New Perspectives : By Foolybear


I came to the realization recently that I’m getting close to 20 years in paintball. Like everyone, I started off renting gear, but I was instantly hooked and quickly invested in my own kit and became a regular, playing 3-4 times a month. After so many years in the game, when I see a paintball field – I view it through the lens of thousands of battles. I pick up on angles, where the cover is best, and I spot the key positions that can make or break a game. And while that experience is great, it also limits me, in a way, by channeling my sight along conventional lines.


Some of their games didn't include everyone having gear. Here, my student breaks cover to make a daring run up the field.
This summer I had the opportunity to teach in the Summer Accelerator program for the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. My teenaged students spent two weeks in an online class before coming to Brevard College, in the mountains of western North Carolina, for a residential week. Our topic – games. We examined the social, historic, and cultural value of games, the effect that games have on interpersonal relationships, and how games and gamification might be used to solve problems in the real world. And as part of our week’s activities, I took my students to play paintball at my favorite field, Line-of-Fire.

Later in the day I loaned out the Etha2. Nor surprisingly, they loved it.
To prepare for the day, I asked them to design the games we would play, and without having any paintball experience, they came at this task from a refreshingly different angle. They approached this challenge from the perspective of game designers rather than as paintballers. My students started with the outcomes in mind and went through a backwards-design process to determine the rules for the game. For instance, they discussed how they enjoyed the feeling of immersion that comes from games with well-developed narratives, so they created storylines for our rec ‘ball afternoon! They even designed the situations that would build to climactic, triumphant moments where one brave move might result in a heroic victory, or sudden defeat. Without knowing it, these new players, in an afternoon, invented the best parts of scenario paintball.

First time players who will be back for more!
After nearly two decades in paintball, a group of beginning players has helped me see it in a new way. And that’s what is needed to remain active in the sport – those moments that keep making it fresh again. You don’t have to find a group of young game designers to get this feeling!  Try out a new field; take a paintball road trip.  Play one of those bucket-list games, but also step into the woods at an unfamiliar field, one where you don’t know all the good spots or who the best players might be.  If you can channel that rookie player experience, you’ll not only fight off burn out, but you might also gain a new perspective on the game you’ve loved for so long. 


Who doesn't love an epic boss battle? In this game, I played the role of the boss, and my students worked together to defeat me.
 
An unusual starting station - a barrel in the middle of the town. They hid their markers in buildings and had to find them to start the free-for-all game.

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