As a 25-year player of Laser Tag and a manager of the busiest Laser Tag arena on the planet, I took some exception to the idea that Laser Tag is obsolete as entertainment because it's not convenient.
Far from dying away, our centre has seen a grand resurgence in a tough economy. We're up around 30% so far for 2010. Last Friday night, we averaged 27 players in our arena for every session from 7pm until 2:30 am in the morning. It was a modestly busy evening for us (we can run 46 players per session).
As an industry, the number of laser tag facilities has been stable in North America for quite a few years. www.wheretoplaylasertag.com lists 760 arenas in the United States and Canada.
The industry is mature here. For every bad centre that might close, someone builds something bigger and better to replace it on average.
These realities hardly seem to be the harbinger of doom for our industry.
So how are these experiences so different from what Kotaku editor Brian Crecente experienced locally?
It's pretty easy to get the idea that Laser Tag is doomed when you play at a low quality location.
What if the only video game you ever played was Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust or Big Rigs Over the Road Racing. You would probably think video games were doomed, too.
All Laser Tag places are not equal.
Laser Tag is very different from video games. As a video game player, you have access to thousands of game titles. If you want to play laser tag locally, there are few places with more than 2-3 arenas in a 25-mile radius.
Also, many casual players think "laser tag is laser tag." You may not realise that there have been about 50 commercial manufacturers of gear, producing multiple generations of equipment. Add into the equation that some locations take care of the gear and some treat it like a dustball under their bed.
I'm sure many reader may think laser tag is mostly or just for kids. Again, this depends on how you run your facility. Kids and birthday parties are easy to find, so some laser tag arenas focus on them.
But, it doesn't have to be that way. Our facility and many others just like it cater to adults. At least half our business is from adult players. We have a full bar, a giant 9200 square foot multi-level laser tag arena. We're open until 2 a.m. on weekends. Our facility is a place where adults (and kids) can have a great time.
Comparing Halo to Laser Tag is a bit of an "apples and oranges" comparison. While both are entertainment, they aren't really related. Players mostly play video games alone or in small groups in their homes.
People play video games all the time, but they might play laser tag a couple of times a year. That's fine. Both video games and laser tag can exist in that framework.
As long as people like socializing and getting together with their friends, they will enjoy out-of-home entertainment experiences like laser tag. And right now, they are coming to our facility in Buffalo, NY.
Pick a great place to play and try it out.
Jason "The Laser Tag Guy" Bock started playing laser tag at the first Photon in Dallas, Texas in 1984. He has played competitively ever since. He is the author of three books on running entertainment businesses and currently is the Director of Marketing for LaserTron, an entertainment complex in the Buffalo, NY area. LaserTron runs the longest running and busiest laser tag arena in North America.