With The Hunger Games: Catching Fire showing in cinemas, archery - and anything that involves shooting, for that matter - is catching on.
The film franchise, starring Jennifer Lawrence as bow-and-arrow ace Katniss Everdeen who battles to survive in a dystopian state, has sparked a trend for shooting sports and combat games worldwide. These include archery, archery tag (where people "tag" one another with foam-tipped arrows) and laser tag (where people tag one another with infrared- ray-emitting guns).
In Singapore, Tag Team Inc, which organises corporate and private archery tag and laser tag games, says it has received more requests for archery tag since the film opened last week. From 20 to 30 customers a month earlier this year, they now conduct events for up to 150 people every month.
Its business development manager, Mr John Lim, 30, says: "Movies such as The Hunger Games series make archery popular and hip, and people want to try what it's like to shoot an arrow."
Sports company Do Xtreme, which organises archery tag, speed tag and paintball events, has held Hunger Games-themed events in the past. It plans to launch a Hunger Games version of archery tag next year, where teams have to defend their own zones while trying to eliminate other teams and take over their sections. "It's a way to bring young people together in friendly competition," says Ms Nur Jumaiyah Amat, 24, Do Xtreme's general manager.
Life!Weekend susses out where you can simulate your own Hunger Games.
The most recent addition to the range of shooting sports here is Archery Tag.
A combination of archery and paintball, it was introduced in Singapore about a year ago by two sports events companies, Do Xtreme and Tag Team Inc.
To play, teams of five to seven people aim foam-tipped arrows at their opponents. Players can take cover behind inflatable bunkers.
If you are tagged by an arrow, you are out. A team wins by either tagging all of the opposing team's members or by shooting down all of the five targets on their opponent's target board. Each session usually lasts two hours.
Three referees run each session to ensure player safety. Players need to wear face masks and must be at least 5m from their opponent before they loosen their arrows.
Tags are relatively painless and feel like strong taps on the body. Shots which hit the bow, head or face of an opponent do not count.
Meant for players aged 10 and above, archery tag can be played indoors or outdoors in an area roughly the size of a futsal court, about 27 by 17m.
Tag Team's Mr John Lim, 30, says the game's interactive nature has contributed to its growing popularity.
"Unlike archery where you are shooting at a static board, archery tag is more engaging because you can play it with your friends. It's similar yet different from traditional archery and it isn't difficult for people to pick up," he says.
It takes 20 to 30 minutes to teach the rules and basic techniques of the game, such as how to shoot an arrow, before players begin the game.
Two-hour games at Tag Team, which began operating in early 2011, cost $25 a person or $450 for 10 people or more. Games now have to be booked about a month in advance and can be set up in residential void decks, parks and even offices.
All equipment, including safety gear, bows, arrows and inflatable bunkers, are provided.
Do Xtreme, which started in 2009, charges $450 an hour for a group of 30 to 50. Most of its clients are school groups or corporate events. It arranges sessions of archery tag for about 70 people a week.
It is holding a public archery tag tournament in Punggol on Sunday. The top team will receive $250 in cash and Do Xtreme Sports T-shirts.
What: Do Xtreme Archery Tag Tournament
Where: Uber Sports at Punggol Sports Hub, 6 Tebing Lane, 01-05, Sports Hub Punggol
When: Sunday, 9am to 2pm
Admission: $150 for a team of five
Info: Go to www.doxtremesports.com
For info on Tag Team Inc, go to www.tagteaminc.sg
Student Ang Hwee Ying, 18, was introduced to archery by her younger brother four years ago.
He became interested in the sport while on a family trip to Taiwan, where the resort they stayed at had an archery range.
"I got hooked right away. It's the thrill of hitting the 10s and the excitement of competing with friends, to see who will win," says Ms Ang, a business studies student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. In archery, hitting the middle of the target board is worth 10 points.
More than 500 people practise archery regularly at about 30 archery clubs in Singapore, according to a conservative estimate by Mr Ong Zhong Da, 26, an archery coach at the Canberra Archery Club in Sembawang.
He has seen a modest increase of 5 to 10 per cent in interest at his club over the past few years, but says it might be even higher, up to 20 per cent, at other clubs.
While the ancient sport can be practised by any age group - from seven to 70 and beyond - says Mr Ong, the majority of enthusiasts here are students aged between 15 and 25. About 60 per cent of them are male.
Beginner archery classes are readily available at community centres around the island, such as in Sembawang, Pasir Panjang and Telok Blangah. Classes are taught in multi-purpose halls, open fields or professional archery ranges, depending on the facilities available on-site.
Fees range from $30 to $110 for four sessions, with equipment provided.
Once students become more involved in the sport, they are advised to join an archery club through community centres or schools such as Ngee Ann Polytechnic, which can cost $30 to $200 a year.
They also have to buy their own bow and arrows, which can cost anywhere from $350 for a basic wooden bow to more than $3,000 for high-end carbonfibre or metal bows used by professionals.
That was pretty much the route Ms Ang took. She started taking classes and practising at Telok Blangah Community Centre, spending the first few months working on her technique. She would aim at blank target boards just a few metres away, before gradually increasing her range.
She can now shoot targets up to 50m away. These days, she practises four to five days a week, spending four to seven hours each time at the community centre's archery field.
Earlier this year, she and her brother joined Singapore's national archery team.
The most difficult part of learning the sport is developing the strength and back muscles to hold and shoot the bow, which, she says, can be very tiring for a beginner.
"Once the strength is there, it becomes a mental game. Whenever you shoot, you have to be focused because you are really competing against yourself, not against your competitor," she adds.
"You cannot overthink your shot. Focus on your aim, but keep yourself relaxed."
Where: Indoor range at Telok Blangah Community Centre, 450 Telok Blangah Street 31; outdoor range at open field along Telok Blangah Street 31
When: 9am to 10pm daily
Info: Go to one.pa.gov.sg
If you are looking for a pain-free combat game that is child-friendly, Speed Tag is your best bet.
Much like laser tag or paintball, speed tag teams try to tag opposing team members and shoot targets for bonus points. The difference? They use Nerf guns - toy guns with foam bullets.
The bullets in the game have tips which will stick to the velcro vests worn by players. If a bullet sticks, you are out.
Each round lasts three to five minutes, followed by a rest period of the same duration. Each game can comprise multiple rounds, as players sprint from and hide behind inflatable bunkers which are placed around the play area.
The game requires an open space such as a court, field or void deck of about 20m by 10m or more in size, depending on the numbers of players on each team.
The team which earns the most points by shooting the most targets or by getting the most players out each round wins.
Four to six players make up a team. Players have to be at least four years old.
Do Xtreme is currently the only company offering speed tag in Singapore. It charges $350 an hour, inclusive of court rental at Uber Sports in Punggol, though the game is also mobile.
The company's general manager, Ms Nur Jumaiyah Amat, 24, says that since it started offering the game in 2009, it has grown in popularity from about 30 players a week in 2009 to about 100 people a week today.
Most bookings are for school or corporate events, or by guests for private parties.
"It's popular because the game is as much tactical as it is physical," says Ms Nur Jumaiyah. "Players are sprinting throughout the rounds, which is very exhausting, but the teams also use the rest time to strategise, regroup and reorganise so that they can plan how to win the next round."
Each team will also have a coach attached to them, a Do Xtreme staff member who will advise them on their strategy and their strengths and weaknesses, so that they can improve throughout the game, she adds.
The game is typically played over the course of two hours and all equipment, including safety gear, Nerf guns, inflatable base and court rental, are included.
Info: Go to www.doxtremesports.com or call 9152-4147
Laser tag has been around for about 15 years and it has evolved. Case in point: Combat Skirmish.
Offered by sports event company The Wow Experience since 2005, Combat Skirmish is a variant of the indoor game that is played outdoors - in and around the abandoned buildings of Fort Siloso.
Between 100 and 200 people play Combat Skirmish each week, says the operator. Players range in age from six to over 50.
Mr Tony Loo, 31, manager of The Wow Experience, says interest in the game has increased by about 30 per cent over the past two years. Most people sign up in groups of 10 or more. Two years ago, bookings were made for up to 50 people a week. Now, they are for more than 100 participants a week.
Walk-in players have also increased in number since they started offering the walk-in service last year. From 30 to 40 walk-in customers a week in the initial six months, it has grown to close to 80 a week.
"This means the game is really on people's minds and not just something for a party attraction," says Mr Loo.
Like conventional laser tag, Combat Skirmish players earn points and win the game by tagging the most players of the opposing team out. The guns use infra- red rays to hit multiple sensors on your opponents' laser tag gun and gaming vests - as opposed to just one sensor on the gun in normal laser tag.
And while old-school laser tag had a standard plastic gun, there are 12 different metal guns to choose from here: realistic replicas of pistols, M16 rifles and P90 compact firearm, with a range of up to 250m. Each "gun" has a small screen that shows whether you hit your target.
The lack of projectile weapons means there is no need for protective gear, making players more mobile.
Combat Skirmish also has "missions" - such as snipers versus hunters, or to protect a VIP player. These can be assigned to groups of 10 players or more.
The on-site version is known as Combat Skirmish Live, but there is also a mobile version where the game and guns are brought to you at a park, for example. This costs $30 to $45 a person, depending on how many missions you sign up for.
Mr Arif Yusof, 27, an engineering student at Singapore Institute of Management, started playing Combat Skirmish with his friends about two years ago.
Looking for a game through which to relive their national service days, they tried paintball, but found the game too dirty and the locations too inconvenient. Then they found Combat Skirmish and have been playing it once a month ever since.
The group of 15 to 20 friends take turns organising the game with the company at Fort Siloso, which brings all the necessary equipment to parks near the players' homes. They play for about two hours each time, spending less than $50 a person.
"We bring our own costumes, our camouflage to make it more realistic. And when we play, we and crawl on the floor and everything. It's fun to plan our attack, hold guns and shoot one another," says Mr Arif. "It's a guys' game."
Where: Fort Siloso or by booking
When: Daily from 10am to 6pm
Admission: For private parties, $30 achild, $33 an adult for two missions; $42 a child, $45 an adult for three missions; $25 a game a person during walk-in hours.
Info: Go to www.combatlasersingapore.com or call 6779-1031
Gun ownership may be restricted here, but you can still learn how to shoot a gun at a handful of firing ranges around Singapore. These include at the Safra club in Yishun and the Singapore Gun Club in Choa Chu Kang.
Both clubs offer a variety of guns and targets for public use.
At Safra Yishun Country Club, there is an indoor range with 42 lanes, each able to accommodate one shooter at a time. An average of 1,000 shooters use the range every week. And on weekends alone, 400 shooters visit the range daily.
The range has a fully automated target retrieval system, which brings the target to the shooting line, so that shooters can see how accurate their aim had been.
To use the firing range, members of the public must be Singaporean or permanent residents and at least 13 years old. They must become a Safra Gun Club Member by completing a four-hour training and safety course and pay a gun club fee of $60 (Safra members) or $150 (guests).
Foreigners and those who prefer to shoot outdoors can head to the Singapore Gun Club's shotgun range for skeet and trap shooting, where clay targets are launched into the air and shot by the shooters. The club has about 250 members who each pays a $3,000 entrance fee and a $300 annual subscription.
Members of the public who want to try their hand at shooting are also welcome. It costs $20 for a three-month trial and visits within those three months cost $62 each, including gun rental, 25 rounds of target practice and an instructor fee.
To join the club, you must be at least 12 years old. You must also take a gun- handling and safety-training course.
Mr Tang Kee Kong, 71, has been shooting at the range since he retired from the Singapore national skeet shooting team in 1991. The former major from the Singapore Armed Forces is honorary secretary of the Singapore Gun Club and oversees its operations.
His love of shooting started in his late teens when he would join friends for hunting trips in Malaysia.
He practises on the range about once a month and spends much of his time coaching younger shooters. "Shooting is my passion, it is in my blood. I will shoot as long as my health permits," he says.
Where: Singapore Gun Club National Shooting Centre, 990 Old Choa Chu Kang Road
When: 9am to 6pm
Admission: $20 for a three-month trial, $62 a session
Info: Call 6466-1575 or go to www.singaporegunclub.com
Where: Safra Yishun, 60 Yishun Avenue 4
When: Mondays (1.30 to 9.30pm), Tuesdays to Saturdays (9.30am to 9.30pm), Sundays and public holidays (9.30am to 5.30pm)
Admission: $60 to $150 for annual membership
Info: Go to www.safra.sg or call 6852-8224
All the rage in the late 1990s, paintball has made a modest comeback in recent years.
The most combat-heavy and intense game of the lot here, paintball involves shooting small dye-filled pellets at the "enemy" team.
These are shot from air-powered rifles specially modified for the pellets, which can travel at up to 76 to 90m a second. Once the pellet hits you, it bursts to release the dye, which marks you and indicates you have been shot. One shot means you are out of the game.
The combination of the speed and the .5 to .68 calibre size of the pellets has been known to cause pain and bruising on bare skin or even through clothing, though the water-based dye can easily be washed out.
Players should be aged 14 and above. Those between 14 and 17 require parental permission. Players have to wear closed- toe shoes, pants and long-sleeved shirts, as well as a safety vest and a protective eye mask, which are included in the cost of admission.
Teams are composed of three to eight members and the game is played on specifically designed paintball courses, some of which use sandbags, concrete bunkers, metal sheds and trees to give a combat-like feel.
The game can be played in a few ways. In an elimination game, the team which eliminates the most players from the opposing team wins. This can last for hours if the team members are skilled and have enough pellets.
Another mode is flag capture. Teams have to retrieve a flag in the middle of the field and bring it back to their base without being tagged. The team who gets the flag back safely wins.
At least five places in Singapore offer paintball: School of Paintball in Jurong West, Red Dynasty Paintball in Yishun and Admiralty Road East, Crossfire paintball in Jurong and sports events company Do Xtreme, which organises mobile sessions.
Costs vary, depending on the number of pellets you want to buy - from $10 for 30 pellets to $600 for 6,000 pellets. You can buy a set number of pellets and shoot until they run out. Beginners might use 100 pellets in an hour-long game, while seasoned players use 700 to 1,200 pellets a game, which can last a few hours.
The cost of the pellets typically includes equipment rental and access to the paintball field. Serious players often buy their own equipment, which includes a mask ($140 to $190), a vest ($180), a pellet harness ($80) to hold extra pods of pellets and their own gun ($1,000 to $3,000). Then there is the $250 paid to the Singapore Police Force for an annual gun licence.
Some veteran players even buy paintball pants ($190), which have padding inside, making them ideal for diving and sliding on the field, and special shoes ($120) designed to be durable and dyeresistant.
Mr Lek Wah Cheng, 28, director of the School of Paintball, first became interested in the sport when he attended a friend's birthday party at a paintball course four years ago.
He says: "It is a feeling of achievement and excitement when you are able to hit someone, get them out and score a point for your team. It can be quite competitive and it feels like real combat."
Where: School Of Paintball, 2 Jurong West Street 25
When: Daily from 9am to 6pm
Admission: $300 to $600 a pellet pack, $8 a person for field entry
Info: Go to www.sop.com.sg/ or call 9452-7100
This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 29, 2013
To subscribe to The Straits Times, please go to http://www.sphsubscription.com.sg/eshop/