Around January this year I was persuaded to buy a cheap set of paintballing tickets. Normally something like $120 entry for 8 people, I picked them up for around $155 for 30 people. Thinking I had made some amazing saving, because the tickets never expire, I planned to have a paintballing event which never got organised and kept getting pushed back and back. I thought my birthday would be as good an excuse as any and so, rather belatedly, picked a Saturday in December which would suit me.

Response was not as enthusiastic as I had hoped. I invited 70 people, expecting about 15 to say no (but deserved the invitation), 10 to say maybe and 25 to not respond. Hopefully I’d end up with a good strong 20 people who were as keen to play as I was. After a long process I got 14 confirmed people by the RSVP before the game in two weeks. As I found out, the paintball scheme runs a little deeper, and in addition to buying entry, you need to secure the first 100 paintballs of every play with a $25 deposit. So I forked out $350 extra for everyone who was coming and expected to receive payment on the day. Sadly, for various reasons (some more reasonable than others), I lost about 7 of the original 14 players but managed to make up one or two new faces. So in other words, I paid for 14 and 9 showed up, leaving me in quite a deficit. Very fortunately, the paintball company said the money I paid will carry over to future games so I’ve already paid for five players in the future, but it was just so heartbreaking to make a commitment with my friends and have so many of them pull out. Understandable at times, but really crushing at others. It cost a lot of money so I’m tempted to leave the organisation to someone else in the future, but since it’s under my name I guess I’ll be booking another session some time in the distant future once I’ve recovered some of my resilience/faith in my friends’ commitment. I’ll also make the intelligent move of having it on a Sunday, or perhaps even a weekday when fewer people have obligations.

The day itself was actually whopping good fun. I’m really glad that nine of us didn’t just rock up and shoot each other all day, but that several other groups also registered on the same day and we got split into teams. There were about 70 players all up, and it was really enjoyable to get into the spirit of things. I found myself chewing through ammunition faster- my last session I was quite conservative, only taking the shot if I had a good chance of landing it, but this time around if a target presented itself, I would keep squeezing that trigger until the target surrendered or moved back into cover.

Because of the outdoor setting, there was less tactical deception (though it still existed) and more moving to whatever cover was available and doing your best to take out opponents. I made the mistake of overestimating the other team’s incompetence and made a few dashes into cover assuming they’d miss. I made it about half the time, but the other half I’d get pegged along the way.

There was a healthy blend of games, from capture the flag, king of the hill, deathmatch and protecting the general. I liked the deathmatch the most because it was so close-quarters and everyone was pretty much immediately forced into conflict without long-range sniper type battles. Cover was overcrowded with people lined up behind you and there were deaths every minute. The last game where you protected the general was interesting- one person wore a fluorescent vest on each team and whoever’s “general” fell first lost. In one of the games, I volunteered to be general, but Leith (my trusty guardian) and I had about 120 paintballs between us for the match. So I essentially gave him my gun, said “protect me while I crouch here”, and waited for inevitable doom. Ange on the other hand, the other team’s general (who volunteered at the chance to send an army against me) moved her forces up and participated in the fight once she knew we were winning. I wasn’t holding a weapon when someone jumped out from behind our cover and pointed a gun at my face yelling “Surrender!” I threw up both hands, not willing to take a bullet for the cause, but thinking back of how I could have gotten out of it, I’m fairly confident I could have rolled out and disarmed him before he reached me. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well as it does in my imagination though :P

All up, lots of fun! It’s hard to remember how each paintball you shoot is essentially 12.5 cents, so going through two packs a game isn’t exactly cost effective. It was a splendid day, and very hot and sweaty and dusty. It was absolutely wonderful to spend time with the people who made it, with special mention to Leith who heard about it at 11:30pm, was given the details at 5:30am and stepped up to the game in time anyway. Also great to see Jess Carroll who I haven’t caught up with since primary school and Ange Johnson whose bra miraculously (or fiendishly?) snapped in the middle during one of the games. Shoutout to Toby, whose crazy-ass manic laughter as he ran around the field shooting wildly deserves mention, and my respect goes to the guy in the last round who stripped off his top half for the final game and walked around solidly shooting everyone who came in his sights. He’ll have some bruises to show for it, but his calm terminator-like presence earns him special honour.

It’ll be a while before the next game I think, but it was a great (if exhausting) day of fun. Mayhap somewhere closer in the future :P


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