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Laserforce: Live Action Laser Tag

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by Michelle MacFarlane (subscribe)
Brisbane writer and busy mum of two boys. See my parenting articles at www.brisbaneschild.com.au and www.kidsonthecoast.com.au.
Published December 16th 2011
Laserforce at Woolloongabba is an alternative reality where kids become laser lords and grown-ups (mostly men) become kids. It's a favourite of my two boys -- and, to be honest, of my husband, who's still aiming for 'Star Lord' level (at least, I think that's what it's called).

laserforce photo by michelle macfarlane
Getting ready for a mission
So, what exactly is Laserforce? Basically, it's a big, dark-ish indoor space, where people run around wearing special Laserforce vests and having fun zapping each other with lasers. You get points for zapping another person, but also for zapping various targets, including sci-fi specials like the 'space worm'.

It's lots of fun doing the running, hiding and zapping, but a big part of the appeal is checking your points afterwards, and finding out what level you've made it to.

Using your membership card (which is registered to whatever crazy code name you want to dream up for yourself), you can use a scanner to check your points and standing any time. The names from every mission also go up on screens in the foyer, so you can see who got the most points and where you're ranked.

laserforce photo by west end girl
Party area
The Laserforce story started in the late 1980s, when a couple of brothers refurbished an old roller-skating rink in Woolloongabba to create the world's first Laserforce. Today, there are Laserforce centres all over the world and the Woolloongabba centre does a roaring trade.

A good part of that trade comes from birthday parties, and I've now had the pleasure of hosting four different parties for my boys there (parties start at $23/head).

Outside the mission room is a large space with lots of big tables set up for parties. When you book a party package, you get your table, lolly bags, slushies, and some tokens for the games area (more of that later). You can BYO as much food and drink as you want, and local pizza companies will deliver there. Laserforce has a special deal with some of the big pizza chains, but I've used the local Pizza Capers (Woolloongabba or West End), which does healthier pizzas than most other places.

laserforce photo by michelle macfarlane
Games space
Adjoining the party area is a games area with foosball, video games, etc. You can buy tokens from the counter, or get them included as part of your party package. The games there are mostly pretty mild, and I feel comfortable to let my boys play in their with minor supervision (the area is pretty secure, and you can keep an eye on kids fairly easily).

If you don't want to hold a party, you can also go along as an individual or family and just play a few games (from $7.50/game for kids). Each game lasts about 10 minutes.

There are some things that it's useful to know before you visit Laserforce. First, the party area gets really, really loud when there are lots of parties on -- so make sure you go prepared for a full-on party experience.

laserforce photo by michelle macfarlane
Look at the large image to check out those code names...
Second, Laserforce is not air-conditioned, so it can get pretty hot on a hot day. But my boys have never complained, and we've been there in mid-summer.

Third, if you want to take children under 7, talk to the staff (birthday parties are advertised as being for children aged 7 and up). My younger son started at 6 years old, and was never scared by any aspect, but apparently some younger kids don't cope so well. Having said that, there is a briefing room with a video that explains everything, and this reassures many first-timers.

Laserforce isn't a cheap activity, but we've kept it as a birthday treat and our boys love it. My husband is also hooked, and every dad that we've roped in to help has also had great fun. The staff are friendly and helpful, they also do teen and corporate packages, and girls and women are made welcome as players (I've seen quite a few females in there ready to zap when we've visited, though boys and men definitely make up the majority).

All in all, it's something different to do on a Brisbane afternoon, and a great way for boisterous kids (and grown-ups) to burn off lots of energy on the way to laser glory.
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Update January 10th 2013
Newsflash: Took my boys to a special Laserforce kids' day today, and they had a ball. For $30, each child can play as many games as they like between 9.30am and 3.30pm. My pair notched up 22 games each! And the aircon was working in the waiting area, so I got some cool relief (though the playing area was hot as ever). Check the Laserforce website for future kids' days.
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Why? For parties, fun, or just to become a laser lord
When: 7 days from 10am
Where: 55 Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba (good parking under the building)
Cost: Membership fee $3 juniors, $4.50 adults; mission fee from $7 juniors, $8 adults (for members); parties from $23/head juniors.
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