Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Never heard of it before" a self-serving blog post about Web Dog Radio and paintball.

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 paintball guy."

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.

 I 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."


  1. We'll I didn't know you had a blog until now! But I have been following you since the early 2004 era. Followed you as your vids were hosted on several other sites and more recently blip/youtube. I don't always agree with you but I always found you videos thought out and very "down to earth". After a few years of covering the basics, I can imagine it get hard to come up with substantial stuff.

    I'll admit I indulge in watching some "e-celebs" from time to time just for entertainment purposes but having finally met/seen some in real life, just turned me off. And now a lot of these people are trying to turn in a fun pastime into a job and ooze of desperation.

    But at the same time, they can do it because there is such a quick turn over. Every year brings new faces. I recently heard a kid at my local field tell him he was a "vetran" because he had played for over a year. A whole year. I just shake my head and play another round.

    1. I was given a hard time at one field, asked why I was playing a "kids game". I maintain that paintball shouldn't be a kids game, but because of the turnover, culture, and the marketing, it is. Now with the "splatmaster" guns being marketed to 6 year olds, yeah that's a little disturbing.

      As to the first part, I do appreciate that. I say this a lot, I don't want people to 100% agree with me, If I want something that'll love everything I do, I'll get a dog. I want people to consider, to think, to disagree, to agree with conditions... the goal is to make people think. Something they hate to do apparently. Mindless fluff has it's place, but if that's all you can offer to the world then what does that say?

  2. Ya the current modus operendi of many of these folks is to spout "how we're all in this together" and "its all about the sport" but when there's any form of dissent or difference of opinion your called a hater and pushed to the side or ridiculed by their sheep. Quite impressive, almost makes politics look civil.