Monday, January 24, 2011

Airsoft On the Rise: Bloggers & Retailers Polish Its Image at the Expense of Paintball

UPDATE 01/20: Airsofters are tweeting this piece all over the place – must have touched a nerve….

UPDATE 01/19: An additional thought for all of you to ponder. The article (and airsoft pundits in general) like to point the ‘realism’ and ‘military simulation’ inherent in what they do; some go so far as to kit themselves out in regulation gear, but I wonder if any of them have realized that if the average grunt could be carrying a gun that weighs under a pound, could almost fit in their pocket, has 200+ rounds in its magazine and can fire at ungoverned speeds in excess of 24 rounds per second, they’d drop that multi-pounder, cumbersome monster of an assault rifle in a heartbeat. Read on to find out where this is coming from.

Andy Van Der Plaats (Oklahoma D-Day and one of the originators of scenario games – a guy who knows a lot more about a lot more than most of you don’t know) gave me a heads-up to an article comparing paintball and airsoft on the ANSOMMag website.

Ansom is an acronym for Army-Navy Store and Merchandiser Magazine (it’s a website with a pretty big footprint) and as they say themselves, it “is targeted to retailers selling army/navy surplus, law enforcement, work & casual apparel, footwear, cutlery and outdoor products including camping, hunting, hiking and other outdoor sporting goods.”

Make no mistake, that is quite a large and influential segment of the retail business in this country. It is in fact, a key segment of the retail end of things that paintball equipment distributors have courted for years.

Ansom ran this article in response to and as a follow-on to the reports that appeared earlier in the year in Chattanooga TN, where a local paper ran a pre-Holiday comparison of two area businesses, one an airsoft retailer and the other a paintball retailer. We devoted some coverage and commentary to that article here, and we weren’t surprised to find paintball coming off second.

Now Ansom publishes a follow-up as “internet only bonus” content. If it weren’t for the tone of the entire article, I’d put that down to not having much else to offer on a slow news day.

But alas, there is the tone to consider; if you’re the kind of person who thinks airsoft rules and paintball drools, then this piece absolutely qualifies as bonus. (In the real world, this kind of ‘bonus’ is the equivalent of having an ant crawl by while watching the grass grow. Wow! Such pathos! The majesty! The tension!)

Let’s take a look at the few obviously slanted digs thrown into the piece before we move on to the main subject which is, provocatively – why is airsoft eating our lunch at this game? Paintball is supposed to be the bad boy on the block and yet – regional newspapers are cooperating in lauding the wonders of plastic BB games over our wonderful and American – Made sport.

Before moving on though, a word of caution. This post has been tagged with the EDITORIAL category, wherein we (I) get to tell you my opinion about things. Being an editorial, I try to stick to facts, but I am not restricted to doing so. It is here that I get to share my feelings and my feelings are this:

Airsoft can’t hold a candle to paintball. It’s a second rate “game” that former paintballers have taken to for one of a very few clearly defined reasons: they still want to shoot people, but they can’t afford paintball; they were incapable or unwilling to step up to the skills and training needed to play paintball in a rewarding manner or they just never had the chance to learn how AWESOME paintball is before being hypnotized by battery-operated plastic guns from the orient.

Deep down, each of those airsofters really wants to be a paintballer. The only reason that we get articles like those appearing in ANSOM is so they can assuage their feelings of inadequacy. Reading such helps them forget their shame and allows them to actually enjoy a few hours running around in the woods, fifty pounds of unnecessary gear strapped to their backs while they scream and argue with each other about who shot who first. Everyone likes to believe they’re tough. Airsoft lets these folks actually believe it for a little while.

I generally don’t like, nor do I enjoy pointing out the inadequacies of large groups of my fellow citizens, but there you go. And besides, they started it. (It’s pretty obvious that in this game, maturity doesn’t count for much.)

Do I “hate airsofters with a passion”? No. I actually feel sorry for them. Sometimes. Like once every Blue Moon. If I happen to be thinking about them at the time. Which doesn’t happen that often.

OK. Enough (for now). It’s really way too easy to pick on them. On to the article.

The opening mentions the TN article and snidely comments that “One Holiday season does not necessarily a trend make” – and then goes on to treat that one report, in one regional newspaper, about one airsoft retailer’s sales numbers as the trend that will obviously rescue the entire US economy. This is like arriving at the World Cup a week early and assuming the event has been canceled because none of the teams are there.

The article then immediately segues into an FNC trick, quoting an expert from one side of the argument and just never getting around to presenting the other (one begins to wonder if Rupert owns ANSOM too). We hear opinion (presented as fact) from an expert in the field who opines that the reason why airsoft sales are so much better than paintball sales is because “paintball players frequently rent their gear, airsoft enthusiasts are “geardos” who will buy their own equipment.”

You did mean to say that airsoft players are into buying lots of toys while paintball players spend their money on high-end, quality gear, right? No? Hmmm.

The airsoft pundit goes on, discussing the expense of each activity:

“Paintball players spend high just to be in competitions,” Logan writes. “Paintball ammo is also expensive as compared to plastic BBs which are just a pittance, and you save more if you buy in the thousands.”

Right. All 15+ million of us do nothing but play in competitions all year long and NONE of us buy our paint in quantities larger than a ten round tube at a time. Gee, maybe THAT’S our problem. Buy larger quantities and stop playing in tournaments all the damn time. (What’er ya doin in the bathroom all the time! Get out and give someone else a chance!)

Jeez. Paintballers is so dumb they just never thought of buying paint in quantity. No wonder you should play airsoft.

The pundit concludes with this:

“Having a gun culture, the U.S. players would go for realism and exact firearm replica detailing,” the blogger notes, adding that as replicas of real firearms, airsoft guns can be displayed as part of a collection in the home. Nonetheless, prices on the guns generally top out at about $500 per unit, whereas tournament-level paint markers can cost up to twice as much. Meanwhile, law enforcement units are turning to airsoft for training, “giving competition to simunitions and marker suppliers as airsoft helps keep the costs down and still provide a high degree of realism.”

So I guess I can’t put two gold Automags over my fireplace, but I can put a display of toy guns up?

(Is this guy for real? He really thinks someone is going to say “hey, take a look at my awesome gun collection” and take people down into the basement to see his airsoft guns? You do know how that goes in the home of a paintballer, right? “Yeah, these are my paintball guns. Now let me open up the gun safe and show you the real thing.”)

I’m beginning to think that there’s yet another difference between airsofters and paintballers and that difference is the depth of their fantasizing. No paintballer with more than a single game under their belt believes they’re doing anything other than shooting a paintball gun. Airsofters, well, I’m not sure what they’re thinking. Do they make artillery strike sounds in their heads? Pretend their cars are Hueys or Blackhawks?)

And meanwhile, one of Airsoft’s biggest problems (look-a-like) now becomes a virtue.

Here’s the quote that really got me though:

“Generally speaking, paintball appeals to extreme-sport enthusiasts, while airsoft is favored by those who prefer teamwork and strategy over speed of action. Hence, the greater attention to detail and authenticity, both in the airsoft guns and in the particulars of playing the game.”

Tell you what Buddy boy; you get ten of yours, I’ll get ten of mine and we’ll see who’s all about teamwork and TACTICS. Cripes, you people can’t even use the proper terms to describe what you’re writing about. Paintball and Airsoft are TACTICAL level exercises. When the game covers multiple states you can start using the word Strategic, mm’kay?

I really hate having to take wannabes to school, don’t you? Almost makes me feel sorry for kicking ‘em while they’re down on the ground.

On the other hand, the thunk that kick makes every time it connects is just. so. satisfying.

And here I promised that I was going to be all circumspect in my discourse. Ooops.

So. All that piece ends up amounting to is a pile of self-serving, bad-smelling wind – horse-puckey, cow-flop, doody.

But it does bring up a point. A significant one.

Why am I the only one who’s passionately defending paintball against airsoft? Where’s everybody else? You can’t tell me you’re afraid of a tiny plastic BB. You’d never dare to tell me you’re afraid of their players.

But you all are acting like you are. Let me explain something. The reason why Airsoft magazines, blogs and websites are full of favorable (for them) comparisons between them and us is because they recognize that they’re second fiddle right now – but they don’t intend to stay there.

They’ve also recognized that paintball is very weak at self-promotion (very, very bad, actually – some notable exceptions not-withstanding) and they understand full well (unlike ourselves) that one way to grow an audience is to build up a strawman and then knock it over.

They aren’t just converting paintballers into airsofters (good riddance, I say), they are turning non-players into paintball haters. Kids who’d never ever dream of playing that extreme-sporty, ultra-expensive, hide-n-seek thingie that makes such an awful mess.

I don’t like ‘em, but right now, I do have to admit, they’re playing the game better than we are.

Do you all want to LOSE to a bunch of airsofters?

Step it up guys, step it up, or pretty soon the Airsoft nerds will be looking down their noses at YOU

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