Interesting reading, this article published at Scientific American, regarding airsoft games, and other make-believe war games. The author wants to scratch the surface if these types of games, can cathartically, help curb aggression and prevent wars from ever happening. The author tried playing in an airsoft game just to see if the theory can be proven.
He mentions the theory of the 1966 Book, On Aggession, written by the Austrian Konrad Lorenz that games such as these provide an outlet that can release such feelings of aggression, and this prevent such war. The Olympics is the prime example in which nations have "an outlet for the collective militant enthusiasm of nations." But then he also mentions a 1973 study of about warlike and peaceful societies in which the countries with highly competive sports can bring about warlike societies. This is a strong study since, war, like sports, is all about competition, no matter how we coat warfare with some moral garb.
Nations and groups declare war with some moral uprightness to rally their people and members. But if you go read the history of human conflict it's about competition on who gets the most precious resources such as land, oil, spices, gold, or the superiority of religion over the other, or a race over another (Lorenz himself was a Nazi), or ideology and belief systems. And these have been ongoing ever since man has started clubbing each other.
But then, there is no definitive conclusion if such outlets for aggression, be it competitive sports or make believe wargames represented by airsoft and paintball, do really provide such in order to prevent wars. It's a little bit more complicated than that, especially when we talk about nations, or whole societies. It's not about proving one's superiority over the other just for the heck of feeling aggressive, which is typically in school or neighbourhood bullies. It's
a combination of political, economic, and cultural factors that either would cause a nation to be warlike, or a total peacenik. Totalitarian countries declare war easily, while democractic ones don't, but they still achieve war status after debate and concensus. And this will not be based on just one issue alone, and it will be a combination of issues. The feelings of aggression would not suffice, as war is an expensive proposition in itself.
How we would love to accept such a notion that airsoft can help to prevent wars from happening, it would be such a big deal if it can. Unfortunately, it's not, by the mere fact that airsoft is about warfare, even it's a make believe thing. Players talk about strategy, tactics, and logistics that any military commander would be proud of. The premises of many big airsoft events are stories about wars that were caused by political and economic decisions. The airsoft game that the author of the Scientific American article went to was the reenactment of "Blackhawk Down!"
And many airsoft players play airsoft not just because it's fun. They play so they will develop skills to conduct warfare in case it happens in their own country or when they have no recourse to peaceful means. That's my honest opinion on how airsoft players think. Even the most ancient competitive sports were about skills to conduct war: javelin throw, archery, fencing, jousting, wrestling, boxing, etc..
Whilst I agree with the author the wishfull thinking that all wars someday would be as harmless such as airsoft, I am still a realist, and I don't see it happening in the far future as history is always about conflict.