Paintball is a competitive non-lethal shooting sport that makes use of low-energy compressed gas guns (called "paintball markers") firing dye-filled oil and gelatin pellets (known as "paintballs"), which "splat" the dyed oil on opponents to indicate that they're out.
Although the guns themselves were originally designed for remotely marking trees and cattle, its use as a sport dates back to 1980's in the United States. Since then, its technology, rules, and regulations have expanded throughout the world, both as a recreational sport and with competitive leagues. It is often seen as an "extreme sport" and proper protective equipment and rules are required, despite being generally non-lethal.
Similar to airsoft, laser tag, and Nerf war, paintball is used to safely simulate real-life gun fights, including military simulations and historical reenactments. Although traditionally played in a woodland environment ("woodsball"), paintball received a more formalized arena-style variant with "speedball", which uses a flat, open field filled with inflatable bunkers. Over time, speedball became the most common form for competitive and league play.
While not a popular choice for video games, several first-person shooters were based on the sport throughout the 2000's, starting with the infamous 1998 game Extreme PaintBrawl. One of the most notable games is Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball, which brought a more realistic approach to the "speedball" version of the sport while introducing several mechanics to the genre (including leaning behind cover, diving to prone, and switching weapon hands on-the-fly).
The first type of paintball played is now commonly known as "woodsball". It is generally played in a natural outdoor environment (such as a forest), using both natural terrain (such as trees and bushes) and artificial barriers (such as wooden palettes). It is also used in recreated urban environments.
Unlike speedball, woodsball matches tend to last longer due to the larger playfield and use of both camouflage and dense environments for stealth and concealment. Although speedball became the more common form of competitive play due to its ease as a spectator sport, there are still competitive leagues based on woodsball.
Developed in the late '90s as a faster-paced, spectator-friendly format for competitive paintball play, "speedball" uses a much smaller arena-style playfield that use inflatable bunkers rather than natural terrain.
Unlike woodsball, stealth and concealment in speedball tend to be more difficult due to the less-dense and brightly-colored environment. Thus, suppressive fire and aggressive movement are common tactics in the sport. Rounds tend to be much shorter than in woodsball, and the inflatable barriers can be re-adjusted for an incredibly large amount of playfield combinations.
Due to its quick pacing and ease as a spectator sport, it became the main format for several competitive leagues, including the NXL (National X-Ball League), NPPL (National Professional Paintball League), PSP (Paintball Sports Promotions), and the Millennium Series.
A special large-scale form of paintball is "scenario paintball", which represent special pre-planned events using a larger amount of players, larger venues, and themed rules. These events tend to run for a longer continuous session, with some lasting over a single day. Some events have historically had a player count of over 4000.
Although these can be as simple as woodsball with a large amount of players, scenario paintball tend to include historical re-enactments (such as World War II) or fictional simulations. Role-playing elements are often used, including player roles (such as "engineers" that can destroy certain obstacles and "medics" that can revive players) and fake props and equipment (including "explosive" boxes and armored "tanks"). Augmented reality are sometimes used, bringing elements from video game genres, including "commander" play from real-time strategy games or a shrinking playfield from survival-shooter games.
There are no video games that simulate this style of paintball.
Methods Of Play
There are different ways of playing the game of paintball, dependent on what playing field you are going on. On the playing field, there will always be at least 2 teams that oppose each other. A lot of the variants that are played in paintball mimic most of the popular modes you see in FPS's and such.
This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Capture the Flag
This is where 2 teams start at each end of a symmetrical playing field, race to capture the flag from the center of the field, and run to place it on the opposing teams starting point/base. There is also another mode where there is a flag on each of the 2 starting locations/bases and the opposing team must capture the other teams flag and run it all the way to their base. Usually there is a time limit set within each match.
Attack & Defend
The only way to truly play this variant is to have an asymmetrical playing field, preferably with one side having a heavily bunkered base, and the other side having just a starting location. In this mode, the attackers must head to the base and either eliminate all defenders, or get one of their own players inside the defenders' base. Whilst the defenders must fend off the attacks from the attackers, either eliminating all of them, or until time expires.
This is the standard team deathmatch, but without death. 2 teams start on opposite ends, and eliminate other players until one team has none left standing.
In this mode, there is usually one or two players on one team, and on the other, a plentiful amount. The one or two players are known as the "ironman" or "ironmen" depending on the amount of players there are on the ironman side, and can get shot with paintballs as much as they want, until they want to get out. While the other team gets the standard, one shot and your out deal.
There are vasts amounts of gear to buy, that vary on the skill level of the player, and the style of play that the player chooses. But every player is required to have a mask, paintball marker, paintball air system, and a hopper to go out and play at an official paintball field.
This is the "gun" that propells the paintballs out and towards your target. Paintball markers are required to have a compressed air tank, or Co2 tank depending on the marker, to operate. Without this, the bolt will not cycle, rendering the marker pretty much useless. Markers have the ability to propel paintballs at 300 feet per second, but fields will usually turn the velocity down to 280 feet per second. Although the paintball will not be able to retain that speed for long.
Paintballs are a gelatinous based shell, filled with vegetable oil and a variety of food coloring. The balls are usually colored in a vibrant array of patterns, usually with 2 colors that contrast each other. Paintballs also come in different grades; the lowest and cheapest ones will always be the most rubbery, and have the higher tendency of not breaking when you shoot them at your target. As you get a higher grade of paint, there will be an incremental difference on quality control, the accuracy of the ball, and the easier the break of the paintball, making it possible to pretty much break the paint on any target.
Generally, paintball players are advised to wear more than one layer of clothing that is light enough to enable them to move swiftly but also protective enough to absorb the impact from paintballs. Speedball players typically wear bright colored clothing while woodsball players wear camo.
The following are common rules that most paintball venues will enforce:
- Everyone must wear a mask: Those participating in a game must wear their mask at all times; they are not permitted to remove them at any time. In addition, those near a playing field must wear a mask as well.
- Everyone must have a barrel cover: The barrel cover protects people from accidental firing. Typically the referee will make sure everyone's barrel covers are on before allowing the players to remove their masks.
- The "surrender" rule: If a player is within a very short distance of an enemy (typically any distance shorter than 15 feet) they are expected to give the enemy a chance to surrender so the enemy doesn't have to get shot at point-blank range (getting marked at such a short distance will often leave a welt and even cause bleeding).
- Hits: A confirmed hit is typically one in which the paintball breaks and splatters on impact. Usually a ball that bounces off the player and does not break does not count as a hit.
- Overkill: Continually shooting an opponent that has already been eliminated is generally discouraged.
- Wiping: Dishonest players will sometimes attempt to wipe the paint off themselves after being hit. This is against the rules.