Paintball with Coworkers. Help!
October 29, 2011 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Company paintball as team-building event coming up. Never played before. Advice?

I've never played paintball before, or anything like it (other than a bit of laser tag, which I was terrible at). My company is going on a paintball-as-team-building exercise in a couple weeks.

My main fear is that I'll get overly bruised or hurt in ways that could have been avoided. From what I'm told, we're doing some kind of "casual" paintball, which means we're just wearing a faceplate and vest, not a helmet or any arm/leg protection.

Today I'm visiting the army surplus store today to look for breathable clothes that will cover my ears and neck, but any advice would be appreciated. My first impulse is to just wear a huge-ass scarf, but I would rather get some welts than alienate my coworkers with weird behavior.

I'm not particularly concerned about being the one who loses first every round or being the least effective, and since I've never played paintball or even fired a gun, pretty sure that's what my fate is.

That said, any tricks or tips from paintball pros would be appreciated.
posted by ®@ to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. Volunteer to perform a risky maneuver on behalf of your team. That way when you are eliminated it will appear noble.

2. Do not become the person who, when given a paintball gun, transforms into an unsettlingly aggressive, homocidal person that everyone else will talk about on Monday.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:35 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

paintball guns can be set to various psi, which affects the velocity of the ball (and thus, the pain) unless you know that psi is gonna be at lowest setting, seriously, I would wear some sort of helmet....I had a friend get concussion from paintball to head :(

also, yeah, it fucking HURTS. the one time I played I got taken out by fairly high psi ball to INNER THIGH OMG OOOWWW and yeah you'll prob have bruises.

have fun!
posted by supermedusa at 3:43 PM on October 29, 2011

Response by poster: @Clyde-

Already way ahead of you on #2, I'm already rehearsing the "stay calm, think of Monday" litany in my head. Testosterone does weird things that I'm already familiar with. Glad I'm not crazy, though.

RE: #1, that's cool and all, but it seems like a thin line between "Hey, I'm expendable, I'll try it" and "I believe I am a badass, oh look, I failed, sorry about wasting your plan." Then again, maybe if I verbally lead with the 'expendable' line it can be funny?
posted by ®@ at 3:43 PM on October 29, 2011

I think it's feasible so long as you demonstrate humility and acknowledge that you might not succeed.

If you're going to amp up the expendable line, be sure to wear a red Star Trek shirt over your protective gear.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:48 PM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

On supermedusa's concern: any field worth a damn will have a field chronograph to give you a reading so that you can normalize the velocity of your marker -- usually to a reasonable 300 FPS or so. It's usually a gadget they set up on a range that you get a reading from once you fire a few shots a little bit above it.

By faceplate I take it you mean a paintball helmet without the actual head-covering helmet part. There are paintball helmets that cover the full head (quick Google search says the JT Elite HeadShield will); look for those if you're worried.

Wear long sleeves with another layer underneath and you should be okay. I don't think there's a need for padding; paintball isn't that extreme, especially if you play casually (I'm guessing woodsball, in a field, rather than the inflatable arena of speedball). You might take home a nasty welt if a player shoots you at very close range, but that's considered unsportsmanlike in the fields I used to play in (the tradition is to tap the player if they're that close to call "out" instead). It'll happen, though.
posted by zer0render at 3:54 PM on October 29, 2011

Depending on the environment you could volunteer to camp around a corner / tree and just try to shoot people in the back. Not super exciting, and doesn't require a lot of skill.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:07 PM on October 29, 2011

The thing you probably aren't going to be ready for is how hard it is to see with the faceplate. That was the most annoying thing for me when I did it. As long as you don't get shot up close it doesn't really hurt. I got shot in the back from a few feet away by a 'friend' who thought it would be funny and that gave me a nasty welt, but getting shot multiple times from a decent distance during a game just felt like a strong tap. Just leave as little exposed skin as possible, and you'll be fine.
posted by empath at 4:54 PM on October 29, 2011

Just wear loose clothing that covers your limbs. The looseness of it will absorb a lot of the impact.

Have fun! It's a silly game, but it's fun.
posted by kavasa at 4:56 PM on October 29, 2011

I've played paintball recreationally off and on for a good 6 or 7 years, and have been shot in just about every way you can think of. zer0render and empath's advice is spot on, just a few things I would like to add:

Having taken paintballs to the head many times, I am somewhat skeptical of a hit being able to cause a concussion. It can sting, sure, but even at short range there just isn't that much force there unless there is a preexisting condition involved. Fun fact: paintball is safer then nearly any sport, including bowling. Safety is taken very seriously. In all the years I've played, I've seen only two injuries worse than a sprained ankle. Most people never get anything worse than a few small welts, if that.

The standard protective kit is the paintball mask. Occasionally, you used to see some people play with just the goggles, but I nearly all commercial fields have banned that. There is absolutely no need for special leg/arm protection, and most places don't even bother handing out vests. For covering the back of your head, a old baseball cap turned around is perfect. Moderately thick clothing (coveralls, jeans, sweatshirt, etc) is more than enough to dull the impact and you rarely even get a welt through anything thicker than a t-shirt. While I wouldn't recommend it, my friends and I frequently play in t-shirts and shorts in the summer.

Paintballs do generally wash out clean, but don't wear anything you don't mind getting a little muddy or stained!

A few tips:
-Don't stand in the open. If they can't see you, they can't hit you.
-Stick together, but don't bunch up behind the same tree. Keep some distance.
-Move and shot, rinse and repeat. If you stay in the same spot indefinitely, someone will go around behind you, which leads us to..
-Flanking! People can only look in one direction and most cover only works from one side. If your teammate is pinned down, try move around and come at their attacker from the side.
-Have FUN! Don't worry about being perfect or heroic or any of that crap, just get out there and enjoy. How many other times to you get to shoot your co-workers?
posted by vohk at 4:57 PM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Last time I went, my mask kept getting fogged up / splattered with paint. You might be everyone's hero if you bring a jumbo-sized roll of paper towels.
posted by itheearl at 5:13 PM on October 29, 2011

I would check out the course a week in advance, find a good spot overlooking most of the play area, and then deck out in a ghillie suit and snipe my way through the office like a boss, but I am probably the worst potential role model in the entire universe.
posted by elizardbits at 5:14 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Like other people said, you won't need a lot of special protection. Not every shot will leave you a bruise. The field you are playing at may have a surrender rule where if you are within a certain distance (~5-10 feet) you should ask them to surrender. Where I've played at though it's not a steadfast rule. It doesn't mean they are automatically out unless they choose to surrender. But generally if you wouldn't want to be shot that close and they don't even know you are there, it's a good idea to demand them to surrender. I've had people try to whip around and shoot me first though, so be ready to still shoot them just in case.

Some good advice I heard once is that paintball is a game of angles. If two people have cover and are just shooting at each other and ducking back, it's pretty much random who will win and won't be a whole lot of skill involved. If that happens you should try and get a new angle on them by moving. Don't be afraid to move because if you do get shot, you'll only be sitting out around 10 minutes until the next round starts!
posted by Deflagro at 5:52 PM on October 29, 2011

Some guys used to work with knew I often went to the firing range, so one day they invited me to play paintball with them. I'm a good shot so I was really excited, but on the first course it took about 30 seconds to realize I wouldn't be able to out-run and/or chase down the boys. I was starting to feel like dead weight, but I came up with the idea of being a sniper.

On the first course I covered myself with sticks, branches and leaves, and when the first guy approached the flag I just started firing. It worked, and totally caught the guy by surprise. He started yelling "Sniper! Sniper!" and there was all kinds of confusion. And even though they came to expect a sniper on the rest of the courses, having to deal with me became a real PITA for the other team and my guys were super stoked about having me on their team.

Another plus is that by hiding out you don't get hit as much. The down side is that if you're too good your team will move on to the next course and leave you behind*.

* This was fun to hold over the developers I was managing at the time. Do not leave your boss behind.

On preview:

What the worst potential role model in the entire universe said.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:31 PM on October 29, 2011

Response by poster: This is all excellent! Thanks much.

Some more info: We're only playing with other people in the same office (splitting into two teams), not going up against some anonymous group.

I don't actually know the field we're going to, otherwise I'd scope it out ahead of time. I'll see if I can find out next week.
posted by ®@ at 7:05 PM on October 29, 2011

Best answer: Haven't played paintball much recently, but a couple of memories:

1) Nothing takes the fun out of it more than playing with a bunch of your buddies and being pressured into allowing the two "professional" guys just hanging out at the counter to play with you. They are skilled, maniac 20-year-olds who will kill everyone. Just say no if somehow you end up in that situation.

2) Cold weather hurts more than warm weather. The paintballs don't hurt that bad when they burst, but if they don't burst, they can leave a mark. Cold weather means more unburst paintballs.
posted by maxwelton at 7:13 PM on October 29, 2011

Response by poster: @maxwelton (good name for this thread, btw) - Warm weather, and I'm sure we won't be playing with strangers. Good advice, though!
posted by ®@ at 7:22 PM on October 29, 2011

I played a lot of paintball in the early 90s. The gear and technology has advanced considerably, but I'm guessing the human side hasn't.

The previous thread is great. Pay special attention to the comments about maintaining friendly, sportsmanlike conduct -- it's easy for tempers to flare in paintball if some people act like dicks.

Paintball shots vary in how much they hurt, depending on the distance of the shooter, the temperature, how fresh the gelatin shells are, etc. A hit could be shockingly painful. Or not. Most of the time they're just short-lived, tolerable stings that add to the excitement of the game. After this, you'll find laser tag to be rather boring :-)

I think that in a friends/colleagues environment the most fun can be had if you avoid getting into an arms race with each other. The venue will try to upsell you on better guns, etc -- better if you all do it, nobody does it, or distribute the better gear fairly between teams.
posted by wutangclan at 10:24 PM on October 29, 2011

A lot of good advice here, but I think you should take heed of wutangclan's advice "avoid getting into an arms race with each other". If everybody has the same shitty basic weapon...its great. You guys don't need the extra $15 weapon.

Also, wutangclan ain't nothing to fuck with.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:41 PM on October 29, 2011

Try not to hit your boss. :)
posted by raf at 11:17 PM on October 29, 2011

If you're not entirely comfortable with this idea, and it sounds like you aren't, you could always come down with a car emergency or doctor's appointment. I did this recently when faced with a similar situation (as did many of my teammates) and I sincerely doubt that it will come up on my review. Bowling is a better idea, IMHO, but you can't compel the managers to see things your way, nor can they compel you to go.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:20 AM on October 30, 2011

Arm and leg protection isn't all that necessary. Something bulky and loose fitting will do a pretty good job of minimizing ouchieness. You are going to want a cup, gloves and some sort of knee pads.

I used to borrow the greaves (lower leg protection) out of my SCA armour when I was doing paintball, not so much to protect me from the paintballs, but from the ground, tree branches and so forth, but I realize this isn't a common option.

If the people calling the shots on this are reasonably responsible and have picked a well run range with guns set appropriately, the pain you feel after this will be more from the exertion than from getting hit. If this is being run by someone who is sadistic, sociopathic or otherwise has some twisted need to make a man of everyone around them, this is an ideal time to bury them in a shallow grave in the woods.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:46 AM on October 30, 2011

I don't think the sacrificial loser is the character you want to portray. Camp near your flag, you might be the guy that saves your team's ass. ANd you won't get as physically exhausted.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:13 AM on October 30, 2011

if playing with a semi auto, do not look down the barrel for aiming. instead try holding the gun in a lower position that's steady and comfortable (even from the hip is ok) and shoot continuous sequences in a slow rythm (1 shot/second) using the last shot trajectory to correct the next one, aka tracers. if you can choose paintball colors, get white or yellow so you can see them better.

when you get the hang of the slow shooting stream, use it as suppressing fire to protect your buddies while they advance. instead of hitting the enemy, concentrate on hitting their cover and keeping their heads down. noisy spots such as empty oil drums are the best, the loud WHACK! makes everyone duck, use this. it is MASSIVELY more useful than just trying to be rambo

do not camp, do not get left behind, this is useless. concentrate on protecting your team. this will be worth major brownie points in a business 'team building' setting
posted by Tom-B at 9:07 AM on October 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you are considering investing any money into this outing, more important that covering up your body (which a heavy sweatshirt will be sufficient for) would be to get a proper mask. The rental ones they give you will be single-paned and fog up in two seconds meaning you won't be able to see shit, and you aren't allowed to remove your mask to clean it for safety reasons.

Get a cheap double-paned mask with an anti-fog coating or a thermal lens. It is the best thing you can do for yourself and gives you a HUGE tactical advantage over others who will be fogging up and can't see jack.

Also, if you go to the army surplus store, get a very baggy long-sleeved camo shirt that buttons up and leave it unbuttoned. Its kind of cheap, but occasionally balls will hit it and it will absorb all the impact to the point where the balls don't even break.
posted by Elminster24 at 9:38 AM on October 30, 2011

A tech company I used to work at had one of these outings, and it was quite fun. It was in the woods, 'capture the flag' style -- only problem was that the other team were our two Army Reserves colleagues who basically owned our team. And the two project managers who set up on a bluff and riddled me after the match was already over. F you Adam :)

It was a lot of fun, but I came away with many welts. Just wear your mask, and heavy sweatpants/shirts. Also don't keep your cellphone on you, as you will fall and break it in a moment of greatness like I did; leaping over a log and shooting someone in the face whilst in midair (true story) :)
posted by GriffX at 9:50 AM on October 30, 2011

I used to play a lot of Airsoft (we used paintball masks for eye protection) and the best thing we found to keep the masks from fogging up was to rub some baby shampoo on the lenses. Sounds weird, but it worked great.
posted by DMan at 9:54 AM on October 30, 2011

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