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The EXO Experience

EXO laser tag is a new system from Russia that was founded by Petr Putkoff, a laser tag enthusiast and collector who shares all things laser tag on his well known “Go Lasertag” YouTube channel. At the moment there is only one place in the United States where you can go to play using this system and that is LaserLand in West Covina, CA. I enjoyed having the chance to sit down and chat with the EXO founder as well as Alexander Nekhaychik, co-founder of LaserLand, at their recently opened first site and I was really looking forward to trying out this new laser tag system!

Joined by the Laser Tag Museum curator, Erik Guthrie, we paid a visit to LaserLand and sat down with Petr, Alexander and LaserLand manager Chris Priddy to discuss laser tag and hear all about their new venture in launching their first U.S. laser tag center. They have their sights set on growing into additional locations, including a couple of former Laser Quest arenas. This was a wonderful opportunity to learn about their projects first hand before we got a private tour of the arenas and a chance to play the EXO system ourselves.

Putkoff is no stranger to laser tag operations with 12 EXO sites using his equipment in Russia as well as owning several sites in his home country using a variety of other manufacturers’ equipment. This has afforded him the chance to learn what he likes about various other systems for an informed perspective. He is now joining the legacy of laser tag founders, however he is in equal part a fan of all things laser tag and an avid collector. Before we tried out the EXO system for ourselves Erik gifted a special item from the Laser Tag Museum collection to Putkoff who is very much like his Russian counterpart when it comes to laser tag collecting. The gift was a very rare Q-Zar IQ pack to take home to Russia.

How rare is this pack? To quote Erik Guthrie (from the tour of the Laser Tag Museum video on my website)…

“Laser tag is not an Olympic sport…yet. But it came close in 1996. Laser tag was an event that the Olympians could play at the Olympic Village in Atlanta, GA. There were only 16 laser tag packs manufactured for the ‘Q-Zar Olympics’ and (the Laser Tag Museum) is proud to have four of them in our collection.”

After our laser tag cultural exchange we began with a tour of the LaserLand facility and a close-up look at the Mark 1 EXO equipment.

This is a really attractive looking system. The colors gradually changed while we took our first look at them on the rack.

The phasers are stored inside charging tubes with the vests draped over them as the charging happens right on the phaser itself.

They are made of a crystal clear plastic with sensors all around the phaser with a selection button on the left side and a bright digital screen on the back. There is a lot of data provided on the digital screen at the back of the phaser.

Using lithium ion batteries Putkoff says the packs can sustain a very long life between charges.

EXO has 15 game formats to play and the phasers can display six team colors. Putkoff says that in his opinion “more than six colors is not useful.”

However, for LaserLand they find two arena spaces to be very useful and they have 24 packs for each of the two arenas, each approximately 3000 square feet in size, which can be opened up into one large playing space. We put the packs on and got ready to play our first game.

Playing alongside Petr, Alexander and Erik as well as several public players, we got our first look at the inside of the Zombie themed arena.

There are some notable elements to be found inside this arena including a car in the back right corner.

We played two five minute rounds of Zombies (an infection style game) to add up to a complete session and then went to check the scoreboard.

In the second round I was the last human standing.

Then we played some games in the other space, the End of the World arena. This one had some really beautiful theming and decor. Some of the arena utilized full mural style sublimated walls and some of it they painted themselves. This was impressive!

One of the unique touches I absolutely love it the really cool custom carpet that carries the theme (and the lava) from the walls all the way through the arena.

Erik and I struck a Charlie’s Angels pose by the volcano before breaking into separate teams to play a game format called Counterstrike.

This is a strategy game like a Domination where the teams are policemen vs criminals. One person on the criminal team will have their vest turn yellow indicating and they have to place the “bomb” by standing near the base for ten seconds and the other team’s goal is to retrieve it.

This game is played in a series of short rounds, before which you can use the button on the phaser and toggle between special features to “purchase” before each round using acquired points.

As you can see the policemen easily took the win from the criminals!

It was a lot of fun to experience EXO first hand and sample a couple of the game formats that can be played on this system. We also checked out some nicely decorated party rooms.

Before the night was over there was one more experience I wanted to try at LaserLand. They also offer VR trampolines. For all the times I’ve played laser tag in trampoline parks I have not actually been on a trampoline since I was a kid, which will soon become very apparent!

Chris challenged me to a Stomp game where he was on one trampoline and I was on the other. Then we would watch a monitor and try to jump in such a way as to “stomp” the opponent. How did I do? Well, you can watch for yourself as they provide the option of sending a video file of your experience.

Laserland was such a fun time! It is not everyday that you get to hear about a new laser tag system directly from the founder, let alone play the game with him, so this was a really special experience. The timing for my visit was perfect as Petr and Alexander were both available to meet because we would all be at the Laser Tag Convention and Amusement Expo in Las Vegas later in the week. So I am truly lucky to have had this amazing experience with EXO laser tag at LaserLand in California.

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