EDITORIAL PAGE

March 1, 2006                April 8, 2006              June 28, 2006          July 10, 2006 

 

We have players with strong opinions on how to make the game better, and so does the owner.  Here are some of his strong opinions, that are sure to get him in hot water with everyone.     Send comments to   john@junglecatpaintball.com he will consider posting letters to editor. 

March 1, 2006

Recently at a Tourney held at Brush Fire Games-Germantown, WI; I had an opportunity to share some of my nearly 30 years of experience in the area of pursuit games and the direction the game of paintball is headed.  This young tourney player shared his perspective and we both learned a lot.   One thing I learned is before you can understand the future we have to analyze the past development.

 

What it’s About

Children have been attracted to pursuit games for AGES [long before us].  It entailed players hiding, seeking, and getting the opponent.   In my day we started using pretend guns to play cops and robbers, whether it was a finger or a cap gun, we shot each other.  At first everyone took their turn dying, giving a classic moaning, groaning, twirling, theatrical performance that would make any motion picture director proud.  As the game evolved we encountered a problem.  Inevitably some people thought they were not getting their fair share of "kills".  These always followed the same pattern.  Bang! Bang!  I got you!  No you didn’t!  Did too! Did Not! You’re a cheater, I’m not playing with you anymore!

We adapted and over came, since we all lived on farms we had horses and cows- the crap literally flew.  Snow, mud, and crabapples also worked when in season.

When we entered school we realized that they didn’t have crap there; again we adapted as many before us- we found dodgeball, tag and hide & seek.

At the same time plastics began to appear, and actually work for their intended purposed like squirt guns!  Now we could mark each other without having the "cheaters" getting away with disrespecting us!!!  This was fine but limited to a 10’ maximum range.

Then our Band of Brothers entered the BB age.  Getting hit by a BB propelled by 1 pump out of Crossman air rifle smarts; so at first it worked because players that were hit usually screamed and ran away. 

Again the "cheaters" learned to avoid the pain. Players responded by putting upward 10 pumps in their guns as to inflict a more noticeable wound. Problem was that you didn’t just shoot the "cheaters" with this you also shot the “good guys” too.  I have crushed two vertebra, snapped 5 major tendons, crushed my left nut, been knifed, broken ribs, ankles, arm, wrist, fingers multiple times, punctured skull, tore diaphragm, chain sawed leg, hernias, hemorrhoids, shot myself two dozen times with a nailing gun, and a ton of other injuries-  getting hit in the thigh with these skunk killers makes you never want to play again.  “Accidental” neck shots require surgery. 

 

So it Starts

In High School in the ‘70s our prayers were answered- Nasco Farm Supplies introduced a new method to mark cattle with paint capsules fired from a gun.  This paint marked the cattle and us forever.  You could not get away from the oil based paint, it was on your clothes forever and usually bled thru to your skin. But the cheaters were screwed and we were in the fast lane.  

The games started in the woods; slingshots were superior for their firepower [same rate of fire to dinosaur guns but never need reloading], highly accurate, reliable, quiet, available and cheap. Eye protection evolved from nothing to assorted safety glasses after inevitable mishaps.  Paintballs started at $1.15 a ball- considering the minimum wage was around $2.15/hr this was expensive.  You had to use gasoline to wash the paint off of your clothes, skin, and hair.  The quality of the shell was horrible, I ripped noses off of two fellow players, gave three of my neighbors hairlips and had to have a ball surgically removed from my forearm, but it was worth it to keep the games honest and civil.

It was the golden age of paintball because players had to learn- timing, awareness, strategy, movement, co-operation and paid an extreme price to play, this made it an extreme sport.  REAL MEN with real ethics played this sport.  Low lifes and pussies naturally avoided it. 

 

Building the Game We Have

It wasn’t easy finding honorable men and women to play with, but these people had a certain look and presence.  We learned to identify potential players. We would educate these potential friends and put out invites to the Sunday games.  We had to work hard to get players to play.

Big games developed, but leakers and cheaters infiltrated these events.  Fair play players adapted, forming tournaments with refs, rules and boundaries.  These woods tourneys became extremely popular.  More advanced rules, standards, and play evolved. 

Manufactures of paintballs saw the new market we were developing, but needed to tone the consequences of play down, to allow the "pussies and whiners" to play.  Hence water soluble paint, and thinner more uniform shells.  As the market grew, more competition in manufacturing lead to cheaper, higher quality paint, better standards, safety education and equipment. 

Strategies for higher profits developed.   The simplest “the more people shoot the more money we make” took over.  Paint/distributing companies made faster, easier to operate guns and more and more money.  More paintball co. sprung up cutting into profit margins- so they had to sell more volume and so on...

Commercial fields were started under the concept of making money on these higher paint sales profits.  These businesses designed and marketed fields that increased paint usage and profits.  Things grew, nearly doubling each year.  All based on more paint usage strategy.    

Fields and manufactures saw thicker shelled paint meant more paint cycled without a gun break, more bounces on players so harder paint ruled.  Accuracy by volume became an explicate strategy, and the development of products proceeded in this direction.  Pseudo “Pro Teams” were put together using the manufactures employees to push the legitimacy of the sport.  Marketing people planted the idea that the Olympics wanted us- yahoo!

 

A Few Problems

In the late ‘90s the old timers saw this as a dead end marketing strategy for lots of reasons.  First off we saw the faster you shoot the less skills that are developed and used.  This is a problem because it dwarfs the development of each player- once you ramp up to 15.8 balls per second where else can you go? 

The young tourney player I was in discussion with said “you work on other skills like running and shooting using a ramped gun”.  My response, “Are you telling me ramping makes it harder to run and shoot at the same time or are you saying that you don’t have the work ethic, and dedication to learn to run and shoot using a non-ramping gun and want to be able to compete with those that do?”  Case and point- everyone could pick up a ramped marker and make the tourney promoter rich and reduce the game to big spending- rich, lazy, knobs survive.

Second the manufactures should make products the player wants not the players use the products the manufactures shoves down our throats.  This means sooner or later the marketing B.S. looses it’s effectiveness and we quit buying [the American car industry is an example].  We need more advanced product development. 

Interestingly the same tournament player told me ramping is a new development- wrong we outlawed ramping 10 years ago in the Shocker Turbo. When an industry reaches back 10 years that is not advancement; that’s desperation to increase profits [also violates ASTM safety standards].  Also do you expect me to believe a paintball introduced 12 years ago is the best we have to offer, or is it the best way to make money off me? 

Thirdly volume costs money!  Why would any industry want to alienate any potential customer due to cost?  Every industry wants more clientele to grow business, not fewer- Elitism only works temporally and stunts growth and development, unfortunately the industry has painted [ptp] themselves into a corner. 

Also the sport is moving from it’s whole reason for being- leakers and low lives are allowed to survive in this pursuit game format because it makes money.  Example- the snake is a wipers dream bunker.  You can hit a dashing snake player on the break, he slides into the snake wiping the paint off on the ground.  Once in the snake, the attention from the opponent is concentrated on the area because a snake player can raise havoc and fields are setup without another side. This is not only a win for the cheater but the tourney promoter also. Why not online game, then any fat a-- can do it?  Thank you very much field designers, and marketers for improving the game!

Yet, another problem we saw is hide and seek play is gone!  Field Operators have developed field structures and layouts under the guise that they allow lesser players to compete.  How can you hide and seek on an air field?  The manufacturers advertise a 60% attack angle- that means that 60% of the field can attack a player in any given bunker and in order to protect themselves they have to shoot and hold shooting lanes [making them money].  How can you hide?  This also eliminates the seek portion of the game. All that is left is the shoot option!  That’s boring, lazy man paintball, but it does making money!

 

Beware!!! 

Where does the paintball media make it’s money?  Subscribers or Advertisers?  Is their opinion tainted?  Have you ever seen them bad mouth a product?  Consider where people are coming from when you hear them talk [or in my case write].  Who butter’s their bread?  Are they going to bite the hand that feeds them?  

Another thing this young tourney player expressed is the growing popularity of the sport.  He was dead wrong!!  Growth declined to single digits in ’02 & ’03; a 30% decline in ’04; and almost a 50% decline in ’05.  Maybe in your little world it’s up, but not in the real world.  Look at field operations; if paintball is so great why are they allowing carry on paint?  Why are fields shifting field time to air soft?  Why are they shifting back to big games?  Where have the tourneys gone?  How many fields have and are going under?  Operations are forced to diversify to survive. Insiders know that several major distributors are in financial trouble.  Fields are violating ASTM and insurance standards- why would they risk it?  

 

So where are we? 

In a sport that:

¨      Accepts cheating

¨      Promotes Elitism where only the rich play

¨      Hasn’t had an advancement in over 10 yrs

¨      Has limited the areas of skill development

¨      Has moved away from the underscored reason to play

 

Could anyone wonder why we have seen a decline?

 

If we cowboy up, and take the sport back from the profit whores, we will thrive and manufactures, fields and players will start developing again.  If we don’t paintball is doomed to be a cyclonic, second class activity for kids and idiot too stupid to see the shaft coming.  Once they get shafted enough they will leave, we’ll reload with fresh idiots and shaft them again. 

 

Don’t Be Discouraged- We Can Win!

How?  Just how we built the sport- but the first step is to Band Together, don't run away, the rest is a whole other article. 

 

April 8, 2006

To Ramp or Not

Ramping was a hot issue in the last century when the Smarts Parts Turbo Shocker hit the market.  I remember well the controversy and the All Americans…  For all the new guys; the discussion included: manufacturing politics/marketing, safety, insurance standards, and the promotion of paintball.  At the time we had the idea that paintball could be more than a war-game, we could actually turn it into a sport- possibly Olympic.   With the right viewer friendly format, rules standards, continued growth and positive image we’d get it done.

Prior to the Gardners’ big splash, and electronic venture, paintball was methodically developing in the direction that emotionally invested founding fathers like Orr, Kaye, and Sullivan wanted it to grow [these guys were adult players first, then manufacturers].  McGuire, Bonebrake, and Sparks, controlled the ASTM and insurance standards, their collaboration with the manufacturers provided even more direction for the budding game.  They envisioned the first, the ultimate, safe shooting game that everyone could afford and play.

Every major business that supported the game, understood that the game’s entire future hinged on everyone’s decisions.  Paintball was like an overfilled, overcrowded kiddy pool, they we still drawing up the blue prints for the new waterpark that was coming.  They all new that if they splashed around too much, the pool would loose water or worse yet the sides would blow out.  So these businesses honored each other, restricted their own activities to benefit the greater good of getting all the pieces together.

Enter the kid entrepreneurs, Bill and Adam.  They were young and full of “new ideas” to make money.  Where most of the industry was using factory teams to promote the game first, they developed products and used their team to market them in the traditional stockcar racing model.  They themselves were formable players, and they recruited the best they could get to play with them, and would seem to do anything to win and promote their company.

When the Turbo Shocker came out is was only for the use of their team.  The industry responded with a band on Turbo mode, not because they were behind [the All Americans were unstoppable anyway] but because they foresaw what it would do to the game.  They knew [some were racers] the racing model was detrimental to their concept of an all encompassing sport for rich and poor.  If the “horsepower” race went unchecked, soon only a few could afford the HPs to run even “stock” classes. 

It was too late!  Smart Parts blew out the sides of the pool before the park was ready.  They jumped in and because of their competitive nature was going for number one.  This instantly took a closed controlled market and turned it into an all out open market war.  No longer could anyone overlook their own company’s need for profits for the greater good.  Seems like it should be a good thing for the consumer; right.  In the short run yes prices came down, internet sales opened up.  But as businesses needed to make money, profitable business models became more homogeneous and alike.  The world’s largest and most popular tournament circuit was crushed because profit wars left them without viable venues.  Wouldn’t you like to play in tournaments with real prizes, photo ID cards with a real registry, you can carry your own balls on, a zillion participants, oh but a restriction of 200 balls per game.  With the evolution of Internet sales, how do I the field owner make money [off the customer] with this format?  Why would any manufacture support this, nothing can survive in a profit driven market without profit, yet history has shown that some of the true and dedicated did support it- oh wait didn’t Smart Parts sue them! 

Who suffers from a market driven game? 

In mid ’97 I was at a conference where a fellow businessman, marketer, founder of PB2X was speaking and rejoicing at the fact we were on the eve of tremendous growth because we were about to see children who grew up with the game hit the market and we will continue exponential growth.  Everyone else saw it too and geared their entire marketing programs to this new generation and has been shafting them since, with the “Matrix Marketing” trick.

How does a manufacturer maintain or increase it’s market share?  Come out with the latest greatest!   Everyone in the industry profits from this, the manufacturer sells to the distributor, he to the retailer, retailer to you.  You pay big bucks to get the hottest product [usually a skinned over old product] and get the psychological edge on the field.   6 months later rumors of a new latest and greatest makes your marker’s “worthless”.   Who wins here? 

In an established sport with sound established parameters [like trapshooting or archery] it would balance out.  In a budding sport where the rules are ignored by the manufacturers [Ramping and full auto modes violate ASTM safety and insurance standards why do they even offer them?] it becomes a feeding frenzy of the latest and greatest for the manufacturers.    Example- can anyone tell me how much a Dye Matrix cost when first introduced- $1500?  How about now- $250?  What about the DM3, 4,5,6… all of these markers cost the same to produce, started out at the same price, are virtually identical in function yet hold vastly different values from their original price because the customer responds to marketing for the latest greatest.    

How does it affect the existing market when we have a marketing media and field designers that supports the latest and greatest. Let’s say you are a teen with a very limited income.  You work you but off all summer to get the very best; a marker that will make you instantly competitive- a DM6!   Finally you get it in August play a month with it, and the DMC and Proto are announced to hit the market.  How would you feel?  Do you feel that the game is too expensive for you and you leave?  Do you feel you have to live with what you have and compete as such with you “inferior marker”?  Whatever thoughts they have about the game, they are not good thoughts. The computer industry can live with this model because people are more and more convinced they can not live without the latest software.   We will not convince enough players of this to support the paintball industry.

How many adults play paintball?  

More adults played ten years ago!  As people mature they catch on to Matrix Marketing or respond to it.  Assuming they move out of mom’s house- they start accumulating more expenses and believe they can not afford to play. 

Secondly, they feel resentment to the industry because experience and dedication is ignored, in a couple ways.  [1] Media writers are dominated by the youth they are marketed to.  Five years ago magazine were featuring adult writers with adult insight, now we have kids supporting the latest greatest and if they don’t they are replaced because “we dare not challenge our Advertisers”.  [2] The fields are designed for younger bodies.  Bob Long and a host of other adult players I know, possess great bunker play skills.   On a field that accommodates older players, as well as young, the youth are at a disadvantage.  Field designs box older guys into playing back and are again insulted.  

Why not institute a real comprehensive classification network that protects the experienced from the young?   That is what all of the past networks were supposed to do.  The APL’s classifications worked until fields saw a way to generate more interest in their tournaments by buying into the new comer- NPPL. 

It worked like so.  You are playing for years working your way up to an amateur level in the APL.  Playing against the same guys that keep handing you your but week after week- it’s sad.  If you want to beat these guys, you will have to work harder, and get better.

Along comes a new league marketing with great prizes, less restrictive rules, and lets you start all over as a beginner in their organization- now you will be able play against newbies and win.  It is a lesser reputation and only a few looser teams move at first.   The better teams in the better league see’s these “loosers” winning nice stuff- get P.O.ed and decide to put the loosers in their place again or just plain join the feeding frenzy. The other league is diluted until it no longer can exist. 

The PSP… is doing the same thing to the NPPL now.  This is the equivalent of Matrix Marketing for field owners/tournament promoters- Same basic product with a latest and greatest twist [ramping].

The questions is not should we allow ramping?  The questions really is do you possess the insight, dedication, and fortitude not to accept ramping?

 

June 28, 2006

Practice Makes Perfect!

As you can tell I am from the old school of paintball, when cheaters were called such, and they cared.  I am struggling to come to a conclusion why cheaters don’t care if they are identified as such.  When I ask them they say, “Oh come on you do that too!”, and, or “You’re a hypocrite, you have to cheat to compete, how else can players with crap equipment like yours win?”   This got me thinking, what are these players lacking in their character to allow them to justify cheating like that

Self-worth/Poor Self-image? 

This could be it.  A player feels they have to show they can do well even if it is stolen glory, but this won’t work because they know it is stolen and it puts them into an even darker place.  Or does the justification that everyone else is doing it make it right?  My daddy always said “Two wrongs don’t make one right”. 

Lack of Discipline/Conviction?

Maybe the cheater doesn’t care to put in the practice to get better.  Why should I when the other guys are cheating.   I can take the same shortcut to success- kind of the lazy man’s way. 

Up Bringing?

Maybe they grew up with Dad and Mom cheating on each other.  This ties in with Conviction.  How committed were their parents to each other?  Poor role models?  Were their parents drunks and abusive?  How come the rest of us turned out ok, then?

 Lack of Morals?

Now I am not a holy roller by any stretch.  I still contend I have Turret’s Syndrome and “I have to work every Sat, Sun so I can’t possibly make it to church.”  So can a person be excused for a lack of morals based on religious convictions?  Heck I found out lat week one of the most moralistic, righteous, players I know considers himself an atheist- I can’t figure that one out.

I kept wondering, what is different from now to back when the old guys used to play?  Then that very thought revealed an idea.  Old guys- we were grown ups, and acted like it.  We knew that all these things that were lacking- morals, up bringing, self-esteem, conviction, and all the other troubles we encountered in life weren’t excuses, but were simply challenges in life that everyone encountered and had to overcome, or we would be considered a looser by our peers.  

To those who understand maturity, I honor you.

To those who don’t understand you know where I and other grown ups are.  It is our responsibility to graciously explain it again.   

To those who want to grow up the first step is not putting yourself in the looser category.  The next is keep working at it- practicing the right skills makes a difference.  There really are a lot of grown ups out here. 

 

July 10, 2006

This weekend I had a wonderful experience at a for fun tournament at an unnamed field.  I own a field so playing time is hard to get because…  When I go to a tourney most players seem to be genuinely happy to see that I can play today [maybe it’s because I am easy points?] but for whatever reason they make the tournament a good experience for me.

The tournament started with the scheduled refs being legitimately unable to make it there, so the field rounded up some guys to put in Yellow Jerseys.   The captain’s meeting started with a “remember this is a for fun tourney, we are using replacement refs, so if you cheat we probably won’t catch you but everyone on the sidelines will see- so don’t do it.”   Well a couple of the experienced teams there were maximizing the situation, causing chaos and making the experience unpleasant.  A very experienced and honorable team, whom we have been doing battle with over the years saw the refs having a tough time.  All five pulled out of the tourney and stepped in to help.  Total control was restored immediately- and the head ref’s anxiety level must have dropped in half.  

That’s something that would have happen in the old days, but it was done by a new generation of men- thank you guys for making my day.

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