Monday, August 22, 2011

Paintball Snipers

I think I've made this readily apparent, but I hate the term "paintball sniper". I put them in quotes because frankly, I still am convinced it's a non-existent entity. What I find interesting in all of this is that the burden of proof of something's non-existence is on me. In a way, I'm arguing to prove Sasquatch or Ogopogo does not exist. I can point at the lack of a body, lack of excrement, lack of more than a handfull of questionable tracks and hairs / scales, and yet, the lack of evidence is what makes people want it to be true. Those who believe, TRULY BELIEVE, will argue to the dying breath that it's true. I feel the same way here.

So, possibly not a fair argument. So-called paintball snipers can actually point to themselves and say "SEE! I EXIST!" Yes, you do. And I'm not going all metaphysical here to disprove your existence but rest assured I could bend your noodle over that. My problem is that your declaration of existance is meaningless. Let's begin with semantics.

"I am called a paintball Sniper"

Well that's nice. So my first question still remains unanswered. "How did you get the title?" I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that it was self appointed, or someone at a field called you that once and you liked it so much you kept the term. As far as I know, there is no paintball sniper school. I think D-Day had one once, but it was to earn a designation card and have special rules apply to you and you alone.

So how do you get the title of "paintball sniper" anyhow? If there's no classes to take, no correspondence course, and only one DVD that I'm aware of that's more pep talk than prep talk, how do you earn an exclusive title? The secret is you don't. So in itself, that makes the title absolutely worthless. It's like calling yourself "John Doe, Esquire" It has meaning in some circles, but nowhere else.

I've heard an argument that the title is earned for scenario games only. In that case, I'm a paintball medic too. I played a medic once in a scenario game, so therefore by logic I'm always a paintball medic. I don't have medical training other than basic first aid, and I certainly don't wear a big red cross on my MOLLE vest nor have I taken any classes in how to be a paintball medic, but since I did it once in a scenario game I should be allowed to call myself a medic now and always. Even if I can't heal my "wounded" teammates in walk on play... But it's just a title, right?

It's around this time that people start making excuses. "Well to me, a paintball sniper is..." Ok, you lost me. What this tells me is that in your own community, you can't agree what exactly you do or who qualifies for the title you share. Again, this means the title is useless. If I can redefine the term to fit my needs, I could wear a brigh tye-dye shirt and use a splatmaster to sprint down the field and call myself a "sniper".

But more often than not, I hear the term being used in much the same way "esquire" is, as a vain attempt to make yourself seem more important. I've said it before, paintball is an individual game masquerading as a team sport. Gear is sold to individuals as "get this stuff, own all your friends, and be the first picked in the sandlot!" So with that in mind, in a woods game, the fastest way to gain instant recognition is by calling yourself something. And nobody wants to use military rank for fear of offending military personell, but they're more than happy to use "sniper". "It's not always military!" I hear. Ok, so why use the term?


I made a video explaining this in full, but I'll rehash if you don't wanna watch it.

Essentially, "sniper" is a brand name that has more associated with it than just "guy hiding in a bush". It represents one hell of an american ideal. The lone soldier with a weapon that can stop an army single handed. In a way, it's the ultimate FPS fantasy. "Ramirez! DO EVERYTHING!" is nothing compared to the idea of "I can take you out and you'll never know what happened." It's trying to tap into fear and uncertainty to make your opponents not want to mess with you.

If that's not the case, then why use the term? Why not hunter or ninja as has been suggested? Simple, the "sniper" brand name is just so much sexier than anything else. And after you spend all the money on the gear, you may feel like you bought the title and you have the rights to it.


Another argument made by Brett is a decent idea. His argument is that kids pretend to be gladiators with sticks and garbage can lids. Metric made a similar argument, basically stating in so many words "If they're having fun, who are we to complain?"

Well, I am for one.

What I'm reading in this is several arguments and insinuations. The first being that there's almost an admission of "poser" status. It's almost saying outright "we're dressing up in a costume to play" and not "I am trained in how to use this effectively." Second is the concept that these people just can not have any fun if they have to wear plain old boring camouflage to play.

Third is, and this is almost more disturbing to me, they need to draw attention to themselves by dressing up in a special suit to play a game.

Two words. "Sailor Bubba"

At this point I want to ask if we're playing a game, or playing dress up? I've often said that the tourney guys are playing dress up pretending to be athletes, so does that mean you guys play dress up to pretend to be soldiers? It's an interesting idea, to be certain. So the idea is that it's indulging in an immersive fantasy that they're something they're not? So why not just play the sniper missions in Call of Duty and save the money? Ok, RL games are more fun, I admit that.

The difference is that with two kids playing "gladiator" in the yard, they know they're not fooling anyone. Most of the "paintball sniper" crowd I've met are convinced, or they try to convince me anyway, that they truly ARE a different breed of paintball player. That what they do is so radically different that they are ENTITLED to call themselves something to set them apart. I've never heard kids insist on being called "Urthokk! DESTROYER OF LEGGOWORLD! outside of playtime. But come to think of it, that'd be pretty cool if they did.

My ghillie is better than your camo.

I hear this a lot too, that a guy in a ghillie suit is automatically a sniper. If that's the case the title costs $100 base and you haven't earned it as much as bought it. But in this article of clothing we start to really have problems with the concepts.

First of all, any ghillie worth its weight will bounce paintballs at any range. This means that most fields that allow ghillies have to modify the rules so that bouncers count, and at this point we may as well play airsoft. This also relies on the honor of the wearer to call themselves out on bouncers, and to be honest I don't trust any of you people enough to do that. I barely trust people to keep their goggles on, let alone play with an outdated sense of honor.

Yeah, I said it. Paintball has no honor, not anymore. The few people that do are rare to find, and a pleasure to play with because we can just play the game. But back to ghillies, I don't trust a guy who's spent more on his clothing than I have in my car to admit when they've been bested without proof. To that end, I've seen many an argument and MANY a situation go sour when a sniper gets lit up and won't leave because "I never felt it." Only to watch them get up and a half a case falls out of their suit. "Oh, oops."

But to the point, the problem I have here is that paintball has to change to suit them, not them changing their style to suit the game. They could simply not wear a ghillie, and play like the rest of us. But no, they throw fits and demand that they won't have any fun unless they can play their way and complain when they can't use their "special rounds" to shoot further. Speaking of which...

Reach out and touch someone

I have two videos to show you folks.

This one from Trails of Doom starts with a 350' shot. The video is not what I'm contesting, I have no reason to doubt what he did is legit. What I want to point out is that the ball bounced. Ok, he's shooting hanging paper not on backing, but still, it bounced.

Brett did the same kind of shooting, and actually I comment him for being resourceful in how he filmed it. Both of these guys did show they could get a ball out to distance, Brett actually managed to get breaks on solid surfaces at distance. So they've shown the ball can go that far.

I still have issues with this, however. Going back to branding, I thought a sniper should be able to pick people off at range, 1 shot, every time, OSOK right? That includes at these extreme ranges, which is what the pop culture sniper is supposed to be able to always do. I'll let this argument slide, as I know that in the real world military snipers have a hard time putting rounds on target at extreme range too because they have to account for windage, drift and so on.

The secondary problem is that Brett did this with a standard Phantom, and Trails with an Apex tip. Meaning that, in theory, everyone should be able to do the same thing with little to no cost. So, in working theory, there's no technological difference between normal players and "paintball snipers". Range is back out the window except for the case of "First Strike" rounds.

FS rounds are paintballs with a fin, for all intents and purposes. The idea is it's supposed to fly further and straighter, and I've seen videos for and against this. I've gotten some offers from players to send me a tube, but to do real world testing I want more than a tube. And I'll be using my normal gear. I can't justify spending hundreds of dollars to shoot a specialty round. It reminds me too much of the "Safety Paintball" from many years ago.

DT Safety Paintball

At least the sniperball was an attachment to a normal paintball. Too bad they didn't sell the fins separately, I think they could have had something with that.

My point is that they have no special weapon to have any longer range. They have to obey the safety rules like the rest of us, so if they're getting bonus range I'd like to know how. Hop-up barrels and heavy paint aside, there's no way to do it. So the "sniper" brand again fails in that there's no bonus range, or more correctly no discernible advantage they carry into the field for range.

And I'll put this here too, because I can hear it already. "FS rounds go further!" Ok, never seen one shot anywhere but at a target, so I'm not gonna pass judgement. The reason I've never seen them is frankly every field in the area is FPO, so I can't bring them onto the field. And the arguments have been made "Well get the field owner to stock them!" or "Ask them if you can bring your own!" Both of which are so selfish and self serving that it makes me ill.

If a "paintball sniper" gets to bring his own rounds, or can get a field to stock his special round, then I demand that they do the same for me. I want them to get me a case of heavy paint. Something like an old school Wax Zap or the first gen Diablo Midnight in weight, and we'll talk range. And once we do that, everyone will want similar treatment. What gives a "sniper" the right to ask for special treatment?

Special Treatment

This brings me to my final argument. I've had this feeling for a while, but based on this latest round of debate it's pretty much solidified my opinions here. For the most part, emphasis on MOST, the paintball sniper community are selfish. It's not about everyone having fun, it's all about them having fun only. Change the rules, let me bring my own balls, change your business, I wanna play my way or I'll badmouth your field for not letting real woodsballers play there.

Again, emphasis on MOST. One or two have actually been cool, and they get it. But for the most part, I was critical of an event in video, and the sniper community took it as a PERSONAL attack on them. Not snipers, THEMSELVES. And this leads me to my current opinion.

It seems to me that for most of these guys, they have a personal stake in the "sniper" branding. I can't say if they're using it for the fear factor or the mystique that comes with the name or if they want to stand out in the parking lot, that's not really my place. But it seems to me that they're screaming for legitimacy, and not doing much to earn it other than scream that they deserve it.

I just perform this way.

So am I saying that being stealthy has no place in the game? No. Not only no but HELL no. What I'm saying is that it's a fantasy world that clashes with my reality.

What you guys call sniper skills I call "good woodsball skills" because we've been doing them for years. Just becasue a segment of players have never bothered to learn some skills does not mean you are special. It does nto entitle you to have more fun than I do, it does not entitle you to having special paint brought in for you or the rules changed becasue you can't play your game without your special boots on or whatever.

A few days ago I got a fun letter from a "paintball sniper" accusing me of discouraging newbies from playing paintball. He said they would want to be snipers, and my videos are discouraging them from playing. He then said I had bad sportsmanship and I'm bringing the game down. I prefer to think that I'm bringing a healthy dose of reality into a game that needs more than I can inject. the sport is VERY good at selling fantasies. Almost too good. And this is yet another one to add to the list.

I want to close on one thing here. Every argument of this ends up with "agree to disagree" which, to me, is weak. It means "I still think you're wrong, and I won't budge from my opinion, so screw off." Either that or it ends with a declaration of victory thruogh impossible means. "I exist! PRove I don't exist! You're wrong!" Meaning that they won't justify their position other than to flail thair arms around and scream louder which, as we all know, is how to win any argument when you're 6.

I still want justification for use of the term. I still wanna know where you get paintball sniper certified. I still wanna know why they get to wear bounce factories and I get ridiculed by them for wearing bounce jerseys. I still wanna know why they feel like the field should allow them their own paint and I gotta pay $110 for white box. And yet, I hear no justification for this, only excuses. "If I'm having fun, who are you to complain?"

I'm a paintball player, just like you. No fancy titles, no entitlement to special rules, just another player.

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