“The game that moves at the speed of light.”
If you were a kid in 1986, you probably remember the hype. For months before Worlds of Wonder finally released Lazer Tag, the company built up suspense to unbelievable levels with a series of teasing ads. We knew it was called “Lazer Tag,” we knew it would change the world of sports—heck, even the whole world—but exactly what it was remained a mystery. Slowly it began to take shape: There was a gun (good so far), there was a cat-and-mouse pursuit (still with you), and it somehow involved lasers (sold!).
Lazer Tag finally reached its hungry public in the summer of 1986, and while it may not have lived up to everyone’s imagination (sorry, no death ray), it was still very, very cool. Technically not a laser, the Lazer Tag StarLyte guns actually fired infrared blasts, triggering a signal in the StarSensors players wore on their chests (possibly as part of a StarBelt or StarVest, topped off by a StarHelmet). Each time the sensor was hit, another LED marker would light up in the StarSensor, and after six hits, that player was out of the game. Helpful ads on TV and in comic books showed kids how to play the game, usually set in some kind of futuristic stadium with plenty of obstacles and eerie lighting effects (though any home or playground would do).
The idea of free-for-all shooting matches with real (as far as we knew) lasers was certainly appealing, but the expensive electronics put Lazer Tag out of the price range of many would-be taggers. Add that to the fact that you had to buy at least two sets to play the game right (although the manual suggested one-set variations), and Lazer Tag had a bit too many obstacles to mount. Worlds of Wonder released new weapons and other accessories (the rifle-like StarLyte PRO, the StarBase, etc.), and the company even sponsored a Lazer Tag Academy Saturday morning cartoon, but all to no avail. When Worlds of Wonder went out of business in the late 80’s, Lazer Tag went with it.
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Actually, “Lazer Tag” went away, but “laser tag” still had some fight left. The brand-name Worlds of Wonder product had started a trend that spread to other companies and other infrared-shooting guns and targets. Laser tag businesses sprang up in several cities worldwide, offering arenas and equipment for laser sportsmen and anyone else looking to blow off a little steam (and without the stings and welts of paintball).
Finally, after nearly a decade out of the limelight, official Lazer Tag products re-emerged under the banner of Tiger Electronics. New guns like the A.T.W. (Advanced Tactical Weapon) acted as both gun and sensor, making the game more affordable and easier to play. The company scored another coup with a license to produce Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace Lazer Tag equipment like the Battle Droid Blaster and Rebel Laser Striker. The hype may have died down some since 1986, but the thrill of playing seek and destroy with weapons of the future is still as enticing as ever.