The Original 12 Players

The Original 12 Players

It’s very well documented that Lionel Atwill, Ken Barrett, Bob Carlson, Joe Drinon, Charles Gaines, Jerome Gary, Bob Gurnsey, Bob Jones, Hayes Noel, Carl Sandquist, Ronnie Simkins and Richie White were the first 12 people to play a multi-player game of what we now call “paintball” back in June of 1981. Most people know the names, but many do not know anything else about these 12 very interesting people.

Charles Gaines: Of the original twelve figures, Charles Gaines is one of the more publicly known. He is a successful author famous for his book “Pumping Iron” and documentary film (which he narrated) regarding body building in southern California during 1977. Since then, Gaines has written countless books including several fitness volumes with Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as other works that make up an esteemed bibliography.

Richie White: Richie White, a New Hampshire forester and devoted hunter was the ultimate winner of that initial paintball game. He obtained all twelve flags without discharging one single shot! Lionel Atwill wrote an intriguing account about this remarkable feat in his book The Survival Game Manual: “No one ever spotted Ritchie, yet he collected all flags as effortlessly as a schoolgirl plucking flowers.”

Bob Jones (Robert F. Jones): Bob Jones, also known as Robert F. Jones, earned the game of paintball considerable recognition in 1981 and 1982 when he was a staff writer at Sports Illustrated – being the first publication to report on it nationally. In addition to his work with journalism, Bob had authored numerous novels such as Blood Sport, Deadville and The Diamond Bongo; not neglecting hunting or fishing books either. Naturalizing outdoors activities like these enabled him to become an experienced hunter and fisherman alongside many other original twelve members who admired him greatly for this talent.

Bob Gurnsey: Bob Gurnsey, who is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers in paintball, established the National Survival Game—the first paintball company. Before entering this thrilling industry, he owned a ski pro-shop. Upon his departure from paintball around 1990s, Bob embarked on several new business ventures – including Culpeper Plastics.

Bob Carlson: Most people simply refer to him as “Dr. Robert Carlson”. During his youth, he worked in an emergency room at a hospital located in Birmingham, Alabama. He ended up being the star of the show as he managed to eliminate five out of eleven contestantsg himself).

Ken Barrett: Originating from Shrub Oak, NY and recognized as the inaugural contender eliminated in that 12-player competition, Ken Barrett is a venture capitalist by profession and highly skilled outdoorsman in his free time. Professionally speaking, Ken served as TRCP’s Senior Staff Writer along with being host for TRCP’s Life In The Open (a hunting television series on Versus).

Ronnie Simpkins: All the way back in 1981, Ronnie Simpkins was a farmer from Camden, Alabama – and an avid outdoorsman with a penchant for turkey hunting. He was also notoriously skilled with firearms and sharpshooting. Bob Jones even remarked that he had “Winnie the Pooh-like demeanor”, referring to his jolly and rotund figure!

Hayes Noel: Hayes Noel, a Tennessee native, has been credited as one of the three founders of paintball alongside Bob Gurnsey and Charles Gaines – his closest friend. Working in NYC’s American Stock Exchange during the late 70s to early 80s, he was an avid runner who eventually wrote a chapter for The Complete Guide Paintball despite distancing himself from the game itself since its inception.

Lionel Atwill: The veteran writer and author Atwill, more commonly referred to as “Tony” by his friends – in order not to be confused with Lionel Atwil the prominent actor of the late 1800s-early 1900s – wrote an influential book titled “The Official Survival Guide Manual”. Furthermore, he received additional recognition due to a feature article published early on in Sports Illustrated that gave credibility to what was then known by its earlier name: ‘survival’.

Jerome Gary: Jerome Gary is one of the original 12 players who has achieved extraordinary success in his business life. As an executive in the entertainment industry, Gary has been Head of Acquisitions and Production for Cinema 5, President of a Production Company called Visionaire Communications,senior lecturer in screen-writing and directing at the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies, Strategic Director of USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Carl Sandquist: On the day of this game, Carl Sandquist had his residence in Dover, New Hampshire and was employed as a building estimator.

Joe Drinon: Joe, hailing from Chichester, New Hampshire and having experience as both a middle-weight Golden Gloves boxer and stockbroker, was one of the few non-hunters playing in this game. Unfortunately for him however, he quickly lost his map – which each player had been handed at the start of the game – leading to worry that he might become stuck in these woods forever. As such, Joe decided it best not to take any risks and pulled himself out early on.