Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Surrender or Die!

In the early 90s, I was invited by long-time friend Irwin to play paintball. I was a member of La Salle’s gaming group ROUGH (blank – Organization – of – United – Gaming – Hobbyists) where we shared our love for comics and tabletop role-playing games, and Irwin was one of the guys to whom I’ve gotten close to.

When Irwin told me that paintball would be fun, I just went along with nary an expectation, not even an inkling of what I was to face. So when I found myself in the hinterlands of Antipolo with Irwin, Natz, Joey, et al., them in full-battle attire and me in a simple tee and jeans, I instinctively met the experience with child-like wonder. . . I was wondering what the heck was supposed to happen.

There were other player groups at the venue, some of them with custom-made uniforms (a squad in all-black threads passed by. . . astig!) to define their teams, toting larger and more intimadating weaponry. I thought, how much do they spend for those monsters?

So I had to rent a gun, the most primitive model, the protective goggles, and purchase nice yellow paintball pellets that came in tubes of ten. The gun fired one painball at a time, as opposed to the more expensive rapid-fire models that sent a chill down my spine when I heard one being fired from a distance. The group split into two groups, offense and defense, and had a briefing of the mission. I still had no idea what was going on.

The battlefield is expansive, complete with foxholes, irregular terrain, little nipa and bamboo constructs, and even a hut outpost. The place hosted several of these playing areas.

After the first session, my legs ached, my energy was up, and I was bitten by the bug. In succeeding sessions, I got the hang of being more mission-focused. The high-point of my war career was when I scaled a steep fifteen-foot slope of rocks, roots, and loose earth, then sneaking up on an enemy through tall grass and declaring “Surrender or Die!” which technically takes him out of the game. (You wouldn’t want to hit someone pointblank – the pellets can hurt.) I think I had three or four paintball sessions back then, and the only reason I had to stop was because of financial constraints. An expensive pastime given my meager wage at the time.

I don’t think I’ll be able to handle another paintball session now. I don’t know. My physical condition is not how it was back then, and I wonder how I’d fare in that high-stress, high-tension, high-adrenaline, and suspense-ridden scenario again. So what if it’s just a game? A lot of players take it seriously, and you wouldn’t want to join a game where you’re in it for the fun while the others are in it for your scalp.

By comparison, I wonder how much more can the nerves get frazzled in a real battlefield. You have to admire them soldiers.

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