Bringing video games to life
Demolition. Capture the Flag. Team Death Match. Defend the Bunker. How do these terms teach kids sportsmanship, discipline, honesty, integrity and teamwork?
Just ask Laurie Peterson and her son DJ, co-owners of Airsoft Xtreme, Airsoft on the Edge near Somerset. Twelve-year-old Somerset Middle School student DJ has been a self-proclaimed Airsoft fanatic for more than a year now. His mother wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, but has embraced her son’s new hobby so wholeheartedly that they’ve opened a family business dedicated to the sport.
“Our activity isn’t as rough as some sports,” Laurie said. “In football and hockey there are concussions, and they promote aggressive, violent behavior. We have a camaraderie that is similar to a military brotherhood here. They just want to play a game and hang out and have fun. It’s in the same category as trap league where you are trying to tag a target to win points.”
What is Airsoft? Wikipedia defines it as “a sport in which participants eliminate opponents by hitting each other with spherical, non-metallic pellets launched via replica firearms called Airsoft guns.”
The way the game is played varies in style, but is often comprised of short skirmishes, organized scenarios, military simulations or combat situations that use military tactics to achieve objectives set in each game. Laurie called it a sister to paintball and describes it as “bringing video games to life.”
“It’s not for everyone, but it’s our passion,” Laurie said. “It helps kids get moving, makes them more active, off the couch and off video games.”
DJ said he hasn’t really touched a video game all summer because he’s been too busy playing Airsoft or serving as a referee at the new Airsoft park. Games typically take about 15 to 30 minutes, but in cases like “Capture the Flag,” can take closer to one hour, DJ said.
The Airsoft on the Edge park is roughly 15 to 20 acres adjacent to River’s Edge Apple River Campground, and it contains different game staging areas with bunkers, barriers, and even a “ville,” or urban area staged to be like a little city. The “ville” is located below a large hill with a bunker on top. That’s where the name Airsoft on the Edge came from. The Petersons hope to build a castle on top of the hill in the future.
Players can bring their own equipment or rent it at the park. A basic rental package ($25) includes an M4 rifle with one high-capacity magazine of BBs, and eye and face protection.
The Petersons got hooked on Airsoft when DJ started playing frequently at the Airsoft park in Deer Park, which has since closed. Laurie, who has subbed in the Somerset School District for seven years and used to run her own daycare, said her family felt Somerset needed a different attraction for kids to get out and be active besides school sports and the river.
Laurie also said DJ used to be shy, but Airsoft has helped him make friends and taught him to talk to people. She stressed that the game promotes honesty, integrity and teamwork because team members have to work together to accomplish their objectives.
“He has really opened up,” Laurie said. “It’s a hobby he really likes. He’s even getting into the video editing end of things now.”
DJ also paints and designs guns with customized accessories, Laurie said. She is also president of Airhard Tactical LLC, a retail store in St. Paul that specializes in Airsoft guns, gear, customizing and repair.
Laurie said since opening on July 4, they’ve done no advertising but have hosted roughly 20 players each weekend. The park is open Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They may add a weeknight to the hours of operation due to popular demand, Laurie said. The park is available for party rentals too.
The business website (livairsoftxtreme.com) describes the park as “kid-friendly with refs who have a history of advocating for youth.” Laurie said ages 10 and up can usually participate, as long as they can handle the sting of the pellets and carrying the sometimes heavy gear.
“The game teaches kids to be familiar with guns and to be safe around them,” DJ said. “In video games you’re killing people. The refs go through a safety briefing before every game. It teaches honesty because players have to call out their hits. You can’t see the paint splotches like in paintball.”
The game originated in Japan, and later spread to China. It’s most popular on the East and West coasts, but is quickly gaining popularity in the Midwest, Laurie said. The Somerset park is one of three Airsoft parks in Wisconsin, including one in Baldwin. According to DJ, many paintball parks cross over and allow Airsoft players to use the facilities.
For more information on Airsoft Xtreme, contact Laurie at 715-575-1225 or Laurie@LivAirsoftXtreme.com. The park is located at 1809 Raleigh Rd. For party rates and general information, visit the website or Facebook page at facebook.com/airsoftxtremewi/info.