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War games

You say you love combat simulation games? Well, put down the controller and pick up a fake rifle, soldier!

Charles Martin September 14th, 2011

In a gutted-out industrial building west of Stockyards City, a squad of men crouched in the shadows, their rifles trained on a stairwell. Soft footsteps approached; someone shouted “Contact!” and was answered with a swarm of gunfire. The first casualty stumbled backward and retreated, blood dripping from his nose.

“Yeah, those little BBs can really hurt,” Marine Corps veteran Carl Lostracco said as he watched the teenager wipe the blood away.

Seconds later, Lostracco caught a small, plastic BB in the cheek and winced back into cover as his men continued to defend their position during an AirWolf E.A.S. simulation mission.

The teams used Airsoft rifles and pistols — BB guns tricked-out to look like military weapons — in missions to recover captured personnel or disarm improvised explosives.

“Everyone gets a chance to learn how to lead a fire team, and it all helps the younger players get a sense of community, command structure and respect,” Lostracco said.

AirWolf is sponsored by local dealer T.A. Airsoft, 400 S. Vermont, and weapons can range from $125 to $350. Eye protection is a must, and most wear padding to dull the BBs’ sting. Open-arena free-for-alls cost $15 and last up to five hours. More complex operations are $20 to $25. For more information, call 210-1186.

John Hubbard, manager of Avid Extreme Sports, 2622 N. Moore in Moore, said Airsoft is growing rapidly, and now at the level of popularity where paintball was 20 years ago.

“Paintball is the most fun you can have with anybody,” he said. “It’s an adrenaline rush and it gives you these memories with your friends where you can, years later, still be sharing war stories.”

Yeah, those little BBs can really hurt.
—Carl Lostracco

Hubbard insisted the sport is approachable for any level of player, and being hit by a paintball isn’t any worse than being popped with a towel.

“That’s the best thing about the sport: Anyone 10 years to 60 years old can play,” he said.

A basic setup to just get on the field will run about $150, not including paintballs.

If projectiles flying at your face at hundreds of feet per second isn’t your bag, consider laser tag to get the taste of combat without the bruising or bloodletting. HeyDay Family Fun Center, 3201 Market Place in Norman, has video games, miniature golf and a ropes course. But Brian Burks, general manager, said the laser-tag arena is the biggest moneymaker.

“It’s a fun game. It will be different every time you play it, and it is more physical than you think it’s going to be,” he said. “They are constantly moving the entire time, hiding, getting a better position as they move up and down the levels. By the time they come out, they are sweating.”

The arena is 7,000 square feet with two levels, and sessions run 30 minutes for four games. Each session is $12, but the more you play, the cheaper each becomes. HeyDay also hosts tournaments and team-building exercises.

“You are never out of the game.

It’s a points-based game and you get a score at the end,” Burks said. “That’s what people enjoy the most, so that’s what we play 99 percent of the time. There are more complicated games we can play, but when most people go in, they don’t want to think a whole lot. They just want to have fun.”

Photos by Mark Hancock

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