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For infrared light-gun games, Lazer Tag is the Kleenex of the tissue world, the Xerox of the photocopy world, and the Frisbee of the plastic quoit world. In 1986, Worlds of Wonder (WoW), the makers of Teddy Ruxpin, were the first to the mass market with a light-gun toy. Lazer Tag was introduced to children by television, and it was an instant hit. It had many competitors, including Hasbro's "Electric Survivor Shot", and the technologically superior and privately funded and operated "Photon". It's market lead and catchy name granted it market dominance. However, Photon beat them in one respect; they rapidly opened a chain of Photon arenas across the country, where you could pay to play in specially designed arenas, with a full set of equipment.

Your basic Lazer Tag weapon was the StarLyte, a sleek, black futuristic pistol with LED's that lit up when you shot, and of course, a speaker that played the lazer sound. Presumably one was also wearing a StarSensor on their chest, so they could at least be a target. You could also get a StarHelmet, which had a 360 degree sensor on top, but you were making yourself an easy target if you were the only kid sporting one of those. Soon after the StarLyte came the rifle-shaped StarLyte Pro, which was changed from black to white at the last minute due to an unfortunate incident in which a cop shot a nineteen year old kid armed with a black StarLyte, not realising it wasn't a real weapon. The StarLyte Pro also included rapid fire and a laser scope. Sure it cost more, but he who has the bigger gun... There was also the StarBase, which was a toy you placed on the ground and shot at, as it shot back at you. This was, presumably, for the kid with no friends, although the commercials always showed more than one StarLyte warrior sparring with the little black ball of death.

Lazer Tag was very succesful, it even inspired a video game for the Commodore 64. However, demand vanished, and it disappeared. In the mid 1990's, Tiger Electronics bought the brand, and introduced their own line of Lazer Tag guns, none of which were backwards compatible with the old weapons. These included the A.T.W. pistol, B.L.A.S.T. bazooka, the Stinger, and the Laser Striker series. The most recent generation of official Lazer Tag weapons by Tiger Electronics was released with the Star Wars: Episode I brand, and included spaceships you could duel with, as well as guns such as "Captain Panaka's Blaster" and "Destroyer Droid Blaster".

For the home hobbyist interested in making his own Lazer Tag arsenal himself, all you basically need are an infrared light emitting diode (LED), an infrared photoresistor, and some simple circuitry. Of course, the LED simply radiates the light in all directions, so you'll want to put a lense in a housing in front of the LED to focus the beam. Remember, the looser the focus, the wider your shot will be, and the more rapidly it will dissipate. Of course, the sun will also set off your infrared photoresistor, so unless you plan on always playing underground with flourescent lights, you'll need to tune your LED and photoresistor to use a specific frequency. If you wanted to be compatible with the original WoW Lazer Tag guns, that would be a 57.6 kHz carrier frequency, modulated with a 1.8 kHz signal. The Tiger Electronics weapons instead use a 30kHz modulated as three 25 millisecond bursts, 50 milliseconds apart. You could also look up the patent, #5,904,621. However, you don't need to since there is a thriving internet community that builds and modifies these guns, with their own games and rules. The most common set of rules in play today, based on the original "Lazer Tag: The Official Game Handbook" published by TSR, Inc. in 1987, is as follows:

  • Rule 1: Lazer Tag is a Noncontact Sport
    Any intentional contact is unpardonable. Any accidental contact requires immediate warnings to both Lazer Tag Sportsmen to be more careful, with further physical contact subject to immediate censure. That's right, bayonets must be removed before the game starts, buddy.
  • Rule 2: Sensors Must be Visible
    Preventing a Lazer Tag beam from tagging a sensor is dishonorable. In the course of a game when a sensor is blocked, any player is allowed to yell, "Sensor!" If the player whose sensor is blocked is not in a duel with someone else, he is obliged to either run away or move to better show his sensor. Yeah.... Right. Everybody who's ever played this game has made some attempt to obscure their sensor from their opponent. Just don't be obvious. This is why those StarHelmets are nice, they make this much more difficult.
  • Rule 3: Sensors Must be Audible
    Masking the sound of a sensor in any way is dishonorable. Unless equipped with a mute button, the sensor indicator should always be free to emit its loudest tones. Of course, you could always scream continually to mask the sound of your sensor, but that might cause your fellow game players to break Rule 1 all over your ass.
  • Rule 4: Equipment Failure Means Disqualification
    Lazer Tag equipment can fail in the course of a contest (usually because of low battery power). In this event, the Lazer Tag Sportsman with the equipment failure is out of the contest. Each contestant is expected to check his equipment thoroughly before starting to play and must suffer the consequences of malfunctioning equipment. If equipment is provided by the game host, the player with the faulty equipment receives an automatic time-out while obtaining a replacement.
  • Rule 5: Sensors Must be Attached
    A sensor that fails or is pulled off must be put back on immediately. While the sensor is not worn, the player is not allowed to use his weapon. If the sensor malfunctions, the player must take himself out of the contest. A sensor cannot be tagged when it is not attached to its Lazer Tag Player. Any player who does tag an opponent's sensor while it is unattached is penalized with twice as many tags on his own sensor.
  • Rule 6: Sensors Must be Activated
    At times during the head of normal Lazer Tag contests, it could happen that a sensor is not turned on or gets reset. If this is discovered, that Lazer Tag Sportsman must take himself out of the contest immediately.
  • Rule 7: Refreshments are Available
    The current host of the Lazer Tag game is responsible for supplying all Lazer Tag Players with adequate refreshments before, during, and after all matches. Remember, an inebriated opponent is much easier to hit!
  • Rule 8: Lazer Tag Sportsmen are Honorable
    No matter what a person is like away from the games, when he puts on the Lazer Tag equipment he is to be treated with respect and honor. Lazer Tag Sportsmen never lie, cheat, or take advantage of a fallen foe. Never. Seriously.
  • Rule 9: Lazer Tag Is a Game
    Players must always remember that Lazer Tag is only a game. It is designed so everyone can have fun. If a player gets angry, exhausted, or bitter, he should stop playing until he cools off. Not having fun is against the code. And, quite frankly, can I just ask all people who get super competitive and pissy when playing games to just stop playing, ever? The point of almost every game is to just have fun. Chill, baby.
  • Rule 10: Lazer Tag Is a Team Sport
    Although Lazer Tag Sportsmen can be highly competitive individually, they must always consider the success of the team first. Players always win and lost as a team, not as individuals. A team does not win because one person does well nor does it lose because one person does badly. Win or lose, the team is a unit. Taking this theme further, there are Capture the Flag rules on the internet, for Quaker's jonesing for a fix.


http://www.adequate.com/LazerTag/ - Great general info/nostalgia site

http://www.cix.co.uk/~lasertag/lasertag.htm - Site for the modern lazer tag player, with info on repairing and even building your own guns

http://www.fuzzycouch.com/lazertag/ - multipurpose site for the lazer tag revivalist

http://www.nightstormer.com/photon.html - photon site, info on Unreal Photon mod

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