Sunday, March 31, 2019

International Laser Tag Day 2019: Making Laser Tag History with George Carter III

My journey to play laser tag in all 50 states culminated in such a wonderful time at Laser Quest North Richland Hills, TX on March 28th, International Laser Tag Day!

I had been looking forward to playing laser tag in Texas for quite some time, knowing that once I played there I would be the first person to have ever played laser tag in all 50 states, so this one had to be special. I knew it would be when George Carter III, inventor of Photon and founder of the laser tag industry agreed to come out and celebrate with me on the day that also marks the 35th anniversary of when he opened the first Photon laser tag center right here in the Dallas area on March 28, 1984. It seemed most fitting to host a special night of laser tag near where it all began, so with the support of Laser Quest we had the chance to make a little history at a site very close to where laser tag history had been made once before.

George arrived in the early afternoon and we sat down to record an interview about the early days of Photon, which I will post soon.

He took note of a couple Funko Pop figures that had been customized especially for the occasion to remember Photon.

And after the interview we chatted a bit with Laser Quest manager Patrick who told us that all his employees had volunteered to work tonight so they could be part of the festivities!

Some decorations were prominently placed at Mission Control including an original Photon helmet and some complimentary souvenir wristbands for the players.

Then it was time to make some history! The official game that marked Texas as my 50th state was a private one vs one game of laser tag with me getting to play with the man who created the original game…such a special experience!

And at the end we took a photo by the map of all the places where I have played laser tag along the way.

Then we were ready to celebrate. A small group played in the first game of the night before we were joined by other players later in the evening.

I was really heartened by how far some of these guys had come. Although a couple of the players were local, others had traveled quite a distance. Charles, a fellow laser tag blogger, came all the way from Houston and Photon Chris actually made a road trip all the way from New Jersey to be with us tonight!

Lorna from SportsCon came out and enjoyed her very first game of laser tag!

As the night went on we enjoyed food and refreshments and social time between the games.

Charles presented me with such a special souvenir to commemorate my laser tag achievement.

And then it was time for me to make a special presentation as well. I was honored to present this plaque to George Carter on behalf of the Laser Tag Museum and laser tag players worldwide to thank him for creating the game that started it all on here on the 35th anniversary of Photon.

Here is a video where you can see the game of laser tag I played with George as well as the presentation of the plaque. Plus a special laser tag shout out from one of my favorite actors, David Lascher (best remembered as Ted from Hey Dude or Vinnie from Blossom).

I was speechless when I saw that shout out earlier that day and also delighted by all the support I’ve received from everyone back home. I learned while in Texas that the details of this adventure had made the front page of my hometown newspaper.

So there was a lot to celebrate. And what would a party be without cake?

As the evening came to a close we continued playing laser tag with the players who came in during the night. I invited George to take his poster home as a souvenir as well as the red custom Funko (and yes, I kept the green one).

I thanked him for being part of this really special evening along with his wife, Debi. I could not have asked for a better way to finish my journey laser tagging across America. I’m appreciative that I got to experience this all at a Laser Quest where the business is still all about laser tag.

Of course there was one other thing I had to do while in Dallas. I had to make a journey to the Photon “mothership”, the location where the first Photon center had been and the former home of the “Photon Intergalactic Headquarters” (as the sign once read 35 years ago).

This was such an amazing way to celebrate International Laser Tag Day. Thank you again to Laser Quest, George Carter III and all who came out to enjoy laser tag on this special night!

Comments or Questions?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Laser Tag Talk on the Radio

The last couple of days have been a lot of fun because I’ve had the chance to talk about laser tag on several morning radio shows.

With International Laser Tag Day less than a week away it’s been great to be able to share a bit about what will be going on and also raise some public awareness about what a fantastic activity laser tag can be for families and people of all ages from kids up to adults to get some exercise and have some fun!

Here are three interviews...enjoy listening!

I want to thank Brittany Lee, Liz and the Talk of the Town team for welcoming me into their studios to talk tag!

Comments or Questions?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

For some time now I’ve been aware that there is a Lasertron arena at a camp called Circle C Ranch in Delevan, NY. I was particularly interested in this because one of my goals is to eventually play at every laser tag site in New York, but I didn’t really anticipate being able to play here because this is a private facility, not a public laser tag arena like I typically visit. However, opportunity presented itself when Ed from Skateland was kind enough to make a phone call to try to facilitate me paying a visit to the ranch while I was traveling nearby. I was thrilled to be able to have un unexpected bonus experience during my trip to western New York and to get to play some laser tag with Wayne, Josh and Chloe.

Circle C Ranch is a 315 acre Christian camp that caters to families, kids and teens and provides a wide variety of activities for them to enjoy, including horseback riding, rock wall, swimming and games as well as Lasertron right on the premises.

When I arrived at the family operated site Wayne greeted me and drove me up to the building that they use for their game area. We walked in to a large, open space that was decorated to look like a town right out of the old west. My first thought was that if this is where they play tag then they must be utilizing a mobile maze structure. After all, I’ve seen laser tag set ups with everything from portable bunkers to coroplast movable walls, so I would not have been surprised if that had been the case here. However, what I was seeing was just the tip of the iceberg and I had not yet had even a glimpse of the actual arena.

Wayne opened the door to a small vesting room with a rack of Lasertron 11 packs hanging on the wall.

On the other side of the vesting room there was another door and this one opened up to reveal a full (and very good sized) Lasertron arena!

Now, laser tag can be a great opportunity for building a business, but this is a completely different setting in which to see a set up this elaborate. So, how does a camp end up with a fully decked out arena and complete laser tag system like this? Wayne gave me a bit of the history that began roughly 20 years ago. Because this site spreads their message of faith to young people through the camp experience it makes sense that the more appealing activities they can offer, the more people will hear their message. Over the course of several years (Wayne believes it was somewhere between five and ten years) they raised the money to be able to purchase the laser tag system for the camp, which of course is a fairly significant investment. That shows a great deal of confidence right there in the benefits that a laser tag system can offer. But as for the amazing arena, perfect timing allowed them to be the recipient of a tremendous gift and receive the arena elements as a donation to the camp when another arena was remodeling. It seems evident that this was the right place and time for this arena to be built and by 2005 they were playing laser tag at Circle C Ranch. Wayne showed me photos of the directors who have been running the Lasertron during the camp sessions ever since.

Right about then was when Wayne’s son Josh and Chloe walked in to see what was going on…and that’s how I ended up talking about tag on his next video edition of The Camp Life! :)

So now we had enough people gathered for a good game and I was really excited to be able to play in this arena. We had an awesome time and it was a real treat to experience Lasertron at this site. I’m really impressed that they have included this as one of their activities. It made my trip all the more worthwhile to be able to add this visit to my journey and really affirmed that I too was in just the right place this weekend. I want to thank Wayne, Josh and Chloe for joining me for a game and sharing a bit about what Circle C has to offer. I appreciate the experience I had and hope that laser tag continues to play a part in the good work that they are able to do at the ranch.

Comments or Questions?

Playing Laser Storm at Skateland

After hearing that there was a place to play Laser Storm in western New York I knew I wanted to visit and this weekend turned out to be the perfect opportunity to stop over to Skateland Family Fun Center in Franklinville, NY.

When I arrived I pulled in to the parking lot of a pretty large complex that is home to a roller skating rink, go karts, batting cages and teen dance club among other activities. It’s a family owned business and Ed greeted me at the door to show me around.

This place has a long history in the Franklinville community. They’ve been operating the business for over three decades and added Laser Storm somewhat on a lark back in 1999. Ed told me he really didn’t know what laser tag was at the time, but attended an auction where the equipment was being offered after another site closed down so he took a chance and purchased the system. With the help and expertise of Gord Armstrong to get it all set up this was what started them out with the addition of a laser tag attraction.

This original 3.1 system is what he continues to run to this day in an arena that Ed designed himself. In fact, his is the last remaining permanent arena to continue to use this version of Laser Storm. It’s really nice to see a one of a kind maze design and this one looks like you are walking into an ice cave full of stalagmites.

Before heading in for the first game Ed showed me to the vesting room, which also included an original touch with the way he has his packs displayed on shadow figure stands.

Then it was time to get in to play some tag!

Here’s a video taken inside the arena.

I did my best to remember the tips that Matt and Logan gave me the last time I had a chance to play Storm, including pointing my index finger along the side of the disruptor phaser.

I’m sure you can tell from the video that the system still feels new to me (this is only the fourth Storm site I have ever played), but I find that I enjoy it more every opportunity I get to play. You also may have noticed that in the middle of the arena is a fixed position metal barrier. This is what gives the site it’s Storm-specific divided arena, which really makes this game play differently than every other form of laser tag (well, that and the headset/phaser design combo).

If you check out the map you can see how the red and green sides are separated.

There are two energizers on each side.

Those were expected. However, what was unexpected was that there are no bases at this arena, however there are target pods that can shoot back at you!

It speaks well for the system that the original version of this equipment is still working more than 20 years later and Ed is very quick to give credit to Gord for the quality of service that has kept him loyal to Laser Storm, a company that has gone through significant transition since the nineties. That’s always good to hear from a business operator.

There is a lot for people to enjoy here, but for me the most interesting part is always seeing the way people respond to laser tag and I could tell the groups that came through that day were having as much fun as I was! This is not a site where competition is the focus, but clearly geared more towards parties and community. And they are proud of what their employees have gone on to do in the community, case in point this photo display of Kimberly Pressler who was Miss USA 1999 and also a former employee of Skateland.

This caught my attention because of my background in pageantry, but also because it is a reminder of community ties. Very nice to see! I had a great time and was very glad that I made the trip…even more so when Ed was kind enough to facilitate another stop for me while I was in the area. Many thanks for a great visit to Skateland Family Fun Center!

Comments or Questions?