Glasgow is glowing in the red glare of pulsating laser fire as three new Laser War arcades compete for business. Thom Dibdin, our man with his finger on the trigger, tries them out.
‘Another barrage of red laser fire pierces the thick blackness and zings past your right ear.’ Err, thick blackness? zings? ‘Your ears strain for the slightest sound of your approaching adversary. Your index ﬁnger, seemingly pulsating with your heartbeat, twitches nervously on the trigger . . .’ It can only be advertising copy for Laser War: the latest youth craze to sweep Strathclyde with three new centres in the middle of Glasgow and one in Clydebank all opening in the space of a few weeks.
Whether it’s ‘serious fun with a laser gun’ or ‘the ultimate adventure for mere humans’ depends on which version you play, but the concept remains the same. You hand over a few quid, strap on a body pack with a target on your front and back, pick up a laser ‘gun’ and boldly go into a darkened arena where you shoot at your fellow players. If your laser beam hits an opponents front, back or gun you gain points, but when you get hit your pack vibrates (fun, if that’s what turns you on) and your gun is de-activated for a few seconds. After fifteen minutes of sweaty action you ‘down load’ the information from your gun and leave the arena to collect your score.
Loud, throbbing music is de rigueur, preferably a soundtrack from an Arnie ﬁlm punctuated with screams and explosions. Tricksy lighting, pulsating spotlights and an ultraviolet glow ensure the requisite ‘thick blackness’ for the laser beams to pierce, while smoke makes the beams more visible. Actually the laser is merely for effect: the real works are in an infra-red beam identifying your numbered pack, which can also read the number of the pack you hit.
Space age stuff indeed, for what is either a regimented game of Cowboys and Indians for children of all ages or paintball for softies, depending on your point of view. There are two rules: no running and no physical contact. In Northern Ireland, where only those intent on an early grave would don militaristic clothing, trek off into the countryside and roll around in the mud shooting their pals with paint guns, laser zap games have taken off in a big way. Most popular among
twenty-something lads, the game allows players to unleash a bit of that pent-up adrenalin without fear of reprisal.
The Glasgow centres are aiming at lower age groups, according to J ez Hall, director of Laser Quest 2000. He expects 50 per cent of his custom to come from 8—18-year-olds, 40 per cent 18—253 and the rest from the doddering classes. In one game a mum, dad and their young daughter were playing together. Dad got into
Quasar technology and talklo guns
some serious posing, mum hid out in the maze to zap any passers-by. while their daughter stood defiantly in an open space, oblivious to incoming fire, zapping hell out of anything which moved.
With similar, if not identical, technologies. the telling feature of each centre is the playing arena. The larger the better. is a general rule although there need to be a sufficient number of participants to ensure that you can find each other to shoot at.
Cowboys and Indian: torchlldron of all ages
Labyrinthine mazes are good, but should not be too complicated. Mirrors add to the confusion, and there need to be enough alcoves to hide away in.
The computer technology allows each arena to be used for either solo or team games. In solo you just zap everything that moves, which can end up being a bit pointless. The team game allows each side to defend a base camp whicbcan be infiltrated and zapped, lending the whole more purpose. Groups of players normally get the chance to choose their preference at the start of each game. Make sure that the rules are properly explained at the initial briefing (how soon after you are hit does your gun stop working? for how long?) in order to gain the maximum pleasure from the game. Dark clothing is harder to see and lightweight shoes are recommended although, as running is forbidden, they are not vital. Those with asthma, epilepsy or heart conditions should inform the staff before the start of play.
I LASER DROME 31 Oswald Street. 041 248 7374. Open 10am—10pm. Members £2.50 per game; non-members £3.50 (weekdays 10am—6pm £2.50). Membership £10 per annum. Sporting the largest arena, with 7000 square feet and enough height to create different playing levels. this is easily the best laid out. Five zones: industrial, war, street, mirrors and Egyptian suggest similarities to The Crystal Maze, with inventive decor. The body packs are quite heavy, but the gun is lightweight.
I LASER QUEST 2000 177 Trongate. 041552 7667. Open 10am—11pm. Members £2.50 per game; non-members £3.50 (weekdays 10am—2pm £3). Membership £10 per annum. Two arenas. With only 3500 square feet The Horror Crypt is the smallest and caters to a maximum of sixteen people. Plenty of tomb stones to hide behind and ghoulish monsters to laugh at. The 4500 square foot Moon Base 2 has more corridors and levels. With the maximum 24 players it could get a bit crowded. Technology the same as for Laser Drome.
I OUASAB Templeton Business Centre, The Green. 041 550 2002. Open 10am—10.30pm. Members £2.50 (weekdays 10am—6pm £2); non-members £3 (£2.50). Membership£5 (under 165 £2.50). At 7000 square feet, it’s as large as Laser Dromes, but lacking the same height and therefore levels. More of a maze than the others, it seems a bit featureless in comparison. But this is more than made up for by the technology: your gun actually speaks to you, ‘good shooting’! With up to 30 players, the team game is pacey and the technology allows for several variants, including numbers of ‘lives’ and shots. The packs are light, but the gun is heavy.
A new Quasar centre is expected in Edinburgh soon.
74 The List 17-30July 1992