Study war no more

Coram, NY, USA -- 25 April 2008 | Permalink
3 pictures
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The buildings by the entrance were decorated with curious objects — a larger-than-lifesize statue of a marine in all-over camo crouched on the roof, threatening the parking lot with an M-16, while an alligator perched uncertainly on the ridge pole. I noticed Charles looking uncertainly at the giant marine. “You smell that, soldier?”, I said. “That's the smell of testosterone”.

In reality, for all the high-camp military bric-a-brac with which the paintball site was decorated, testosterone levels didn't seem to be running unnecessarily high. The deferential young umpires in their bright orange T-shirts worked at encouraging us to have a good time rather than stirring up our inner warriors, and even the supposed rivalry between our side and our opponents became relatively muted once we actually reached the battlefield and were plinking away at each other. With the rebalancing of teams (we fielded just nine people to their fifteen), we'd actually acquired their CEO, which probably made it hard for anyone to get too sectarian.

And a good time was had by all. Despite initial misgivings, I found the experience more fun than I'd expected, and it was worth the price of admission just to watch our chief operating officer inadvertently shoot the CEO in the back at close range. For my part, I can't claim to have particularly distinguished myself, or done much to earn our (somewhat disputed) victory — I did very well in the first battlefield, then spent the rest of the day as cannon fodder as our enemies got over their initial overconfidence and turned crafty — but I did take home a large collection of colorful bruises as a souvenir.

Update: Bill Cammack, who makes a weekly videoblog for blip.tv, has taken my colleague John's battlefield footage, some more of my pictures and some live interviews with the survivors and produced a compelling documentary of the day's events.