I have tried to recount the kinds of injuries at Airsoft Games I’ve organized over the years, only to realize that most injuries were ancillary to the guns themselves. I’ve had students stung by wasps, fall down hills, fall out of trees, hit by go-carts, entangled in briars, jumped by other kids who panicked when cornered, cut by barbed wire, jump into rivers to avoid being caught, nearly run down by horses, dehydrated, sun-stroked, and run over by stampedes in retreats. Most of these injuries could be characterized as accidental, I suppose. The injuries that concerned me most were the ones inflicted by a sadistic minority of boys who enjoyed the discomfort of others under the pretense of having fun.
In Airsoft battles with children, I’ve always abided by a few rules for the overall enjoyment of the students, chief of which was never to take a battle so seriously that I felt the need to use overwhelming force on the opposition. No matter how belligerent or threatening they seemed. They were still kids after all. The combination of my many evasive powers and the kids’ keen evaluation of those strategies worked against me as they got much older and were able to chart my signature strategies (like fleeing when discovered). They employed the equivalent of “carpet bombing” by dividing forces and canvassing the entire field while shooting anywhere a 5’9, 175 lb. man could be hiding. One field mastermind had a scary intuition about my behaviors, as if he had a map of my mind. He understood that if he zeroed in on one of my younger students instead of looking for me, he would find me somewhere close. One time he passed out my phone number, having squads walk the perimeter of the battlefield, calling my cell phone. That time I had hidden in bamboo for forty-five minutes in the cold rain, my cell phone chirruped, and I was shot in my eye which swelled shut for an entire week. My wife learned to anticipate my assortment of injuries, filthy clothes, and hours of sleep that followed, especially when I combined Airsoft with all-night campouts.
The last story found me fleeing deep into the woods with two younger students at my heels in order to allow the sniper in my group to finish a very accurate work of sniping at a rabble-rousing contingent, and increasing their confusion. After retreating about twenty feet or so, we hid again. A few minutes later I heard Luigi retreating as fast as he could in our direction, calling out my name in the loudest whisper he could without outright yelling. Locating us, he told us how more insubordination ensued when we left, and the boys had taken their argument back up to the dollhouse where he believed a coup of some sort was in progress. I looked at my watch. We had about fifteen minutes left in the game, but that was enough time for someone to get hurt at the fast rate of decay happening amongst the enemy. I completely changed tactics.
“OK. We are going to advance on the dollhouse from the west along the grove of evergreen trees. Luigi, you will stay east of the trees. During the last two minutes of the game, I will lead the little ones to open fire. Luigi, make sure you are locked and loaded, because you’re going to back us up. Got it?” Everyone did, so we parted ways. My goal was to give the trembling little ones a taste of the possible fears involved in battle without incurring the injuries. A skirmish for the last two minutes of the game would be a healthy way for them to learn this. I didn’t want them not talking about the battle at school because they hid the entire time. I wanted them to end on a high note where they were the aggressors in a very decisive and successful counterattack (because the opposition would not have time to respond). I calculated that it would take us about ten minutes to get into place, three minutes to evaluate the situation, and about two minutes for the finale. We followed the plan up until the five minute mark. I had to further change my plans.
A large number of boys were outside the dollhouse guarding it while a fight was taking place inside. I heard several voices shouting and then scuffling, and then more shouting and then more scuffling. I didn’t think it conscionable to allow what sounded like punishment to go on for much longer so I open-fired on the guards, rushing at them with the little ones flanking me and unloading their clips into the fray. The guards, taken by surprise, surrendered with joy nonetheless, a few traitors from my own side telling me that the last half hour of the game had been hell. They had been forced to join under pain of being shot and with promises of food. There had eventually been a showdown between the rival leaders who were inside. Leader was with a few henchmen, arguing it out with the Pretender who had been shot at point-blank range in front of us while we were hiding. Things were escalating inside. I told the guards to back me up.
Luigi had arrived on the scene and was more than eager to do what was needed. With approximately one minute left, I told Luigi that I would open the door and he would repeat fire into the room. But not at anyone in particular. The inside of the dollhouse was plastic and wood, and the bullets would crazily ricochet making everyone inside to hit the floor. We would apprehend them, I would call time, and the game would be over. This was intended to be a mercy mission for the Pretender who was evidently being misused by Leader.
Everything went according to plan, but do you know what happened? My entering the scene to rescue the Pretender backfired on me. Instead of being a hero to Pretender, I was the enemy. As soon as I entered the dollhouse, both rivals turned their guns on me, giving each other instructions and each following the directions of the other. Surprised at this turn of events, I called time (we were a couple of minutes over the game), but neither of them observed me. They decided instead to attack me by taking one of the little ones hostage.
Needless to say, I had to get parents involved. Mothers, that is. The fathers were too busy doing other things. Important things, I think.