insurance. But a good insurance policy can cover your butt.

    Tell me, in Finland, if a player were to get shot in the eye for instance, in the staging area, by another player, by "accident", what would be the recourse for the injured player? Would he automatically be compensated by the Government somehow? Would he most likely sue the other player and/or the facility owner? Just wondering what other places in the world are like. Here in Canada, and in the USA, most likely he would sue and look for compensation from someone.

  3. I started off playing renegade, and didn't see much sense in paying to go to a commercial field. However, it was always a struggle to get enough people to play. A 5v5 game was the best turnout we could hope for, more likely it was 3v3. When I finally went to a commercial field, I found it much more enjoyable to play in larger games like 50v50.