Mike's Rant: Milsim Paintball's Image Problem
In a very recent piece, Connor posted his thoughts on how reporting on incidents of vandalism and assault involving people using Paintball markers can affect the image of the game. And as his opinion pieces always do, it got me thinking.
For what it's worth, my opinion is that banning Paintball markers because of some isolated incidents of vandalism or random assaults (or limiting their sale to certain individuals) would be akin to banning baseball bats because someone occasionally uses one to beat someone else. Individuals misusing/committing a criminal act with a tool should be held accountable, and the tool they used shouldn't be blamed. To paraphrase a saying from the gun world, "Paintball guns don't assault people, people do!"
As for the negative press, I think that hardcore Milsim Paintball players can often be their own worst enemies.
Most of the positive, whimsical portrayals in the media (Darsis mentioned sitcoms in a recent comment) involve the characters shooting it out with Tippmann 98s or pump guns in their jeans or simple coveralls in a fun, light atmosphere. This is the type of Paintball that most people have personally tried, know, and enjoyed. BUT the Milsim side of Paintball, as fun as it may be to us, is viewed VERY negatively by the general public, and I don't think most players realize the extent of this.
We need to understand that dressing up like a modern soldier from head-to-toe, modifying a Paintball marker to look as much as possible like a real deadly weapon, and proceeding to bring that replica weapon into a game to "kill" other players looks borderline wacko to an outsider, and will cast the game in a bad light, no matter how much WE might view it as normal and all in good fun. Yes, Call of Duty and Battlefield games are played by millions, but people taking it to real life and going out to shoot other live human beings (including kids) on "missions", and getting excited about getting "kills", is alarming to most sheep/people. Yeah it's a double standard and it's not fair, but who said life was fair?
Milsim Paintballers' comportment on Facebook is part of the problem. I'm sure you all have someone on your Facebook friends list who has a profile picture of themselves all decked out in their combat boots, BDUs, tactical vest, and A5 with an HK416 kit etc. Maybe it's even...YOU! They may or may not have their Paintball mask on, but either way they're posing and pointing their marker looking menacing, and/or they're scowling at the camera like they just got back from a patrol where they saw their buddy get blown up in the 'Stan. Now, their 10 other friends on Facebook from Milsim Empire or their local field may find this all looks really cool, but what their old high school friends, work colleagues, distant relatives, and other hundred or so friends they've added who've never tried or give a rat's ass about Milsim Paintball see, is a gung-ho wingnut. For these people, it evokes the image of anti-government militias training in the woods for the coming revolution at worst, or outright geekery at best. I literally CRINGE when I scroll through my friends list, or the list of another paintballer friend, and see people posting these profile pics, because A) They really are NOT impressing most friends on their list, and B) What they're portraying is really not helping the image of the game itself.
Some actual casual Paintball players are even outright scared of us - I can think of several times where I walked on to games where renters outright refused to play with me in my Milsim getup, even though my marker setup was just a dressed-up version (Project Salvo) of the same 98 they'd just rented, and gave me no advantage over them. But when I'm geared up like I'm about to go kill a whole platoon of FARC guerillas and Taliban (assuming they'd formed some cool hypothetical FARC-Taliban coalition), can you blame them?
Anyway to sum up, the incidences of assault and vandalism using Paintball markers in the press don't really help us, but the image players project, even innocently and without thinking it through, can be just as detrimental to the image of the game as a whole as well. Be careful what you put out there!
DISCLAIMER: The above thoughts, opinions, hare-brained ideas, and occasional words of wisdom are mine and mine alone. Please leave Connor out of this, as he's innocent. Plus he's still healing up from an injury, and it's NOT cool to pick on crippled people. Please direct all hate mail, threats, and intimidating pics of you in camo pointing your marker while scowling to my inbox instead.