Maksim Barankov

Maksim Barankov

Enterprise: Kazakhstan Aluminium Smelter

Position: Automations systems maintenance technician


No Child’s Play

— “And at night we find ourselves busy with a game of airsoft”

Normally airsoft matches do not finish in daylight, and can sometimes carry on well into the night, and can be just as exciting as the day matches. Hundreds of airsoft enthusiasts from a range of cities and sometimes neighbouring countries flock to these matches. These includes dozens of teams, each propelled by adrenaline and excited to spend time with like-minded hobbyists who share a passion for this exhilarating activity. Much like in a real-life battlefield, airsoft matches revolve around shooting opponents and completing strategic tasks. The sense of realism in these matches can be truly enthralling. Camouflage, ammunition, assault shields, night vision goggles, radios and ultra-realistic weapons (which run on battery and shoot plastic pellets) are all components of a game which immerses players into scenarios normally found in real warfare. As strange as it may sound, given the complexity and seriousness of this game, the minimum requirement to take part in an Airsoft match is to simply carry with you a pair of safety glasses.

My passion for the hobby began in November of 2018. Unfortunately, there weren’t many games taking place during that time of year. Nonetheless, I joined a very cool Airsoft team in Pavlodar called “Windspout”. Every weekend, during winter, we would gather in a partially heated building in the city and either run team-training sessions or play against people we called “tasters” – those who only wanted to play once for the fun of it. During one of those matches I got badly hit in the face. Nothing serious really happened, since I was wearing protective goggles. But the rest of my face, especially around my cheeks and nose, was covered in blood. Such accidents might sound shocking, but they are quite common in Airsoft games. Suffice to say, after I was shot and tagged as “dead”, I still found the session quite enjoyable.

Once the weather begins to warm up, and everything becomes relatively dry, the outdoor games begin. These games are strikingly different from the ones we play during winter. Open spaces, endless rows of trees and an overwhelming number of twigs and branches which can either aid or obstruct players, are all part of the summer games. In fact, even the rush of wind often affects the trajectory of the six-millimetre pellets being shot from the rifles. I remember my first game - which was a guerrilla-like match – walking through a dense sea of leaves and dirt. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though my clothes were covered in silt and mud.

I recently participated in my first mass Airsoft match at the season opening in Stepnogorsk. More than one hundred people from all over Northern Kazakhstan took part in the event which lasted for six hours and took place in a rather small field. It was an unforgettable experience. It was during that game that I appreciated in full, the complexity of the game, by taking notice of small details such as the limited ammunition provided to each team and the way in which we had to ration it. Unfortunately, I was not able to participate in the away game in Omsk. However, I was told the games were very exciting.

While the games in Omsk were happening, our team began to prepare for the night matches. This requires a whole new type of equipment, mainly laser targets, night vision goggles and powerful torches, all of which need to be readily available at all times. Not everyone participates in these night games. Those who do participate however, come together in camp set-ups, where we laugh, cook and share our stories and experiences. All in all, I find myself in great company within the Airsoft community. Although the game involves shooting one another, it is a game nonetheless, and like any game, there’s a great sense of camaraderie. When taken seriously, Airsoft can become quite an expensive activity. Unlike football, for which all you need is a pair of shoes and a football, Airsoft requires extensive equipment. You also need to account for the fact that not many people will commit fully to the game, like playing night matches. I remember I once had to stay in the camp while a night match was going on. This was because I had suffered an injury that occurred earlier during a day match; a twig had pierced through my boot and into my foot, causing it to bleed quite badly. The incident, however, was quickly resolved, since it is mandatory for every team to bring along a first aid kit. While I was recuperating in the camp, I quickly searched on the internet for new boots to replace my old torn ones, in the hope that I could take part in next day’s match. I managed to find a replacement, and once I did, I quickly returned to my friends who weren’t participating in the night match. It was a lovely evening; a campfire, great company and funny stories being shared all around.

Meanwhile fifty metres from the camp, in the dark, an exciting match of airsoft was being played out.