One of the things in my bucket list is to try paintball because I was really inspired by a good friend’s, Paul Basco, interest in said sport. It is something that I didn’t really plan to do anytime soon though.
Last January 16, I and an equally good friend, Jake, received an invite from Ameen, a Saudi national, to join his group, MKT Dudes, in their next battle on January 22. Ameen, just like Jake, is a colleague who became a friend because he loves to blabber during free time. Isn’t it funny how three different souls get along so well because of prattling?
Giving in to the invite wasn’t easy. Both Jake and I were really hesitant because of money issues, but when we found out later on that Ameen will shoulder everything, we gave in right away. Moreover, he will fetch us from our place. As for me, I have to stress out that in addition to that grand-in-aid, my acceptance was borne out of my quest to find new distractions from the everyday grind and to activate my body’s already dormant adrenaline.
Unlike Jake, this was my first time to play paintball, which, according to 1stpaintball.com, is a combination of combat play and survival hunting game with the use of guns shooting balls of paint. I had to learn the elementary concepts and stuff through Mr. Google three days before the battle day.
At round 7:00 in the evening on January 22, we left the office in Exit 07 for 1stPaintball Arena in Al Thumama. There were still players on the three fields by the time we’re done with our gear—mask, makeshift bullet armor, etc. It was perfect time to see how the battle goes. Seeing the players mightily display their tactical skills on the fields heightened the excitement. Each field, by the way, contains specific boundaries, barriers behind where players can hide, zones that are neutral as well as two officials whose primary role is to determine if paintball hits are legitimate. This means that they are large enough and were not made within the 25-foot shooting boundary.
A few minutes later, we’re up to our turn. We were ten all in all divided into two teams. Happy to know the facilitator was a Filipino, who enlightened us on the dos and don’ts of the first challenging round: Slab Wood.
Slab Wood is an elimination game where players will exterminate the opposing team starting from the home base. The obstacles are in the form of vertically erected slab woods equally laid out for the teams. Any player who gets hit on the chest, abdomen, shoulders, or back needs to raise his hands, as a form of surrender, and leave the field immediately.
Before our team finally entered the arena, Salman, the one who knows the ropes, imposed a strategy that we will be using for all the rounds. He called it finding cover—a critical defensive strategy where a team member has to cover for one who needs to move near the opponents’ base, especially when he is peppered with enemy fire. This doesn’t mean sticking together because the critical key in this kind of defense strategy is for us to spread out evenly to several directions and ensure that we are keeping an eye on one of our team members, the one who is moving. Furthermore, he told us to be really patient and be hidden well.
The game began when the referee shouted “Game On”. Adrenaline rush took over my senses and once again, I felt so alive.
In less than six minutes, we successfully derailed our opponents. I wasn’t the best player; it was Jake, who really impressed me with his daredevil like character in the battlefield. What I got was a little praise from Ameen, whom I covered for, for doing such a great job and, above all, I didn’t get even a barely missed shot. We were all feeling commandos after the official declared who won the game.
During downtime, our teams converged while having our refreshments at the waiting area to be reminded to stick to the strategy. Immediately after that, we went in the Speedball—the second course—which is still an elimination game, the rules are the same except that there are two added body part targets (i.e., the head and neck). The playing field is composed of bunkers, of the same location and number on each side of the field, that provide an equal playing area for each competing team.
We were able to play well in this round but we didn’t win. We lost by just a point. The worst thing for me was I got my first taste of paintball on my chest, right “there”. I got shot and it damn hurts. But, of course, it’s far nothing compared to the real bullet.
Determined to nail the third round, Conquer the Flag, we had to make a thorough review of the strategy. According to the referee, there is the fourth round, Death City, but that is just for emptying whatever paintball left in our pellet guns, and that this will be the concluding round. So during downtime, we discussed the previous round to get feedbacks on how our fieldwork went. This paved the way for us to adjust the tactics based on the mistakes. Suffice to say we had carefully planned this time around.
Our goal now is to take the flag first in the middle of the arena by shooting anyone who will stand on the way. A team wins by eliminating all the players of the opposing team and, of course, when the flag is captured. Whoever gets hit on the stated body parts will have to leave the arena right away.
The battlefield in this round resembles to a dense forest and follows a sinuous path. You can barely see where the targets are unless they fire. What I can recount from here is I just did what the leader told me to do: to cover my war buddy, Ameen, who will be moving toward the flag from the right side of the base no matter what. The other two members will take the left side and the leader will take the middle. Ameen was able to advance for 10 meters from his position while I was covering him but got shot very soon. I got a bird’s eye view of how it happened. I realized I had to really hide at something enough to cover me and to be patient at taking a peek at where fires are coming in order to aim the gun at each of them with precision. That is the very technique I read on their website. So I took very quick peeks at different spots from a perfectly sized lump near the flag instead of a long glance around. Fortunately, there were three, my very targets, of them who seemed unaware of that. Therefore, getting ready to take them down after they fire was pretty easy.
In the middle of this round, the somewhat harmonious exchange of paintball fires for a few minutes was amusing until I noticed Jake already crawling his way to the flag. By that time, there was just one player from the opposing team and four from ours so covering him was a ducksoup. Jake displayed another risky ball of steel moves, which fortunately ended heroically. To cut the story short we won. That was one hell of a victory. The intensity was overpowering; we had to yell and wave the flag repeatedly and boastfully.
An hour later, I left the building all sticky but with a new found appreciation for paintball. Before I went to bed that night, I reflected on the experience and extracted some nuggets of wisdom from it. Behind the reputation of being a pastime for hicks, paintball is absolutely fun and thrilling with an undercurrent of intellect. I may have a little understanding of the physics of the game but I am sure being a team player is a precedent just like in any other sports. We stayed positive by encouraging each other no matter what error was committed so we had much better time on the field. That’s why we won.
On the whole, I find it really amazing just how easy it is for enemies to become comrades off the battlefiled. (Thank you gents for this experience.)
As you are aware I’ve only played one game; howbeit, I wish this post will spark some interest in those who haven’t played it yet.