Chaos ensued as survivalists tried to recover supplies while under fire.
Then the zombies attacked.
Operation: Walking Dead at Eagal Lakes was the latest adventure for Airsoft BB gun enthusiasts, who have stepped beyond video games and paintball to test their battle tactics against one another on the field.
Meanwhile, actors portraying the walking dead were ready to pounce on anyone whose attention lapsed, forcing participants such as Andrew Leja, 14, of Manteca, to tap their survival instincts.
“Imagine the ‘Hunger Games’ movies with zombies and guns,” Leja said.
Deborah Morales, owner of Black Ops Airsoft in Tracy and organizer of Operation: Walking Dead, said the nearly 200 acres of riparian woodland at the lake east of Tracy provided an ideal venue for her company’s first local event, a customer appreciation day co-hosted by Dog Tag Airsoft of San Jose that drew about 700 people.
“The key thing is, it’s big enough for all of the players,” Morales said. “We really looked for a place that would handle this capacity.”
Airsoft gaming is similar to paintball.
In the case of Operation: Walking Dead, the crowd was divided into two large teams, each trying to recover food, water, fuel or other supplies needed to survive in a postapocalyptic environment.
Players were eliminated when they were shot by opposing players or when the zombies chased them down.
But players weren’t allowed to shoot the zombies — instead, they were forced to flee into the open when the walking dead approached.
Amber Lukinbeal, of Tracy, was one of about 30 zombies to be transformed by makeup artists from Pirates of Emerson of Pleasanton.
Lukinbeal said she’s already into theatrical makeup as a hobby, and she looked forward to joining the undead for Saturday’s event.
“People like video games so much, so this is like stepping into a video game,” Lukinbeal said.
Participants fire anything from pistols to rapid-fire rifles loaded with biodegradable pellets. The pellets are larger and lighter than traditional metal BBs and are unlikely to cause injury, as long as everyone on the field wears protective goggles. Full face masks were required for minors.
Some players still sustained direct hits. Bradley Schreiber, 21, of Tracy, had a small welt on his forehead after he was ambushed in a clump of trees.
“This guy was waiting behind the barricade,” Schreiber said. “I didn’t see it coming. I paid the price for it.”
Heather Stewart, of Raleigh, N.C., was reluctant to venture out into the field for her first Airsoft event.
“When people said it didn’t hurt that bad I don’t know that I believed them, but I do now,” she said. “Sometimes I got hit and I wasn’t sure — did somebody actually shoot me or was that a stray BB ricocheting off of someone else?”
Stewart, a video marketing and sponsorship agent, came to Tracy with video producer Woody Woodworth, founder of the WoodysGamertag You Tube channel.
Woodworth, whose team recorded Saturday’s event, said Airsoft combat allows people to act out video game scenarios.
“The same people who like first-person shooter games online like it in real life,” he said.
Others, such as Sam Rodgers, 36, Stockton, got into Airsoft competition after they trained with real firearms, then went into the field with Airsoft rifles for situational training.
“Then my son and his friends from the neighborhood got into it,” Rodgers said. “So one day I had everybody gear up, and it was a way for me spend time with my kids, running around outside, and it spiraled from there.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.