How does a fat old man like me get involved in playing Lazer Tag? If that question has been burning a hole in your brain, then you've come to the right page. Keep reading to learn about my history with Lazer Tag... if you DARE!!!!
It started for me much as it did many Lazer Tag fans in my age bracket, with the original Lazer Tag from Worlds of Wonder. In 1986, when Lazer Tag brand toys first came out, I was about 14, and a freshman in high school. The commercials didn't show little tikes or over-the-top animated characters, but cool teens and young adults from the future playing what will be the international sport of choice in this semi-post-apocolyptic future fantasy world. It was perfect 80's stuff, with sleek taggers and metallic colored sensors and accessories. What teenager or kid (or young at heart) could possibly resist? Not me, anyway. Unfortunately, it was pretty expensive stuff for a toy, and my parents weren't keen on buying a teenager an expensive toy that might break or be forgotten quickly. Miraculously, over what I must assume to have been several months, I managed to earn and beg enough money for a set, and accumulated most of the accessories available at the time: StarCap, StarHelmet, StarLyte Pro rifle, StarBase, StarVest, even the StarTalk communicators.
The problem was that it was usually just me playing around with them at home, maybe getting a friend or two to play sometimes in the woods behind my house. Sometimes, being teenagers, we'd sneak out at night and play around the neighborhood, or even run around the local Golf Course playing Lazer Tag. Hey, it was the 80's, so running around at night wasn't that big of a deal, plus the golf course was on the military base I lived on and was on the other side of the housing area. Anyway, I never got to play very big games. There was one fond memory of my early Lazer Tag days, though... I saw some neighbor kids running around their houses with the basic Lazer Tag set (StarLyte pistol and StarSensor). Unbeknownst to them, I went in and got my StarLyte Pro rifle, and hid behind some trees behind my house about 100 feet away, in view of them playing when they came around the side of their house. When they did, I would tag them, and laugh quietly to myself as the kid I tagged looked at his sensor, all around him, and began to think it was malfunctioning. Once I got two or three of them in a bunch all wondering why their sensors were going off when they weren't shooting at each other, I came out and showed them my rifle. Of course, they were amazed at the cool rifle, so I got the rest of my stuff out and showed them the StarBase and StarHelmet and stuff, and we had a few games along with a friend of mine. Aside from that, and some games in the woods with friends, there wasn't a whole lot of playing.
A couple years passed, and Worlds of Wonder was having a hard time, and went bankrupt. By this time, I had gotten a job at a local second-run theater with a really cool boss (hey, Jim! :). He was cool enough to let us play in the theater after hours, and even behind the theater at night. Most of the other guys picked up Lazer Tag sets on clearance as the line failed, and we made pretty good use of them. We played in the theater, back near my home on the golf course, and even played in a cemetary at night once, which was especially creepy, since Jim was also a ghost hunter by hobby, and was hoping to spot some.
Time passed and I graduated high school and moved out to college, far away from my friends. My parents shipped some of my Lazer Tag gear to me, and some of my dorm roommates had some. We would play occasionally through the dorm that first year, which was a lot of fun, but eventually the people I played with stopped wanting to play much any more. I regret it to this day, but after a while without anyone to play with, I decided to sell my Lazer Tag stuff on UseNet. Why it didn't occur to me to ask about the club the buyer was getting them for, I don't know, but I didn't. I held on to a few things, like my original StarLyte, and some other things, but I sold the rifle, and StarBase. The rest got packed away, and would come out only when I was feeling nostalgic or found it while rummaging through a box.
Several years passed. I found my love, got married, and started a family. While strolling through a store one day, I happened upon this new toy bearing the Lazer Tag brand. It was a completely different style, this time with the sensor ON the tagger, and made by a whole new company, Tiger Electronics. It looked pretty neat, so I picked up a set. They were fairly simple, strap to your arm and turn it on for ten tags until out game play. This rekindled my interest in the sport, and at this point in my life I was more familiar with the resources offered by the Internet. I managed to find a message board where lots of other people were hanging out, talking about new gear, old gear, modding gear, custom gear, other types and brands, and more. I spent some time on it occassionally, posting questions about the new Lazer Tag gear, sometimes answering questions when I had an answer.
The new gear was pretty cool. They even did new commercials, but using footage from a couple of the more popular commercials from the 80's, cut with footage of the new gear. They made small pistol taggers, larger "assault" weapon type things, all with a new, but futuristic feel based on prevalent sci-fi styles of the late 90's. I picked up a few more taggers, but as before, it was still just me. I got my 3-4 year old son to be a target a few times, but he could never aim them correctly.
As I still didn't have anyone to play with much, and the forum I found, while friendly to the new gear, was still heavily into Laser Challenge V2, my interest again waned from the sport. My Tiger Lazer Tag gear found a box to hide in while other hobbies took precedence. I passed up really good deals on more gear as the line faltered and went on clearance again. While Lazer Tag was still something I very much enjoyed, it took a back seat in my life for a second time.
Several more years passed. I had two kids, both boys, who were growing up strong and energetic. My many hobbies were still in flux as they always were. One night after dinner out with the family, we stopped by a Target store. As an avid Transformers collector, I always checked the toys of any store that had them. This time, I noticed an interesting box on the shelf, again bearing the Lazer Tag brand, but a completely new style. I looked more closely at the box and read about the features it had, and was simply amazed. It was all too good to be true. I immediately put one in the cart so I could see for myself how cool it was, or wasn't. Back in the minivan, I opened up the box while the wife shopped at another store nearby. Boy did I wish I thought to go ahead and buy batteries as well, because these were BEYOND cool. They styling was new and cool, the features were so numerous that instead of a quick little instruction pamphlet telling me to put batteries in and flip a switch, it had an instruction BOOKLET, with MANY pages detailing all the features it had and all the game types it could play, and how it could KEEP SCORE! My boys could tell how excited I was and become excited about trying them out as well. Needless to say, coming home meant going straight to the batteries and firing these new toys up.
I won't say that these new Lazer Tag Team Ops toys were a snap. Fortunately it had a simple "grab and go" game called LTAG that was easy to play. It took me a while to learn the intricacies of hosting a game and trying new games. It was only a matter of days before I went out and bought another set of Deluxe taggers so that all four members of the family could play. I began encouraging my older son (now 8) to invite his friends over to play. I quickly realized how much more fun it was with more players, and ended up getting another set so that more of my sons friends could come and play at once. By my son's 9th birthday, I had 6 taggers, and his party included time for tagging.
At this point in my life, I had founded and managed user groups of various kinds, hosted web sites about my hobbies, started forums and mailing lists supporting things I loved. It was a no-brainer to search again for Lazer Tag resources online. I was able to find the site I had frequented in the 90's and from there many more resources and a great forum in the LTAG board. I discovered that there were active clubs in my area, and that they had even been playing games with one of the designers of the LTTO line of toys! This time, I was hooked too deep to let it go.
I began my own LTTO related web site, finding others that shared my interest, and developing resources of my own for others to use. In 2005 I decided to stop messing around and just make my own club, right in my home town. I promoted it via my son and his friends, friends of my own and their kids, friends of my wife through work and their kids, and even posted online about the club. When I put a recurring calendar listing in the local free community newspaper and found a park to play in whenever we had games, the club really began to take off.
No longer wistfully looking at a small box of unused Lazer Tag toys, I was running a growing club, having many friends across the country and around the world with whom I converse on Lazer Tag topic regularly, and having a ginormous pile of LTTO gear to use, lend during club games, and modify with cool new ideas to enhance game play and tagger usage. In January 2006 an article taking almost a full page in the Auburn Reporter about my club was published, leading to greater public awareness about my club, but also Lazer Tag in general.
Where will things go from here? Time will tell, then I will.