Airsoft was developed in Japan in the late 1970s to provide an alternative for gun hobbyists because local laws prevented individuals from privately owning firearms.

A heavy emphasis was therefore placed on making accurate replicas of real firearms. In contrast, paintball was developed in the United States in 1981 as a variation of hide and seek tag, through the use of utility companies' paint marking guns, which mark power/utility poles, and continues to focus more on their function than their form or aesthetic qualities. Paintball has quickly gained greater popularity than airsoft in the United States. However, in East Asia,

airsoft is much more popular and paintball is nearly non-existent. In the interests of a more family-friendly image, paintball as an industry usually avoids direct analogies to the military and war (seen by the movement towards spectator-friendly speedball). Similarly airsoft has taken a dual route, moving away from this (as seen in Airsplat) as well as embracing them. This sometimes extends to full MilSim play.