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Cookie Cutter Deja Vu

Because I love visiting laser tag arenas and I play to appreciate what’s unique and different about each one, I feel somewhat of a let down when I see the cookie cutter formula that is being adopted by a lot of corporate laser tag operations. I just find it unfortunate when I see the same design aesthetic repeated in arenas over and over again, knowing that there are so many ways that a space could be customized to make it special or distinctive. It’s like fast food…you always know what you are getting, but that doesn’t always equate to a gourmet experience. So, when I recently played in three identical arenas nearly back to back over the course of two days I felt compelled to address this.

Let me just say that what I’m about to share is in no way a criticism of the laser tag equipment, the arena layout or the overall experience provided at any of the locations I am about to reference. I actually enjoyed all of that and I don’t want that to get lost in the point that I’m about to make. This is just about the fact the way sometimes corporate facilities find one thing they like and repeat it so often in multiple locations that it loses its uniqueness and the predictability becomes the thing that you remember more than the individual experience. For example, I recently played three of the same company’s arena at corporate-style FECs all within less than a 35 mile radius of each other. Here are selfies I took at each of the three arenas. The similarities are staggering and an example of the cookie cutter formula that I am describing.

If I hadn’t played these arenas so close together I might not have realized just how identical they really are. From the briefing room, to the design on the walls and right down to the structures built within the double level map that used the very same floorplan in each arena (which I know because I stood behind the same corner wall in every single one) I had three startlingly similar experiences.

Each arena had these walls…

This center structure…

And this triple arch (you can tell it’s a different arena only because this one happens to still have a few Tron tubes scattered around)…

Why is this even worth mentioning? Well, of course any business can do whatever it sees fit for its own operation. If you want all your centers to be indistinguishable from one another and all look alike I suppose that is your prerogative. But personally, I worry about what this cookie cutter formula does to the overall health of the laser tag industry. More and more as large corporate FECs are becoming the norm and stand-alone laser tag facilities are becoming far less common it seems like we’re starting to slide down a slippery slope and running the risk everything becoming homogenized, at least in terms of public perception. And perception is reality in many ways. I think the general public already thinks all “laser tag is laser tag” and perceive it as all being the same. You’d be amazed how often I call a site in advance to inquire about what system they use and even the staff doesn’t know the difference. Too many times I’ve just been told “ours has a vest with lights on it”. Now, of course I realize that most people will never have occasion to walk into enough laser tag sites to notice this kind of thing or if they do maybe it doesn’t even register to them. But I’d like to think that site owners would want to take the steps to make their experience at each and every location something unique, special and memorable. When I walk into an arena for the first time I want to be pleasantly surprised by what I see, not go in thinking “ah, this again.” So, while it’s of course the prerogative of a corporate business to have twenty arenas that all look alike, I’d like to hope that somewhere along the lines consideration would be given to making the arena a reflection of the special and unique experience I’m sure they would want their customers to enjoy. That is what would make me want to seek them out again in the future. And while I’m certain I’ll play this company’s arenas again somewhere in my travels, for right now three in a row of the same thing makes me feel like I’ve had my fill of fast food and now I’m looking for something different.

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