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"I can't shoot my own mother. Not with paint, anyway."

One difficulty for training solders is to try and recreate the conditions of a battlefield, because you don't want people to go into shock once they hear things whizzing past their head. You also don't want to be using live ammo to get them used to that sensation. So playing paintball is one of the few ways to recreate a battlefield scenario without all the messy carnage involved.

In fiction this scenario is often used for those same purposes, creating a battlefield situation without the genuine worry of a character being killed. There are many different stories this situation can create:

  • A paintball reveal, where Unwinnable Training Simulation is finally shown as merely a training exercise.
  • The characters go expecting to be doing a training exercise but something happens as a Training Accident, maybe an unknown switch to live ammo.
  • Several comedy scenarios including a recreation of battlefield chaos, a Shell Shocked Senior and someone falling down as though they were shot for real. Eventually someone might take it as Serious Business and start laying down traps, taking hostages or doing an Unnecessary Combat Roll.
  • Characters get to live out their fantasies and aggressive impulses by shooting at rivals or bullies.

As with many things, those who are familiar with the game will likely be frustrated by the innaccuracies done, sometimes just in the name of Rule of Cool. Among these include:

  • Characters taking their masks or goggles off, which is highly illegal and official ranges will throw you out. As well, most often the full face-covering masks are mandatory while goggles are all the characters wear. For the reasons why, compare In Space Everyone Can See Your Face and Helmets Are Hardly Heroic.
  • The lack of any visible marshals.
  • Other widely accepted rules are ignored, such as minimum distance between firing (no point-blank shots), viciously shooting people ten or more times in sensitive areas for comedic effect, and so on.

Mistakes are more excusable when it's not a regulation game (i.e. a bunch of dudes just throwing everything together for shits and giggles). While not as widely known in fiction much of the same format can be applied to airsoft, which is the use of small plastic BB's as ammo with both gun and ammunition being generally cheaper for an avid player.

This is Truth in Television, as military and law enforcement use special "Simunition" rounds for training that are fired from an actual gun, while still being relatively safe to use. In any case, skills and tactics used in paintball (regardless of equipment including the gun and headgear) translate rather well to an actual combat engagement.

Examples of Paintball Episode include:

Anime and Manga

  • Bubblegum Crisis has a brief sequence showing the Knight Sabers doing this in their off hours, presumably for tactical training. The usual "no masks on" rule applies, though the girls are otherwise wearing clothes that'd pass muster, especially considering they fight killer robots on a nightly basis. A welt or two'd probably not even be noticed. Of course, all inaccuracies were overshadowed by Sylia winning the match with a paint landmine (those are real; just expensive).
  • School Rumble had its class 2-C engage in a massive multi-way paintball battle to determine what their activity would be for the School Festival. Played for the maximum in epic.
  • The paintballs switched with live ammo scenario kicks off the plot of the Mobile Suit Gundam/Zeta Gundam midquel Ecole Du Ciel.
  • One episode of You're Under Arrest featured a paintball match between Yoriko and some of the other Bokuto officers on one team and Chie Sagami-Ono leading the other team. Sagami-Ono won the match, but Yoriko arrested some robbers who were hiding nearby and mistook the paintballs for real bullets. Another episode featured the Bokuto officers on their day off visiting an amusement park with a paintball arena and competing against the amusement park employees, who wear monster costumes (thereby triggering Miyuki's phobia). (This latter storyline was adapted from a manga chapter; in the manga version, it was a laser tag arena instead.)
  • In Sora no Woto's first DVD extra episode, the crew has a mock battle with water guns. Being Unsuspectingly Soused at the time, Hilarity Ensues.

Comic Books

  • The Knights of the Dinner Table special "Last Man Standing" was completely devoted to a game using paintball guns. Hardly anyone wore face protection of any kind - and every character who wore glasses got hit at least once in them. (Even many of those who did not were glasses were hit in the face, but those were "off screen".) Not to mention "firefights" with participants being hit sometimes dozens of times (how do they even know who won?), called shots to the groin, and even one character fighting while carrying an unprotected baby!
  • IDW's G.I. Joe series has the training exercise variation. A group of Joes armed only with paintball weapons have to attempt to infiltrate the Pit. A pair of Cobra commandos kill most of the team (who mistake them for their opponents), leaving three essentially unarmed Joes (Cover Girl, Downtown and Tripwire) to take on the Cobra soldiers.


  • In the Basalt City Chronicles, a brother of one of the main characters is in the PaNoTer armed forces. He tells his family over a dinner about a time when he and his squad wish to have a practice battle on a paintball field. Several smilodonian youths are there for the same purpose, and the two sides decide to go against each other. The soldiers see no reason to go easy on the youths (all of whom have received some military instruction). Needless to say, the youths lose SPECTACULARLY.


  • Although it wasn't exactly Paintball, the paint balloon- throwing scene from Ten Things I Hate About You had them eventually just smearing each other with paint... in a romantic way.
    • In fairness, it would not be out of character for Patrick and Kat to decide "Screw the rules we're just having fun!"
  • In the training exercise at the beginning of The Living Daylights, the guards shot the infiltrating spies with paintballs (at least that was the intention) despite their lack of face protection. Partially justified because the guards were SAS troopers, so if they don't want to shoot you in the face you won't get shot in the face.
  • During the gun battle exercise in the film version of Get Smart, the agents involved used military simunition instead of real bullets. While they wore protective body armor and goggles, none of them wore facemasks or helmets. Partially justified with the fact that since these were CONTROL field agents, they would have excellent marksmanship.
  • Man of the Year has Robin Williams taking his staff paintballing for a team building exercise.
  • The movie version of SWAT had them doing a training scenario using realistic paintball firing guns.
  • The lovely but little-known film Prom Wars ends the titular wars with a paintball fight.
  • Jarhead: Uses it almost realistically during their training time. One grunt asks the stupid question-"Them paintball bullets...they hurt?" Cut to the answer.
  • In Friday the 13th Part VI, Jason Voorhees stumbles upon a group office workers playing paintball. They weren't in the film very long.


  • The opening chapter of The Science of Discworld II has Ridcully attempt a team building exercise by taking the wizards into the woods with their staffs set to paint spells. Unfortunately, wizards don't do team building:

 Senior Wrangler: I'm on your side!

Dean: But you made such a good target!

  • Bigmac in the Johnny Maxwell Trilogy is banned from paintball. He reckons they're just jealous because no-one came up with the idea of a paintball grenade before.

 Wobbler: It was a tin of paint. You might have loosened the lid, at least.

  • In Good Omens, a group of corporate executives take part in a "team-building" paintball battle. Crowley the demon changes the weapons to real guns. Hilarity Ensues.

Live Action TV

  • Primeval Season 2 Full face masks, but they're removed by the minor characters and one guy, mask semi-removed, shoots the girls multiple times. He then takes his mask off again in an empty clearing. He is soon killed by a saber-tooth tiger.
  • Spaced used goggles instead of full face masks, and a total absence of marshals. This allows some acknowledged dangerous shots to occur, mostly Tim firing at Dwayne's crotch. Several times (admittedly causing a severe injury)

 Tim: No hard feelings eh?

Duane: You shot me in the bollocks, Tim.

Tim: Yeah, well like I said... no hard feelings...

    • Mike's overzealous attitude towards paintball (he's a member of the Territorial Army and general military enthusiast) is stated to have gotten him a ban which lasted several years.
    • Also features the obligatory War Movie Parody scene - Mike gets shot, Tim runs over to give a How Dare You Die on Me! speech, and Mike coughs up yellow paint and goes limp. Cue Big NOOOOOO!
  • There was an episode of Jake 2.0 with a paintball match. Jake's enjoyment is ruined by someone trying to kill him who turned out to be a hallucination.
  • South of Nowhere has an episode where the Carlins and others go paintballing. Especially egregious in that Madison shows up in a Cheerleading outfit, just so she can act like a psycho bitch (and get what has to be her CMOA) when the cheer squad removes her from the lineup.
  • Coronation Street. Tony's stag party pulled most of the common mistakes with masks being lifted up willy-nilly and no sign of marshalls. They did have full-face masks though.
  • Just Shoot Me has an episode with paintballing.
  • CSI has an episode where a trio of the main cast visits a paintball course to bring in a suspect. The main members enter the field in the middle of an active game without any protective gear, and the suspect removes his mask while still on the field even though viewers can clearly see people still shooting each other in the background.
  • Myth Busters will normally break out the full face masks when paintball guns are in use, but during one segment of the "Ultimate MythBuster" episode Adam and Jamie were firing at each other with no body armor other than groin cups and face masks. Of course, the point of that challenge was to see who had the greatest pain tolerance .... (Huge surprise, Jamie won.)
    • A later episode testing whether a "Slap in the Face" can get you out of a hysterical fit and back to dealing with a stressful situation had them testing cognitive awareness using simunition rounds at a gun range. They used paintball ammo largely because they had to simulate mental fatigue and give that person a gun.
  • ICarly: In iSaved Your Life, the trio and Spencer play a game called Assassin using only blow tube guns. Carly and Freddie were "eliminated" early on, leaving behind extreme mind games between Sam and Spencer. No safety equipment is used at all, although the relatively low speed nature of blow-guns reduces the risk of injury and it was meant to be played in a home.
  • The pilot of Glee had the other football players shooting Finn with paintball guns at point-blank range. Not on a paintball range. With nobody wearing any gear. And somehow it was all okay because they weren't aiming at his head. So much wrong with this scenario...
  • An episode of The Big Bang Theory has the cast (minus Penny) walking into their complex, in full paintball uniforms, absolutely covered in blue spots, except for Sheldon, who has a noticeable orange blotch on his back protector (He kept yelling, "Get the kid in the yarmulke!" in a firefight against a Bar mitzvah party). This set up is quickly dumped by the wayside when they run into Penny on the way up, and she invites them to her Halloween party. As they were just walking up the stairs their masks were the proper kind to use, though later episodes showing them at the course with slightly smaller visors that didn't cover the chin.
    • Another episode begins and ends with them hiding in a building on the course, apparently there are regular paintball games pitting different university teams against each other. This time it includes an Unnecessary Combat Roll and some discussion on their mortality.
    • The fifth season premiere had the group at the paintball range again, although personal issues flared up to where they were ready to call it quits. Sheldon decided he was a poor captain and thus committed himself to death by walking out unarmed and insulting the geology department, being promptly shot over a dozen times and ending with an epic Crucified Hero Shot. To their surprise, his sacrifice inspired his team to retake the battle and win the game for the first time.
    • Note that they make the mistake of taking their masks off on the field several times. And the sci-fi style body armor is a little unnecessary.
  • Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm's friend Dabney was being shot repeatedly by a bunch of bullies at point blank range while he was on the floor. When he snapped, he not only returned the favor to one of them, he also was shoving paintballs up the guy's nose.
  • The King of Queens had a paintball episode where all the characters had goggles but wore them like headbands, instead of over their eyes where, you know, they could actually do some good.
  • Averted in, of all things, an episode of Danger Bay, in which two characters break the pre-established rules about, respectively, taking one's face mask off during the exercise and aiming for the face, with the result that the guy who took his mask off takes a paintball between the eyes and is effectively blinded for most of the rest of the episode.
  • Six Feet Under has an episode where painballing errors show up most egregiously. David and Keith go paintballing with a couple other gay guys. They don't wear protective clothing, they take their googles off and even close-range hits don't elicit any reaction from the characters. It mostly follows the Rule of Funny and aims to illustrate the difference between Keith's Hard Gay friends and David's Camp Gay friends.
  • Byker Grove showed the dangers of this when a character (PJ) lost his sight when hit by a paintball. That's the one that immediately springs to mind for me.
  • Greg the Bunny featured a paintball team building trip. When Gil neglects to invite the women, they get irate and vow to crush him.
  • Community had an epic paintball episode where the whole campus engages in a paintball war and the last one standing gets first choice of classes the next semester. The episode spoofed tons of action movies. The next season they had a two parter, half based on westerns, half on Star Wars.
  • Near the end of season 4 of The Wire, one episode starts with Michael running away from Chris and Snoop; all three of them armed. He hides, ambushes them, and then we realize that they're actually all using paintball guns.
  • MacGyver has Mac and Pete in a Phoenix versus other agencies Paintball match as one of the cold openings. Mac's "no guns" rule applies even to Paintball. And yet, Phoenix was winning, because of Mac.
  • Ace of Cakes started an episode like this when the team was asked to make a cake for Splatter Mountain paintball and was invited to play. The first few minutes of the show are about the team sneaking up and assassinating each other before they get to cake-making.
  • On The Suite Life On Deck, they had an episode where Cody and Bailey were taught to have fun by Mrs. Tutweiler ( they had come into to class on senior skip day and Mrs. T had had it with their interrupting her reading of a romance novel). Of course, this being the 3rd season, Cody and Bailey took it as an opportunity to hurt each, then their teacher, and finally after the game, they analyzed the science behind it.
  • Drop the Dead Donkey featured one episode where Dave and Helen got together during the game and ended up having sex, convincing Helen that she was, after all a lesbian. The cast mostly behaved according to their characters - Sally had her photo taken and went back to the hotel, Damian wore a Rambo style ammunition belt and bandanna - but from what happened off-screen, George apparently had a Heroic BSOD moment - ending up pistol-whipping Gus and giving Henry a black eye, which meant he lost badly-needed money from not being in a fit state to make a TV series independently of Globelink.
  • Little Mosque on the Prairie: Amaar's bachelor party involves a paintball game. Unfortunately, Amaar doesn't think the teams through ("everyone on this side of me on my team") and ends up unintentionally making the game Muslims versus (white) non-Muslims - which, besides the lampshaded Unfortunate Implications, means that he's saddled with a whole team who've never handled a gun in their lives, half of whom immediately shoot their own teammates by mistake.
  • One episode of Top Shot allowed members of the two teams to finally shoot at members of the opposing team with paintball markers While the target marksmen were running from one protected firing point to the next.
  • Stargate SG-1 has the intar: a device developed by the Goa'uld for use in training Jaffa, that stuns people shot with it, instead of killing them. It is first seen being used by a group of Jaffa being trained to fight using human weapons, and tactics, and is later adopted by the SGC for use in training exercises for its recruits.
  • A Season 3 episode of Hells Kitchen had Chef Ramsay reward the winning team with a trip to the paintball range, where Gordon took on all three by himself - and he still won. Because this is also a Real Life example, all the proper rules were obeyed.
  • One episode of CSI New York had two paintballers staging an illegal match in alley. One is murdered when he stumbles on to a drug deal, while the other is abducted by a mentally unstable woman who thinks he is an alien. The paintballers were, at least, wearing full protective gear. The gear, combined with the luminous paint she thought was blood, was why the woman mistook him for an alien.
  • The Piglet Files, a 1990's British sitcom, has the MI 5 protagonists doing a paintball training exercise, including a parody of the Taking the Bullet cliche. The doofus of the group is praised for having no paintball marks on him, only to reveal as he walks away that he's been shot In the Back numerous times. No-one wears protective equipment as we're initially supposed to believe they're actually in combat.
  • While House MD did not have an official paintball episode, the one-hour retrospective which aired before the series finale ended with Robert Sean Leonard and Hugh Laurie having a paintball match in the defunct set of the Princeton Plainsboro hospital.

Newspaper Comics

  • In one Dilbert strip, the Pointy-Haired Boss signed the team up for a paintball course as a "team building exercise", but instead of them going out to a paintballing field, he interpreted it as hunting them in the office with a paintball gun, without them being aware of it. Obviously, they didn't have on any protective gear, and in the confines of office spaces it would've been difficult to avoid "point blank" shots, both of which are major no-nos.

Web Comics

  • In the webcomic Life of Riley the BOBs are able to gain an early lead over the forces of darkness in their "Paintbrawl" specifically because the bad guys don't understand the rules.
  • Pv P did a paintball arc in early 2008 that was very careful about getting the details right, with proper masks and realistic paintball guns and terminology and rules. The one exception was Francis using a Halo helmet instead of a regular paintball mask, though in this case the marshals at least discussed it. Up to the point where Brent got a dislocated nipple (maybe Scott Kurtz was afraid the strips weren't zany enough). Then the cast snuck onto the course at night with no marshal and did all the things they weren't supposed to do, but at least then it was justified (and they even pointed it out later).
    • That sequence features a cameo from "Doc", who runs a paintball shop in Alaska and draws The Whiteboard, a paintball-themed Web Comic, as well as a human version of the owner of the paintball field from that comic, "Red". This may have contributed to the accuracy.
    • Also, Kurtz's commentary during the arc indicates he'd planned to go through the arc with the usual trappings (including the blind cast member Reggie participating) until readers more familiar with the sport called him out on it.
  • As mentioned above, The Whiteboard totally averts this, as the author makes markers for the game. Not to mention Doc can get a little annoyed by people disregarding the rules.
    • Mandatory equipment for his referees include duct tape and mallets, and tazers for refs of smaller stature.
    • An arc ending shortly before Christmas 2010 featured a field that tends to bend or even disregard all the rules, including mask regulations, chronographing[1], and wiping off paint spots from hits.
  • Sluggy Freelance's "Sistine Shrapnel" arc, complete with Torg being a wuss about getting hit and Riff illegally modifying his marker.

Western Animation

  • King of the Hill had a particularly egregious episode where a teenage bully torments Bobby on the paintball field and Hank and his buddies end up sucked into a paintball match with him. Not only does no one ever wear face masks in this episode, but the bully frequently engages in activities that would get you immediately thrown off the range (such as lining up a losing team against a fence for a "firing squad" shot) and of course, nary a marshal or range master is seen. Hank and his friends then turn the tables, shooting at point blank range themselves, bringing outside unsanctioned equipment and changing clothes on the field.
    • To be absolutely fair, while such things would be totally unacceptable in Real Life, it is pretty justified within the context of the series. Just about every recreational establishment in and around Arlen (and most other things, too, come to think of it) are consistently portrayed as being incompetently run.
    • Not to mention that the whole point of the episode is that the kids are a bunch of Jerkasses, as seen when they pull a drive-by in the middle of the day. Ignoring the lack of marshals, they're really not the sort of people to obey the rules anyhow.
  • The Daria episode "The Daria Hunter" shows everyone in goggles but no face masks. Lampshaded in a scene where Quinn shoots Sandi because she doesn't recognize her with her goggles on; Sandi angrily points out that it's against the rules not to wear them, whereupon the Fashion Club says "Some rules are meant to be broken. Like wearing red lipstick with an orange sweater."
    • Quinn retorts with "Besides, you [Sandi] shot at us after you were already hit, and that's against the rules, too."
    • Also in this episode, Ms. Barch repeatedly shoots Mr. DeMartino after having taken him down, directing at him a rant really intended for her ex-husband, until Brittany intervenes.
    • "Ms. Barch, stop! Those paintball thingies hurt!"
  • Total Drama Island had a paintball episode where the teens had to hunt each other with paintball guns. Other than the camera crew and the host, there really aren't any marshals to keep an eye on the contestants. Plus, there is a lack of facemasks and the contestants are wearing no protective clothing at all. It mostly consists of normal street clothes, and it doesn't help that some of the girls are pretty much half-naked. Finally, during the event briefing, the host literally shoots a contestant point blank for comedic effect. Of course, Total Drama Island is very big on Amusing Injuries. Also, the hosts make no effort to hide the fact they are complete jerkasses.
  • Played straightly subverted on the episode of Family Guy "Petarded". Spooner street game night includes a "paintball" fight in the Griffin house with goggles and body armour but no masks. Only Brian forgot the paintball guns so they use Joe's box-o-guns from work. Refuge in Audacity indeed.
  • The American Dad paintball episode must've been the first of its kind to use a brush in a parody of Vietnam War movies.
  • A Dilbert episode had Alice use this as an ice breaker party game. INSIDE Dilbert's house! It gets worse from there.
  • Futurama plays their paintball online, literally.
  • The Jimmy Two-Shoes episode Dance Jimmy Dance has the three main characters playing "Savage Bunny Paintball", which has them firing paintball guns at rabbits.
  • If it counts, The Swan Princess has a paintball segment; Derek and Bromley practice archery by tipping their arrows with bags of paint.

Real Life

  • Many military forces and law enforcement agencies use Simunition, effectively live ammo which fire paint balls instead of lead bullet; they are significantly smaller, harder, and faster than regular paint balls. They're basically a blue wax dye tip, with a plastic buffer and a small metal sabot on the base. This way soldiers and cops can get the feel of dealing with live ammo, complete with projectiles whizzing around. Since they're mostly used at ranges deep within a normal "safety kill" range in paintball, they can, will, and do break skin. On the flipside, users tend to be wearing Kevlar armor at the time and may hardly feel getting shot in the armor.
    • It is also extremely inaccurate compared to bullets just as regular paint balls are due to the fact that the paint projectile is too small to take advantage of the rifling effect.


  1. checking paintball speed, with 300 feet per second being a common upper limit
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