Paintball: Game or Cult?

By Richard White, June 8, 2014

Reader response: "I read your blog re paint ball and it made me sick.  I cannot understand how intellegent people could even think about using guns for pleasure (nevermind hunting) No wonder there are so many shootings in the US especially some people just don't know the difference between shooting paint at one another and using real bullets hense the shootings. I know none of you will agree with me and that is alright I just had to let you know how I feel."

EDT: I too had a similar thought, but tried to focus on the fun people seemed to be having, however, the whole experience was too real for me. 

Paintball: Game or Cult?

When we asked my nephew what he wanted to do for his 17th birthday, he quickly said “Paintball!”  Yikes…this could be interesting for his two 60-year old uncles (another uncle was going to be in town and he wanted to do a joint gift). We were thinking (even hoping) golf, maybe even zip lining.

But being good sports, we decided to “man up” and go paintballing.  It couldn’t have been easier. Bragg Creek Paintball is just down the road from Redwood Meadows Golf course where the two uncles would be playing golf in the morning.

We arrived at 3 pm and the parking lot was packed; who knew paintball was so popular.  I was a bit intimidated by all the people, male and female, some in full fatigue gear all carrying guns. But in some ways, it is not much different than golfers with their custom-fitted clubs and their matching designer shirts, shorts and shoes.   

A large group of players head out to one of the many different themed fields at Bragg Creek Paintball. 

This guy was covered in welts and was showing them off to everyone.  I think he played without any coveralls or protective clothing.  

Game On

We rented the standard gun, overalls, helmet and 200 balls. I had been told to wear lots of clothing to cushion the blow of the paint balls and to expect to get some welts before it was over. Really, people like paying to do this? Indeed they do!

Since there were only three of us, we were paired up with others to play a game.  It was all very well organized; everyone was friendly and there was even a guy who explained the rules and signalled, “game on.” 

The first game entailed a group of about a dozen people trying to flush out six people in a tower (I was not one of the tower people).  We had to hit the tower people in the head to eliminate them from the game (this meant they could absorb as many body hits as they could stand). They had to hit us in the head or vital organ area twice to remove us from the game.

This photo is taken from outside the screened-in playing area. Here, two people are strategizing how to flush out someone behind an old school bus.

The paintball field was full of repurposed items like school buses and cars.

The Town

I couldn’t believe how serious these people were. It was intense gunfire continuously for about 20 minutes – no wonder everything in The Town (that is the name for the area we played in) was covered in an inch of paint (all colours) that looked like something Jackson Pollock might have painted back in the ‘60s.

People were running around shooting what seemed like randomly.  I pretty much stayed in the same place and said, “I will cover you!” Not really knowing if I could, but it sounded good and I think they believed me. I later found out the other uncle had pretty much the same strategy; maybe we do get smarter with age. 

I think our team won the first game, but it took forever to flush the guys out of the tower. The last guy standing seemed very proud that he would have several welts to show off to his friends the next day.

We played a second game where there were two teams of 8 each defending a tower at opposite ends of the field. It was pretty much the same as the first game – CHAOS!  Again, I just stayed behind a wall and fired long distance, while my nephew crawled along the grass and up into the trees like some Navy Seal.  Who knew speed skating training (his real passion) is transferable to military maneuvers!

A map illustrating the many different themed playing fields.  

I managed to get inside the playing field between games to get this photo of The Town.

Game Over

After ninety minutes, the two uncles had had enough so we gave our nephew our extra balls (we were snipers) as he had run out.  Off he went to play a couple more games with strangers who seemed delighted to have another player to shoot at.

I couldn’t believe how keen he was to keep playing. There used to be an old saying “you won’t be happy, until someone has poked out an eye.” At paintball, it seems “nobody is happy, until they have a few welts to show for it.” One guy came in with a swollen hand that wouldn’t stop shaking as it had been hit several times.  He was in obvious pain, but seemed proud that he would have a swollen hand in the morning.  These people’s brains are definitely wired differently from mine.

Thirty minutes later, my nephew ran out of paint balls signalling it was time to go home.  Later that night, he too proudly showing us his welts (legs, groin, chin and belly) not once, but several times. It was like they were medals of honour.

It will be a birthday I (hopefully he too) will not soon forget. I am pleased to report that both uncles managed to escape welt-free - old guys rule! 

Nephew walking off after being hit in the head - there was a big smile under his helmet. 

Last Word

Paintball seemed very cult-like to me.  Yet, I remember when I attended my first major bingo (fundraiser for a public art gallery) and was surprised by the bingo culture - people wearing lucky hats and sweaters and surrounded by multiple bingo cards and an assortment of daubers (when one would do). It seemed cult-like! I had the same feeling when I worked my first casino.

Since then, I have realized many have a religious-like zeal for hobbies and/or activities that seems irrational to others - quilters, golfers, cyclists, runners and gardeners to name a few. I know my passion and that of my small group of summer binge golfers could easily be perceived by some sort of cult by some.

Merriam Webster Dictionary has several definitions of a cult:

  • a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous
  • a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much
  • a small group of very devoted supporters or fans 

Perhaps it is human nature to belong to a cult!

Comments:

Reader response: "I read your blog re paint ball and it made me sick.  I cannot understand how intellegent people could even think about using guns for pleasure (nevermind hunting) No wonder there are so many shootings in the US especially some people just don't know the difference between shooting paint at one another and using real bullets hense the shootings. I know none of you will agree with me and that is alright I just had to let you know how I feel."

EDT: I too had a similar thought, but tried to focus on the fun people seemed to be having, however, the whole experience was too real for me. 

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