Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paintball & Media, part 1

The long VFTD nightmare is over. The paintball media series begins! Feel free to breath a collective sigh of relief. Whaddya mean you forgot it was coming? Well it is so count your lucky stars. Oh yeah, and it's coming in at least--at least--five installments! So there. (Okay, probably more like three but the threat of five had you going, didn't it? Admit it.)

Today's installment looks back for a quick review of paintball's relationship with media (and what media was) prior to the I.T. revolution and the explosion of web based communications. Primarily we's talking magazines. (Sure, video was around (getting started) and *gasp* even some television programming existed but neither filled the role magazines did.) The typical mag offered a little of all things paintball; gossip, technical info (kinda), news, how-to's, general paintball information and, to a greater or lesser degree, all wrapped in an entertaining package loaded with photographs.
Of more immediate interest (to me) is the factoid that the paintball magazine was both celebrity driven and the star maker. Mix in an advertising base that was almost exclusively pbindustry and the result was often front to back paintball cheerleading. The result was a largely uncritical monthly promo for the competitive side of the game and the manufacturers who (seemingly) made it possible. (Yes, I know there are still a couple mags out there but they a) follow the formula, and b) only have a fraction of the impact the galaxy of unchallenged paintball mags once did.)
It was also the primary portal for the non-paintballers entrance into the world of paintball.

Warning: Quasi-related Tangential Thought. (If you have ADD or ADHD please skip over this part and come back to it later. Otherwise the focus shift could leave you disoriented and confused. More so than normal that is.)
Maybe the (partial) cause of one of paintball's current "problems" is its relative ubiquity. There was a time, not all that long ago, when paintball was routinely "discovered" by non-ballers as if it were some mystery shrouded underground happening. Today, certainly in America, nearly everybody has heard of paintball even if their actual knowledge of the game remains vague. And that supposed familiarity has killed the thrill of discovery.

Back to the post. Whatever the journalistic faults the old mags may have had they filled a need, not only for the players but also for the game. And that need has not been filled by any of the follow-up media that has developed in recent years. (Not even VFTD, which is less about reaching outside the game than it is devoted to inside the game.) Sure, some aspects have been duplicated, often intentionally, and some media outlets provide some of the same functions--at least hypothetically--hang on, I smell a Monday Poll--but the majority of the current paintball-related media is inward oriented, targeting paintballers. I know, you're gonna say, d'oh!, what do you think the magazines were doing but the mags had a more far-reaching effect that is missing today. And desperately needs to be re-captured. More next time.

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