Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thinking Critically about "Paintball: Promoter of Violence or Healthy Fun?"

1. My own view of paintball has been this: it's a militaristic rich kids sport that fosters a social acceptance of war in children. It does this by glorifying the physicality and the adrenaline rush, the strategy and the comraderie that soldiers must engage if they want to survive. This is my position, personally informed by the support of America's foreign policy and a fascination with killing machines in general, exhibite by my economically priviledged, paintballing classmates during highschool. Also I have played the sport, once, and succeeded in grasping some of Taylor's well-spoken examples from that experience. Ross Taylor's essay did little in moving my understanding over to his position, however. The largest addition to knowledge that I took away was new appreciation for why people are attracted to the game. "Paintball is a fun, athletic, mentally challenging recreational activity that builds teamwork and releases tension," says Taylor. So are a lot of other sports that do not precisely glorify war. Taylor offers no rebuttal to this. The points and evidence of what they enjoy about paintball were relatively strong, especially the around it being mentally challenging and building teamwork. However, the teamwork building of Fortune 500 companies who bond over paintball is a joke in that it buries his poorly thought out attempt to wrestle with the main controversy nagging the sport. Fortune 500 companies are an exemplary part of the military industrial complex that paintball trains us to live for. For Fortune 500 employees, paintball reinforces the twisted Social Darwinism that our economy is paritally based on.

2. Taylor's appeals to ethos are often strong but not entirely consistent. The strength of their tone and depth of experience lend credibility. He holds fun, competition, physical fitness, collaboration and mental challenge as values, all of which are easy for Americans to relate to. He also seeks to address certain criticisms, the two which he claims that opponents of their position commonly cite. These are the possible dangers and violence of the sport. For the safety issue,Taylor gives strong examples of why paint ball can be very safe. For example, reported eye injuries are very rare, and most people who are hurt this way were not wearing the appropriate eye protection. However, they stop thinking straight when it comes time to thoughtfully reflect on the violence issue. That paragraph is a jumbled mess, and it's the most important paragraph for defending the pro-paintball position. Taylor does not mention how paintball is used as a tactical exercise in the American military, which clearly indicates that it is used to promote violence. If I ever bear offspring, I would strongly object to them marrying anyone who doesn't understand the nature of violence. It should be obvious that forms of play which mimic mortal combat are instilling violence as a value in children. This lack of clarity really disrupts the ethos of Ross Taylor.

3. Pathos, the appeal to reader sympathy, is very effective in this piece. Taylor "goes there" with drive-by paintball shootings, which are probably sensationalized television news stories. He calls such individuals rare, bad apples. During my reading of Taylors description of the physicality of their sport, I found myself getting pumped up. The chest beating and "splendor and glory" Taylor feels is contageous.

4. The Logos of the argument (the appeal to reason with evidence)is mostly solid in this piece. Taylor clearly demonstrates that paintball can have the beneficial, positive characteristics of other common team sports, like soccer, ultimate frisbee, and pickup baseball. The problems grows from the critical lack of support for how paintball doesn't usually reward violence. One result of fragging somebody is "a nice dark bruise" (my emphasis). Purposefully damaging another organism is usually, rightly considered violent behavior. I realize the players agree to this, but a lot of humans and non-human organisms living in a war zone don't have the choice to opt out of their location, and this sport encourages war more than probably any other that's commonly played in this country.

5. Ross has validated half of their argument- paintball is a sport, sharing the essential, beneficial characteristics of other American sports. Paintball is not much more dangerous than any other contact sport that result in bruises. However, the rhetoric comes apart when Taylor defends paintball as aloof and separate from other violent human expressions.


Jose said...

I agree with much of your criticism of his essay.

I do find, however, that the real problem of violence is not in the sport, but in the education of the person playing it.

There are several kinds of people, and they all have different perspectives. Some are already violent, some aren't but perceive the sport in a warlike manner and become more violent after playing it.

I am a pacifist. I have always been opposed to all kinds of war. For me, peace is the absence of war, but not the absence of conflict. Conflict is necessary to move forward.

I think it is irrational to have people kill each other over someone's personal interests, with political or religious excuses.

I do enjoy the sport of paintball though, specifically the woodsball variation which would actually be less akin to a war simulation for a couple of reasons:

First of all, in speedball both sides know where they are, there is no camouflage, and the strategy is placement of fire positions. It's hectic and it's constant firing of paintballs. It simulates the most modern forms of war.

Woodsball, however, unless it's set up as speedball in the woods, consists of teams setting up different strategies to enter a location, for example, eliminating resistance, completing an objective, and so forth. It would be more like an exercise for a counter-terrorist unit, which is something specialized and that in my opinion, a regular army is not trained to do properly.

At least in my group of friends, we do not think in terms of kills in the sport of paintball, but tags, like in dodgeball. That is where the fun of the sport lies- there is the excitement of the action and the skill without the finality and seriousness of death.

You most probably know and are a friend of your opponent, and your objective is never to harm him. We avoid headshots, we are courteous when a person is out, and we all put a safety on when a person has no mask on.

The real issue here is ignorance, not mostly on the part of critics, but also on the part of offenders, those who violate the spirit of the game. That's all it is, a game.

I don't own any weapons, and I definitely don't want any of them. But as a mechanical engineer, I can appreciate and admire the mechanism. For that reason I was first attracted to paintball. I bought a marker, took it apart, polished the inside, put it back together, and tried it out. After, I began to customize them myself.

I do make my markers resemble real weapons, but I have a private property where I keep them and play. It's more of a role-playing aspect of the game than anything else.

In the end, my issue with classifying it as a violent sport is that politicians use it as an excuse for outlawing it because of deranged people who commit crimes and only once played the sport. It ruins the game for many of us who are in our right minds.

makaid said...

I am glad I found your post. I had recently begun to get interested in paintball. But as a peaceful person wanted to make sure I thought about both sides of this debate. Like the above commenter, I do not believe in war and I am not a violent person. I have never been in a fight and I am an adult with a decent job. So I guess you could say I am benefiting society.

I appreciate your arguments, and they are well thought out. But I do not agree with them entirely for a few reasons.

1. "it's a militaristic rich kids sport that fosters a social acceptance of war in children. It does this by glorifying the physicality and the adrenaline rush, the strategy and the comraderie that soldiers must engage if they want to survive."

Military strategy differs greatly from paintball strategy. In paintball your field is limited in size, and most of your opponents can be seen. In war this is not the case as a battle field is much less predictable. The strategies in paintball, even at their most complex level, are not viable in real warfare.

As for "the physicality and the adrenaline rush", there is nothing wrong. There is no link to these things and violence. An adrenaline rush occurs in most physical activities and exercise. Physicality is glorified by other means as well, not leading to the promotion of violence.

Also the connection of America's foreign policy and paintball is not really accurate. Paintball has only been around for about 20 years, while America's imperialistic form of foreign policy has been around for much longer.

I think the sport itself will naturally attract those who already have an acceptance of war. But it also attracts those who do not. The sport itself does not promote war. However, it is possible that those who promote war, support the sport.

Paintball and Social Darwinism? Why not corporate football, basketball, and baseball teams? All of them reinforce a "survivor of the fittest" mentality. All sports do.

2. Paintball is not dangerous. People rarely come in contact with each other. Everything is regulated by safety rules. There are far more dangerous sports, like hockey or football, where serious bodily harm is not unusual or unexpected. People get hurt running, cycling, and swimming. Are those sports dangerous?

Just because paintball guns were used by the American military does not prove your point. The military uses hummers, airplanes, and even REAL guns, yet these things can also be used in a civil and beneficial way. Comparison of military use of real firearms and hunting does not support the idea that real guns encourage violence. This goes for the sport of paintball and the training of soldiers. Just because the tool is similar, does not mean the actions taken by those using them are the same, or even similar.

3. "Purposefully damaging another organism is usually, rightly considered violent behavior."

I agree. Those who purposefully harm others on a paintball field are certainly exibiting violent behavior. However, the same is true for a high-sticker in hockey, or a hard-hitting defensive lineman in football. These violent tendencies are exhibited by players of all sports, and most sane people, even in the sport, can recognize this. As a peaceful person I am not going to purposefully try hurt someone, even while playing paintball.