- Laser tag
Laser tag is a team or individual
sportwhere players attempt to score points by engaging targets, typically with a hand-held infrared-emitting targeting device. Infrared-sensitive targets are commonly worn by each player and are sometimes integrated within the arena in which the game is played. Since its birth in 1979, with the release of the Star Trek Electronic Phasers toy manufactured by South Bend,Fact|date=May 2007 Laser tag has evolved into both indoor and outdoor styles of play, and may include simulations of combat, role play-style games, or competitive sporting events including tactical configurations and precise game goals.
Although the name implies the use of
lasers, real lasers are generally not used except as aiming devices. The actual transmitting element of almost all laser tag gear is an infra-red Light Emitting Diodesimilar to those used in household remote controls.Fact|date=April 2008 The term laser (or lazer) is generally a marketing device. The computerized targeting device wielded by a player commonly emits a brief infrared beam which carries an identifying signal, and the target(s) record the signal when they are hit by the beam. In many cases, the targeting device also houses a visible laser to assist the player in aiming. Laser tag is similar to paintball, airsoftand other simulation-shooting or targeting sports, but diverges in its reliance on a computerized control system. The computer system provides score tracking as well as enforcing some rules of engagement - such as an enforced period when a player is unable to shoot after being hit by another player, or discounting all friendly fire. Most laser tag equipment may be used for one style of play, rules, timing and goals, known as a game format, then switched rapidly to another game format. Differences can include switching from solo to team play, or from direct player interaction to siege-style rules, with the software altering both general game play and equipment behavior. Many modern laser tag systems allow for different characteristics to be applied on a per-individual or other basis, based on game progress or personal in-game performance, allowing for even greater customization.
Laser tag requires specialized, sturdy electronics, and usually requires computing power and unique software for scoring. Proprietary equipment is created by a number of manufacturers. Some suppliers offer everything from personal equipment to interactive arena components such as "mines" or "bases", to
real-timescoring displays, interactive "virtual antagonists" and physical arena construction. There are also open specifications for creating laser tag equipment by the hobbyist (e.g., EWoW, [ [http://portkennedy.dyndns.org/realtag/datasheets/EWoW/EWOW%208%20bit%20Protocol%20V2-1.pdf EWOW Protocol Document] from RealTag.] MilesTag [ [http://lasertagparts.com/mtdesign.htm MilesTag] , an open specification for laser tag IR communications.] ) which have also been embraced by some manufacturers.
Laser tag is popular with a wide range of ages. Laser tag is considered to be less painful than paintball due to the lack of physical projectiles, while indoor versions may be considered less physically demanding because many indoor venues prohibit running or roughhousing. As of 2008, there are no known professional laser tag players. There are amateur tournaments in several countries, featuring one or, occasionally, multiple laser tag systems.
In late 1970s and early 1980s, the
United States Armydeployed a system using infrared beams for combat training. The MILESsystem functions like laser tag in that beams are "fired" into receivers that score hits. [ [http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/miles.htm Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System] , the Federation of American Scientists Military Analysis Network, accessed 13 November 2006] Similar systems are now manufactured by several companies and used by various armed forcesaround the world.
The first known toy to use infrared light and a corresponding sensor was manufactured and marketed in 1979 as the "
Star TrekElectronic Phaser Guns" set. [http://home.comcast.net/~Ferret1963/All_Systems.HTML TagFerret's Laser Tag History Page] , a historical reference to consumer laser tag product from a toy industry insider.] , though this system did not keep any type of score and players could not be "tagged out."
George Carter IIIbegan the process of designing an arena-based system for playing a scored version of the game, a possibility which had initially occurred to him in 1977 while watching the movie Star Wars. He opened the first "" center in Dallas, Texasin 1984 and as a result is generally credited as the originator of the sport in its arena based form. Players could come to one of the centers (there were as many as 45 operational in the US in the mid-1980s) and compete against each other, but the equipment was not sold in stores.
In 1986, the first "Photon" toys hit the market, nearly simultaneously with the "
Lazer Tag" toys from Worlds of Wonder and several other similar infrared and visible light based toys. The Christmas season of 1986 was the real beginning of home laser tag, and soon millions of kids would be playing laser tag with each other anyplace they could. "Worlds of Wonder" went out of business around 1988, and "Photon" soon followed in 1989, as the fad of the games wore off. Today there are laser tag arenas all over the world bearing various names and brands, as well as a large variety of consumer equipment for home play and professional grade equipment for outdoor laser tag arenas and businesses. [http://www.lasertag.org/general/history.html History of Laser Tag] , International Laser Tag Association, accessed 17 September 2006]
In 2006, Laser Rock in
Belleville, ILexpanded their arena to become the current largest indoor laser tag arena in the world, at over 14,000 square feet spread over three floors. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb5553/is_200406/ai_n22180186]
The current world champion is NC Cor-Cut from the Fens, an area of low lying wetland populated by wilfowl in the UK.
Arenas, playing fields, and organizations
There are dozens of different manufacturers of Laser Tag equipment, such as LaZer Runner, Laserforce, Ultrazone, Darklight, LaserStorm, LaserTron, LaserQuest, LaserTrek, LaserGame, Q-Zar, etc. Each system has somewhat different equipment design, mechanics, game play, and rules. Most systems sell the rights to use the equipment in lieu of operating their own sites, however there have been a few exceptions such as Photon, Lasertron and LaserQuest.
Arenas typically are large dark rooms lit by black lights with many walls or other obstructions to clutter the field. Many are multi-level or themed to look 'futuristic' or like an 'urban jungle' or other design. Laser Tag also exists in an outdoor incarnation played on fields similar to
Individual Laser Tag systems often develop active tournament scenes. Unfortunately, due to the business practice of manufacturers not owning sites, these scenes tend to last only a few years and are player-organized and run.Or|date=May 2008 Ultrazone, when it had corporate-owned sites, ran tournaments up until about 2000. Laser Quest, with corporately-owned sites across North America, have operated the North American Challenge since 1995 and many local tournaments throughout the year. LaserForce has also maintained an international tournament scene for many years. LaserTron has also supported a tournament program for the past three years. [http://www.lasertronworldchampionships.com/ LaserTron World Championships] , LaserTron World Championships, accessed 28 October 2007] . LaserStorm may have the most successful tournament scene, as they have regularly held ongoing regional tournaments in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, Michigan, Florida, Kansas, California, Wisconsin, and New York for the past decade. The "LaserStorm National Championship" has also been played for over a decade, with the best teams from those regions traveling to one chosen host site every summer for a week long tournament to crown the yearly National Champions, and the best player in the country. The most recent Laser Storm National Tournament took place in Holland, Michigan, from July 24th - July 27th 2008, with Florida team "Unleashed" taking the 1st place title for the 3rd time. Darkzone (the Australian name for Ultrazone) has recently had it's 10th annual National tournament also cementing it as one of the most stable competitions running in the world.
Armageddon, a multi-system tournament has operated since 2000 giving players of many diverse systems the opportunity to play against each other in 10 or more different systems to see who is the best "cross-system" player. The tournament was founded by Ricky Vega in Dallas, TX and changes location every few years. In 2000, 2001 and 2007 the tournament took place in Texas, in 2002, 2003, and 2006 it took place in Maryland, in 2004 and 2005 it took place in Ohio, New York, and Canada and in 2008 it was held in the NY-NJ region.Armageddon takes place every year on the week of July 4th. 6-8 teams of 8 players per team compete over a four day period on 8 different systems. Players from all over the world travel to Armageddon to test their skills against each other. In 2007 alone players from the United States, Canada, Sweden, and the U.K. were all in attendance.
Laser tag systems vary widely in their technical capabilities and their applications. The game mechanics in laser tag are closely linked to the hardware used, the communication capabilities of the system, the embedded software that runs the equipment, the integration between the player's equipment and devices in the facility, the environment, and the configuration of the software that runs the equipment.
The resulting game play mechanics can result in anything from the highly realistic combat simulation used by the military to far fetched scenarios inspired by
science fictionand video games. Rate of fire, objectives, effects of being "tagged", and other parameters can often be altered on the fly to provide for varied game play.
Along with death matches, where one team tries to get the members of the other team "out", many laser tag venues hold "tactical missions".These tactical missions are usually comprised of various objectives and missions. Capture the flag is a more popular tactical mission.Or|date=May 2008 This where a player steals the opponents flag and takes it back to their own base in order to score a point or win the match (depending on score system). Another popular tactical mission is protect the VIP. The team with the VIP must hide and conceal him for 10 - 30 minutes while the opposing team tries to assassinate the VIP within the given time limit.
Equipment and technology
At their core, laser tag systems typically use infrared signaling to track firing of the laser. In indoor play, a visible laser combined with theatrical fog typically provide the visual effect of firing, while having no actual role in transmitting the fire signal.
In all but the most basic of systems, the infrared signal sent by the laser when it fires is encoded with information such as the identity of the pack from which it originated. This coding allows for scoring and may also act to discourage interference from unauthorized devices in the playing area.
Indoor laser tag is typically played in a darkened arena run by a commercial laser tag operator. The packs are tightly integrated with the devices inside the arena. The arena devices, and the packs themselves may be linked into a control computer for scoring and control over game parameters using radio equipment or infrared links. The game computer often serves to control other game effects and to manage player scores.
The dimensions of an indoor laser tag arena makes for close quarters, so there is a large design focus on performance and game play under these conditions.
Outdoor equipment requires different design concerns from indoor equipment. The equipment is generally expected to function well at longer ranges, even in daylight, so higher output power and specially designed optics are often a requirement. The scenarios for outdoor laser tag often approximate real-world combat, so durability and replication of actual weapon appearance and qualities is also a concern.
* [http://www.lasertag.org International Laser Tag Association] - Operator & Developer trade association with member laser tag facilities all over the world
* [http://www.laserarena.co.uk UK Laser Arena] - A Free listing of UK laser tag arenas, indoor and outdoor along with associated news.
* [http://www.lasersport.com LaserSport.com] - A USA based site dedicated to LaserTag as a sport.
* [http://lazertag.fuzzycouch.com/ Unofficial Lazer Tag Homepage] - Forum and News for the enthusiast community since 1999
* [http://www.wargh.net/ Wargh! Tactical Team Sports] - A Singapore-based group
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