Why cage fight when you could paintball?

Rich dudes love fighting each other. That’s how paintball got its start.

Elon Musk (net worth: $245B+) recently challenged Mark Zuckerberg (net worth: $100B+) to a cage match, inspired by news that Meta is planning a Twitter rival.


Zuck, who’s trained in jiu-jitsu,asked for a location. Musk, who’s not, proposed Vegas.

Why would two billionaires entertain the idea of a real-life MTV “Celebrity Deathmatch” — Is it a joke? Will they fight?

It all calls to mind an enduring short story — one that led, in part, to the rise of an industry we think Muskerberg would enjoy.

“A new animal to hunt”

In 1924, author Richard Connell published his short story “The Most Dangerous Game” in which an American game hunter is shipwrecked on a Caribbean island, where General Zaroff — a wealthy man bored with life and hunting animals — hunts humans for sport.

In real life, that kinda thing will get you in trouble… but you can pretend.

In 1981…

… outdoorsman and author Charles Gaines and stockbroker Hayes Noel debated if a person could rely on natural drive to survive in the woods or if they needed to learn environment-specific tactics.

So, according to legend, they organized a game. They hunted each other on Gaines’ property with CO2-powered guns and paint pellets, typically used to mark sheep or trees — Noel later referenced “The Most Dangerous Game” as inspiration.

It was such fun, they organized a larger game on June 27, 1981, in which players had to gather flags, marked on a map, while hunting one another, per Outside/In.

  • Forester Ritchie White won without firing a single round, relying instead on stealth.

From there…

… interest in the game spread after participants wrote articles about it, and Gaines, Noel, and ski shop manager Bob Gurnsey founded the National Survival Games (NSG), which sold a kit including a gun, pellets, and directions.

In 1988, Noel — Gaines had already cashed out — told The New York Times that NSG employed 100 people and made ~$10m+ in annual sales, or $25.9m today.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last. Noel sold his stake to Gurnsey, who filed for bankruptcy in 1995 due to too many competitors and 100+ personal injury lawsuits. Gurnsey maintained that he never lost, but fighting them got expensive.

Today, the US paintball industry is worth $1.2B, a fraction of Musk and Zuck’s respective net worths — and perhaps more fun than a cage match? Think about it, guys.

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