Laser Tag is silly

In some ways, we’re living in the future as we thought it would be. Many of us carry handheld devices with the entirety of human knowledge in our pockets (smartphones). Google is developing a heads-up display for daily use (Google Glass). We have even commercialized space travel (Virgin Galactic). Of course, some things haven’t panned out, like flying cars. And others turned out to not be nearly as futuristic as we thought.

I first went to Laser Quest maybe 15 years ago, and I last went to Laser Quest about a week ago. And in that time, the only differences I noticed were:

  1. the plastic enclosure for the gun is now transparent instead of black
  2. the arcade has “Time Crisis 4” instead of “Time Crisis 1”
  3. I need to aim down instead of up to hit the kids running around

It always seemed like Laser Tag was the coolest, most technologically advanced game around, but getting the same plastic paddles with the silver circle to activate the gun before the game is a little old. And they might be using the same printers for the score cards because those looked exactly the same. So unless their technology was 15 years ahead of the time 15 years ago, I think I might be unimpressed.

Which is not to say it wasn’t fun, but maybe in more of a nostalgic way than anything else. It’s always a treat to see how the person at the desk decides to spell whatever they imagine you said your codename was. After getting “Lufa” instead of “Loofah” and “Humirous” (sic) instead of “Hubris”, it’s clear that they really aren’t trying at all to spell things correctly. And I’m okay with that.

The briefing went roughly as I remembered as well. Amidst the directions being yelled at us, I’m too busy noticing all of my dandruff sparkling under the black light against my black t-shirt (which is a strategic choice). If I paid attention, I might feel guilty knowing that I am probably going to break some of their rules, but snarky distractedness counts as plausible deniability. Besides, the marshal is probably too busy talking with their coworkers over the radio to care what we’re doing.

Inside the arena, everyone sucks. If they’re running and using cover, they’re trying way too hard. And if they follow you and do tagbacks, they’re killjoys. And if they’re playing honestly and out in the open, they’re a fool. Truly the only way to play is to try hard but act like it’s no big deal. One way to do that is to use a few tricks I have learned online from a variety of 90s-style website written by pre-teens.

  1. Walk sideways so whoever you’re shooting at can’t shoot you in the chest. Also, your gun will cover up your chest
  2. Walk around with your gun pointed up so people can’t shoot you in the gun. Or wave your gun around wildly at all times. Even when you’re shooting.
  3. Use your spare hand to cover up the speaker on your gun so people can’t hear you shoot or go down
  4. Aim for the right targets; some are a lot more sensitive than others. I can’t remember which those are, though

And if you do all of that, you still might lose because the scoring is heavily weighted towards tagging others, so your best bet is just to shoot a lot and constantly be amidst skirmishes. Seeing as their scoring system hasn’t changed in 15 years, I’m betting it’s not optimized to encourage smarter play.

So I’m proud to say that in the 2nd game, I got 3rd out of 30-something players. I would like to thank the conga line of indifferent high schoolers who wandered past me several times for 5+ tags on each occasion. I would also like to thank the marshal for starting the game as soon as the first person left the armory (instead of waiting to let everyone spread themselves amongst the maze) so that I could shoot disoriented players as they entered the maze. And finally, I want to thank all the parents out there who didn’t let their young children play late night Laser Quest: it’s much harder playing against kids because they’re too short. It’s like playing N64 Goldeneye against Oddjob. No one thinks to look down.

Overall, it was a fun experience, and I highly recommend you play laser tag if you haven’t done it recently. Everything about it sounds pretty ridiculous, but despite all of that, you should still have a great time. It hasn’t lived up to its futuristic hype either, so just accept the nostalgic value of running around like a kid again. No one knows who you are anyways in a dark maze with misspelled code names.

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