Paintball – The History of the Sport
Today paintball is a popular sport which has spread all over the world and become a truly global leisure activity. Its evolution into the modern game has taken place very quickly compared to most sports. The paintball gun has its origins back in the early 1970s when James Hale of Daisy manufacturing invented and patented a gun to be used for marking trees and livestock. The principle creators of this game were Bob Gurnsey, a sporting goods retailer, Hayes Noel, a stockbroker and Charles Gaines, a writer and it’s widely accepted that the first ever recreational game took place on 27th June 1981 in New Hampshire, USA, when 12 friends used these Nel-spot 007s pistols to play a primitive version of ‘capture the flag’ in a field measuring over 100 acres. Legend has it that the winner captured the flag without firing a single shot. As the game progressed minor modifications were made to the guns to limit the power and the paintballs themselves changed from oil-based to water-based to make it easier to wash the paint off clothes.
The game was first marketed by Charles Gaines as “National Survival Game” (NSG), a name which reflects the nature of paintball as it was first played. Occasionally the groups of people playing broke off into teams but most games were a case of every man for himself. As recreational paintball became more popular and sophisticated, more people were playing and using teams became the standard. Many different types of offensive/defensive games began to form but “capture the flag” was still the most popular. With the increasing popularity of the sport came the development of the commercial industry and more organized tournament-style games.
The first outdoor commercial paintball field opened in 1982 in Rochester N.Y. by Caleb Strong and the same man opened the indoor version in 1984 in Buffalo N.Y. This allowed big groups of people to gather in one place and play and encouraged the paintball business owners to develop the game further to keep the players interested and entertained. The “bunker-style” game came about and the smaller fields seem to benefit everyone. They meant that the players could start the action quicker without having to stalk through the woods for ten minutes without seeing anyone, and the business owners were happy because players were purchasing more paintballs due to the constant fire fights.
Nowadays commercial paintball fields are commonplace but many still prefer to play out in the woods in non-commercial games. While this is cheaper it can be more problematic and dangerous than paying to play at a commercial site. Although the majority of enthusiasts only ever play recreational, professional teams are being formed all the time and compete at national and international level. The first cash prize tournament was held in 1983 and even then the prizes were worth $14,000, today the prizes are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In 1992 the NPPL (National Professional Paintball League) was founded and became the major force in professional tournament games when it started its Pro-am series around the US.