I am in so much pain.
My son is a teenager, and like any other healthy, red-blooded American adolescent boy, he has an unhealthy fascination with firearms (and matches, but that's a different article completely). He grew up shooting tin cans with his grandfather, and graduated to AirSoft when he hit early puberty. Now that he's taller than most adults, he has decided to upgrade once again. So he wore me down, weekend after weekend, until I agreed to take him to play paintball.
For those of you who don't know about paintball, this is a game where you pretend you are the least bit athletic, and so you run halfway down a field covered with obstacles until a boy who has not yet developed hair on his testicles shoots you with a gun that leaves a huge purple welt on the fleshy part of your belly (and in my case, that leaves a fair amount of targetable area). Then you go to the sideline and watch for five minutes, then you do it again. After a few hours, you will be covered in bruises and welts, your legs will be so wobbly that you will be unable to stand, and you will smell like a wild coyote covered in rancid vegetable oil.
It might seem like I didn't enjoy myself, but I did have a very good time, and now I have to figure out how to do it again (it was expensive, and I don't own any equipment, and I really hate those damned pubescent acne-magnets who show up with their own guns and armored jackets that make it look like they've been sponsored like NASCAR drivers). My kid was crazy about it, which is no surprise, because as I may have mentioned, he likes guns. He got to shoot a lot of people. He is much faster than I am.
I think I would have had much more fun if the park had been organized a little better. For instance, the fields we played were kind of small. In one or two cases, you could actually shoot from one side to the other. For another thing, the only game we played was straight-up deathmatch, where you all go out there and shoot each other until one team is all gone. I wanted to play Capture the Flag, or King of the Hill, or some other game mode invented by kids in the 1950s and stolen by Halo.
Also, beware of parks that don't speed check their guns. The guns we had were so underpowered that you couldn't hit the same place twice, but some hot-shot kids showed up with ammo belts and guns that cost more than a used motorcycle, and their weapons were so over-pressurized that the little plastic bullets could almost send the paint right through a wood plank. Forget about the amount of pain you receive if one of those bullets actually hits you - you may be in a coma for a while. The park should have clocked their weapons to make sure they weren't causing lasting harm to fifth-graders, but since the park was staffed mostly with high-school dropouts and college stoners, they weren't exactly operating on a 'safety first' platform.
Ultimately, I think it would be best to go with a group. It would be fun to plan your attacks, set up screens and flanks and hand signals, and get to gloat furiously when you shoot your buddy in the neck. It's so much more fun to talk trash after a game if you're friends with the guy who scored that hit on your crotch that made you glad you wore a cup. Plus, this should really be approached in a manner similar to playing a board game. You should plan your moves, position your key players, and practice careful and flexible strategy. Paintball should be played as if it were live-action HeroScape, and you just can't do that when you don't even know the names of the burnouts who showed up with guns that are only slightly less painful than actual bullets.
But even if you go to a place like the one we visited, where you check out your gear from a shack that looks like it might have been stolen from the set of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and where there are huge piles of discarded gun barrels in drifts behind the buildings, you can still have a really good time. It's obviously fun to shoot people - that goes without saying. I shot a little kid at a distance great enough that I'm surprised the paint pellet broke, and I shot a really cute girl right in the eye of her facemask, so that she was half blind as she stumbled off the course. That was fun. But even more fun was circling around, dodging behind stuff, calling for help and organizing flanking maneuvers that allowed a couple of scrappy kids and one slightly tubby old man to take out a couple of those wannabe-pro punks. Those gun nerds might have talked crap up until then, but once two of them got sniped by a little dude shorter than an Ewok hiding behind a spare tire, they shut up for a while. It's no fun having to tell your elite paintball buddies wearing armored jumpsuits that you got completely outmatched by a winded, middle-aged man and his cohort in the SpongeBob sweatshirt.
I am seriously in pain. Not just sore - I have some welts and bruises that aren't going to heal in the next few days. Every muscle in my entire body is aching, and reminding me that the most strenuous activity for which I am actually fit is an afternoon nap, and spending three hours crouching, diving, climbing and sprinting is way outside my comfort zone. Yet I would love to put together a small local league, made up of friends who have as little experience and physical conditioning as I do, and play a good, fun game about one Saturday a month.
And next time, it will be someone else who is in so much pain. And, probably, me too.