Laser Tag vs. Paintball

There is no more exiting sports experience in my book than paintball. Paintball does have some drawbacks. Getting hit with paintballs hurts leaving welts and occasionally breaking the skin. My kids love counting my welts and bruises when I get home from playing. I’ve had some pretty embarrassing bruises over the years; especially when I get hit on the forehead.

Laser tag is pain free and mess free. Laser tag is better suited for players under 12 than paintball. Laser tag is a spectator sport. Even if someone chooses no to play they can enjoy the spills and thrills safely from the sidelines.

You don’t even feel most of the hits in the heat of the moment but every once in a while the sting brings tears to your eyes. There is a real danger of eye injury and the use of compressed air isn’t 100% safe. I honestly think the pain and danger adds to the thrill and causes players to interact with the game in a more realistic way. Unfortunately, it also makes paintball difficult to insure and limits the number of players willing to endure painful hits for the thrill of the game.

Another big drawback of paintball is that novice players and renters are lumped together with the skilled weekend warriors. New players are often out gunned and easily outwitted. Many potential enthusiasts are quickly turned off after getting “owned” for their first few times out or spend the day cowering behind a back bunker. Paintball fields are nearly powerless to control the rate of fire on the custom guns. There are many ways to get around the “no full auto” rule at most parks. You also have a large percentage of players using C02 which is heavily influenced by temperature. On cold and humid days the rental markers are shooting low. When it gets hot the rentals are usually within safe limits but recreational players using C02 can unknowingly creep into the unsafe velocity range. Despite my best efforts I often find my own markers shooting “hot” later in the day.

Insurance requirements and general safety forces paintball parks to restrict the age of players to 10 years or older at most fields. The markers are also heavy and difficult to aim for younger players.

The pain of getting hit by paintballs definitely increases the aggression level. I haven’t seen many fights on the paintball field but I have seen quite a few heated arguments. Paintball guns can be used as a weapon in a fight. The referees are often powerless to prevent overshooting and the rare altercations where two players unload on each other. Paintball markers also become increasingly dangerous at close ranges. Most parks have a 20 foot rule but ‘bunkering’ at close ranges is a common threat; especially during speedball.

Paintball gear and paintballs are expensive. On many paintball fields it comes down to the “haves and the have nots”. The players with the expensive gear who can shoot “ropes” of paint will dominate most of the games. At the very basic level, he who buys the most paint wins. At $80 to $100 per case, a big limiting factor is the amount of paint you are willing to buy or how well you conserve paint if you have a limit. Casual players use 500-1,000 balls but enthusiasts often use 2,000-3,000 balls per event. The more a player has invested in the game the more likely they are to be aggressive and cheat; they simply have greater investment in the game. If you or your kids play paintball on a regular basis it is hard to avoid getting caught up in the endless cycle of expensive equipment upgrades.

I have always had a very casual attitude about cheating when it comes to paintball but some players seem obsessed with the subject. I like to think we are all there to have fun and I give other players the benefit of the doubt. The fact is all paintball players cheat or have cheated at some point so why should people be angry or surprised when it happens? Even the most honest of players can be perceived as cheating under the right circumstances. I only bring this up because cheating is a big concern for some players and because cheating is an unavoidable part of paintball.

The paintballs themselves are messy, smelly, and they taste terrible. Indoor paintball fields are disgusting. Paintballs often stain or damage your gear and they can certainly damage property. Paintball is usually a very dirty and messy experience. The paint never shoots straight and is easily affected by the wind, ball imperfections, gunk in your barrel, velocity, and a wide range of factors. Under the best of circumstances you only get 50-75 feet of semi-accurate distance. The paint is heavy and bulky making reloading and carrying sufficient paint a challenge. You carry too little, or too much, and you hope they don’t spill somehow. You often leave with extra paint and hope you can play again before it goes bad or you blow it at the shooting range.

You also have to wear masks and other gear for protection which is especially cumbersome on a hot day. The masks fog up and make it hard to see. The masks also make it next to impossible to sight down the barrel or use a scope on most markers. The hoppers are bulky and block your line of sight. The markers are finicky and break down all the time. Half the battle is just getting one marker to work consistently. I’ve seen players with new $1,500 markers sitting on the sidelines for hours while they try to get it working. I myself have missed way too many games with marker issues.

Paintball is also a time consuming activity. Much time is wasted gearing up, reloading, repairing, adjusting, cleaning, and trudging back and forth between playing and staging areas. You can easily spend an entire day at the paintball park for a handful of games. Nothing is more frustrating than getting shot out 5 minutes into a game you just spent 2o minutes preparing to play. By the end you are exhausted and filthy; which is strangely comforting but limits you post event activity options.

I know this sounds like I’m bashing paintball but I’m just giving it to you straight. I’ll tell you that despite all of these issues I love paintball with a passion. All of the headaches and bruises are worth the one or two small victories in a full day of paintball. That one guy you picked off at a crazy distance, that fort you helped overrun, or that mission you completed making it all worthwhile. Those same thrills are ready to be had by everyone with tactical laser tag.

Everyone uses the same equipment that works consistently and shoots straight as an arrow every time. Weather has no effect on the game and nobody can modify the taggers to gain an unfair advantage. Nobody sits on the sidelines tinkering with a broken tagger. There is no environmental impact or property damage. There are fewer safety risks, people tend to be more even tempered, and no bulky safety gear is needed. Finally you can effortlessly sight through a scope. There is no cost per trigger pull like paintball and the ammo is light as a feather…lighter in fact. Most players will shoot up to 5,000 shots per event (5,000 paintballs would cost $250!). You can squeeze a full day of paintball action into 1-2 hours of tactical laser tag and still feel fresh enough to go out afterwards (and you can afford the after party with all the money you saved)!

Our equipment can be used indoors, outdoors, day, or night. The head bands and tagger mounted sensors practically eliminate any cheating concerns. We can adjust the taggers so young players have a fighting chance and to give more experience players a challenge. Laser tag can also do many things paintball cannot like have regenerating shields, in game power up, definitive player eliminations, and a wide range of effects that paintball players can only dream about. Players are also much bolder in laser tag without the pain of paintball to deter them, which creates a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Finally, paintball is not a spectator sport. There are some rare locations where spectators can watch some of the action through protective netting but paintball is a difficult game to watch. Most parks have a one or two fields that are visible by spectators but a large portion of the park is off limits to spectators. It is very difficult for attendees who are not participating to share the experience. Even when players are visible their faces are hidden behind masks. In any group there will always be those who chose not to participate. Outdoor laser tag is much more inclusive with no netting or isolated playing areas. Laser tag spectators have the ability to enjoy the action up lose and are able to participate in the action even if they choose not to play.