It’s the middle of summer, and the Big Game/Scenario paintball season is in full swing. Across the world gigantic paintball games are going down where hundreds, sometimes thousands, of players play at the same time. PBA’s Matty Marshall catches up with two of the players who have seen both sides of paintball, Bryce Thompson and Pete “Mr. U” Utschig.
Mr. U is a PSP World Champion who has been a part of the Big Game/Scenario scene for the past few years, and Thompson was a fixture in the South African tournament paintball scene before moving to New York.
These two have day jobs most people would love: Utschig is a NYC firefighter and Thompson is a fitness/fashion model and photographer, but their favorite thing to do on the weekend is find the biggest paintball battle possible as part of the Tactical Ironmen squad.
So Mr. U, you’ve been attending events on the tactical side of the sport for four years now, right?
Yeah, four or five years.
It’s kinda cool people are becoming more aware of these massively fun games, that this other side of paintball exists. They are games all over the world, there are more high end products coming out towards that side of the market, what are your thoughts on the scene?
Honestly when I started doing this I didn’t really think it would be this cool, but now I think it’s awesome. It’s rad. But it’s really hard, you get beat up, you almost get beat up more than when you do tournaments. Your heart is racing; it’s like a tournament without the competition. The competition is more against yourself than against anyone in particular. Can you push yourself through two days, ten hours a day of battle? Can you get the mission done when it looks impossible?
What I noticed about it when I went and did it, is that you can play the game at own pace, depending on what game you play, you can stay out there all day long. Or if you want, you can get a quick set in, and then come back after you get shot, or shoot through your pack, and get a beer and a burger, and just chill for a bit at someone’s compound, you can do that too. Whatever type of battle you want, you can find out there, depending on how big the game is, or how crazy the terrain is, it’s can be challenging, it is very intense, especially when it’s you against 50 guys (laughs).
Mr. U: Yeah, it’s challenging, like we were at the EMR Castle Conquest not to long ago, at the beginning of the year, we rolled right through that castle.
Brice: Yeah just rolled up the backdoor, blasted some people and the castle fell in 45 minutes.
Mr. U: Yeah when we drove to the more recent one, when we were driving up there we were saying to each other, “Yeah, can’t wait to get up that ramp and shoot all these guys,” and bro, we couldn’t get in during the second one.
So for people who have never been to Castle Conquest describe it to everybody. Paint the picture.
Brice: It’s gnarly, when you first hear about the castle, you think it’s just a fort in the woods, with a few doors and windows, but this is a straight up castle, four corners, towers shooting down on you, back ramps, and then even when you get in there’s a courtyard you have to fight through, with windows facing in, and a center turret loaded with guys.
When we looked at the castle during the lunch break, we knew we needed a plan; we couldn’t just keep pounding at the front wall. We kept knocking on the front door and no one was answering except a bunch of Uzis. So that’s when we decided to go around the back, pick off the guys on the back wall, then we found a gap small enough that we could fit through on our hands and knees. We couldn’t stand up, we just threw everything under, we actually got our first kills on our hands and knees, the guys got smart though and put barrels down this ramp so we had to move all the barrels out of the way as we fought our way in.
Mr. U: This wasn’t just a 5 or 10 minute thing; this took six hours.
Bryce: I was wearing a heart monitor to track how much activity we did and how much play time we got– 4000 calories burned 6 hours in, and the castle held. They won, we were trying to push our way in finally when the game ended. We couldn’t punch through.
Mr. U: Guys don’t understand, some of these guys are pretty good, this was one of the first times I’ve seen guys do jobs, not letting people through lanes. There would be the same dudes in the same windows, not letting guys through the doorways, making sure no one runs up a certain side of the wall.
It’s interesting because when you go through the tournament side of things and we all did that, we still love that, but this tactical side of paintball is just a special type of fun.
Bryce: The things you learn from the competitive side of paintball totally apply. We go out there with the fewest pods, it not just about shooting tons of paint, though that is fun. We use the strategies and skills we learned in tournaments: running, diving, snap shooting, gunfighting our way forward, and then the support, when the guy in front moves, the guys behind him takes his bunker and work together, not leaving the guy in front of you five bunkers up with no help.
Mr. U: Yeah and if things get a little crazy then Brice will go get 5 or 10 more guys, that’s what makes it fun though, all the sudden you have teammates that you’ve never worked with before. You go with your buddies, but we’ll show up to these things and now you’ve got a new group of buddies, and then new players emerges and they’re sick. You’ll say, when things are getting crazy, “Yo, this guy in front of us has got to go”, and you won’t have to ask twice, the guy will just go get him out of there.
Bryce: And they’ll find you after lunch, they come back out and re-insert with you and they want to do it again, and you have a whole squad of guys you just built up.
Mr. U: Yeah like a new team, that’s one of the great things, it could be fun, it could be challenging, it could be both. It’s whatever you make of it, it’s a whole new side of paintball and it gets other people involved that aren’t normally in the tournament scene, and now they can say, “What’s my next step, I need to challenge myself even more.” It’s great for the sport as a whole.
Bryce: We had a whole family out there, they had a ten year old girl playing, she decided she wanted to go out, Dad was really into it and wanted her our there, they got the whole family involved. They were out there for probably and hour, mostly in the back line, in safety. The real fight was going on a little ahead of where they were, but that’s ok. That kid is going to go back to school, and even though they spent most of the time a little bit back from the line, from where all the intense action is going on, she is still going to go back to school and talk about how much fun she had, and that her dad and brother protected her. That’s amazing! Imagine those memories when you’re getting older. You know what, we went though hell and back together and it was amazing. And any level of player can do that out there.
Check out Part 2 tomorrow.