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Weekend Warriors

By: Chris Willson

Date Posted: 2001-05-25

From Monday to Friday Shigeru works at Naha Port. Today however is Sunday and that’s why he has a SR16 M4 Carbine rifle in his hands and a grin on his face. At a secret location in central Okinawa, Shigeru and his friends creep around the woods and abandoned buildings trying to find and shoot one of the “opposition” with a six-millimeter plastic ball. After a couple of hours of playing soldiers these weekend warriors will go back home, their camouflage gear and automatic weapons will be packed away and the next day they will return to their regular lives as gas stand attendants, carpenters and driving instructors.

“Usually we make up a scenario each time. It can be like we pretend to protect our leader against a terrorist attack, or we form two rival squads that try to take on each other. That makes thw whole thing more realistic,” Shireru says.

It is said that, “The only difference between men and boys is the size of their toys.” This group has a lot of “toys.” When Shigeru goes into battle he is usually carrying his trusty M4 but also has two pistols and a shotgun all fully loaded with little white balls and ready for action. The assembled players divide themselves into two teams and then move off to different parts of the battleground. For twenty to thirty minutes they stalk the opposition through the undergrowth firing bursts at each other. Players, who are struck by one of the little balls, shout “Hit,” and then walk back to base and wait until the next game.

The enthusiasts go in great lengths to pay attention to every little detail. For example, the group members explain that “the British camouflage patterns are narrower than those used by U.S. troops making them more invisible in the jungle.”

I understood the where, the when, the who and the how but I was still confused as to why anyone would want to spend their days off playing cowboys and indians in the mud. Shigeru’s own guns give an insight into his reasons for playing. He explains his Beretta is identical to the one used in ‘Biohazard’ while his MK23 with laser sight is just like the one used in ‘Metal Gear,’ both of which are best-selling computer games. This is a time of real escapism it is a chance for these people to become the action hero, the member of a SWAT team or the hired mercenary they would like to be. It also acts as stress relief, the excitement and energy released by the game is enough for most players to get them through the next couple of weeks of work before they return to their secret location and get another fix of action.

Although the participants say that they have few rules to follow, the action takes discipline and thought. “We have to act as a group, we decide every time who’s the leader who gives the orders that the whole group follows,” Shigeru says.

Although the guns don’t fire real bullets they are definitely not toys and this isn’t a game for children. The guns have enough power to fire two hundred of the plastic balls in less than half a minute and often at ranges of around 100m. The guns they use are not paint ball guns that Americans use on base. When the bullets hit padded clothing they can sting and exposed skin is liable to be bruised or cut. The minimum safety gear is protective goggles but after having been hit in the forehead at close range and found blood dripping off the end of my nose, I would say that if you don’t have a helmet and face protection you shouldn’t even consider playing the game.

I personally am quite happy just to watch the action on a movie screen. I don’t have to buy myself a gun, I don’t need protective clothing and most importantly I can eat popcorn at the same time.

Readers interested in survival games can contact the group’s American member Brian at 090-1945-7395.

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