Just want to relate a story from last week. In my town, a new lazer tag place opened up. It's becoming something of a phenomenon here. I'm not exaggerating when I say there are three "tactical lazer tag" facilities in 30 minutes drive of where I'm sitting to write this. To get into the rocking chair a little, I remember playing "Lazer Zone" in the Chicago suburbs with car headlights and photo-sensitive sensors glued onto headsets, so it's always interesting to see the progression of it.
The whole reason I knew about this place was that one of the
viewers of my show told to me that they were opening and recommended
I check it out. So I went the other day. The guy behind the counter
was friendly, happy to talk about the place. I mentioned that a
viewer of my paintball show told me about the place, and he asked
what the show was. I told him "Web Dog Radio".
Instantly, he told me "Never heard of it, and I'm a hardcore
I told him I wasn't surprised. And in all honesty, I'm not. Web
Dog has always been the "best kept open secret" of the
paintball internet community. Everyone knows about it, nobody talks
about it. And I kind of understand why. So forgive this being self
serving, but I want to explain this.
A few months ago the phrase "internet paintball celebrity"
was thrown around as an insult. It described people like A-Train,
Mike Phillips, Wolf, "Mr. H", "Necro", "Midnight
Angel" and in fact most of the self-proclaimed self-important
people who manufacture shows and useless videos about paintball
without actually saying anything of importance. Here's a clue in
order to figure out who I'm talking about. In a video interview with
someone else, is the "celebrity" also on camera and/or talking
40-60% of the video about themselves? If so, they're an e-celeb.
The thing is that all of these guys have a following that dwarfs
what I do. I would kill for their numbers if I thought it would
help. They have these followers because they present an image that
is bigger than life. They act like jerks, they're loud, obnoxious,
permanently immature, and basically all the things people want to be.
Permanent vacation, chasing the next paintball match with no
tomorrow, bragging about getting the latest and greatest in gear,
only to trash it for the next thing to come along.
But let's go back a little ways, to about 2003 when I started
making paintball how-to vids in the backyard. At the time it was
unheard of. The videos before then was PigTV's event coverage (which
was more like a news broadcast) and Serenity Dragon (which was an
interview show). I hosted the videos out of pocket, and paid for the
bandwidth more than I care to admit. Did pretty solid shows about
tactics and techniques without trying to come off as a tactical
genius. Wasn't loud, wasn't obnoxious, wasn't full of self
importance. Just stuff that worked for me, and stuff that I could
pass along. It was my way to give back to a community.
When the costs of bandwidth and production started to get a little
out of hand, I reached out to the industry to support the show. I
was laughed at. National Paintball Supply told me outright "There's
no future in paintball videos on the internet." I was told
"Nobody wants tactics videos, there's already the Ironmen tape".
It didn't gel with the message the industry wanted to sell, mainly
"buy our gear, get better." I quietly did three seasons or
so of videos before hanging that up.
That isn't to say that nobody got the point. Tom at Airgun
Designs got it. Collin at LAPCO got it. Chris at Flurry got it.
The guys at Nexed got it (and were amazed that, unlike their
tournament teams, I actually did what I promised I'd do.) But for
the most part, the industry didn't support it. Therefore, I had no
real grand exposure or presence. Yet, I kept plugging along until it
became too much of a cost for me.
Fast forward to now. Changed gears in the last few years to make
a more "culture" show because it's cheaper. I've turned my
focus to trying to put a harsh spotlight on the ugly sides of the
game. People don't want to see that, they just want to be happy in
ignorance. The message of my early videos was "Learn the theories, learn the game, play longer." This wasn't profitable, apparently. I switched gears to an angrier mode to slap people awake, and that wasn't popular either. No support, no exposure, no help. Just like always.
I get told a lot "Shut up and play", usually
from people about to be gone on the 3-5 year plan and pass the problems on. Funny thing is that when I offered to change gears again, to be more like the "popular paintball people", the outcry was equally loud of "NUUUUU!!!! DON'T SELL OUT!!!!!" Thing is, the "PB-e-celeb" formula works.
look at the modern "e-celeb" videos and I see basically
self-serving fluff, and people eat that up. These aren't people,
they're characters. Or more properly caricatures. Everything that
the demographic wants to be told, the e-celeb reinforce. Act like you want,
shoot lots of paint, buy these new guns, light people up, you'll be a bad-ass and be happy. That's the way
the industry has been all along, why change now?
A few months ago, I simply stopped filming paintball videos. I
have yet to see anyone ask me "what's going on?" that told
me something more than any direct feedback could. Meanwhile, someone spouts profanity or screams "hoo-ya"
at a camera or makes themselves a laughable parody of a paintball
player or releases video of guys getting the snot shot out of them in
slow motion, and that's what gets supported.
I told a friend that there's a lot of money to be made telling
people a message they already want to hear. The harder route is
selling them the message they don't want to hear because it's
uncomfortable. It's not popular. It's not going to be supported by
an industry built on selling players a message that they want to
hear. Its the demographic, its what they want, its what the industry
will support, its what the players want to see and be told is
"acceptable". That's what gets passed along. Not things
that think long term, not things that are helpful like tips and techniques, just
things that make players feel good now.
So all that in mind, I'm not surprised that a hardcore
"modern" paintball player has never heard of Web Dog Radio.
They know brash personalities, they know the caricatures, they know
the brand names like HK... Not a show that doesn't make them feel
good by condescending to them and offering them milk and cookies.
I'll be shocked if people know about Web Dog in 2 years.
Paintball is a sport of "What have you done for me lately"
not "What have you done to build this foundation I play on?"
And in the end, I'm getting to be "ok" with that. So I'm
just that obscure paintball guy who made some videos "back in
the day" using "dated equipment". The tactics are
still sound, people can watch the videos now and get something out of
it, but they won't. It’s easier to be told "buy this new gun,
go out and kill! OOOORAAAA!!!!!" For that matter it's easier
to buy a new gun than to improve your skills with your current one,
but that takes time and on the 3-5 year train who has time for that?
It's not as easy to be asked to think about what you're doing, but
in the long run it makes for a stronger sport. The modern "hardcore"
crowd doesn't want to think. They want to shoot ropes of paint,
light people up, yell at people who light them up and have fun
without responsibility. Ya know, someone left feedback on one of my
more modern videos saying "you're thinking way too much."
I'd like to give my response now.
"Since most of you aren't thinking at all, someone has to
pick up the slack."