Readers of this site will undoubtedly be passionate about getting outdoors and experiencing the thrills of airsoft. For many it’s not a hobby, but a passion. Yet, as you sit and read this, how many people around the world are playing airsoft at this time? One thousand? Ten thousand? Then, consider how many people are playing first-person shooter or military strategy video games at the moment. We are talking about millions of players, who have formed not only a multi-billion-pound industry, but a vast community as well.
It’s been written many times over the last few decades about how the existence of video games poses an existential threat to outdoor activities. Indeed, it’s been that way since the old Atari consoles of the 1970s. Yet, today we are looking at games that are designed to provide immersion of players through V.R and other immersive technologies. Above all though, it is the fact that players are connected online, in (virtual) proximity to each other in much the same way as you would be when participating in airsoft.
Consider something like CS:GO (Counter Strike: Global Offensive). According to the Steam charts, the average number of players playing the game in May 2019 was 364,417. That number refers to the average at any given moment, not the number of plays or login in the month. At its peak, almost double that number would have been playing online simultaneously. The statistics are mind-boggling, and that’s just one example among dozens of popular games of that nature.
eSports has exploded in popularity
Indeed, there has been a massive rise in interest in the whole area of eSports, with shooting and strategy games among the most important. In the United States, the television networks have jumped on board, providing live coverage of eSports tournaments in order to capitalise on its popularity.
The industry is wildly competitive, with non-players also taking part in eSports betting. A quick glance on 888sport’s eSports page shows hundreds of markets, with betting lines like Evil Geniuses at 5/1 to win EPICENTER, or LEC to win Rift Rivals at 33/100, as well as references to things like “skins” and “maps”. It’s presented like regular sports betting, but with unfamiliar names and terminology.
Can’t beat the real thing
eSports is often given the tagline, “the most popular sport you have never heard off” thanks to the millions watching online, and the fact in places like South Korea tournaments sell out huge stadiums. But does the fact that there are millions around the world playing these games pose a threat to activities like airsoft or paintball? It’s a difficult question to answer without falling into the clichés that have always surrounded video games.
However, we should say that while online gaming has created virtual worlds laden with wonderful graphics and provides experiences that trick the senses into believing they are real, there is still something lacking from these games that – as of yet – are not able to replace the feeling of something like airsoft.
It may be that it’s the physical sensation of getting hit, the way your heart pounds when someone points an airsoft gun at you or the fact that you might have to deal with ‘real’ problems like the weather or getting your feet wet. The suspension of belief is different in the virtual world. It could be the case that one day that we’ll all be playing airsoft online, but that day still looks a fair distance off yet.