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A Completely Immersive Tactical Tag Experience

One of the things George Carter believed to be very important when creating Photon, the very first laser tag, was that it be an immersive experience. Over 35 years later that is still a key component to making a player feel like they have left their own reality and entered into a completely different environment. I experienced this first-hand during a particularly unique tactical laser tag experience when I played at Tac Ops in Fairfield, NJ.

I was fortunate that a time session had opened up, allowing me a window of time to take a tour of the arena with owner Armando before heading in for a few games. I got to see how the arena was designed with a lot of creativity and attention to details, starting as we walked past the “Duke and Duke” red respawn area decked out like the brokerage offices from Trading Places, right down to the name plates by the entrance.

There were plenty of unique rooms throughout the arena including a gym with weight bags and a boiler room.

Looks like someone crashed into the boiler room with their vehicle. It wasn’t me!

Perhaps you need a conference room (or access to a weapons upgrade box) mid-game? This was one of several locations where upgrade boxes were scattered throughout the arena.

Or a shave and a haircut…two bits! The blue respawn was located inside a barber shop themed room and here’s where we get back to the immersive atmosphere. Even though I love to see interesting theming in traditional laser tag arenas, my experience with tactical arenas has largely been more theatrical. When an arena is built with “rooms” rather than just barrier walls there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate a storyline or décor that sets the scene. However, Tac Ops has done something subtle, but extremely effective in parts of this arena that I do not believe I have encountered before. They have pumped in some scent to really make the space look, feel and smell completely immersive! I started each game respawning at the barber shop where I could recognize and appreciate the scent of shaving cream that was pumped in and definitely added to the realism.

This wasn’t the only place where scent was added. Inside the Jersey Spirits bar room there were a few interesting props.

While I was tagging behind the counter, I took note of the faint scent of stale beer being pumped in to really make you feel like you are in an abandoned bar room.

And across from one of the towers, next to the news stand there is a particularly notable prop. A tank! Now, I have seen tanks inside arenas before, but what made this a real standout is the smoke emitting from the barrel with a strong scent of propellant as if artillery had just been fired.

Believe me, I know the scent of your typical arena fog, and this was a completely different and highly effective way to engage all the senses as we tagged in what Armando accurately described to me as a cross between laser tag and an escape room.

When it was time to get the games started, game marshal Kayla gave a thorough briefing of the Battle Company gear. I signed in using my CallSign account and we were ready for a round of Deathmatch.

With a quick review of the map, we were ready to start.

I had a private game session played as a 1v1, so we stuck to the basics. I know if I had played with a group there would be a vast array of game possibilities from Capture the Flag to other strategic mission-based options. For this visit we started with Deathmatch and moved on to a Free For All format where you could upgrade your weapon by eliminating opposing players. Both were a blast and I give a big shout out to Kayla for her skill and her game advice in the field.

I was definitely impressed with my Tac Ops experience! This site had recently been suggested to me and I was really lucky to get a game session coinciding with the time I was passing through northern New Jersey. It was a great time. I loved that there were personalized dog tags available as a cool tag swag souvenir to take back with me.

Tac Ops has definitely made their laser tag a completely immersive experience and that is a HUGE part of what engages players and keeps them coming back. I hope to return to this site too!

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