What is paintball?

On this page, you will find information on paintball and where it all started from.

1. Introduction

Paintball is suitable for everyone who enjoys a little bit of excitement. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, young or more mature. In a nutshell, the idea is to hit the opponent with paintballs, in which case they are out of the game. Often also a flag is used as a target: the players try to steal their opponent’s flag and protect their own: sometimes paintball does resemble childhood’s capture the flag-game.

Paintball differs from other sports in that you get to ”shoot” your friends.  It is exactly the stalking of the opponent and imagined sense of danger that sparks your imagination and gives you the kind of adrenaline rush that makes you forget the outside world. All you want is victory for your team. Sounds a bit different than your normal computer games, doesn’t it? 
You do not have to be an athlete to enjoy playing paintball and to be good in it. Everyone can focus on those areas of the game where they feel they’re good at. Someone might quickly learn how to shoot well while others have the ability to move fast and unnoticeably on the field. There are also those who excel at planning game tactics and those who are good at giving advice for their teammates.

Paintball can be played on a wooded or more urban area, and in indoor venues. Tournament paintball is often played on an even lawn field. Everyone will surely find their favorite. Different fields and venues bring out different sides of the game, so it’s worthwhile to try them all. You’ll hardly get bored in any type of setting, whether it’s the more upbeat indoor games or the slightly slower outdoor games.
Paintball also offers the possibility of competing in the Finnish national league, divisions or individual tournaments. Modern tournament paintball differs quite a bit from the more casual one, but there are similarities as well.

Paintball is great activity for example for a group of friends visiting their summer house. You might want to try it at corporate events. You could even organize an unforgettable bachelor/bachelorette party for your friend. There are possibilities for everyone and for every event. These pages are designed to help you get acquainted with paintball and to show what it could offer for you. Enjoy!

Source: paintball.fi

2. History of paintball

Paintball is an unusual sport in that its origin is well known. It is one of the youngest sports there is:  it was played the first time in 1981, so when compared to e.g. football or ice hockey and their hundreds of years of history, it is still a fairly new sport, the same way as, for example, snow boarding.

Even though the first game was played in the early 80’s, the idea for the game came up on a spring night either in 1976 or 1977 in Jupiter Island, Florida. Unlike with many other sports, we even know the names of the inventors: present on that spring night were Charles Gaines, Hayes Noel and Bob Gurnsey, whose conversation on the subject was the starting point of it all. They obviously did not talk about paintball or Survival Game, but they discussed how it could be possible to combine the senses of fear, excitement and adrenaline that people feel when they’re for example hunting or faced with a dangerous situation, to a harmless environment where those feelings could be felt again and again.

They also argued about what Gurnsey had said about people who had grown up in the country side: he felt that they would survive better than city folk when faced with, for example, an ambush. This notion of abilities provided by living environment did not go down very well with Noel, who argued that survival instincts or means were always the same, whether they had been learned in the woods hunting or at Wall Street. The debate was never settled and it carried on for years in different settings, as the men searched for different options on how to solve it.
Finally they came up with the solution: "Nel-Spot 007 Color Marking Gun," which was a marker sold for marking different targets. It was used for marking and identifying trees and cattle. From now on, it was to be used also for marking and identifying humans and who would be the best survivalist.

The first game

Now that suitable equipment had been found, the inventors started organizing the first game, which eventually took place in New Hampshire in June 1981. Twelve people attended the first game. They all played individually, since no one had even thought about playing in teams. The winner of the game would be the one, who would be the first to collect all flags from four flag triangles situated on the field, and move them to one of the two bases situated on the side lines of the field. Since no one knew how the game would kick off, a massive time limit of 24 h was set for the game. Each player moved forward from different points of the side line, so that they could not see each others at first.

A betting was organized the night before the game: you could bet which player would win. Although no one really knew how the game would progress, hunters and Vietnam veterans were speculated to be the more likely winners.

So much for that speculation. After the game, the veterans stated that what they had witnessed had absolutely nothing to do with Vietnam. The winner was indeed a hunter, but no one even saw him during the game and he never fired a shot. Maybe this offered an answer to whether a country boy was in better situation than a city dweller. There were others stories born that day as well: in the middle of the game, a city doctor decided to abandon the idea of collecting the flags and concentrated on stalking the other players. He managed to eliminate five of his fellow players, which is quite an amount out of twelve. The nickname "Dr. Death" obviously went to the right person…

First surrendering was also seen in the first game, as a steady-nerved player used his head after he had run out of gas. He managed to bluff another player to surrender and then marked him by breaking a paintball on to his clothes. Other kinds of improvisational acts were seen as well, among others the use of a tree cone as a fake grenade in a situation that seemed desperate.

Everyone who attended the game handed over their game plan in a closed envelope prior to the game. Afterwards, it was noted that absolutely no one had followed their great plans. The same goes pretty well with modern forest games as well.


The Nel-Spot markers that were used in the first game resembled the modern paintball markers only by their barrel and handle. They didn’t even have a pump, as the loading was done by pulling a pin attached directly to the bolt on the side of the marker. This took about 2 or 3 seconds even from a quick player, so when they came up with the idea of a pump, the marker was significantly quicker to fire. Also the other pivotal equipment, the paintball, has undergone significant changes. Originally, the balls were not water-soluble as they were designed for marking e.g. trees and had to endure moisture and humidity. This meant that you had to rub of the paint with turpentine or other type of thinner: washing marathons after the games were yet another good reason to avoid getting hit.

So the very famous Splatmaster was not the first paintball gun, but it was the first one manufactured specifically for playing paintball. They started manufacturing it to make the sport more affordable for beginners.  The goal was achieved using comparatively affordable plastic polymers.

As far as the protective gear goes, the goggles were initially not that special, as the players used whatever they could find. JT Racing, known for their motocross equipment, began making goggles specially designed for paintball. Afterwards there have been many businesses specializing on paintball equipment.

What happened next?

The onset of the sport was not all that quick after the first game, but after a while a second game was played, this time as a team game. Also present was the first female paintball player of all time. After this, there were some problems in marketing the game, mostly because people did not want to invest large amounts of money on something totally unknown. This problem was solved when they came up with rental businesses, after which the growth of the sport has been wild. Around 400 fields were set up in the US over a few years, which helped popularize the sport in no time.

As the sport grew, the National Survival Games, founded by Bob Gurnsey, started organizing national championships and rental activity based on franchising, but the tournaments were quite different then than nowadays. The most common format was to have fifteen players in a team and two hours time to play. Since then, both numbers have gone down quite significantly. Because of the long playing times, there could only be as few as a couple of games per team in a tournament in a day, and the games themselves were noticeably slower than nowadays due to the sheer size of the fields.

Later on, the National Survival Games folded because of legal cases, and the sport has spread like fire over the last two and a half decades. According to latest assessments, there are about 10 million people playing paintball in the US every year, and there already are some completely professional teams playing professional paintball. Little did Gaines, Noel and Gurnsey know about what would happen when they first started the whole thing.

Source: paintball.fi

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