Paintball History – Is Paintball a fun sport to play

Whenever the word “Sports” comes into our minds, we immediately visualize uniformly dresses individuals working together to achieve a common goal while having fun. After my lot of paintball experience, I can assure you that you achieve similar things in the paintball game. So, there is no harm at all by saying that Paintball is definitely a sport.

Paintball is not an Olympic sport but still, Paintball is a sport having a lot of fun with a history going back to almost half a century.

Paintball History

Unlike, many other sports, there was no planned work or any organization behind Paintball.

It was just a vague idea between two friends discussing survival instincts in the woods. And you should know about ideas, that they are like seeds. If you water them, they will sprout out to become tall trees.

When was Paintball Invented?

Paintball for marking trees in 1960's

Paintball was invented in the early 1960s but at that time, it was not a game. Mainly, Paintball was there to mark trees and animals while ensuring a safe distance. For this purpose, Forestry Department contacted Nelson paints to make a gun that they could use to mark trees.

First Paintball Gun

Therefore, Evan and Charles Nelson from Nelson paints came up with the first-ever Paintball gun to mark the trees. You may call it a mere coincidence or it may be their craftsmanship, the first-ever gun was 0.68 caliber which is still the standard size for a paintball game. At that time, who knew that they are going to write a new page in the book of Sports.

First Ever paintball markers, Nelspot 707 & 007

The Nelson Company contacted Crossman to make a well-designed paintball marker for them. This was the reason for making Crossman 700, Nelspot 707. This marker was marketized but it could not grab the attention of the general public. Seeing their experiment failing miserably, Crossman stopped manufacturing this pistol.

Therefore, they hired a new company for this purpose. Daisy was the leading name at that time with a face named James Hail who introduced Nelspot 007 to the world. Remember, this was 1965 and yet nobody had any idea about the Paintball game. They started its marketing in 1972 and this became a game-changer as it attracted people’s attention towards the paintball guns.

Almost a decade passed and history saw a man named Charles Gains who used to take survival very seriously. He had a point that if you cannot adapt to the changing environment, you can never survive. Maybe you think that he had gone too philosophical in his ideology but the same ideology invented Paintball in the first place.

The ability to survive and thrive is really a function of learning your environment and being able to adapt to a particular environment.

Charles Gains, Inventor of Paintball

So, he was discussing the same philosophy with his friend Hayes Noel and during the discussion, both friends agreed to buy Nelspot 007 and then play a duel amongst each other. Before playing an actual game, they had to make sure that the human body can bear the hit of a paintball pellet. While finalizing the mechanics of the game, they came across their mutual friend Bob Gurnsey. Bob was a visionary and open-minded person who welcomed the idea with open arms.

Three Founders of Paintball
Inventors of Paintball

Paintball First Game

After a lot of deliberation and discussion, they finalized the structure and rules of the game.

The decision was to play the game by 12 players in total. Out of the 12 players, 06 were hunters while the rest were normal folks. There was no team and it had to be mano a mano game. After going through all the details, they decided to play the first-ever game of Paintball. Thus, they played the first-ever game on 27 June 1981 in Henniker, New Hampshire. However, at that time its name was Survival.

First Paintball Game

The venue of the game was 80 acres Ski-field. There were four sections in the field and each section had a flag post carrying 12 different colors flags. Every player will start the game from a different location at the same time. For this purpose, there were referees carrying whistles. Each player had to make use of a map, compass, and Nelspot 007. Obviously, hunters were a preferred choice to be the winner of the game.

The objective was simple and clear; grab all the flags without getting shot and reach the destination. The first one to reach would be declared as the winner of the game.

Every player employed different tactics, some decided to be trigger happy and promised to shoot anyone in their way. While some decided to capture one of the flags and stayed hidden till they could find the rest of the opponents. However, Ritchie White came as the first winner of the Paintball game. He did it even without firing a single bullet.

History of Paintball

Is Paintball a sport?

Very first game, we play as a child is tag or hide and seek. In hide and seek, the objective in terms of enjoyment is not to be hunter, the predator, it is to be hunted. Your heart is in your mouth and the world would end if you are ever found. This is the same feeling I felt in every paintball game I ever played.

A Legendary Veteran Paintball Player

Paintball progress over the years

Just after the first game of Paintball, it started gaining enormous popularity. People started liking it a lot. Within six months of the first game, it was the time for the second paintball game on 14 Nov 1981.

Unlike the first game, this time lot of professionals volunteered for the game. Almost, Top 50 Deer and Turkey Hunters joined the game. Even, women started joining the game and they proved to be quite competitive against the professional hunters.

Cornelia Wallace-A legendary Female Paintballer

One of the famous names of that era was Cornelia Wallace who was the former wife of the governor of Alabama, George Wallace.

She came, she saw and she conquered. She almost won the game as she reached the destination before becoming shot. But, once the judge examined her closely, he found two very small pinheads of paintball on her dress. Thus, she was denied the honor of becoming the first woman champion of Paintball.

Still, many legends of Paintball criticize Simpkins that he couldn’t bear the thought of Cornelia Wallace beating the hunters and sportsmen at that time. And, it was the judge who played unfairly and wronged her at that time.

Cornelia Wallace, female Paintball Player, Former wife of Georgia Governor
Cornelia Wallace

Negative Propaganda against Paintball

On one hand, Paintball was gaining enormous popularity. On the contrary, they came very hard on the Paintball. Digital and Print media came very hard on the booming game. They termed it as War Game and even Death Game. A debate started regarding this game in prime media time.

This lot of discussion had twofold results. Firstly, more and more people started learning about this new game so it gained more popularity. Secondly, the Paintball players became united to save this game from its demise.

In 1986, the Paintball game was banned in the National Forests of the USA. However, the decision was challenged and it was reverted back on 22 April 1987.

Moreover, Paintball guns were banned in the state of New Jersey as these were considered illegal firearms. A long court trial by Paintballers helped in finishing this ban.

Paintball Sports in 80’s

The first paintball field in New Hampshire was in 1982. People started to come there and started enjoying the game.

To the astonishment of people, the fame of the game exploded. The numbers of people coming to play were increasing exponentially. Within two years of the first game i.e.1983, there were about 180 paintball fields in the USA. In the same year i.e. 1983, eight teams from the USA and Canada went to Grantham, New Hampshire for the first National Survival Games Championship. the first championship was won by a team from Toronto, Canada and they were Unknown Rebels.

unknown Rebels, first national paintball champion team
The Unknown rebels

Paintball got the requisite boost, the business grew, fields rented out to the players, and franchises allotted to involve new people in the business. Money started to pour in.

Crossman again jumped into the field along with many others. The market viewed newer, custom made and sophisticated paintball equipment. When Tippmann joined the market of Paintball equipment, wheels started rolling at a much faster pace.

Earlier, the previous versions of paintballs were the crude technology for denting in the trees. They were hard shells with oil-based paint. That was giving hard stains which were almost impossible to wash off. The only enhancement which players wanted was gentle paint. PMI n Rpscherer made a major breakthrough as they made the water-soluble paintballs

water soluble paintballs
Water Soluble Paintballs

Paintball had become international by now. in 1984, various paintball fields had opened in South America, Europe, Australia, and Russia. There were individual championships happening at various levels.

The first-ever team to cross the Atlantic was Bartre Squad from the UK in 1988 and they managed to win a championship on US soil as well.

Paintball in Magazines & Media

As the years passed by, Paintball had gained popularity in the general masses as well. After a couple of years, we saw the paintball game rules

Because of too much customer potential of this new game, companies were at constant war with each other to provide cheap and safe paintball equipment to players. Resultantly, this game was gaining access to new players as well.

Media also dived into the race and there were separate dedicated editions to cover the Paintball events and news. It was getting popular at every level.

Paintball coverage in various magazines

In 1985, there was only one Paintball magazine at that time and even that one did not gain much popularity. But in the early 2000s, there were more than 25 regular paintball magazines to cover each and every detail of Paintball.

In the early 1990s, the internet had started to become a new sensation. So, the people from the Paintball community started joining this sailing boat. In 1992, rec. sports. paintball took the initiative. After 2 years in 1994, the world saw the first Official Paintball website, Warpig. It covered all the details and every event concerning Paintball. And then, a school kid from Newzealand made a well-known phenomenon which we all know today as Paintball Nation (PB Nation). Since then, Paintball is on a popularity spree all over the internet.

Paintball Leagues

IPPA & NPPL Stickers

By this time, 8 years had passed after the first game of paintball, and in 1988; International Paintball Players Association (IPPA) came into existence. The purpose of this association was to take the game to the next level. They started managing, marketing, attracting promoters, and organizing events to ensure revenue generation as well as game propagation.

There were plans in action to organize systematic paintball events at the State level, then the Divisional level, then the Regional level, and in the end National level.

Following the same agenda, in the year 1990, IPPA organized the first modern Paintball championship event which further improved the fame of the game. In 1992, National Professional Paintball League (NPPL) came into being. Paintball equipment had become lighter, cheaper, and safer by that time thus, resulting in capturing more and more players.

On 14 October 1991, the first TV broadcast of the paintball game was made. And 1995 was the year that marked the history of broadcasting the Paintball tournament, NPPL Worldcup on TV. ESPN aired this tournament. So, within 14 years of its birth, the game was mature enough to be telecasted across the Globe.

ESPN covered NPPL Worldcup in 1995

Before this, some local channels had aired fewer events of Paintball but it was phenomenal. The championship gained enormous viewership and the channel got a high rating throughout that week due to Paintball.

This was the dawn of a new era for paintball. It was evolving for good with every passing year. The number of people inclined towards this sport was increasing at a tremendous rate. Worldwide, there were a lot of tournaments, competitions, and championships engaging more and more crowds every day. MGM & Disney Studios also made a big event at their studios about Paintball as they had realized the big viewership potential of this game.

Is Paintball a sport?

Now coming to the question that you’re here for; is paintball a sport? I have already given you the simple answer, YES. This game involves a lot of athleticism (running around, diving skidding etcetera). Therefore, it is safe to say that paintball is a sport.

Generally, the paintball game includes two teams that compete and agree to a set of rules. Usually, the rules include elimination if a player gets hit by a paintball and the eliminated player has to leave the pitch. There can be different types of gameplays in paintball with the most common ones capturing the flag or elimination. The most famous types of Paintball Games are

  • Speedball
  • Woodsball
  • Scenario Paintball

Although most of the time, people play the game purely for leisure and not for competitive match-ups. However, there are “professional” players of the game who compete on different fronts, tournaments and play the game to compete and win.

Usually, the professional paintball players avail sponsorships from pitches, paintball companies, and other local companies to cover the costs that they incur while playing the game.

Paintball is on the popularity spree since its inception. The number of players getting involved in this fantastic game is getting increases day by day. There was a study carried out showing the number of paintballers over the years. While seeing this detailed graph, you will be amazed to see the number that is attracted towards Paintball.

Number of Paintball players in USA, credit:Statista
Credit: Statista. com

Seeing these millions of players going for Paintball and that too only in the USA speaks for itself that Paintball is a very popular sport.

Paintball as an Olympic sport

Although paintball is a beloved sport to gain popularity over the years still Paintball is not there in the Olympics. However, there is a bright chance for a positive change. A healthy debate is going on whether paintball is eligible for the Olympics or not. Whether it will become a part of the Olympics or not, totally depends upon the requirements and the conditions of the Olympic Games

Right now, we are present at that turning point in the history of paintball where Paintball will soon open its tied wings for a flight.  This flight will lead it to beyond the horizons of fame and popularity. Coming times will stand evident to this, I am pretty sure.

Paintball Players Categories

We have already seen that millions of players go to Paintball Field every year and that too in the USA. So, if we are categorizing Paintball as a Sport then we can easily categorize the Paintball players as well.

In a very easy definition, we can divide them into 3 major categories.

  1. Amateur
  2. Semi-professional
  3. Professional Paintball Players
How can we categorize Paintball players

We will have a look into each of these categories to understand the level of Paintball players. Actually, this is not some defined or bookish categorization. However, we have taken into account mainly the Participation factor by players. The more you participate in this game, the more you are expected to spend.

1. Amateur Paintball Players

Here, we do not say Amateur Paintball players to those who are newbies to this game. These are those players who play occasionally, maybe once or twice in a year. They themselves do not visit the Paintball field. However, if there is some special occasion like a Birthday Party or some event then only they join their friends and family.

They do not have their own Paintball equipment, they rent it out.

In Simple words, they are not at all passionate about paintball.

2. Semi-professional Paintball Players

These are those players who like Paintball. They are willing to spend and invest both financially and physically. On a rough average, they play around 20 games per year.

They may become a member of some Local League to participate in some small events.

So, Semi-Professional paintball players love to play Paintball.

3. Professional Paintball Players

The name speaks for itself, they are the Pros of the Paintball. They are the big fish in the ocean of Paintball and you don’t wanna mess with them.

They are members of Big Paintball Leagues. furthermore, they participate in organized events even if they have to travel across the country. Often, they play for the Prize money as well.

Paintball Events

Over the years, there were many famous championships that brought a lot of viewership and participation from all across the globe. I will mention only a few of those so that you can have an idea about the popularity and potential of this game.

  1. Mischigan Monster Game, 1989
  2. Hell Survivors, 1989
  3. Euro Big Game, started in Germany in 1996, accommodates almost 2000 players each year where players play on the Former USSR abandoned Airstrips
  4. Big Paintball Maneuvers (BPM), started in Moscow, Russia in 1998. Yeah, you heard it right, Russia. 3400 players every year and it is the biggest Paintball event outside the US.
  5. Oklahoma Dooms-Day (D-Day), started in the memory of a WW-II veteran in the year 2000 with 135 players. Now, more than 4000 players play every year and even the Real Tanks are used in this game.
  6. Invasion Normandy, started in 2000 with more than 4000 players.
  7. Living Legends of Paintball, started in 2008 by CPX with the idea of bringing the players together with the Legends, Pioneers, and Heroes of the game.
  8. Fulda Gap 2008, East Coast’s biggest game is played each November in North Carolina

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The more you will dig, the more you will go deep and then you will realize that how huge and enormous is the Paintball fraternity. They are well organized, active, and focused to take this game up to the next level.

This raises the new question; does paintball fulfill the requirements of the Olympic Games? The answer to that is; almost. Still, many people don’t recognize it as a sport and I don’t know why. So it’s a little early to jump to conclusions.

Paintball is a diverse game that is played around the world. This is a very strong point that comes ahead for the defense of this game. This solid point makes paintball a strong candidate for the Olympic Games, but still, it’s too soon for any obvious answer.

Is Paintball a fun sport?

Paintball is an intense game, with players on both teams having armor and guns, you get the point.

But I can tell you one thing from my experience. Paintball is an addictive game. Once you enter the arena all suited up, you get addicted to it. You will return again and again with your friends and family to have a lot of fun. Here are a few reasons that will make you crave paintball

  • Teamwork

Firstly, the game involves a lot of teamwork, which is very good for social skills. Socializing in paintball helps you make a lot of good friends. Personally, a few of the best friends that I have are the ones I met on paintball. It strengthens your character and helps you build strong bonds with your buddies

  • Build Good memories together

Mainly, the memories you make in paintball are amazing. Playing paintball with your friends is fun and you can look back to the memories and cherish them later

  • Healthy Game

Chiefly, Paintball is a healthy game. Since, there is a lot of running around, ducking, crawling, and shooting, you need to be fit and healthy to do all this. All the physical movement is a perfect workout and you can save a buck from your gym subscription as playing paintball is way better than walking or running on a treadmill.

  • Stress Reliever

Furthermore, playing paintball can be great for relieving stress that is built up from work, and it is the safest way of relieving stress without hurting anyone or throwing tantrums and being a nuisance for everyone around you.

  • Increases Stamina

Moreover, it increases endurance, as you get a full-body workout while playing the game, all the running around helps you achieve it.

  • No extra qualification needed

Lastly, anyone can play paintball. Although the sport looks dangerous, it’s not. You’re probably playing the game for the first time, or perhaps you’re a pro who plays the game regularly, still, you will enjoy and love the game. Paintball is for everyone and you have no need to be extra qualified for the game, you just play whenever you want.  

Final Wrap

It is no secret that we love paintball. It is an emerging fun sport and we really hope to see it eventually at the Olympics.

The bottom line is, although the game is very intense and can get very competitive at times, the main focus that you should have is having fun. If you’re a newbie who is playing the game for the first time, do not worry as it is all about having fun and not winning the game. Even if you are a pro, remember that competition should not take better of you.

Keep your sportsmanship alive all the time and have fun.

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