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What Just Happened?

I visited one site where I had a strange experience, but in sharing it I think I can offer up both a useful solution and a beneficial takeaway for other laser tag operators. I’m not going to name the location. In a moment, the reason will be apparent.

I walked through the entrance and looked around. The place was mostly empty except for a group of patrons socializing, but no staff appeared to be around at all. I tentatively walked around looking for an employee and eventually went up to one of the other customers and asked if they knew where I might find an employee. His response to me was “we were wondering the same thing.”

I walked towards the back, following behind as I noticed a woman with two young boys, who I suspected might be looking to play laser tag also. They disappeared around a corner and eventually one lone staff member came out. He was a younger guy, seemingly managing a lot on his own today. He appeared overloaded, trying to get the game ready when I approached.

I asked to get into a game of laser tag and he said “there’s no one here unless that group is ok with you playing with them.” Once getting permission from the other players to join (?) and after passing through what I thought might be a storage area to get to the vesting room, I was delighted to put on a Helios 2 vest. Things were suddenly looking up!

The other woman inquired about the lights in the arena. Peeking in, it was dark. Really dark. But our eyes acclimated.

Before we were let loose for a game, the young staff member gave us an interesting briefing. In addition to a few basics about the equipment, the end of his briefing went like this, verbatim…

“Don’t run…eh, it’s laser tag, you can run. We just have to say that. There’s no cameras in there. When you run… just be careful.”

Ok, that right there is the reason I’m not naming this arena.

I didn’t mean to laugh out loud, but the absolute absurdity of that statement was not lost on me or the other woman as we looked at each other with similar reactions.

Clearly, he had strayed from what I’m sure he knows he is supposed to say, but the words were out of his mouth, so now is the point where I can offer something helpful to avoid this “briefing” being ad-libbed similarly in the future.

If someone were to get hurt after being given this briefing, I presume that it could lead to some big problems for the business. However, what if they had a more appropriate and comprehensive briefing available, literally at a player’s fingertips?

As I mentioned, this location is running Helios 2 and if they are running the most up to date software, they could also take advantage of the :30 second safety video that can be shown directly on the phaser screen at the start of each game. This safety video can be toggled on and off at will on the newest Zone equipment and it was introduced around 2020. It’s a good way for an operator to CYA, especially if the briefing might otherwise be left to chance. This video says all the things that the young staff member should have.

BTW, I keep emphasizing that the staff member was young because I think he was doing his best and while I consider his words to be an error in judgement, I also acknowledge that occasionally we have all said the wrong thing at the wrong time. I decided this was NOT the time to mention that I am a blogger.

Ok, moving on…we entered the arena and it was dark. Really dark. But nicely designed with a couple of fortress-style raised platform structures accessible by ramps.

The game sounded strangely quiet. Once it had started it seemed like all I was hearing was the pack sounds. Then I tagged a target and at that exact moment, just as the target sound dropped, all of a sudden the arena sound system boomed to life! My first thought was “did I do that?” before realizing it was actually just a very well-timed coincidence. For the rest of the game there were intermittent windows of the sound system playing music alternated with it cutting out like there was a short in a wire. I can enjoy a game with or without music, but going back and forth was a little jarring.

At one point the two kids were (no surprise) running. Out of habit I started to say “don’t run” then I realized what’s the point when the guy in charge just said they could. So instead, I just shook my head at the absurdity of the whole experience and thought to myself, “what just happened?”

Although this was an odd experience from start to finish, I really want all laser tag centers to succeed, so I hope that this can be a useful narrative to learn from. If you have a briefing video available, either on the phaser screen or on a monitor, it can provide a more reliable overview. However, if you rely on in-person briefings, let this serve as an example of what not to say…especially in front of someone who is actually paying attention!

Comments or Questions?


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