Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Does this sound familiar?

“…the site is phenomenal, but subject to the usual Sunday skirmish issues.”

My friend Michael concisely describes the walk-on malaise. How many times have you visited an awesome site, only for your day to be ruined by locals whining about ‘aggressive’ play, by players exhibiting highly selective hit taking, or, by scenarios which are so poorly designed and managed that you wonder why the organiser gave their care worker the day off.

You can vote with your feet on poor planning and facilitation, but even at well run sites you risk spending the day with dishonest and dishonourable players.

However, there is another way to do things. I played my first Hit Takers game in the summer. You can guess the format: an invite only day game, at a premium site, where the founding principles are common sense, experience, fair play and most importantly – and as the name suggests – a binding, uncompromising agreement by all present to take their hits.

The concept is as simple as it is genius and it’s the template upon which Invite Only Airsoft (IOA) is based. But IOA goes further.

Bizarrely for an airsoft event organisation, IOA appears to be based on customer service satisfaction. It was founded and is managed by five friends who met while talking about airsoft online.

“IOA events are not your typical collapsing defence games. They are varied and copious amounts of research is conducted on each venue, which enables fluidity. We spend hours and days studying the environment and intricately planning and designing each game for our members.”

The core values of IOA are Honour, Respect and Trust:

“You never have to question your accuracy, players are honorable and trustworthy. Which does lead to one thing…It makes you realise that you aren’t actually as good a shot as you thought you were, resulting in more time on the range honing in the red dot! What a learning curve…

Excellent play is applauded and rewarded through a player of the day system and this is not just symbolic. Prizes are awarded which represent substantial retail value. Little surprise since the events are backed by well established brands: WE, Tackleberry, Enola Gaye and many more. This isn’t seen as an incentive, it’s simply to say thanks from the organisers for showing excellence throughout.

IOA also runs a group purchase programme, sourcing solid kit at excellent prices for its membership. Recent offerings have included Vortex optics and WE GBB pistols.

There are no marshals at IOA. The events are self-policing. However, there are IOA facilitators on site to help the flow of the game; for house keeping issues and, of course, to make decisions on emergent issues should they arise. Random chronoing is another duty carried out by facilitators.

So, what’s the catch? Well, one does not simply walk on to an IOA event; there is a selection process. And, as the name suggests, you first need to know an existing IOA member. Then there are various checks and balances to make sure newly invited players are true to the ethos. In addition, numbers are sensibly capped, so even as an IOA member you are not guaranteed a place at a game.

I’ll be attending my first IOA event in February, so we’ll see how that goes, but I’m already excited!