Paintball is a combination combat play and survival hunting game. However, instead of hunting animals with guns, people shoot at each other with guns that shoot balls of paint — hence the name.
The first paintball pistol was invented in 1970 as a tool for marking cattle and trees for excavation. The beginnings of the games played today occurred in the early 1980s. It quickly caught on as a legitimate sport when Sports Illustrated published a story about a paintball tournament. By 1993, it was receiving the attention of all the sports media with the first telecast tournament appearing on ESPN.
Avid paintball participants play on specially laid out fields. These contain specific boundaries, barriers behind which players can hide, and zones that are neutral. There are also indoor arenas for playing that are complete with viewing areas and lighting.
The equipment used in paintball include the gun and a face mask or goggles as minimum protection. There are also hunting-like outfits that help protect and camouflage players. Advanced participants usually have special loaders and harnesses for their guns, which make it easier to run, load and shoot.
Referees and judges are often used in paintball competitions. Players must strictly observe the calls and orders of these officials. The officials primary role is to determine if a paintball hit is legitimate, which means that it is large enough and was not made within the 25-foot shooting boundary. Players must also remain within the proper field or court boundaries. To ensure the safety of the players, tournaments often match players by experience and skill level.
Paintball has become such a popular sport that most equipment for the beginner to intermediate level can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. The more advanced players can shop at one of hundreds of specialty shops or online outlets.