Wednesday, January 29, 2020

An Interview with Jim Kessler, CEO and Founder of LASERTRON

I want to thank Jim Kessler, CEO and Founder of LASERTRON for taking the time for an interview with me.

I hope you enjoy this as the first installment of the Industry Leader Interviews in the Oral History of Laser Tag for the Laser Tag Museum. Watch the video here...

New interviews will be added monthly so keep checking back at
for more great stories about the early days of laser tag!

Comments or Questions?


Websites: and

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

“Green Team, DON’T Score!!!”

It was about 20 seconds before the end of our second game on league finals night when across the arena we heard Beanz bellowing “Green Team, DON’T SCORE!!!” And here’s why...

We WANTED to take second place that game. Not third, but definitely not first. Because if we took first we’d be challenging the front runner teams earlier in the night than we would want to and if we took third we’d be eliminated early. Our first game we lost by a hair (or more accurately, a missile). We would have been fine if we had gotten just one more missile off...which Beanz actually had! He had the lock on tone in the final second, but the clock ran out. Sigh. 

But we were still in it at this point and just had to beat Jared’s team to stay in it. Sorry to just be calling it “Jared’s team” as I’m sure by this point in the league I should remember the team names, but I don’t. I barely remembered from week to week that our team was called “Not Fast, Just Furious” made up of Beanz, Ragnar, Stealth Elf and me...and for four of the weeks we had MJ Slaughter as our sub because of Ragnar being injured.

So circumstances aligned forcing us to begin in a less desirable starting place, but at this point we wanted to stay in it so when we heard “Green Team, Don’t Score” we just stopped tagging because we did not want to accidentally win this time! We happily accepted second place that game which kept us in the running...ironic as I know that sounds. 

That’s probably the most noteworthy (and quote worthy) memorable takeaway I had from this league. That and possibly observing a little bit of karma in action once it got down to the final game (which my team was not in, but I actually enjoyed watching as a spectator). Fast forward to that final game. It’s Jon’s team, the Fam team and Abby and Cody’s team. I wish I had been recording the monitor outside the arena earlier because watching things unfold was really interesting!

There was a point within the last few minutes when Fam was solidly holding first and the other two (arguably the stronger teams) kept flip flopping between second and third place. I would have actually been pleased to see a shake-up like that materialize! Then there was a point where EVERY team was flip flopping positions. That’s how close the scores were at different times. But what ended up happening was a little more predictable. Jon’s team won (congrats!) and Cody and Abby’s team took second with Fam finishing respectably in third. After that we all sat back and watched the “performance” (read “absurd and unnecessary shouting match”) that ensued between the captains of the second place team over what had transpired. Although this show was totally popcorn worthy, I feel like I have something of value to impart from many years competing and mentoring in the pageant realm. Here it is...

It’s fine to be disappointed with an outcome. Sure, we all prefer to win, but keep it classy and PLEASE just keep your mouth shut until you are in your car five miles down the road. Then you can feel whatever you want, but when you are at the venue (be it a laser tag arena or the like) simply congratulate the winners on a good game, be gracious and otherwise just zip it. I think this advice applies in all forms of competition, not just laser tag.

Also, try to stay cool because you’ll likely have to come back and play with at least some of the same group of people the next time around. Save the drama for your mama!

As for everyone else, let me give a shout out to my team and to all the other players who were involved in the league. No matter what, it’s always a great time just getting to play with you guys. I hope we can keep the momentum of these leagues going and I look forward to tagging with you again the next time around!

Comments or Questions?

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Hills are Alive...with the Sound of Lasers

It was recently suggested to me that a review of my favorite game formats for each system might make for an interesting article. I wholeheartedly agree! However, to be fair there are some systems on which I have played a wide variety of special game formats and then there are others where I’ve only had the opportunity (so far) to play the basic standard games. An example of the latter is Lasertron. Most places I have played use primarily the standard team or free for all solo formats and little else, even though the system has much greater capabilities. So I decided that to rectify this and broaden my horizons by trying out some different games it would be worth detouring over to the home Lasertron location in Amherst, NY to meet up with a couple of my Armageddon teammates and experience a couple of their other game formats.

I met up with Emily, Cage and Kevin and we joined a public group for my very first game of King of the Hill. Although there would be a briefing video shown to us inside the vesting room, I got Emily (aka ShadowDragon) to give me the scoop on this game.

We went into the vesting room and got ready to play!

Even though this is the oldest operating laser tag facility in the United States it has a very modern design, which I believe has been updated since my last visit.

Before the game started Emily showed me the sectors of the arena. For King of the Hill a sector or “hill” that is ready to be claimed starts off blue on the bottom and yellow on top like this...

Once it is taken by a player it turns either red or green when the player stands directly underneath the sensor. You want to stay there earning points for your team for as long as possible (even if that means less personal points earned from tags...this is about what best helps the team, not the individual).

The neutral sectors glow purple and the active sectors can be identified on the digital maps.

So, during the game the hills move every 45-60 seconds, which is why I say (and sing) the hills are alive! It really sort of feels like that! This was fun and so far it is my favorite Lasertron game. :)

We played four rounds of King of the Hill to complete our first session, then took a short break and played a session of Domination. I think I can now say I have played Domination on just about every laser tag system.

This is similar to King of the Hill (or maybe KOTH is just a variation on Domination), but the sectors are constant and the goal is to control as many of them as possible at the same time.

To me this was a little less interesting. Much like in the standard team base game I found myself just running to and from sectors, trading a few tags and then running back to my recharge. I found King of the Hill more interesting as the game moved around. However, from a vanity standpoint alone, I do like how a player’s name and photo pops up on the monitor when they take over a sector in Domination.

I also like that the sectors have different values and the ones closer to the opposing team will get you bigger points as you can see on the map.

I would have liked to stick around for a session of Headquarters too, but due to timing and weather it was better for me to get back on the road after these two sessions. But after four games of each I feel ready to say (just out of the games I’ve experienced) that King of the Hill is my new favorite special format game of Lasertron. Thanks to Emily, Cage and Kevin for coming out to show me the ropes!

Comments or Questions?
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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Sharp Shooting at Sharp Shooters

It was a cold and snowy evening…well, actually it wasn’t. However, there was an impending snowstorm expected to hit the following day. I was scheduled to run audio for a pageant competition this weekend and the director asked me to drive out to Corning a night early because he worried if I waited until Saturday that the snow might prevent me from getting there at all. So that’s how it is that I found myself unexpectedly passing through Auburn, NY with some extra time on my hands on a Friday night. I searched for laser tag in the area and found an opportunity to play using Adventure Sports HQ tactical taggers at Adventure Zone Bounce, Tag and play at Sharp Shooters.

Upon my arrival I met the owner, Tony, out in front of the building and introduced myself. I could see through the window that this did not look like a tactical tag site. I inquired about the familiar looking Runner gate that was visible behind the bounce houses and games in the lobby. Tony told me that he and his wife, Hillary, had opened the business in this location in July (so just about six months ago) and they had started with purchasing pre-owned Lazer Runner equipment, but during the course of that time they had switched over to Adventure Sports HQ. I’m going to circle back around to all that because learning the history of the equipment at their site was one of the most interesting parts of my visit.

The arena is their own hybrid creation of walls from a former laser tag site and some of their older son’s design ideas. It’s a smaller arena (I’d guesstimate at around 2500 square feet?) and it is still evolving. Their hope is to add paint and design aesthetics in the coming months, but for now it is a black walled maze augmented with some barrels and tires for obstacles.

On one side there is a single respawn station for use by everyone (rather than having a separate station for each team). This worked just fine for the light kind of game we played. They cater mostly to kids and  parties and do not score their games. As such, it’s not competitive, it’s just for enjoying the experience in and of itself. And after the week I’ve had I didn’t mind just having some cathartic time to play just to play. We watched an introductory video made by I joined the “girls team”. :)

So, for 12 minutes we ran around the arena tagging, but not tallying any points. Once you were tagged out you’d return to the respawn station and jump right back into the game.

During that game I played with a group of kids including Tony’s son, Nicholas, and let me tell you, those kids were ruthless! Not since the movie Ghostbusters have I heard anyone scream the words “Get Her!!!” with that kind of intensity as they chased after me, lol!

Then towards the end of the game Tony discreetly snuck in to remove the respawn and that meant things were winding down and things would end with whichever team was left with players still in the game. So, there was a victory to be had, just not based on individual points.

While the game was fun, for me the more interesting part of the night was seeing just how small the laser tag community really is. As I mentioned, there was something VERY familiar looking about this Runner gate.

I had taken a picture of it before when it the top of it said “Glowtron” and prior to that it was part of Barski’s Laser Tag in Ithaca. Apparently Barski’s sold the Lazer Runner system to Tony and it was used until they switched to Adventure Sports HQ. As he was telling me about the various games they can play including Domination he showed me the tablet they use.

This is when I realized it really is a small world. I noticed the Laser Tag Guy logo pop up on the screen as he was starting it up. I asked about it and learned that the equipment I had just played with was formerly owned by Jason Bock who had passed it along to his son Alex. Alex brought it and operated it for the tactical part of the first Armageddon I had ever played back in 2015. Here’s a couple of photos from that event.

Meaning this was not just the first tactical system I had ever played, but the very same actual equipment that I had my first tactical tag experience with years ago!

I explained that Jason was the first person I encountered upon returning to laser tag in 2014 when I inquired about attending the first Phocon. Then Tony told me that they travel for their mobile laser tag business and one of their industry friends who they occasionally call upon if there is an event that they can’t cover is Marc Mueller…from XP…who is the second person I met in connection with Phocon. It is pretty amazing how everyone in the laser tag community really does seem to know everyone else. That’s how it is that I can say I have friends in every state because of meeting people through my laser tag travels.

So, I left Sharp Shooters that night really feeling more closely connected because of the history of the people and the equipment as I had played under that Runner gate before, had played using those taggers before and had found some unexpected shared history. Thanks for a great time and a good excuse to take a break before continuing on with my drive!

Comments or Questions?


Websites: and

Monday, January 13, 2020

Retirement (Not for me...for my hat)

I’ve worn my Photon hat into over 300 laser tag arenas and it has been one of my most loved conversation pieces (whenever I run into a Photon player it sparks discussion), but last night I had to admit that it has gotten worn out to the point where it deserves to be retired. RIP Photon hat.

No worries though, I have a back-up. Thank you, Jim! :)

I’ve jokingly said a few times over the years that maybe all my laser tag ability is in that hat. Well, I wore my new hat to league last night instead and now I am starting to think that I might have been right! (SMH) I had one of my worst performance nights of tag playing in a while and, while I’m not seriously blaming that on the new hat, I just can’t help but make that connection.

Everyone has an off night occasionally. So, what do you do when you’re playing badly and can’t quite pull out of the slump? Well, in my case I decided to lean into it. For the record, we were past the point of standings being altered when I decided for the last few games of the night to throw “proper playing” out the window and do something different. I played as if I was the Terminator and shot rapid-fire nearly continuously at everything and anything, moving or not, ready to inadvertently hit whatever came into my path while simultaneously (and very consciously) taking a stab at earning the worst accuracy award. I’m telling you this now so that if that result actually happens, you’ll know it was pre-meditated. :) And you know what…it was also just, plain fun to not be taking it too seriously.

Finals are next weekend. Now, I’m not superstitious, but I have to be honest…after last night I’m seriously thinking of bringing my old hat out of retirement!

Comments or Questions?


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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Launching the Oral History of Laser Tag Video Series

After months of planning, a few significant days of filming and hours upon hours of footage and editing I am pleased to announce the launch of the Oral History of Laser Tag video series that I am producing for the Laser Tag Museum.

This first video is just the tip of the iceberg, but features thoughts from many of the founders and key players in the laser tag industry who you will hear more from in upcoming videos that will be released each month. See it here...

Future videos will include compilations themed around laser tag related topics as well as longer interviews with individuals from many of the major laser tag manufacturers.

Big thanks to Jason Helton for providing the opening graphics and music for this series and to Erik Guthrie for inviting me to take on this project when we first started chatting about the idea over a year ago. I hope you will continue to return to this section of the museum’s website to see what’s new because there is a lot more on the way!

Comments or Questions?
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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Player Perspectives on Laserforce’s New Game, Redline

When new laser tag game formats are released it is always great fun to get together with friends and try them out. I recently had the chance to play a couple of games with a group of players that really enjoyed taking on some new challenges, especially while playing one of the latest Laserforce games called Redline.

This is a single hit game where it takes nine shots to destroy a base or beacon. For the first eight shots you gain 100 points, but on the ninth shot (for whomever happens to be the one to hit it) you lose 999 points and you can no longer target that base for the remainder of the game. So, the goal is to get the most points on the first eight shots without actually destroying the base…just leave that “privilege” for someone else. The players seemed to have the most fun watching that scenario play out during the game.

Laserforce player Damon Brundige says “Red Line is super-fun. What’s nice about it is you can go in there with a group of friends, shoot the base to the point where it’s about ready to be deactivated then let your friends shoot it and they’ll lose points. It was hilarious watching our friends lose the points because they were always the ninth shot to get the bases!”

Another player, Alex Flood, made an astute observation to help identify which bases were close to being ready to accept that ninth shot. He noted that “the faster the lights are rotating or flashing indicates how much health it has. So, if it has low health, the faster and more active the lights will be. I love it! It’s fun!”

I also found this to be a uniquely enjoyable challenge. I’ll admit I hit the base on the ninth shot more often than I would have liked, but it did add a completely new twist to the game. For players who would prefer options with a little less of an element of surprise, the beacons gave a more accurate indication because they were set up to show the number of shots already taken. Some might see that as reducing some of the mystery, but I think it’s smart to have an option that adds balance for less experienced players to use as a measurement while they are getting acclimated to the new challenges this game format presents. Overall, I would say the player reaction that I observed during Redline was excellent and I am looking forward to playing this game again!

Comments or Questions?


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