At 29, I thought my laser gaming days were over. In fact, it being 2012, I had assumed laser gaming had died out at around the same time as the Yo-yo, overalls and Air Wolf.
It turns out I was wrong. Laser Games are still going strong and, judging by my recent visit to Laser Force, it is as popular as ever (for 10 year olds).
Let me re-iterate that I am not a 10 year old boy. I'm 29, and the event was for a 35 year old's birthday party. On arrival, we were immediately hit with a vision of what we all thought "the future" would look like in 1988. Lots of neon lights and weird futuristic fonts ... how wrong we were.
We hesitantly approached the counter to check-in to the "Ben's birthday party" group. When the friendly girl behind the counter realised that "Ben" was old enough to be her father, she was polite enough not to roll her eyes, and took down our information which included our nick names for the leader board. Mine was "Laser Susan." Possibly the best pun name of the day but considering I was competing with names like Shooter, Killer, Laser-killer, Gunman, Ben10 and Girls are Gross, it really was no contest.
Once we paid our fees, which is $30 dollars each (3 sessions and a slushie!), we were ushered into "The Briefing room" by the Laser Force staff. The Briefing Room is the equivalent of being a childless adult in the paddle pool at a very busy public pool ... on a "Bring your child to the paddle-pool day." So many very excited pint-sized children, all planning how they are going to murder each other with their laser beams and tactics. I immediately struck up a repartee with an excited 8 year old, who told me in no uncertain terms that he and his friend were going to make my life a living hell. I believed him but tried not to show any fear.
After a hilariously bad video instruction video which both explains a back story to why you will be defending the world from aliens and how to use your gun, we stepped into the armoury room.
The Armoury Room is where you are given your Laser Force outfit and gun, which goes over your head and around your upper torso. It's flashy and heavy and has dozens of different people's sweat dripping from it. It's too late to turn back now and I had promised that 8 year old that I was going to school him and his friend at the art of war.
We all filed into The Arena and waited for the count down which would signal the beginning of the session. The Arena is a large room about the size of a school hall, with lots of places to hide and climb through. Throw in a bit of dry ice, and you've got the ultimate Laser Games experience.
There were 43 of us in the arena during our session yet it never felt too cramped. I spent most of the time "De-activated" which is what happens when you get hit. 10 year olds have no concept of gamesmanship and will follow you around for 20 minutes shooting at you with no mercy. But that's war, I guess.
Once we got the hang of it, our older members were able to regain some street cred and we actually started to enjoy shooting little children in the back. The laser guns are fantastic and very accurate. The infra-red lasers and the sound effects that the gun makes made us feel like we were Storm Troopers. An Us vs Them culture began and it wasn't too long before we were overpowered by the little terrors.
Outside the arena, there is a live scoreboard and monitors for parents to keep an eye on their kids. There are cameras everywhere so cheating is completely out of the question, which is great, because little kids will kill to win, we've learnt.
The session ended and everyone head straight to the scoreboard to see how well they had performed. Or in my case, to admire how brilliantly punny my nickname was. Satisfied that mine was the best, I headed back in for the next session.
Session 2 and 3 were much of the same and by the end of the last session I had grown tired of being permanently de-activated. Maybe 43 people was too much or maybe my sugar high (grape slushie, jelly worms, chips, Maltesers) was wearing off and I was ready to go home.
To add to the experience, there is an old school arcade with all the games of "the old days." Not sure if this is on purpose or if it's because the games have not been changed since 1988. Either way, it's good fun, and our membership cards (included in the price) had 4 games already loaded.
All in all, Laser Force is great for a trip down memory lane - if you're old, and need a good opportunity to act like a kid for once. There were so many happy kids there so I assume it's great for kids too. The staff are miraculously patient and friendly considering they have to deal with sugared up kids all day.