Having a chance to play Intersphere is a
really special experience because right now there are only three laser tag
arenas left in America that are still operating with this system. One of them
is Lazer X in Addison, IL and I am so glad I had the opportunity to pay them a
visit while I was traveling in the Chicago area this past weekend.
When I arrived I introduced myself and Carlos,
the game master, was kind enough to show me around the arena. This is a really spacious
facility at 6500 square feet with the multi-levels of the arena accessible by
ramps along the back wall.
There were a few things I recognized as
familiar hallmarks of Intersphere, but there were also some really creative
elements and surprises to be found throughout during the game. Here are a
couple of my favorites among the motion activated “inhabitants” of this arena…
…and a few other surprises.
I joined up with a family group who came out
to play that night.
There was a tutorial about the game in the
And then we put on our packs (they had the X style
packs at this site) and we went in for our 20 minute game session. This was
such a great time! Everyone was really getting into it. I tried to apply the
skills and knowledge I acquired in March when I was playing at Lazer X Texas
and it all felt familiar again.
Some of my favorite places of note in the arena
were definitely along the upper level, the access points to the ramps and in
the tunnel on the far right side. We meandered through the maze and I located a
base unit that I did not believe was active.
However, based on my scorecard I’m guessing
there had to be some hidden wall units that I did not take note of while I was
It is truly remarkable to see a facility like
this continuing to operate with the equipment that has served them well for so
many years. Although I made a special point to come her because they had
Intersphere, I can tell that place is well loved simply for the fun that
customers enjoy. I showed up as their party groups were finishing up and they
were getting ready for the public games so the timing was perfect to see what
they have to offer. Many thanks to the staff for showing me around. If you’re
in the Chicago area and want to experience something unique then I would highly
recommend paying a visit to Lazer X of Addison for a great game of tag playing
with Intersphere as they are keeping a piece of laser tag history alive.
Happy 2nd year anniversary iCOMBAT
Chicago! It was coincidental that they were running anniversary specials on the
same weekend I was already planning to be in Illinois, but once I realized this
I knew I would definitely make a point to stop in and play some tactical laser
tag at this location in Schiller Park, IL. I had a great time playing with this
awesome group of guys who came out to enjoy some laser tag as well.
When I arrived at the site I was greeted by the
manager, Mike, who was kind enough to give me a tour of this impressive
facility that houses two double level arenas themed to really immerse you in an
atmosphere while the game is going on. Our first stop was to the briefing room
to check out the gear.
There were two rows of lockers storing and
displaying the equipment. Mike told me they have 70 sets of gear and are one of
the largest indoor laser tag facilities in this state. That’s impressive in and
of itself. However, seeing what was new since the last time I played was even
more interesting to me as he showed me the features of the new GEN 3 iSMG equipment.
iCOMBAT’s tactical line is all about realism
and this unit is modeled after a sub machine gun aesthetic and feels very solid
with some weight to it. In comparison to the irMR models I have played with in
the past this felt much larger and it took a little time for me to acclimate to
different feel of this gear considering I typically play more traditional tag.
One thing that really sets this unit apart from the previous generations is that
these use a battery charge instead of the CO2 mags that I had played with the
last time. When you run out of shots you still release the mag and push it back
into place to reload, but you don’t have to replace it the same way and I immediately
preferred this new method.
Each of the iCOMBAT corporate locations has a
different and very distinctive theme. I played “Battlefield Baghdad” when I
visited Waukesha, WI, but in Chicago the arenas are themed as “Alcatraz” and “Shanty
Town”. I arrived while a session was in progress in Shanty Town, so I took a
tour of the rest of the facility first starting with the command center that
they call “Isis”. This is where I watched as Josh was busy behind the computed
console running games, playing the music and announcing updates throughout the
Then Mike showed me around the Alcatraz arena.
This space is designed to make you feel like you are targeting an enemy inside
an actual jail. There are lots of well-considered design elements throughout
The jail cells are the most distinctive aesthetic
feature of this arena.
However, there is also a prison shower…
…and even an intimidating chair to add to the
I noticed that stairs were the means of
getting to the upper level and, while I’ve gone on record that I’m not a big
fan of stairs in arenas, Mike gave a very reasonable explanation that more than
anything they serve as a strategy point for the game.
I could certainly appreciate that more once
the game was in progress. Then he showed me a few of the features on the upper
level of this arena.
This flashing bell is used in certain games
like “Hells Bells” and essentially acts as a base in those games. An interesting
thing to note from a player’s strategy is that it can be shot from either the
upper level or from the lower level by aiming through these floor grates.
I learned quite a bit about the system from
Mike as he told me about the way they approach cadet sessions for younger
players and how iCOMBAT has patented live score tracking that can break down
almost every in-depth tracking criteria you could want from the games. It takes
more of a video game approach to player stats which was very interesting to
I also enjoyed hearing that Norwegian Cruise
Lines now has the iCOMBAT Invictus (which I’m dying to try in an arena!)
installed on their two biggest ships, Joy and Bliss.
Before too long it was time for me to suit up
in the gear and enter a game in Shanty Town.
This arena was less about realism and more a
tribute to the colorful graffiti art design you might find as part of the
culture of Brazil.
The structures inside this arena were more
paneled rooms and allowed for artists to add their personal mark…
This space was bright and functional. Our team
leader, Tom, led us to the spawn point where we would begin the round and
return to when we need to respawn by pushing the button on top of one of the
We played about eight games over the course of
a solid hour in the arena. The session began and ended with rounds of Deathmatch
(essentially just go out there and target as many opponents as possible) and
also included Juggernaut which I have played before, but my favorite games
included two that I had not previously played. I really enjoyed Whack-A-Mole,
which is a little like Domination in that there are three tubes placed
throughout the arena, but rather than trying to dominate them all simultaneously
the announcer would randomly announce which tube was active (and it would only
stay active for a short time) and that was the one you had to shoot into to
turn it your team’s color before a few seconds later a new active tube would be
announced. My team played this with more of a zone strategy. Props to JaceMace
who held things down at tube one while I spent more time in the center of the
arena trying to defend and activate tube two. There was a rhythm to the flow of
this game that I liked and understood.
The other game I really liked was called SWAT.
One team would go out into the arena and each player would pick a room. Once
inside that room they were not permitted to leave and had to defend from there.
One team would be the SWAT team and the other would be the Thugs. I found that
I did better at defense than offense in this format, but enjoyed playing both
positions. It’s nice that when you play a session here you get to experience a
wide variety of game formats.
And, of course you know my very favorite part
is always shopping for tag swag!
I had a wonderful time playing tactical laser
tag at iCOMBAT Chicago. Big thanks to Mike and the staff who showed me around
and helped us to have a really fun experience. I don’t get to play tactical
very often, but I would definitely like to return and play here again!
Ever since I got back from Texas people have
been asking me “what’s next?” I’ve very recently figured out the answer to that
question. My next laser tag goal will be to play in all the remaining Laser
Quest centers in America (maybe I’ll add Canada down the road), so I went to
Illinois this weekend to play at Norridge, Rockford and Downers Grove. I’ll
only have seven more in the U.S. left to go after that.
To clarify, I certainly haven’t been to every
LQ site that there ever was or even as many as I could have if I had this goal
at another point in time, but looking at the current active site list I have
already been to quite a few locations and I would love to play at all the rest
in America. So I flew to the Chicago area and began with a visit to Laser Quest
This was a great place to begin. I chatted a
bit with manager Priscilla who has been with the company and this particular
location for 17 years. That’s really impressive! She got me into a game right
away which kept me right on schedule and gave me a chance to explore an arena
that appeared to have a similar theme as the Sunrise location, but
significantly amped up. Remember I said that I liked the “crystal castle” theme
on my last trip? Well at Norridge this theme is present, but so much bigger and
brighter matched up with a green sponge garden and a red space theme in the
other tower areas. I really wish I could get some arena pictures for
comparison, but trust me, this was a good one.
The game was light considering it was early in
the day and I was sent in along with a party group, so I didn’t play hard. At
the end of it all the staff announced my new goal to the group and were kind
enough to present me with a monthly pass to help me along my journey. Thank you
so much, that was incredibly nice!
Then we got some really special pictures with staff
member Nicolina and Ranya…and the iconic spider-monster creation they call Og!
I left with a couple more magnets for my
collection and some great memories of LQ Norridge.
The next LQ I visited was in Rockford.
When I walked in I could tell that this site had
their hands full with a very enthusiastic (and somewhat chaotic) group of
players anxious for the next game, There was a little more even a mix of
players this time around with several teen and adult players mixed in among the
group of exuberant twelve year olds. Now, I don’t know exactly what the hold up
was, but once we got into the briefing room and the game had been explained
there was some sort of delay for several minutes. Kudos to the game marshals
who managed to keep this group in check with nothing but a big rubber ball that
they started bouncing around the space until they got the go ahead to proceed.
Once we did everyone was really ready to get into the game.
Now, most of the players enjoyed a typical
game, but a few of those twelve year olds acted like…well, twelve year olds. A
very noisy group of these kids tried loudly ordering me to “leave their tower”
in that “delightful” way that boys that age sometimes behave when they’ve had
too much sugar. Well, there may be strength in numbers, but there’s also satisfaction
in understanding how the game works and where to aim for the sensors, so before
too long they shared “their tower” after all. They decided to travel as one big
group of fish in a barrel, so it was hard not to take the points after that.
Due to them being so loud they were also tough to miss as they went around the
arena as a pack. Because they didn’t know my name they started calling me Karen…I
don’t know why, so every time I crossed paths with them they would yell “it’s Karen
again!”. Then when we left the game they all raced over to check out the
They all started loudly asking “who’s Tivia?”
and I must say I appreciated their awe when I said “I think you mean ‘Karen’.” So
maybe that should be my alternate LQ codename. :)
The final LQ stop of my trip was in Downers
Grove. I took some time for an excellent sushi dinner before heading over for
an Ironman game.
Now this was more interesting competition. The
group of players was entirely made up of young adults…except for one. There was
a guy in a bright orange t-shirt who was clearly a regular there and chimed in
to assist the new game marshal with the briefing. In the darkness of the
briefing room this guy looked to be older than the rest of us, although later
on in the light of the lobby I realized he was probably closer to my age. He
played like someone who understood the game, but didn’t opt to move from his
tower perch which he adopted early and where he stayed for the majority of the
game. Meanwhile, the other players were on the move and I chose to pursue them directly.
Usually I pace myself during an Ironman, but this game I expended a lot more
energy early on and after a full day of tag (which included some non-LQ
locations also) I was feeling a bit drained and although I put in all the
effort I had left that guy beat me out for the first place score be a few
hundred points. Nicely played Chevelier!
So by the end of one long day in northern
Illinois I had checked three more Laser Quest centers off my list. I am really
feeling fired up about playing at the rest and am formulating a plan to get to
them all within this year, so watch for more travels to happen very soon!
You can probably tell from the way I'm dressed
that this was an impromptu visit to play laser tag at Zero Gravity. I took my
mother into Albany for an event and thought that this was a perfect opportunity
to introduce her to the game.
Yep, we played laser tag like this, cute polka
dot dress and all. Now, she has a vague notion of what I do. She is supportive
and wears the wristband (and maybe reads this blog now and again), but she
really didn't have any real idea what it was all about. When we entered the vesting
room it was all completely new to her. Fortunately, we arrived late enough in
the evening to get a private game and she was able to learn at her own pace.
Mom got an equipment tutorial before touring
the maze. Her face upon entering the arena was one of total astonishment. We
walked her through the space with a tour of the ramps, bridge and bases. Then
she put her fierce game face on...
...and it was time to play. She did well! The
game master went in as well for a little in game coaching. Mom took her first
base and then proceeded to stalk me. I think the time flew by and at the end
she seemed to have really enjoyed the experience. I'm glad we had this
opportunity for her to finally play a game of laser tag. Rematch soon? :)
It's interesting how laser tag terminology
evolves. There are unusual terms used in many systems, but today I want to talk
about a term used in Laser Storm called "Wilsoning". What this means
is to peek over a wall while keeping your headset sensors low and behind cover
with only your eyes and the top of your head visible over the barrier.
Originally this was called "Webbing" named after a player, Mike Webb, who first started using this tactic while playing in Michigan.
This concept is rather unique to Laser Storm
because (credit Logan for this explanation)... "in standard Laser Storm
our arenas are traditionally made from movable plastic walls hanging from a
grid to divide the arena. From this players take different positions based off
size by Wilsoning over the top or the side."
However, over time the more descriptive term
of "Wilsoning" came to be used by the player base. It's probably obvious
that this is named after the character on the nineties tv show Home Improvement
who peeked over the wall to call out "Howdy Neighbor!" So for a more
thorough explanation we turn to Al (aka actor Richard Karn) to explain a bit
more about "Wilsoning"...
Even my gecko Leon is enjoying this month’s issue of RePlay
I want to thank them for including this item titled
“Laser Tag Celebrated” along with a write-up about my tag in Texas on the 35th
anniversary of laser tag and a photo of me with George Carter III. It was very
cool to see this printed in a national industry publication, especially considering the
May 2019 issue also features some excellent coverage of the Amusement Expo with
which the Laser Tag Convention was co-located this year in Las Vegas. I thoroughly
enjoyed reading it and seeing some great pictures, especially several pics of familiar
faces in the laser tag industry.
It is ironic that this magazine arrived today including
this piece that references the event at Laser Quest in North Richland Hills
because I just learned today that this particular LQ site closed its doors for
good last night, barely a month after I was there. It is always sad to see any
laser tag site close, but having worked so closely with them over the last few
months this one left me feeling particularly empathetic for the players in
Texas who will be saying goodbye to their tag home. I remember very clearly how
I felt when my home site in Dewitt closed down unexpectedly and it is
especially hard when you have no advance notice to appreciate when you are playing
in an arena for the very last time. However, I also feel very fortunate that I
was able to experience this site and mark my 50th state playing in
such an appropriate location while they were there. To all the staff at Laser
Quest North Richland Hills, I thank you for giving me a wonderful experience in
March and I also thank you on behalf of all the players who enjoyed your site
for so long. Best wishes my friends!
Advertising works, my friends, advertising works. I don't say that
just because it's my business, but it’s the reason I have this story to share,
so here's an anecdotal example of how I know it to be true.
While driving north on route 75 heading through Fort Myers towards the Sarasota
airport again (the less obvious route home from Miami, lol) I noticed a
billboard that said "HeadPinz...more than just bowling. Laser Tag. Next
exit." Well, I just about flew across several lanes of traffic to get over
to the exit for this! It was an unexpected surprise because even though of
course I had done a search online for laser tag along my route, it didn't look
like there was much opportunity for tag until closer to Tampa. When I saw this
opportunity I was very excited (and ready for a break from driving) so I was
ready for whatever system of laser tag they had to offer. Pulling into the
parking lot I noticed the side of their building had a wall mural (more good
advertising) featuring some Zone imagery. I hoped that was what we'd be
playing, but I've learned not to put too much stock in the photo as quite often
the reality is something completely different…and that was the case here as the
actual system in use was Cyber Blast. But that's still among my favorites, so I
was definitely ready to play.
What I found to be the next unexpected surprise was that this
arena was awesome! Such a terrific find! Sometimes I have a tendency to think
that laser tag takes a backseat in FECs where the main emphasis is on bowling,
but that was certainly not the case here. This was a spacious arena with a
really "cool" (play on words) and ironic theme. You see after getting
a sunburn on South Beach the day before and spending a large part of this day out
in the blazing Florida heat it was kind of funny to walk in and find that this
place turned up the chill with an ice cave theme!
The entrance was designed to look like an igloo or cave covered in
ice. Then they kept the theme going through the briefing area....
And then into the arena that was decorated with snowshoes, sleds
and more to add to the motif.
You could get a good view of it all from the upper half-level
running along one upper wall and accessible by ramps on either side.
And something else that you could see well from that vantage point
(which unfortunately I could not get a picture of) was the projection on the
wall. This I did not expect at all and wish I had noticed a little earlier in
the game. An animation of a gorilla popped up every so often. The game master
said it correlated with a timer. There was also an avalanche animation that I
believe may have been synced to base deactivations. I'm not certain as I could
not see it when I took my bases, but that's what I believe was happening there.
This was not a full wall projection, but that didn't matter. It was an
incredibly impressive touch. I do not believe it was one of the interactive
projection targets like I had seen at the Laser Blast booth at IAAPA (someone
please correct me if I am mistaken), but it was very cool nonetheless.
I left that game feeling pumped up and thoroughly impressed with
this site. I'm so glad that I saw their billboard and was able to add this
final stop before leaving Florida. It was a great trip with a lot of great
memories. Here's one that has nothing to do with tag, but is worth sharing.
I've mentioned that I am a gecko mama to my little lizard Leon. However, one of
the coolest things about touring the Everglades was getting to visit with the
alligators this region is known for. So here I am with a significantly bigger
reptile...meet Casper the alligator!
Here's another wristband challenge. If you think you know WHY my
lizard is named Leon and what the laser tag connection is then drop me an
email. If your answer is correct I'll send you a glow in the dark Laser Tagging
America wristband (U.S. entries only, please). And thank you to HeadPinz of
Fort Myers for a great tag experience. Getting to play at your arena was a
wonderful unexpected surprise!