Paintball is a game played by individuals or teams that uses strategy, survival tactics and a gun with markers to defeat the opponent. To play, challengers use paintball guns to shoot or tag the opposing team with a non-toxic, water-soluble polymer. The team that “hits” all the members of an opposing team wins. Games are played in facilities with hard floors, or on indoor and outdoor fields. For nearly 35 years, the game has been played as a recreational activity by family and friends. However, paintball was accepted as a sport in 1999 by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), therefore, it can also be played on a professional sporting level. Professional teams go on to compete in major tournaments in an organized competition setting. Additionally, military branches, law enforcement and security organizations utilize paintball technology as a significant part of training.
The evolution of paintball began with the Nelson Paint Company. In the late 1970s, the company developed a gas-operated gun with marking pellets to be used for any tasks requiring a semi-permanent mark shot from distances, including marking trees for removal and cows for slaughtering. However, the game itself was created by two friends – Charles Gaines and Bill Gurnsey. The friends developed a set of rules for “survival games,” which tested people’s skills against each other. Their games required a marking pellet gun. After searching for a year, Gaines and Gurnsey discovered that the Nelson Paint Company carried a selection of industrial guns and pellets that was exactly what they were looking for. In 1981 in the state of New Hampshire, Gaines and Gurnsey, along with 12 friends, played the first game of paintball on a 100-acre field without wearing or using any safety equipment.
Gaines and Gurnsey named their idea “The National Survival Game” because of the nature of the first combat. Sometimes, the friends would play as individuals or as teams. However, the object of the majority of the games was based on, “every man for himself.”
Through the years, paintball surpassed the simplicity of its beginnings. As more people became interested in the game, forming teams became the standard. In 1982, the first national competition was held. With the game quickly becoming a popular competitive activity, different variations were created, such as capture the flag, speedball and other offensive/defensive scenarios. By 1984, the first indoor field was opened for battle.
The safety equipment worn and used while playing paintball has evolved greatly since the initial stages. The original safety goggles worn were the same as the ones worn in laboratories and wood shops. Today, the modern safety goggles are the same ones commonly used in skiing and snowboarding with the added protection of UV resistance and a hard shell that fully covers the eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Additionally, older versions of the safety masks have been fully upgraded with less bulky designs, making it easier to wear and maneuver.