Over the weekend I got to play laser tag for maybe the third time in my life, and now my heart is all lit up with excitement over physical games! I guess most people would just call these “sports,” but I feel like the games I’m interested in talking about here kind of fall into a different category than, or maybe a sub-category of “sports.” Non-traditional sports? Physical games? Sports with an immersive element? I really don’t know! But let’s talk about it anyway!
Why is laser tag so awesome? Of course, I love the immersion and the novelty. You get to feel like you’re in a video game. You get to run around in the dark and shoot at people to the sounds of cinematic music from Star Wars and the James Bond movies. You feel stealthy and cool! The game also has that attractive element of potential improvement. I was second-to-last in the rankings, but three of my more experienced friends made it into the top five (two of them were 1st and 2nd place). They helped point out my weak areas and gave suggestions for improvement. Now I want to go back and see if I can do just a little bit better.
Something new I appreciated after my last game was the fitness aspect. The one thing everyone talks about after laser tag is how exhausted and sore they are (or at least that’s how our group felt!). I was totally worn out, but I wanted to play again. Not only did I want to play again, I felt compelled to get into better shape so that I wouldn’t slow down as often during the game, and so I would feel more capable of performing cool, quick maneuvers like I saw my friend doing. I’m incredibly lazy and have a really difficult time sticking with any kind of fitness routine without getting bored. But if cost weren’t an issue, I could see myself going and playing a ton of laser tag.
That being said, I can also imagine laser tag gets old after a while since the actual maze structure never changes (or at least ours hasn’t in the past five years). But there are ways to make the game more compelling. Running around shooting people is fun, but I like a bit more structure in my games. I like having a complex goal, a role with responsibilities, and sometimes teammates. According to the laser tag Wikipedia article, there are a lot of variations on the laser tag game, including capture the flag, protect the VIP, stealth matches (sensor lights are deactivated), and even role-playing/character class games. I’m not sure if my local Laser Quest has the capabilities for any of these variations (there isn’t much info on the website, I had to call to even learn about the Ironman match we played on Saturday), but they definitely sound fun and show the potential of the technology.
So, since frequent laser tagging could get pretty expensive and maybe a little boring, now I’m thinking the solution is to find or design some free games that are as compelling as laser tag, and then (probably the most difficult part) organize a group of people to play them with me on a regular basis. Free, fun fitness!
There are a number of different festivals that have popped up over the years dedicated to outdoor interactive games, so maybe I can draw some inspiration from them. Come Out and Play Fest, The Steel City Games Fest, and igfest are the ones I know about. There are also independent recurring games and events like zombie races (2.8 Hours Later, Zombie 5K) and Assassins (including StreetWars and Humans vs. Zombies). A lot of this stuff falls into the category of street gaming or urban gaming, but setting isn’t really an aspect I care that much about (though I think I would prefer games in a park or country/wooded area where you don’t really risk getting in trouble). The Mole might be another source of inspiration, with games like the Cornfield Maze, Sniper (a laser tag escort mission), Fortress (a paintball defend-the-castle type game), and Evader (a stealthy cat-and-mouse game with lookouts in a tower).
Though I said setting doesn’t matter, it might in a month or two when the weather turns cold. Excessive heat and cold are enemies of any lazy fitness-seeker, so I’ll be on the lookout for creative solutions to that problem.
Also worth mentioning–I’ve attempted to turn to games for fitness before, including Dance Central most recently. The immersion just isn’t there. It feels too “I’m going to go downstairs and dance in my living room for half an hour in an attempt to exercise.” I’m hoping that throwing strategy and other players into the mix keeps things in the realm of “fun” rather than “chore.”
Have any of you played an awesome, compelling physical game or know of any other festivals out there? Is there something that makes the types of games I’m talking about here more compelling than normal, or is this just how normal people feel about traditional sports?