Friday, January 24, 2014

Speedball - Problems.

Speedball is the generic name used to describe versions of competitive paintball played on relatively small, symmetrical fields using air bunkers.  The name didn’t exist when players were competing in the woods.  The name implies that at least one thing in the competition is taking place in a rapid manner.

Admittedly, my personal involvement with speedball has been fairly limited.  By the time I was more seriously involved in paintball, I was a family man in my late 30’s.  With family commitments and age not being on my side, there was no point in getting very excited about starting a competitive playing career.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a fan or put thought into something so closely linked to the industry I have chosen for myself.

In a way, speedball is a lot like the game of Dodge Ball with players trying to eliminate other players by hitting them with a ball.  The big difference obviously is that in paintball, the balls are difficult to see and travelling much faster, therefore there is not much dodging going on, so we need obstacles (bunkers) to hide behind to avoid being eliminated immediately.  The other big difference is that in Dodge Ball, there is usually only one ball involved, making the game relatively easy to follow.  Imagine what the game of Doge Ball would be like if there were 5 players on each team and there were 10 balls in play.  The action would be very difficult to follow.

Speedball is also a game where the strategy changes as the game is played, much like a game of chess.  Speedball teams may have set plays for breakouts and may have a few loose plays for when certain things happen, but in general, the players on the field need to be aware of what is going on and make decisions on the go.  Chess is like that as well, especially real chess where moves are limited by time.  Here the big difference is the number of players on each team.  Imagine what would happen if a chess “field” had 5 players on each team making moves simultaneously.  The game would be completely different and would be impossible for a spectator to follow.  As it is, chess isn’t a very exciting spectator activity unless you are deeply involved with the activity, much like paintball.

Whenever I read one of the threads on forums where people discuss how to “fix” competitive paintball, one of the first items that pops up in the discussion is that paintball is difficult to watch.  There are too many things happening at the same time for spectators to keep up.  While watching one part of the play, spectators will most often miss other important moves happening at the same time.  I have watched competitive paintball many times when the game is over, spectators are turning to one another and asking, “What happened?”.  With video replays, if enough camera angles exist, this can be somewhat alleviated, so that spectators (if watching a video version and not live) can catch up on what they missed.  But that’s still not nearly as good as a sport where spectators can see enough of the action live that they don’t need video replays to enjoy watching.

The other thing that comes up in these discussions every time is that paintball is “boring” to watch.  There are too many times where the risk of moving is much greater than the potential reward, therefore players will stay in their bunker and fight it out.  This most often happens when the number of players has been reduced, especially when there are only two players left, one on each team.

The third thing that comes up is the cost to participate.  Paintball, in most competitive versions, is expensive to take part in, and most often the cost of paintballs is the accused factor.  It’s obvious that all things being equal, a team with more ammunition has an advantage, therefore to be competitive; teams must arm themselves with large volumes of paintballs.  Teams that want to do well must also practice.  Practice, again, involves shooting paintballs.  Sure you can run some drills and maybe teams can even do some fitness stuff that doesn’t involve shooting at all, but when a game is basically about shooting paintballs to eliminate the other team, it’s difficult to practice without using paintballs.  Even “cheap” paintballs are a big expense if you need a lot of them, and to be competitive, more is better.

Next week I will discuss an off the wall solution that can help solve two of the three major problems associated with competitive paintball with the goal to make the game more exciting and more affordable without actually changing many rules of the current competitive paintball game.  The solution is so simple, you’ll wonder why you haven’t thought of it years ago.  Although a simple concept, the explanation is a bit lengthy, so be prepared to set a few minutes aside for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment