The masked man held the gun high and close to his face as he crept silently up the running trail behind the Botetourt Complex.
His targets had hunkered down behind trees and stumps. They waited patiently for the inevitable attack. After all, there was a 10-minute time limit in place on this particular battle.
“He has the right idea,” President of Tribe Paintball Tyler Crowe ’12 said, pointing to the gunman.
Tribe Paintball hosted a series of 10-minute death matches Saturday, spackling the woods around Lake Matoaka – and the participants – with bright yellow paint.
In 10-minute death matches, the last team standing wins.
“If a ball breaks on a player or their gear, they’re eliminated,” Vice President Ryan Shintani ’12 said. “It’s an honor system.”
After hosting three events last semester, the club is attempting to raise awareness of the sport on campus. Although event turnout was slow early on, Shintani said that interest has been growing steadily.
“We’re slowly gaining popularity,” he said.
The club has already had some success and is planning to arrange an exhibition match between members of the Chi Phi fraternity and William and Mary Police Department, Crowe said.
Approximately 10 people participated in Saturday’s event.
“The big thing about this is getting people into the sport,” Crowe said. “I’m thrilled that we have this many people.”
Saturday provided an opportunity for participants to develop their own war stories.
One participant was downed between two small trees; he exited the game covered in sticky yellow — albeit washable — paint. Another was tagged sprinting across his opponent’s line of fire, punctuating his game with an “Ahhhh, crap.”
The two-acre battlefield was roped off by yellow caution tape and bordered by the running trail that starts at the end of Wake Drive, near the Botetourt Complex. Participants were divided into two teams, with half the group wearing makeshift caution tape armbands.
Before starting, Crowe and Shintani took a few minutes to explain safety precautions to participants unfamiliar with the sport. No blind-firing, no shooting at point blank range, always wear a mask, and keep gun barrels covered unless you are actively participating in the match.
And even if it is tempting, they said, don’t shoot kayakers.
Other than that, participants had free range within the confines of the battlefield.
After moving through the brush to their respective sides, the teams uncovered their gun barrels, pulled down their protective masks, and commenced shooting.
And there was a lot of shooting. The normally pastoral running trail exploded with the sound of thudding pops, punctuated by expletives or less vulgar exclamations.
“Try to get behind good cover with a lot of openings,” Shintani advised participants. Paintballs explode very easily and could be punctured by leaves if players try to shoot through brush, he added.
The matches were halted or postponed on several occasions to accommodate hikers and joggers who stumbled upon the conflict.
Paintballing isn’t cheap. According to Crowe, a typical day of paintballing generally costs approximately $60. Fortunately for the club, Tribe Paintball is sponsored by Valken Paintball.
The paintball outfitter provides the club with the necessary gear and equipment to hold events on campus at a reduced cost. On Saturday, the club provided participants with paintball guns, masks, air cartridges and 500 rounds of exploding yellow ammunition for $25.
“They understand that we are college kids,” Shintani said. “We’re essentially advertising for them.”