Over the last few years, we have seen the rise of the airsoft YouTuber - with many airsofters gaining popularity on the internet for their reviews, how-to videos and of course epic gameplay. With this, we have seen the popularity of action cameras on the field increase dramatically and today I want to explore whether using action cams in airsoft are a positive or negative influence on the sport.

Along with the amount of players wearing action cams increasing, the camera setups themselves have gotten way more advanced – now instead of one camera, we see players with helmet cams, gun cams, and scope cams all in the same setup to enable them to capture the day in more viewpoints than ever and create videos that are more akin to cinematics than your average run of the mill YouTube videos. 

I will preface this by saying that I used to be an avid action cam wearer, after I saw all the cool footage online from airsoft personalities across the pond I was eager to get myself a GoPro and start recording my own footage so I could show my mates all the cool things that happened after the game day and maybe post some footage online. I got my first GoPro in the winter of 2014, around 4 months after I started playing and recorded all of my games up until September 2017 – crazy right? Yet I have only posted maybe 5-6 gameplay in the last 3 years.

The reason I stopped wearing my action cam is very simple – when the camera isn’t running I have a much better game day! The reason for this is that I’m not constantly worried about whether the device is actually recording or not, the GoPro running out of battery or there not being enough space on the SD card. When I‘m not wearing the camera I’m not worried about capturing gameplay that looks good on camera (no unnecessary climbing through high windows to get a cool shot), running faster than I usually would and being obsessed with getting killstreaks.

 Recording the day isn’t the end of the process though, once you get home then comes the part where you have to edit the footage into a snappy, quick paced and most importantly entertaining video! Although it’s really cool to go through all the footage later and relive the day, video editing is bloody hard work. Sure, I can edit a vlog or how-to video but I struggle to create the almost cinematic gameplay videos that we see from some of the big names in airsoft YouTube. Without the camera, I can play at a comfortable pace, just enjoy the game for what it is and not have to spend hours upon hours editing a whole day into a 3-minute video.

One argument for the positive effect that action cams have on gameplay is that they promote honest play - as no one really wants to get shamed in a viral cheater video. Now although I am not a fan of cheater videos they are definitely a deterrent. When I was still wearing my GoPro and recording gameplay I found that one of my core reasons for wearing the camera was to protect myself and my reputation from cheating rumours. There was a noticeable trend, the more internet notoriety I gained, the more likely it was that I was accused of cheating – the camera became a way for me to disprove any cheating rumours that were thrown my way by disgruntled airsofters. I believe that airsofters are less inclined to bend the rules if they know there are players in the field recording the events. A few sites in the UK now also have their marshals wear body cams for this reason.

Another reason that actions cams have a positive effect on the sport is that they bring more people into it because they make airsoft look cool AF – now those of us who play know it’s an awesome way to meet people, make new friends and spend ALL of your money! People outside the sport don’t know this and these epic videos act as a great advert for getting new players into the sport!

Another reason I am for the use of action cams in game is that a select few airsofters have built pretty lucrative careers and businesses from editing/posting their gameplay. We live in an age where the internet is king and anyone can create content and monetise it. The monetisation of player’s airsoft content gives them a chance to make money doing what they love and in some cases being able to call it their full-time job/career which is pretty amazing. 

Overall, there are a lot of ways that action cameras affect airsoft in a positive way, from advertising the sport to new players, to promoting honest play within the community and even allowing players to make a career out of producing content. However, we also have to look at the negative side of action cams in airsoft: playing for the camera.

In the past I have heard a player say ‘I won’t stop a good run if I get shot in the back or sides, if the camera can’t see it I’ll carry on to get the footage’. Running an action camera can mean that players could be more likely to bend the rules of the game to enable them to capture the better gameplay footage which is obviously incredibly unsporting and not something we want to encourage on the field. This also leaves the floodgates open to another negative influence cameras have in game.
 Next up? Cheater videos. If it weren’t for action cameras we wouldn’t have the cheater videos that have become popular amongst YouTubers and their viewers. In most site briefs you will hear ‘cheat calling is as bad as cheating itself’ and this applies in my opinion to cheater videos as well. These types of videos draw far too much attention to the negative side of the sport and doesn’t portray it in the best light to those outside of it. I am a firm believer of, if you have an issue with a player on site – tell a marshal, failing that, the site owner. If you notice some questionable play whilst watching the footage back – send it to the site as they could recognise the player and have a firm word to prevent it happening in the future.

Heavily edited videos also give a skewed image of the sport and what a typical game day is like. We all know, that if videos weren’t edited they’d be pretty boring, after all, who really wants to sit through 20 minutes of some guy walking through the woods and seeing 1-2 kills? No one, but watching videos where an airsofter gets a huge killstreak but edits out the 10-12 times he/she got hit - it doesn’t give an accurate representation of a normal game day. I really like it when YouTubers leave their hits and any funny mess-ups in their videos because it makes them more relatable and likeable.
Realistically, the negatives all boil down to who is wearing them and what sort of player they are.
I asked the community what you thought about the use of action cams in airsoft and this is what you had to say!

Lt. Sandman says: ‘In my experience they create positivity. Generally, when people see you with one they play to it and want to get something cool recorded. Honest play, for sure. No one wants to be shamed in a video for cheating. Power play? Not sure about that, it doesn't give you any tactical advantage. Overall great influence on the game’

Matt Furey-King says: ‘The one thing I find amusing in airsoft is hundreds of cameras in game but not that many people publishing the footage. They have become a little bit of a fashion accessory. Even saw a guy asking on Facebook if it was possible to buy an empty go pro casing so it looked like he had an action cam. Anyway, the headcam/scopecam vids on YouTube are drawing lots more people into the hobby which is great’

Andrew Sanders says: ‘Filmed in game for ages now, people play up to the cams and do some awesome stuff. I’ve had people go to cheat or tell me something seen the camera and thought nope. Think they’re great, the marshals at my local site have started wearing them, its lowered unsporting play apparently’ (some spellings changed)

Alisdair Wood says: ‘They don't change the way the game is played as it's fast paced, I couldn't tell you who has them or not. Handy for reducing the air of doubt over cheats, but there are still filmmakers who cheat and don't edit it out lol. It's also good after a day you've been airsoft and someone has a film of it. Basically getting to see the whole day from someone else's pov. I also think marshals should wear them to a reduce cheating, but also the marshals usually get into some great positions in firefights could make for great game day footage’

Anthony Hague thinks: ‘For the average player they are fine. Get some cool moments to show your mates etc…it's when people start making a living off only gameplay, too much of an incentive to cheat/bend the rules to make sure you get that epic bomb plant or w/e.’

Basho Matsuo commented: ‘I think it really depends. The films that I made for Tier 1 really helped the company get its brand out there and people were more than happy to pay for them to see themselves in the events and to get a wider understanding of what was going on. On the other hand, if it's just a film to boost the filmers ego then I don't think they have much worth’

Gadge Harvey said: ‘Personally I don't really like in-game helmet cams and the like. For a start, if I’m shooting pics for an event I ask everyone before-hand if everyone is happy being in a photo - some people don’t want to be in the shot. Sometimes it’s for a good reason like they have a sensitive job and can’t be seen doing a 'war-like' game, other times it’s because they have lied to their partner about having to do something more important and are actually just playing airsoft etc. I think helmet cams, that are then uploaded to YouYube often include people unawares. Also while you might catch someone 'cheating', is a video on YouTube of cheating helpful to the sport? Likewise, heavily edited GoPro footage of someone’s 'amazing' kill-streak in a game where they edit out the eight times they got hit in between creates a false representation of the sport. Just my view, I'd much rather if an event is filmed, it’s done by an individual separate from the game rather than some jumpy, erratic and motion sickness inducing helmet or gun cam!’

Overall, I do think that action cams do have both positive and negative influences on the game, but the negatives impact is pretty insignificant. Action cams can be a cool way to record the game to show your friends and family, a visual way of growing the sport and also a way to earn a tidy side stream of income. I say, fill your boots!

Hardwick, K. (2018). Action Cams in Airsoft. Airsoft Action. 83 (January), 28-31.

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