As a fast growing sport, Airsoft is starting to experience the rift of specific crowds wanting different ways to play. The word Airsoft generally encompasses all play-styles right now, but a significant group is emerging from the scene, MILSIM. Military Simulation is a much more tactical and immersive Airsoft experience, with stricter rules and regulations, and adds certain gear and play requirements. In this version, players emulate servicemen as thoroughly as possible, attempting to reach a level of realism surpassed by no other. Individuals usually run impressions of certain military units, and the organization is much cleaner. The pace of the game is considered to be much slower and more realistic compared to general 'Airsoft' style. Non-MILSIMers (read:Airsofters) tend to play in a more run-and-gun way, allowing any kind of equipment and weapon. This faster gameplay appeals to newer players, but it does not exclude experienced ones either, as the sport is more versatile and generally open to anyone. Players of the two sports tend to prefer one over the other, and may not participate in the other group due to the almost drastic differences between them. Recreational Airsoft is usually the starting point for most players, who then decide to stick to the normal game, or desire a change and go into the more 'advanced' MILSIM games.
Most players will not think nor care about this difference right now, but later on it may be a hot topic. Right now, a MILSIMer can play recreational Airsoft, but an Airsofter cannot participate in MILSIM (without meeting the requirements). This segregation of MILSIM and 'Recsoft' makes the distinction clearer, and with this, each sport may opt to go another path. Other ways to play may pop up, similar to Paintball's different ways of playing (IE: woodsball, speedball, scenarios). In this event, an Airsofter could be considered a MILSIMer, a Recsofter, target shooter, Larpsofter (who knows), or any other player type that pops up! These groups would cater to the different tastes of the players, becoming more specific for each one. An individual may participate in the different groups as they choose, but the gap between may grow more defined as each sport acquires it's own reputation and playerbase. Eventually, the term 'Airsofter' may only describe the player utilizing a system of slinging plastic, their subgroup would have to be defined as well!
The thought of Airsoft creating many subgroups is an exciting one, although it can be a bit scary! This separation could create an attitude of elitism, as each group perceives it's own to be the best. This split could cause rivalries like the one Airsoft and Paintball share right now. Even though all the groups will likely get the same attention and understanding from outsiders and the media (unless they become big), they may evolve to be nothing alike, sharing only the weapons they use. With some of the potential problems considered, the specialization aspect would help players attain the experience they want, which would add to the enjoyment and fulfillment each player gets. Already, OPs are designated as MILSIM or not, alluding to the differences of the styles. As an Airsofter (for now), do you support the separation of the playerbase? Or is it preferable to stay in one big clump as a sport? While playing, take notice of anything that may indicate changes in this direction, it will surely be interesting!