Wednesday, January 25, 2006

War airsoft games: Playing with fire

The battle has begun, and insurgents in headdresses swarm the field while American soldiers in camouflage run across the tops of trailers. An explosion rattles in the distance, and in the village, an Iraqi civilian crouches over an injured man and pleads, "Breathe, my friend."

This is not a war thousands of miles away. This is a game of war, set in the safety of an Orlando industrial field and tractor-trailer storage yard near Silver Star Road.

This particular game is called Airsoft, a military simulation employing guns that shoot plastic pellets. A pastime that appeals primarily to twenty- to thirtysomething men, Airsoft offers elements of war re-enactment, paintball and live-action role-playing... (For full article please refer to original article)

Still, in the past few decades, World War I, World War II and Vietnam War re-enactment have followed suit.

"It's an interesting example of the way war shapes a culture," Thompson says.

Many kids grow up watching war movies and playing with war action figures. Re-enactment is an adult version of war games that can give participants a sense of fighting a war.

"You don't have to go to Baghdad, but you can be in Florida and be a part of what that story is all about," Thompson says.

Most war simulations occur years after a war has ended, unlike the Orlando Airsoft game. It is not clear how many live-action Iraq-themed events have occurred, but another similar Airsoft game is planned in Texas in February.

Some military units use role-playing and even paintball for training purposes, says Todd Bowers, a Marine reservist in Washington, D.C., who has worked with the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

"I felt that it was a very good training," says Bowers, who served two tours in Iraq and was wounded by a sniper bullet that left shards of shrapnel in his face.

Bowers has no affiliation with Airsoft, but he approves of Iraq war simulations as long as organizers show respect to Iraqis and consult military representatives to ensure accuracy.

... (For full article please refer to original article) ...

Shots -- plastic pellets -- clink against the trailers or nick players, who then need to await a "medic."

Roadside bombs -- firecrackers attached to pellets -- explode nearby.

A civilian cries out: "Why are you doing this to us?"

There's another sound too: unscripted laughter.

They're just having a good time, a participant explains.

After all, it's not a war. It's a game.

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