The Sport of Paintball: a Brief History and Overview
WHAT IS PAINTBALL?
In 20 short years, the sport of Paintball has become recognized as one of the world's most exciting outdoor participation sports. Thanks to Paintball's explosive growth in the last decade, Paintball is now played in over 40 countries. Paintball is enjoyed by millions of men and women, of all ages and lifestyles. From homemakers to high-school students, professionals to retirees, Paintball players from age 10 to 65 share a love for adventure, fun, and a strong competitive spirit.
Paintball is a character-building sport, in which Players learn about teamwork, gain self-confidence, develop leadership abilities, and have fun getting welcome stress-relief. Increasingly, corporations are finding the benefits of having their staff and management participate in Paintball games, instead of typical company picnics. Paintball is an exciting sport, and above all, Paintball is fun! It's a chance to shake off day-to-day responsibilities, and rekindle the spirit of excitement. When the adrenaline starts pumping, you can't help but love the thrill of the game!
The concept of the Paintball Game was originally conceived by three men; Bob Gurnsey, Hayes Noel, and Charles Gaines. Their intent was to settle a longtime debate about who was more cunning, city slickers, or the real world smarts of country men. The first known Paintball game was played in the woods of New Hampshire in 1981, with twelve competitors playing capture the flag, using shop goggles and CO2 powered "paintball" pistols, and Nelson brand oil-based permanent paintballs, which were originally used for marking cattle and trees. The goal of this original match was to capture all twelve participants' flags, without being "eliminated" by being shot. On this fateful June afternoon, the eventual winner, country-boy Ritchie White, captured all twelve flags without firing a single shot!
Paintball pioneer Bob Gurnsey saw the potential of what went on that day in the woods of New Hampshire, so he went on to secure direct sources of the necessary products from the companies that supplied paintballs and markers to forestry and agricultural markets. He then marketed the first Paintball Game field franchises under the banner of the "National Survival Game". In 1983, the first official N.S.G. Paintball tournament was held, and the die was cast.
THE SPORT BECOMES AN INDUSTRY
Since 1981, the sport has expanded into a multi million-dollar industry, with dozens of manufacturers supplying products to thousands of entrepreneurs, who have opened commercial Paintball Game sites and retail stores to the public, including both indoor and outdoor venues.
PAINTBALL GAME SITES PROPEL THE EARLY GROWTH
Commercial Game Sites generally cater to individual walk-on players and group bookings alike. Group bookings may consist of; Bachelor parties, birthday parties, corporate outings, bar mitzvahs, retirement parties, graduation parties, you name it.
Some site operators offer corporate team building, leadership, and communication skills seminars as part of a Paintball-centered professional "curriculum". For the past ten years, the largest source of group bookings has been. Church Youth Groups!
THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Paintball Game site calendars can include occasional special events like thousand-player "Big Games" and "Scenario Events", which can re-enact historic events or play out imaginary episodes of science fiction, with hundreds of "role-players" participating in games as long as twenty-four straight hours. There are dozens and dozens of amateur Tournament Leagues promoting competitions across the United States, Europe, Australia, South America and more. In the US and Europe, there are four Professional Tournament leagues, each actively vying for corporate sponsorship dollars, and all making great headway towards frequent network television coverage. At large tournament events, cash purses and prize packages can exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars.
CORPORATE AMERICA ENTERS THE SCENE
Crosman Corporation, Daisy Air Rifle Company (manufacturers of BB/Pellet guns), Leader Industries (manufacturer of Sports and Industrial optical safety equipment) and JT USA (manufacturer of motocross safety equipment) and pharmaceutical conglomerate Cardinal Health's R.P. Scherer (encapsulator of softgel pharmaceuticals) are just a few of the mainstream corporations that have expanded into the Paintball world.
In the mid nineties, Daisy launched a new Paintball products company called Brass Eagle, which successfully penetrated the Mass Merchant market, including WalMart and Kmart, nationwide. Even though the traditional Game field market categorically rejected Brass Eagle's entry level offerings and abbreviated quality, suddenly, there it was; Paintball game equipment was available on Main Street U.S.A. !
This widespread retail availability was a primary catalyst for Paintball's achievement of "household word" status, followed by phenomenal growth through late 90's, 2000, and beyond. Today, it is very hard to find people who have never heard of Paintball, and major tournaments are being sponsored by large corporate entities like Budweiser, Pepsi-Cola, and Fuji Film.
HOLLYWOOD DISCOVERS PAINTBALL
In the last several years, ESPN, Fox Sports, MTV, VH1, and dozens of regional television networks across the land have aired special television coverage of Paintball tournaments and special events. The past year has brought literally dozens of meetings and follow-up negotiations between Pro tournament promoters and top ranking MAJOR NETWORK executives, who are eager to facilitate their plans to quickly capitalize on Paintball's skyrocketing popularity in the important "extreme sports" demographic.
Movie production companies and television networks are also entering the Industry as Sponsors and Partners. For example, blockbuster film giant, Viacom Entertainment, is a major promotion partner with "Hollywood Sports Park" a large Paintball-centered Extreme Sports Park in the heart of Los Angeles County, offering four Movie-themed Paintball scenario fields that are constructed from actual movie-sets supplied by film partner Viacom. Following a growing trend of cross-promoting Paintball to other "Extreme Sports" participants, Hollywood Sports Park also includes a large BMX track, complete skate park, giant realistic climbing walls including areas for beginners, intermediate, and an advanced section partly affected by a waterfall, beach volleyball, go-cart track, two restaurants, arcade, cyber café, and half-court basketball, co-promoted with the L.A. Lakers. Family fun centers around the world are adding Paintball regularly, and in 2001, the "International Association of Leisure and Entertainment Industry" (IALEI) added Paintball as an official category for their professional trade association of over 6000 business members, which includes operators of public Golf Courses, Movie Theatres, Water Parks, Arcades, Go Cart tracks, Extreme Sports parks, Ski Resorts, and more.
MOVIE STARS BRING THE SPOTLIGHT TO PAINTBALL
Big Stars like Arnold Schwartzenegger and Tom Cruise frequently make appearances to promote special Paintball events and charity fundraisers at Hollywood Sports Park. Many personalities are being drawn to the sport, including the late BeeGee, Maurice Gibb, whose Team, The Royal Rat Rangers, has played on several continents. Rock and Roll dinosaur Ozzy Osbourne and his son, both avid Paintballers, appeared together in a "Diablo Paintball" ad, wearing full Diablo Paintball regalia. Star Trek's William Shatner has become a mainstay personality in the popular S.P.P.L.A.T. special "Scenario" and "Big Games" in the recreational side of the Industry.
PAINTBALL SHINING SAFETY RECORD
Paintball is a remarkably safe sport, as long as safety rules are followed.
Insurance Industry reports have disclosed that Paintball is statistically safer than golf, jogging, tennis, bicycling, swimming, and many of the sports that are promoted in our public schools. Referees on the field are vigilant to enforce safety rules. No physical contact is permitted, bad language is discouraged, and players may be ejected for breaking safety rules. Paintball players must always wear specifically designed Paintball masks and goggles to protect their eyes, ears, and faces. Paintball-specific Goggles must be worn during games, and at all times when a person is in any area where shooting is permitted. The most common injury in the sport is the occasional sprained ankle, and the kind of minor scrapes and bumps that anyone might experience while running around indoors or out.
PLAY SAFE, Play Fair, Play Hard, Have FUN
No matter which version of Paintball you choose, Recreational or Competition, Tournament, Scenarios or Big Games, always
And above all, remember this:
"Always be sure that the person you're shooting at is having as much fun as you are!"
- Pacman -