The future of paintball comes down to one thing: You. It doesn’t depend on manufacturers, or professional teams, or even fields. You are the only thing that really matters to the growth of paintball, and its longevity as our sport. And if the following seems like common sense to you, then good! None the less, these seemingly obvious points are beyond vital to the survival of paintball. And whether or not you are already aware of these points is irrelevant, what matters is whether or not you apply them. This series of articles is my soap box for my attempt to revitalize our game and ensure that it continues.
Your local fields are the best places to play paintball, right? So you want your fields to be around for a long time, right? Believe it or not, paintball fields are not the money making mega conglomerates many people seem to think they are. Their survival is linked directly to you, and your willingness to enable their survival.
Paintball fields depend on a few things in order to stick around. The most important being money. Sure, we’d all like to believe that a paintball field can survive on the ideal of the passion of paintball, but the world we live in prevents such things. This is capitalism baby, and we need those greenbacks to survive in any capacity, whether we are talking about paintball fields or any other business. I usually hesitate to call paintball a “business” because I have worked in actual businesses before, and since I have come to the side of the counter I am currently on in the shop, I realize this is not a business; but rather a group of organizations that cater to each other, depend on one another, and operate more like the “Goonies” than “Wall Street.” Why is this so? Maybe its because nearly everyone who is in the “business” started out just like you and me; players. Players who developed a sincere love of the game, and dedicated themselves to contributing to it in some way shape or form.
However, as much as noobies can be called the lifeblood of the game , fields are the lifeblood of the industry. No other facet of the retail side of the business does as much volume in sales, period. Even the biggest websites can’t hold a candle, and while it may be that these other businesses do more variety in the type of merchandise they sell, fields have the volume through their paint sales. And without these fields the industry will slowly starve to death. Without fields purchasing truckloads of paint from vendors, prize packs for scenario games and tournaments, and offering a place for all of us to play; the industry will die. I started out playing outlaw ‘ball in the back of a friends neighborhood, those were good times and we felt we had a serious crowd when we could get 10 people out to play. But when I started playing at fields I realized that I would never get the same level of fulfillment from outlaw again. Without purpose-built structures, game enhancing props, and dozens to hundreds of players to sling paint with, outlaw wouldn’t ever hold the same appeal for me. From working in my small corner of the industry for the time I have, I realize just how important fields are, and how dangerous some of them can truly be to their owners and players, and to the industry as a whole.
So that brings us to the first way you can ensure your fields survival: field paint. Yeah, I know you hate having to buy field paint, it’s so much more expensive than the junk….err, I mean, paint that you buy from the big box stores or whatever. I know that a lot of people couldn’t care less how well the paint they buy shoots, so long as it actually shoots (whats the point in this? I could say that I would prefer a cheesesteak hot pocket to an actual cheese steak: it’s cheaper and it is almost but not quite entirely unlike cheesesteak. But, hey, as long as I can eat it, it’s ok right?). Field paint is what keeps your local fields around for a long time. Sure there are some fields that allow you to bring your own paint, but when you visit these fields look around and ask yourself how they compare to the fields that are field paint only. Are the playing areas as well kept? Is the staff as helpful or as good? How do the facilities compare? And, how long have they been around?
The fact is, the fields that charge you for field paint are actually going to have a lot more to offer. If they don’t you need to tell the owner, or go somewhere else. A good way to tell whether or not the field owner of the place you play at is just gouging you on prices to line his/her own pockets is look around. Is the place in shambles, but he is driving a Mr. Fusion-powered TIE Fighter? If so, chances are he/she’s not in it for the love of paintball. But if the owner is using those paint sales to reinvest in the field to make it better for you, then that’s a pretty good trade off isn’t it? When I’m reffing, I hate having to deal with the people who sneak non-field paint onto the field. While I know they’re just trying to play more paintball, (and I love that) however, by sneaking this non-field paint in, they are essentially stealing from us, and I have to remove their paint from the premises – no fun. The BYOP fields tend to not last long, or are just not as nice as the FPO (Field Paint Only) fields, at least this holds as true in my experience. The next way to keep your local fields around for a long time is to be a positive influence on the noobies like discussed in the last article.
In respect to the field, this means realizing simply this: You are a representative of your field. Sure, you may only play there once in a while; but you are going to be associated with that field by those new players. Remember in the last article we talked about cheating and bad sportsmanship? When it comes down to it the new player will see this behavior and then forever associate it with that field. “That field lets the regulars band together and beat up on the new guys all day, why should I play there?” or, “That field has referees that let the experienced guys get away with murder.” It doesn’t matter if you are employed by that field, sponsored by that field, or own that field; the new guys will tend to assume that you represent that field through your actions. It is important to keep this in mind when you see the rental customers setting up near you. If you like that field, if you like having a field to play at – then you should absolutely take this to heart and remember to be a good ambassador of the sport, and of the field you are playing at. Another way to help out is to do things for the field itself. This can be as simple as keeping your area clean (trashcans are usually supplied and are an excellent place to put your garbage, as opposed to the ground), or helping with repairs and builds.
At our field we have regular customers from all walks of life: mechanics, electricians, carpenters, heavy equipment operators, business owners, military, fire fighters and many more. Have you considered what your background may have to offer the field you frequent? Regardless of what your profession is, you’d be surprised what you can offer. A few examples: we have people who work for home improvement stores who let us know when they have scrap materials that are going to be thrown away or sold for cheap, by letting us know first – we are able to get first dibs and use those materials to build more structures and props. Another example would be a couple of fire fighters we have come out regularly who would be willing to trade a day of being on call for first aid work during a scenario for a free day of play. Doing these things not only helps your field improve and become more enjoyable for you, but you might be surprised what kind of thanks you will get from the field owner. If your team needs a place to call home, you can use this to build a relationship that may end up getting you sponsored, and getting a field you can call home.Finally, don’t be afraid to talk to the field owner/management about the field and staff. When you start to work in paintball, the first thing usually sacrificed is your ability to play. In a lot of cases, the management doesn’t get on the field to play enough to see some problems, and you being the customer enables you to experience the field first hand. See something you like? See something you hate? Either way you should let the management know, otherwise it may take a long time to fix problems or duplicate successes. In the end, the best way to look at all of this is: “Its not what I’m doing for the field itself, but rather, its what I’m doing for paintball in my area.” So, what are you going to do?