Your hands wrap around the grip of a Tippmann marker. Multicolored spheres fly past you, spattering the trees and cutting air inches from your mask. Through the foliage, you can see half a plane buried nose-first in a clearing, one of many obstacles concealing potential foes. At SplatterPark, this good-natured combat sprawls across the adrenaline-soaked turf of 12 outdoor fields and 40 wooded and open acres adjacent to a lake. Warriors battle through capture-the-flag, base-defense, and other scenarios in themed arenas with adventurous names including Fort Buckeye, Snake Pit, and Dark Forest. Each field is suited to at least three types of play, but only the regular type of physics, and shouts of camaraderie echo off paint-flecked cover such as a broken-down school bus and a wooden-slat fort. In preparing for battle, combatants strap on rental or purchased gear under covered staging shelters, happy in the knowledge that their biodegradable paint ammunition will be harmlessly washed away by the elements or bears doing community service.
The arena's surreal terrain was featured in the intense combat of Greg Hastings' Tournament Paintball, a video game from Activision, but the real park caters to players of all abilities and ages. At an onsite café, hot dogs and burgers refuel warriors and allow them to tell if their nemeses are actually target dummies with no appetite, and the pro shop's staff bustles among markers, accessories, and spare parts.