Hello and welcome to my laser tag blog. For me, it’s something of a labor of love. I decided to build the site because I love laser tag! Have for years. I can remember getting my very first laser gun when I was 6 years old and spent the next month running round the house shooting my brother. If I can remember lg2rightly I had the Starlyte Worlds of Wonder gun which was top quality at the time. So for this post I thought I’d do two things. First,to give a bit of background about the sport for those of you who are new to it , and second, spend some time talking about  some of the modern laser tag sets on the market today

What Is Laser Tag ?

Before we delve too deeply into what Laser Tag actually is, let’s spend a moment focused on what it isn’t.

It isn’t, for example a LARP (Live Action Role Playing Game). Most of the time, when you think of LARPing (if you think of it at all), you picture geeky guys dressed up as fur-clad barbarians with fake medieval weapons, running around some public space looking silly. This isn’t that. Yes, some Laser Tag games can

photo credit: heipei via photopin cc

photo credit: heipei via photopin cc

have role playing elements in them (it’s somewhat rare, but it happens), but even then, it would be unfair to class Laser Tag on the whole, as a LARP experience.

Likewise, Laser Tag doesn’t really have anything to do with Cosplay or things of that nature. If anything, the sport (and it is a sport!), has more in common with paintball than anything else. In fact, you could fairly say that the surge of interest in paintball helped move Laser Tag from being a kind of a cult classic sport, and much more into the mainstream. After all, paintball can be messy, expensive, and frankly, painful to play! Laser Tag, on the other hand (which there is some upfront expense, sure, just like there is with anything), is almost always cheaper to play, and nobody ever got hurt by being shot with a Laser Tag gun, a claim that paintball enthusiasts definitely cannot make!

At the core then, both Laser Tag and Paintball can trace their history back to a 1970’s military program called MILES, which involved using lasers on combat rifles to simulate live fire exercises, and in which the soldiers wore “tags,” which recorded hits by the lasers. Take too many hits, or take a hit in a “critical” tag (example: headshot), and you were considered “killed” and out of the military exercise.

The technology has changed some since those early days, but that is still the heart and soul of today’s Laser Tag. Basically, today’s sport looks like this: It’s a team (most commonly) or individual (more rare) sport where players compete to score points. Points are scored by engaging targets with model guns. These guns have infrared emitters built into them (note here, that “Laser Tag” really doesn’t use “lasers” at all…it’s just a convenient short hand, and besides, “Infrared Emitter Tag” isn’t nearly as much fun to say!). These guns are fired at infrared-sensitive targets, called “tags,” attached to vests that are worn by all players in the game’s arena, and are sometimes integrated within the playing arena itself. Successful hits against these tags are the means by which points are scored. If all of that sounds too dry and technical, let me give you a real world example. You put on a vest with tags attached to it, and pick up your gun. You march off into the arena. People start shooting at you, and you start shooting back. If they hit one of the tags on your vest, they get a point. If you hit one of their tags, you get a point. Get hit too many times, and you’re considered “killed” and your gun stops working.

photo credit: heipei via photopin cc

photo credit: heipei via photopin cc

The interesting thing about the technology is that (in contrast with paintball, which is its closest cousin), it is relatively easy to balance differences in skill levels. For example, you might give a veteran player only ten tags (he gets hit ten times, and he’s out), while you might give a novice player twenty-five tags, allowing him to hang in the fight for significantly longer than he would otherwise be able to.

Sometimes (and this is entirely dependent on what kind of tech available wherever you are playing), other fun elements can be introduced like ammo levels (after firing X number of “rounds,” you have to press a button on your gun and wait some number of seconds before you can shoot again, representing a reload time that leaves you vulnerable), or shields (press a different button to render yourself invulnerable for a few seconds, usually with the tradeoff that during that time, you also can’t shoot anyone else).

The real beauty of the sport is its configurability. You can, with a few quick changes, turn the aforementioned handicapping on or off, or go from one on one competitions where the only goal is to rack up as many points as you can, to a team oriented game of capture the flag or base assault, or anything else that the players and coordinators can dream up.

It is that kind of sheer versatility that keeps Laser Tag from ever being boring!


History of Laser Tag

The game we know and love today was actually an outgrowth of a military technology called MILES, which was an infra red targeting system to be used to simulate live fire training. If the laser fired from a soldier’s rifle hit another soldier’s tag, that soldier was considered wounded. Depending on what tag was hit, the soldier might be considered killed.

A number of years later, in 1982, a guy named George Carter was inspired by the recently released “Star Wars” movie, and began designing an arena-based system for playing a scored version of the essentially the same game that the military was playing. What we now call Laser Tag was officially born when Mr. Carter opened his first “Photon Center” in Dallas, Texas, in 1984.

For the first two years that the Photon Centers were open, the equipment used to play the game/sport simply weren’t sold commercially. Literally the only place you could find them was as rentals in the centers.

That changed two years later when the Photo line of guns and vests hit the market (1986), almost simultaneously with a set of very similar guns and vests called “Lazer Tag” created by a competing company, “Worlds of Wonder,” and for a few years after, these two essentially had a lock on the market.

The market, though, turned against both companies as the wow factor began to wane. Worlds of Wonder went out of business just two years later, in 1988, with Photon not far behind them in 1989, and the world moved on. Laser Tag, it seemed, was just a fad.

Except that…it wasn’t.

Even after these two founding companies went under, interest remained. Sure, it was kind of a cult or clique interest, rather than a mass market appeal type interest, but it was strong and steady and over the years, slowly gained momentum.

The sport exploded back into popularity quite suddenly with the increasing popularity of paintball. Less messy, less painful, and more interesting all around, Laser Tag suddenly had legions of followers again, and it didn’t take long for toy manufacturers to respond, and that’s why you see such a dizzying array of Laser Tag gear on the market today!

The state of the sport today is that it has gone global. There are Laser Tag groups, tournaments, and competitions on several continents, and teams compete annually for World Champion bragging rights.

It’s a game, it’s a sport, it’s a competition…all of the above, and whatever you consider it, it’s also a whole lot of fun!

Types of Games

As the sport and the technology has matured, the rules of the game have too, and now, there are actually quite a few “variants” of Laser Tag. Along with standard team or solo matches, some (and perhaps even many) venues where the sport is played will feature specialty matches. The particulars of these matches may vary (based on differences in equipment and the tech level of the facility).

Some types of specialty matching might include:

  • Role playing type games, in which each player’s equipment also serves some other/alternate function, and there’s a story element to play out.
  • Juggernaut Matches, where one player is dubbed “the Juggernaut” given more hits to kill, and the other players striving to eliminate him so they can take the title for themselves (winner is the player who can score the most kills AS the Juggernaut and/or survive the longest).
  • Domination type matches with victory going to the player who can hold a key objective point for the longest time
  • Elimination style matches where you are eliminated after being tagged some pre-determined number of times (probably the most common)
  • Borg Matchups, where every player on a given team shares a common pool of resources (emphasis here on teamwork and planning)
  • Base-Oriented Matches, where defending your turf must be balanced against attacking the enemy’s
  • Capture the Flag – similar to the Base game, except that you must raid the enemy’s lair, get his flag AND survive long enough to take it home.
  • Protect Target – One player on each side is named a VIP. Your orders are to protect the VIP, while knocking the other team’s VIP out of the game.
  • Stealth games, where the lights on each side’s sensors are de-activated, turning the entire playing field into a cat and mouse competition.

You may see others besides these, but these tend to be the more common types of games on offer.


Laser Tag Sets for Sale Today

So with that bit of background as an introduction, I’ll be focusing on four modern sets in particular for this post. There are tons of others out there, but having looked at a lot of what’s on the market today, these are the ones that interested me the most.


Product 1 Nerf two – player battle system

The first is the Lazer tag Nerf two-player battle system, by Hasbro, and given the maker of this set, you just know it’s going to be good. laser-guns2Habro has been making fun stuff for kids of all ages for longer than I’ve been alive. This set very much lives up to the maker’s reputation! With good range (300-400 feet!), and tags that can be set to 10 or 25 hits, it offers lots of flexibility and a way to balance different skill levels against each other. Battery life is excellent, and the set comes with a couple of fairly cool “extra” features like “shield” (renders you invulnerable for a few seconds, but with the price that you can’t tag anyone else either), and an ammo counter, which really comes in handy! I’m a big fan of Hasbro stuff in general, so I would rank this a solid four stars out of five.

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Product 2 Lazer tag 2 blaster pack

Next up, we’ve got the Lazer Tag twin pack. It’s also by Hasbro, and as you might expect, it’s also excellent. The biggest differences you’ll laser-tag-guns-3find between this set and the one above is that you can use these guns in solo mode, in conjunction with your iPhone or iPod! There is an app you can download that handles scoring and such. The caveat being that if you install the attachment that holds the i-device, it’s not coming off, so be sure that’s what you want! The other cool feature about these is that it is hard to sneak up on you with these models, as the gun will warn you if someone is lurking nearby, whether you can see them or not! Some might consider this a bit of a cheat, but all’s fair in love and war, right? As with the set above, this one comes with tags that can be set to ten or twenty-five hits, so you can customize to taste and/or balance for differences in skill levels by giving your most experienced “Lazer Warriors” fewer hit points before they’re out of the game. It has a different but comparable feature set to the one above, and carries the strong Hasbro name. I’d also give this four stars out of five.

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Product 3 Spy strike laser dueling system

Then there’s the Spy Net, Spy Strike Laser Dueling System, made by a company called SpyNet. This is a good set, no doubt about it, laser-tag-guns-4but I would recommend it more for younger kids than older, and there are two reasons why. First, the wires are kind of short (only about two feet). If you have long arms, this is going to work to your disadvantage, but second, the range isn’t as good as these. Up to 150’, no problem. 200’, maybe. Any more than that and you’re reaching. Depending on where you’re playing, the range thing might not be a factor for you, but the short wires will unless you’re small to begin with, thus the recommendation for younger kids. Specifically because of the shorter wires, I’d rate this one slightly lower than the Hasbro sets, coming in at 3.5 stars out of five.

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Product 4 Light strike 2 – player combo set

Finally, there’s the Light Strike, 2-Player Combo set, by Light Strike. A very good set, but not a great one. Range is better than the Spy Net set, laser-guns5but still not quite on par with the Hasbro sets. Still, this is sleek, good looking equipment, and there’s certainly something to be said for stylishness. In all, my impressions of this kit is that they’re truly designed for younger kids. Older than those who would get most and best use out of the Spy Net kit, but younger than those who would take full advantage of either Hasbro set. Even so, with the caveat that I personally feel that these would be better suited for a younger age group, I’d still give this set a solid four out of five stars. It’s definitely worth considering!

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