Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Other World Cup

I am of course referring to the World Cup so recently concluded one nil to the rapturous accolades of all (or at least quite a few) and sundry. One nil and not even in sudden death or sudden victory--just the usual anti-climatic extra period. I won't argue with fans of the sport because it's a waste of time. Let's just agree to disagree. You like soccer and it puts me to sleep. (And yes, it will remain soccer on VFTD whatever you choose to call the wretched game.) In fact the finals put me to sleep. Literally. Most of the first half and exactly what did I miss? It's not that I can't or don't appreciate athletic skill or competition, even that displayed playing soccer--it's just that so much of it is pointless--and I mean that in every possible way. So much energy and effort expended for so damn little of consequence that flops routinely outnumber scoring chances. Soccer is the only sport I know where bad acting is a critical component of the offense.
But what is of interest to me in this culminating moment for the other World Cup is what it can tell us about competitive paintball. Not directly perhaps but in the things competitive paintball isn't. Playing some form of soccer doesn't require any particular environment though a nicely sodded pitch is preferred. Millions of children around the world practice the skills and play the game in empty lots and in the street. And in a pinch it doesn't even require a *real* soccer ball. It is the sport of the international masses and in many countries has little or no competition from other sports. Certainly no other sport is as accessible as soccer is. It is virtually free to play and can be practiced almost anywhere any time.
Competitive paintball on the other hand requires a specialized environment and uses loads of essential equipment including guns. It discriminates by age--although not ridiculously--and carries the ongoing expense of requiring both places to play and replacement of paintballs discharged and worn gear. The more serious the player the more expensive the sport is to play. And in recent years the competitive game has moved away from formats that a wider range of players could compete in toward an ever more demanding game while at the same time targeting as the prime player demographic those among the least able to afford to keep playing the sport. The simple fact is competitive paintball is a sport built on a leisure activity / hobby that is accessible only to relatively affluent populations with both the time and the money to undertake it. Everything about competitive paintball screams niche sport and we haven't even begun discussing how it's presented to the public.


Anonymous said...

You didn't say it outright, but I will now. How can anyone complain about a 2-1 PSP game and be happy with soccer?

Might I say it's the emotional investment of the viewer with a smidge of excitement from the commentator.

When the commentator concedes that points are slow without being excited about the game plans, locking down lanes, forcing errors, capitalizing on them, etc the view will respond within boredom.

I can imagine you commentating the soccer match saying how futile and boring the last 20 minutes were... If that's all people ever got, eventually they'd believe it.

That being said at least in soccer they are running around. Sure it's futile most of the time, b you see then doing it.

So in long drawn out points we should have the camera take advantage with more close up shooting and over the should shots, snap shot battling etc. Better editing and on the fly analytical excited commentating might help transform the slow games.

I'm not turning this into a pba bash but just thinking through how one sport makes slow games work while another gets bashed for being slow - even by the euros!

Reiner Schafer said...

Virtually every spectator of soccer has at one time or another tried playing soccer and most have played at least a little organized soccer. Those people know that the passes made and the intricate footwork of the players at close range to other players, although it looks easy, is in fact very difficult and extremely skillful and those spectators are in awe of that skill. That’s 100’s of millions of people around the world that are in awe, while you are bored.

Even when I watch the world’s best paintball players, I am rarely in awe of their finger twitching capabilities or their ability to run up field and surprise players by shooting them in the back. On rare occasions I am in awe when a player snaps out and with one ball hits a target barely visible from 100 feet away. But those moments are rare and even more rarely caught on camera.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty amazed that you'd pull the sitting in their bunker shooting their guns takes no skill argument, which is the corollary to what you just said.

Everyone that says that would be completely destroyed by the PSP's D3 winners, let alone their pro teams.

It takes a tremendous amount of skill to simply stay alive on the pro field, let alone stay alive and be shooting your gun in a productive way.

The fact that you don't really know this (and please don't pretend that you do because you've already revealed otherwise) is not your own fault, but perhaps indicative that our commentating is not effectively breaking down the slow games for us.

I've never really quite understood why we want every point in paintball to play like basketball with a basket (point) being made approximately every minute or less.

I thought the MAO layout made for some interesting games with frustrating choices for the players. It's not like I'd like watching it all the time, but that's exactly what makes paintball great. We take the same teams and get to watch them on a different layout which requires different strengths. Few if any team sports are really like that.

Anonymous said...

know you guys may hate this idea, but personally I would love to see it. To me the most exciting paintball is during the early prelims when the teams are still figuring out the fields. Because of this, I would like to see the fields rotate every day of play to a new layout. I think it would keep the teams on their toes, and allow more individual creativity. Away the lead combat the players to gripe about not having the layouts beforehand, the league could release all the layouts before the season, and then randomly select the ones to put up each event. Of course, it would probably be advantageous to have another events worth of layouts created so that wold cup isn't obvious.

Dean said...

You hit on a good point that I have always thought about with paintball... it is very tough to go mainstream. To play soccer, all I need is a ball and a space to play (yards, rec fields, etc.). My cost is literally the cost of a ball, and as long as it doesn't break, it is a one time cost for days and weeks of play. Compare that to paintball... even playing renegade-style means that the player needs to have equipment, buy paint and air, and needs some space where the firing of air powered markers is not disallowed. As much as we all love paintball, I do not see anyway in which paintball goes mainstream as football and soccer have. That is not to say that we can't grow paintball, but it will never be as mainstream as those other sports.

If you think about sports in their most basic form, it is easy to determine whether the sport can hit a very large player base (or go mainstream). Example, the basis of soccer can be played by anyone with two feet and a spherical object(doesn't even have to be a ball). However, the basis of paintball- shooting paintballs from a marker at other players- still involves buying the appropriate equipment (including safety equipment) and then purchasing air and paint.

The PBA webcast is an excellent product, but you must grow the player base before you can really look to grow the audience. I would argue that most people (99%) that watch the webcast are people that have played paintball. The other 1% are people that those 99% have somehow managed to persuade to watch (family, girlfriends/boyfriends, etc.).
Maybe PBA can push to capture more viewers from the paintball player audience (woodsball players, renegade players), but I do not see much growth in outside viewers.

Slightly off rant, but Reiner also brings up a good point in that it can also be very hard to capture some of the awe inspiring paintball moments, like the brillant snapshot. In many other sports, the brillant moments are easily captured and presented to the audience.

Anonymous said...

Let's be honest - PBA was created for one reason and one reason only: fantasy paintball, which hasnt caught on like the organization wanted, or anticipated. If that wasnt the case then the company wouldnt have invested heavily in stats, or made them geared toward exclusively toward the individual (while keeping us all in the dark about TEAM performance, which they do keep and give to teams after each game. What's up with that???) If they cared about growing the sport, they'd release the game-by-game stats/"box scores".

It's not about growing the sport or creating sustainable fan-bases built around teams, it's about trying to create fantasy paintball as an industry. Period.

Anonymous said...

The cost of making a ski resort is in the tens to hundreds of millions.

Expensive rental equipment and lessons are necessary. Once you're good enough you can buy your own equipment for $500-$1000+.

Skiing is seasonal, paintball is seasonal (for the most part).

Both paintball and skiing have dedicated "parks" in the natural terrain with entrance fees.

To ski for a day will cost you about $50-100 (or more). To play paintball for a day about the same.

You have to travel some distance to ski (often quite a distance), you have to travel some distance to play paintball.

On the weekends in the winter you go to a ski resort and there are a couple thousand people there. Not so with the paintball field.

I'd suggest in many ways we'd be better off comparing our sport to skiing, and patterning our professional leagues after them.

Skiing is not a team sport (although there is a team component to an extent) but I think it's a good pattern to follow.

Skiing also has events which travel from venue to venue with different "layouts", weather conditions affecting the play, etc.

Anonymous said...

If they're trying to create fantasy paintball as an industry they're doing a piss poor job of it.

When it comes to PBA, we can all (hopefully) agree its much better than anything ever put on ESPN, FoxSports, etc.

And yet we all know plenty of people who have seen paintball on ESPN, etc. in the past who have never seen PBA.

PBA's audience problem is really a distribution problem. They're in essence relying on the same distribution network the industry uses to sell a $1500 gun to watch PBA, which is obviously a very small group.

PBA desperately needs a way to drive viewers to its awesome product beyond the normal collection of blogs, etc.

Probably they'd benefit from spending 20k with the right publicity group before the World Cup webcast (assuming the webcast was free). It could be just as "simple" (easier said than done) as paying Yahoo to promote the World Cup webcast.

Actually, that's not a bad idea... Yahoo is probably the best bet these days to push live entertainment content without a built in audience.

Michael Brozak said...

I think if you want to bring some excitement to the webcast then gun mounted cameras might be an interesting idea. Now I don't know the how's involved to make this happen, but if we could see the game from the players perspective then it might be something that could amp things up. Maybe give the option to switch from the field view to a starting player of your choosing and watch the game from his POV? That way we see run-throughs, snap shooting, and slides. The technology has to be available and you know they (PBA) will charge for it to make it worth doing. I'm currently working on a project that would allow me to put a 360deg recording camera on each of my starting 5 and that I can review with them after practice or events. It will show me where they are shooting as well as where opponent shots are coming from. I can view their footage at 360 deg on my ipad simple by scrolling left or right.

Anonymous said...

Gun cameras are terrible and only rarely show anything entertaining. They suffer from being too shaky and at wrong angles.

What would be better would be more camera placement "over the shoulder" that could see down the most obvious lanes both off the break and during play.

Owen said...

You know very little about football. That's why it doesn't hold your attention. I can't watch "American Football" for the same reason. Doesn't make it a crap sport.
if there was a match between Dynasty and Impact, that took a full 15 minutes for one point, you might argue that it was the most tense and powerful point ever, because you know and appreciate the work that went into it.

Germany, off the back of crucifying Brazil, had to completely change up their style to deal with the Argie defense (that hadn't conceded a goal in 7 hours of play). They did it, and ground out a result thanks to an awesome late goal, right before the match would have been taken out of their hands and put into the hands of the penalty-kick gods. If you've ever watched any other World Cup finals, they are all tense like that, and you rarely see a slew of goals as the match is the most important match you can play, and one mistake is all it takes.
It was a great World Cup this year man!

Nick Brockdorff said...

Most any sport has its viewership determined by how many people have played it.

Very few sports have appeal to people that have not played themselves, in large numbers.

We can discuss cost of paintball all we like and compare to football (soccer), but I could counter with horseback riding, skiing, sailing or whatever, and say those are televised sports where athletes earn lots of money, despite being fairly expensive to get good at.

The real problem for paintball as a sport, is that the vast majority of people that play paintball, do not play our "sport".... they play woodsball, scenarioes, etc.

So, there is very little interest, even amongst our active player population, to watch our sport on a webcast, much less on TV.

We should be discussing why our sport is not feasible for field owners to offer to their visitors, so we can grow our player and spectator base long term.

Sadly, paintball is not a sport with strong organisation, that could work towards growing the sport at grass roots level.

So, the responsibility falls squarely on the industry.... if they want paintball to grow to become viable in the television market, they need to affect change, so that the sport and what happens at grassroots level is similar.

This is the biggest obstacle for paintball IMHO.

I think the biggest issue of all, is that inflatable fields are not built to last and too big of a logistical problem to put up and pull down all the time.

Ironically, in many ways, paintball would be better off if we were still playing Hyperball.

Oh, and Schweinsteiger is a warrior.

sdawg said...


Another important difference between soccer and paintball is that soccer has been around in some form for literally thousands of years:

Paintball has been around a few decades, although arguably the concept of shooting other people (using a firearm or firearm-like device) has been around several centuries.

Baca Loco said...

Nice try but the only thing a 15 minute point would tell me is that both teams are more afraid of screwing up than they are actively trying to win.
As to soccer I know the rules and I appreciate the skill--when it's present--and it's still tedious to watch. :)

While it is the conventional wisdom to claim that sports fandom is predicated on playing some variant of the game I'm not buying. Especially when gender is taken into consideration.

And while I take your point about the sport of paintball moving away from the average recreational player base even that isn't altogether accurate as there are lots of places that have rec airball options available. Yet the fact remains paintball hobbyists seem to have only marginal interest in competitive paintball.

Baca Loco said...

True enough but is it really relevant? Yes, soccer has been around a long time, at least sorta, but how long has it really been a part of various countries cultures the way it is now and why did it never catch on in the U.S.? And do you think time alone will make competitive paintball more popular?

Nick Brockdorff said...


If a sports fandom is not predicated on being a player or former player (even recreationally), as conventional wisom claims... what IS it predicated on, in your view?

On there being lots of places that offer airball recreationally, I think that is a fraction of the fields in operation - and of those that do offer it, it is often geared towards an audience that owns their own equipment.

I would be very surprised if even 1 % of the people that ever played paintball, had played airball.

It's not about having competed or been on a team.... it's about having played it a little, even recreationally.... so you understand what is going on and can relate a little.

I never played US Football on a team, but I did play in the park with the boys and knocked a few teeth out, so I have some form of understanding of the game.... which makes me appreciate what goes on, on screen... and an NFL fan.

It's what draws the line between entertainment and sports IMO.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else smiling at Nick "the teeth-knocker" Brockdorff? I think you might as well just start signing your name that way.

Baca Loco said...

Pretty sure he meant his own teeth. :)

I note you ignored the gender element of my response. Significant numbers of women are sports fans and contribute to the mass popularity of football, baseball, hockey and basketball well out of proportion with their having "experienced" the games at some point in their lives. And frankly tossing a football around in the park is hardly a gateway to understanding the game.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Anon 3:58:

I was blocking, he made for my gap - shit happens - he got a nice artificial tooth, we had a beer, and that was that :D

Baca: Didn't ignore it, I forgot it, apologies :)

Overall, I don't believe the female segment is significant in terms of sports viewership - it's not like you see tampon commercials during NFL games afterall.

It is present, sure, but it's rarely what drives the fanbase, the merchandise sales, the advertising sales, etc.... I'd be surprised if even 5 % of the crowd in the stands at the World Cup final were women.

Also, a good deal of female fan culture is based around sexism - they have posters of Ronaldo next to Bieber in their room.... and in that sense paintball would never struggle, we have enough badboy pretty boys to go around a world of young women ;)

So, I don't really think the female aspect is the most relevant, except in the sense of them allowing their kids to play the sport.

Baca Loco said...

Oh Nick
MLS fans by gender 51% male 49% female
NHL in 2013 the breakdown was 68% Male 32% female
2009 Superbowl the audience was 55% male and 45% female
The NBA gender split is 60% male and 40% female
NASCAR is 59% male and 41% female.
The facts are a large chunk of the sports audience is female and I doubt many if any of them played most of those sports. You may want to reconsider the impact of some sort of participation on fandom.

Nick Brockdorff said...

I stand corrected - Those numbers are far different than I expected :)

Where did you find the numbers? (link)

It would be interesting if you could find participation numbers also, so they could be correlated with the viewership numbers.

Reiner Schafer said...

The participation numbers are not going to correlate with the viewer numbers as many, many (most) females become "fans" because they want to share an interest and spend time with their male partner.

Dean said...

You are intelligent, so I think you have already taken this into account, but I'll point it out anyway. Those gender statistics are only that... statistics. I think it is dangerous to make any judgements as to how relevant gender is in viewership based strictly on those numbers. Just because the numbers are roughly 50/50 (or 60/40), that does not necessarily mean that female market is just as interested (or invested) in the sport as the male demographic (or vice versa). There may be other factors (ex. social factors, & norms) causing the viewership numbers. For example, you may see me at a opera with my fiance, but that doesn't mean that I am interested in the subject material.

What would be more useful would be to determine which factor(s) are most important in determining whether a view watches the webcast? Price is always a factor that people like to whine about, but there maybe other factors that are causing low viewership numbers.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this disparity in female participants/viewers says something about the people that choose to play tournament paintball.

I would even go as far to say that the current dominating demographic has particular challenges with the fairer sex considering the cash output required to participate/compete. Leaves little for the poon.

Nick Brockdorff said...

The mere fact that we are debating viewership over participation is ass backwards.

Our first concern should be growing participation, as that is also the most direct route to viewers.

Anonymous said...

Havnt heard this yet..."the viewers arent viewing because they're play, at the event. or they're at their local field practicing for their next event."


Nick Brockdorff said...

If you had read my earlier responses in the thread, you would know I believe the most important potential viewership, consists of people having a passing knowledge of paintball from having played it.... that includes the occasional outing as rental customers.

Our biggest problem is not the non-balling public... our biggest problem is the vast majority of our player base, is not playing "our game"... they are playing woodsball/scenario!

We are focusing our energy in entirely the wrong place, if we start debating how to get women to watch a paintball webcast, instead of focusing on how we get our core group (males 14 to 29) to play the same game we play, instead of woodsball.

Baca Loco said...

Point of the post was that competitive paintball has quite a high entrance threshold relative to many other sports which necessarily will limit participation--especially when the talk turns to becoming mainstream.
The comments mostly turn on the notion that mainstreaming turns on participation and my point is I think that's demonstrably incorrect. NASCAR doesn't get a couple hundred thousand peeps to show up for the Daytona 500 because they all drive cars and my making an issue of the female sports fan is simply a quick way to debunk the participation notion when it comes to so-called mainstream popularity.

I agree but you're changing the subject. But even then the issue isn't generic paintball players but tournament oriented players.

However if you were to see the numbers the webcast gets when it's free compared to when it's ppv (or whatever) it suggests the level of interest isn't very intense. Now whether that's a function of the "product" or the presentation I don't know.

101 Anon
There's probably something to that but viewership numbers for the free webcast were practically orders of magnitude higher than the ppv variant so far.

Nick Brockdorff said...

Well, share the webcast numbers then :)

I assume all the advertisers get to see them, so they are hardly a secret ;)

Anonymous said...

YAAAaaahhoooooooooooo! is a solid idea. No idea how you get your content featured on their homage page, but since it's pretty spammy feeling maybe we can have Oliver get a sex change, and we can have a headline like, "Watch this Tranny Own the Best Paintball Players in the World LIVE"

Reiner Schafer said...

Why do people watch golf? Billiards? Bowling,? Even darts?

All extremely boring sports to watch, but all have been tried by the masses sometime in their lifetime and all have the element of, “that looks so easy when they do it, yet I know it’s extremely difficult”. Soccer has that too. Paintball doesn’t. Not that the skills in paintball aren’t difficult to master, and not even that people haven’t played paintball (hundreds of millions have over the years, in one form or another). But they can’t “view” or see the difficulty of the skills. People aren’t going to be in awe of something they can’t see and I personally don’t think that will ever be overcome in paintball, although I hope I’m wrong.

Reiner Schafer said...

Following up on my last post, to make paintball more “viewable”, a few things need to change, none of which current players would like.

1. Less players on the field, 3 or 4 per team max.
2. Slow the rate of fire waaaay down (1 to 2 bps)
3. Something that mandates or promotes movement
4. Reinsertions (instead of eliminated, players go back to a starting point)
5. A continuous scoring system. The game is played for a certain time limit and there are always full complement of players on the field, with some “goal” that is reset after each score

Anonymous said...

Reiner's #5 is just intriguing from a pit management perspective. Would make for a pretty exciting pit crew and organization if as soon as one eliminated player entered the pit, a fresh one got to walk out and wait at the reinsertion point to enter the game.

How would you "win" a game like this by sitting? You couldn't as games of attrition wouldn't make sense.

Players after getting shot out would run off the field as fast as possible, and players in the pit would want to be at the insertion point as fast as possible.

Players still alive on the field after making eliminations would want to hurry up and achieve the objective (flag, buzzer, etc.) as fast as possible before the eliminated opponents exit and the new ones reinsert.

It would have a lot of action right? How do you handle "camping out" on the other team's insertion point once they're up on bodies? Simply, have a game clock. Every 2-3 minutes, the game resets with a new breakout and the start of the insertion periods.

Whatcha think Baca?

Anonymous said...

You could have multiple insertion points...

A team could even "conceede" the insertion period if they felt there was no chance (as opposed to an inter-game insertion clock)

But it might be interesting to watch 5 guys make a mad break out from 2 or three different insertion points to try to score some eliminations, turn around a live player insertion again before the winning team players could reinsert and fight back for field position.

Baca Loco said...

1132 Anon
I like it so much I've already designed a variant of xball called Bacaball :) that does precisely that (although I have three insertion points.)

Nick Brockdorff said...

Paintball is a sport that lends itself to close up slows, and replays to explain the finer points.

I firmly believe we need the game breaks (2 minute turnovers) in order to communicate the game properly to the viewers.

Anonymous said...

Difficulty in broadcasting paintball in its current form aside, I think PBA's biggest issue has been a lack of customer service. Not announcing payment requirements until the day of, a buggy payment system, lack of clear communication as to payment periods, laggy playback, etc. When you start charging for things, people start expecting things.