First published on 27 Sep 2010. Updated on 13 Oct 2010.
Despite the fact that paintball has only been around in Singapore for 11 years, its appeal is remarkably far reaching. A mainstay for war-game lovers, shoot-’em-up-movie fans, corporate get-togethers, birthday parties and Rambo wannabes, it’s estimated around 20,000 people here play paintball each year. Clearly, this is not just the preserve of GI Joe dreamers.
Internationally, the sport takes three guises: recreational paintball is the entry-level strand usually played by groups of friends or those on corporate team-building exercises. It takes a capture-the-flag format where two teams containing an equal number of players attempt to invade their opponent’s base. Then there’s woodsball, which follows the same strategic format, but with larger teams and more challenging terrain such as jungles or purpose-built urban fields. Finally, there’s tournament paintball where several teams play speedball – competition paintball played on regulation-sized fields with inflated bunkers used for cover. That’s what you can expect at Singapore Paintball Series, a new two-day tournament taking place this month at East Coast Park’s Angsana Field that aims to boost the profile of the sport and increase local participation.
Beyond that, anyone looking to give it a try locally has three choices: TAG at Turf City offers recreational paintball alongside Crossfire at the Discovery Centre in Jurong. Red Dynasty at Yishun is home to both recreational and tournament paintball. Sadly though, for now at least, serious players are forced to head overseas, usually to Malaysia, because of Singapore’s stringent control on the ownership of paintball guns.
Grant Harrison, interim president of Singapore’s Paintball Association, owns paintballnews.asia and captains a local team called ZOO, which competes in regional tournaments against other national teams. ‘Tournament paintball is still in its infancy here, only having formally held competitions in 2008 for novice players,’ Harrison says. ‘Unfortunately, due to strict laws governing the ownership of paintball markers [guns] here in Singapore, most of the more experienced teams play their tournaments in Malaysia and throughout South-East Asia, where much larger tournaments and higher-divisional tournaments take place’.
Harrison entered the sport, like many paintballers, after playing war games as a kid and video games later on. ‘It’s the perfect combination of physical adrenaline, teamwork, individual skills and physical abilities,’ he says. ‘Seeing the odd paintball hit its mark on your opponent is very satisfying.’
It’s a view shared by Ken Khoo, the founder of TAG (Tactical Action Games), the first paintball operator in Singapore. Khoo opened TAG in 1999, partly in an attempt to persuade the military and police to use the sport for training. Khoo describes paintball as the perfect outing for team-building. ‘Paintball can take an average group of people, put them together with common objectives and help increase their output as they minimise their egos and maximise communication’.
Harrison says paintball is both a huge growth sport and big business in Asia, flourishing in countries around the region. But in Singapore it’s not recognised as an official sport and receives little to no funding or interest from the government. Laws prevent personal paintball-marker ownership, meaning serious paintballers are forced to store their guns overseas.
‘The current laws affect new business development, player training, sponsorship opportunities, teams traveling overseas for international competitions and even inhibit Singapore from hosting our own international paintball competitions,’ Harrison laments. But the local paintball community remains hopeful that changes can be made and Singapore can go from being a niche member to a regional player. ‘Paintball is a multi-million-dollar business worldwide so the quicker changes can be made, the quicker Singaporeans can reap the benefits paintball offers to health, tourism and the economy.'
Paintball venues in South-East Asia
Want to pick up a (fake) gun and fire rounds at your friends? South-East Asia has a number of excellent paintball locations:
This story first appeared as 'Shoot to thrill' (Oct 2010).