The last few days have been.... enlightening. Yes, we'll call it that. But in the end, it's been proving to me what I've known for a while, so allow me to elaborate.
Some of the feedback I've gotten from the last blog post said "It's just paintball, can't you let it ride?" And it's a valid point. It's "just" a game, right? Well, that's sort of the problem. See, when Mike Phillips of TechPB fame absolutely flipped his stuff at me, he inadvertently let me in on the real story. He's turning a hell of a profit, and his actions are to protect his income.
Let's backtrack. Mike Phillips runs TechPB, Markerbids.com and his youtube channel "paintballtechpb". When I named him in my last blog piece, he decided to go after me with all the resources he could, first appealing to our "5 year friendship" then attacking me on my failing health and financial issues publicly, rubbing my nose in his success and quoting his numbers at me. What was really the tell for me was in an e-mail he sent me after I had already told him "goodbye".
In it, his points of contention is that I put his name in a "google searchable" blog and said bad things about him. He also bragged about clearing "6 figures" through Markerbids, TechPB and his youtube channel "paintballtechpb". His thrust has been, and remains, that popularity is more important and justifies what he does. And that's when it clicked. This has nothing to do with paintball, it's all about profits.
So I did some looking about. According to socialblade.com, Phillips could be clearing as much as $137 a day, or about $50K a year, in monetization of his youtube videos. Granted, this goes by raw view count and does not account for non-monetized videos and CPM fluxuations. By comparison, Wolf's estimated income is $8K a year from paintball videos, A-Train is about $521 a year, Midnight Angel is around $474 a year, and PBFashion (HK Army) is about $146K a year on videos alone.
Keeping in mind that these are estimations, but if they're close then yeah there's a lot of money involved in paintball popularity just on youtube. Combine that with marketing yourself in a paintball website that can sell branded items like t-shirts, headbands, guns and accessories to paintball players, and now you're starting to see it clearer. Mike Phillips also runs a penny-auction website (markerbids.com) and I'd love to go into that, but there's a puppet who does it much better than I.
What I'm getting at is that this isn't "just a game", it's a business. It always has been. The business of paintball is, and always has been, selling an image and not a sport. The modern money maker is to get popular by selling the image that paintball is a game where you can do anything you want and demonstrating that you can in videos. The main commodity is popularity, the numbers are everything. And allegedly it is "6 figure" profitable for people who are willing to do it.
Profitable, but not progressive.
See, in all the numbers that are being slammed in my face what's being ignored is that paintball has yet to progress past "hobbist" stage. Paintball is over 30 years old now, and we still play a game that isn't even a blip on the radar. Compared to snowboarding, skateboarding, bass fishing, poker, League of Legends... paintball has yet to evolve past "OMG WE GOT MENTIONED ON A TV SIT COM!!!!!" But who cares, as long as the individual has popularity on their side that makes it good.
People keep calling me a throwback or a dinosaur, and in a way I am. I would like to see paintball legitimized into the realm of true sport. I'd like to see our players be considered athletes, and see them get paid millions to play the game. I'd like to be able to find team uniforms and logo shirts on the racks of the local "S-Mart". But instead, what we have is what we have. An industry selling an image of permanent vacation and our "heroes of the game" acting like children. It's no wonder why sponsors run away screaming when paintball looks for outside money.
In my opinion, this is one of the big dangers of the e-celeb culture. It stifles growth. But then again, if nothing else the last few days have shown me that paintball doesn't want to grow. It's happy where it's at. A small niche activity that the outside world doesn't seem to notice. It's safe, in that when the world isn't watching you can do anything you want. The moment other people look in and critique everything you do, then you have to actually act responsibly. And paintball doesn't want to do that. It would cut into individual profits. It would make the individual e-celeb less popular when they actually have to be accountable for what they say and do.
Let Rome burn.