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Jacob Siderman: Playing the Battlefield

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Jacob Siderman: Playing the Battlefield

Photo courtesy of: Jacob Siderman

Photo courtesy of: Jacob Siderman

Photo courtesy of: Jacob Siderman

Photo courtesy of: Jacob Siderman

Emma Boczek

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“One team has taken a member of the other team hostage, and they’re holding them in a building,” freshman Jacob Siderman said. “The other team needs to go in and get their hostages back without being hit.”Siderman participates in military simulations, Airsoft games in which players are challenged to complete objectives in realistic high-risk scenarios such as the one he’s just described. For Siderman, Airsoft games bring a certain adrenaline rush that can last even after the game has ended. “It makes you think about things a little bit more tactically,” he said. “When you walk into a room, if you just got back from a game, you might think, ‘What would I do if the enemy was occupying this room and I was here?’ You’re still in that mode.”

Photo courtesy of: Jacob Siderman

Photo courtesy of: Jacob Siderman

In Airsoft military simulations, players use guns modeled after real weapons and loaded with plastic BBs that cause “a really bad sting, but after a couple games you just get used to it,” Siderman said, adding that Airsoft safety regulations are taken very seriously. “When it comes to eye protection, everyone is super strict,” he said.

Besides wearing protective gear, players must employ the basic rules of gun safety, which include, according to Siderman, that “make [players] sure your magazine isn’t in your gun [when it’s not needed], make sure that you don’t put your finger on the trigger until you have your sights line up […]don’t point your barrels at things you don’t want to destroy.”

The realistic nature of the game makes Airsoft arenas ideal for law enforcement and military training. Siderman has played with several policemen who were where to brush up on their skills. “We were the only ones with radios, so we would stay in radio contact,” he said. “I was calling out when I could see people entering rooms, and I told them where they were.”

Siderman maintains that despite popular misconception, recreational Airsoft is completely independent from its associated high-risk professions. “Other than the fact that they look alike and they use the same gear, I like to not consider one the same as the other,” he said. “I get hit, I have a laugh about it, and I tell the guy that he got a good shot. If it’s real, it’s going to be where lives are really on the line.”

Siderman is often asked if he will join the military when he’s older. “I know a lot about military gear because I’m very interested in it; I don’t necessarily want to be in the military,” he said. Siderman feels accused of “only doing this because you’re a military wannabe, you don’t really want to do it,” he said. “It sort of hurts when that happens… It’s completely untrue.”

Another assumption he encounters is that “everyone with an Airsoft gun is irresponsible,” he said. “This is when [people’s] only exposure has been to clear guns used by children who don’t follow rules of gun safety.”

Airsoft is for those from all walks of life, according to Siderman. “If you can find a way to be an asset to your team, you can definitely play. I’ve seen people play from the ages of seven to 70.” And because everyone wears face-obscuring masks, “if you have pre-assumptions about people based on whatever their facial hair is or what their skin color is, it isn’t allowed because you can’t see what people look like,” he said. “If I have a green mohawk and piercings all over my face, you won’t know it until after you’ve played a game with me and seen how good of a person and teammate I am.” This makes for a more even playing field and allows a broad range of ages to participate.

“Everyone running around and doing their thing just gets you really excited, makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you’re really useful,” Siderman said. “It gives you a sense of being an asset, and it drives you to have to be useful for your team, so that you can get the good feeling that […] you know that you put up a really good fight.”

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Jacob Siderman: Playing the Battlefield