Video Games Aren't Killing Laser Tag, They Can Coexist

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Laser Tag and a manager of the busiest Laser Tag arena on the planet, I took some exception to the idea that Laser Tag is obsolete as entertainment because it's not convenient.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.


Comments

    I don't like laser tag for a few reasons

    1: The arenas are always indoors and are always really dark and are kind of like lame mazes with a couple of walkways. I get that they can't have it outdoors or that the arena can't be lit up because it would screw up the lasers but they could atleast make something more interesting then a few coridors and some ramps.

    2: Everyone is using the same type of gun and you can't get other types. It would be great if everyone started of with a pistol that had short range and took to shots to kill someone and then they hid other weapons around the arena you could pick up. Other weapons would be things like an assualt rifle, a rocket launcher that when you shoot it it hits everyone in the targeted area including friends but would have like 10 seconds or something before you can fire it again or some sort of alien based weapon that you can just pull the trigger and fire non stop for ages but it does little damage.

    So just different lookings guns with different sound effects and laser systems that work in different ways. I once played in an arena where your gun could become powered up and keeps firing shots non stop but the problem was no one new what triggered it or how long it lasted for (it seemed to last for different lengths of time)

    3: I have no idea what to do when your killed. The light on my chest will flash a lot and make noises and I take that to mean I've been killed because it only happens when someones been shooting at me. I have no idea what to do when this happens though. Do I just stop where I am and not play until the flashing stops or do I ignore it and keep playing? The rules are never explained and it's never mentioned on the board of rules that are normally posted outside the arena.

      Not trying to come across as a jackass here, but I think you need to look at the rules and terms a bit more closely, and to think a little bit.

      1. There's only so much you can do indoors, especially with the additional requirements imposed by the nature of the game.

      2. Everyone uses the same gun to keep things fair, and because there is very little that can actually be changed other than fire rate and the lights on the gun. Your idea for a 'rocket launcher' can't work, because there is no easy and cost effective method to cause splash damage, unless you had hundreds/thousands of sensors in the environment which could all network with sensors in the players' equipment.
      Also, not understanding the powerups available would imply that you ask a staff member about them after the match. Or experiment a little bit.

      3. Being 'killed' prevents you from shooting or being shot for a limited period of time. Generally, players use this time to isolate themselves or take cover, so that when they 'respawn' they won't immediately be shot again. Pretty standard, but again something to ask the staff if you are confused.

      Laser tag is awesome, but I must cite the convenience excuse as a reason for not going as often as I would like to. It's a hassle to organise a few friends to go to laser tag, because everyone either works or goes to uni, and have a multitude of after hours commitments. Video games are quicker to set up, don't require travel time, and sessions can end at your convenience.

      Do you realise how hard the whole weapons thing would be to pull off not to mention the moron who trys to walk of with one of them or the one that stockpiles weapons for the next game plus stuff would get broken so much faster and the stuff is expensive

    I like the Alien vs. Predator Laser tag at Dreamworld, that was pretty awesome in terms production qualities.

    We used to have a local arena which was actually pretty decent on all accounts (even played your own music if you wanted) but they closed down... mostly because they only got income on friday and the weekends I presume... noones taggin on a tuesday night. I'd personally love to, but it just isn't on the cards in terms of being good for work the next day.

    Adelaide had one, but it was small and boring to run around in. Now if it was bigger and had more epic music and motivation for both sides to win...

    (Maybe even licence Starship Troopers music?)

    I enjoyed the (few) times I went Laser-tag. Mostly the fact that it really is a 'physical' activity and not just sitting on a couch pushing buttons. But Laser Tag can learn a lot from videogames. The current LT hardware is mostly quite oldschool, if elements like weapon change, equipment that can function outside (aka more weatherproof) etc.

    This can completely change the game, not limiting it to indoor smoke-machine 'mazes'. Until then, paintball is still superior imo.

      i dunno to me laser tag is the easy i can play paintball drunk at 1am

      but then i hate playing paintball indoors

    So what does that make the Halo laser tag set? Banana's?

    I went with some friends to Laser Tag a few weeks ago thinking it would be boring and for kids, but I was wrong.

    I had more fun running around with a fake gun then I ever had playing Call of Duty or Halo.

    I've got to agree that the experience of paintball and laser tag whether it be good or bad is largely based upon the standards of the place your hitting up.

    The places Ive been so far for paintball and laser tag are great but out of all the sessions I've been to none of them have been in inside arenas.I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing but so far I've had So much fun scouring through the forest looking for enemy players hiding in the shrubs and forts made of branches.

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