Laser Tag Equipment: The History and Equipment Behind the Game

Laser tag equipment has been entertaining us since 1986. Today, the technology and the equipment have advanced allowing us to reach new heights of fun for all age groups.

1975
George Carter lll, was watching a Star Wars scene which started him on the development of “Photon”, the basics for laser tag equipment used today.

1982
Carter starts production of his equipment.

Specs of Carter’s laser tag equipment helmet. (Picture courtesy of trutnee dot com)

1984
“The Laser Tag Era”, officially begins with the first commercial “Photon” laser tag site opening up in Dallas, Texas.

1986
The actual game of laser tag was first introduced by the company Worlds of Wonder, out of Freemont, California, in 1986. For the first three months the laser tag equipment was only available through The Sharper Image Company, who specialized in high technology items.

First version of laser tag developed by Worlds of Wonder. (Photo courtesy of home.comcast.net)

In the first year of production the kit contained a very basic looking pistol with its belt and holster and a harness with the star sensor attached with Velcro. In order to depict which team you were on, the right-hand strap had Velcro hash-marks where you would be able to attach Velcro strips of red or white, denoting which team you belonged to. Shortly afterwards, a cap with a sensor was added, which allowed a player to tag another from virtually 360 degrees. The last modification made in that first year was the vest. It now came with more padding and was actually more like a real vest versus just two straps.

1987
In 1987, Worlds of Wonder introduced a new lasertag equipment piece – the helmet. The futuristic looking helmet also had the sensor, just like the baseball cap had but, was snazzier looking.

Other gadgets included the “Star Base” and walkie-talkies which looked like the ones on “communicators” used in Star Trek. The main innovation of the walkie-talkies was its flexible antennae, which was unseen on radios in those days.

One of the innovations introduced in 1987 – the StarLyte Pro Rifle. (Picture courtesy of home.comcast.net)

Another new piece of laser tag equipment which was introduced in 1987 was the StarLyte Pro Rifle. The rifle was able to shoot in sustained rapid bursts, which the pistol was unable to do, and had at least twice the shooting range than the pistol did.

The all-black StarLyte Pro Rifle. (Picture courtesy of home.comcast.net)

Due to an unfortunate accident, where a kid was shot by L.A. police because the cop thought the kid had a real rifle, the company changed the color of the StarLyte Pro Rifle from all black to all white, as depicted in the picture, above.

Hasbro, the maker of board games, also has been in the laser tag equipment manufacturing business for quite some time now. In 1998, Hasbro bought out the company Tiger Electronics, who held the license for Lazer Tag – noticed that it is now spelled with a “z”. Tiger Electronics, under Hasbro, first manufactured the G.I. Joe Lazer Battle set, which was signal-compatible with Worlds of Wonder’s equipment. They later went on to manufacture the Lazer Tag Team Ops line.

Other products manufactured in 1987, included what are referred to as “lifestyle items”, such as pajamas, lunchboxes, bed sheets, tablecloths, paperbacks and cartoon television shows. They were considered, primarily, PR items to capture the public’s attention and to get them more involved in the game. This was also the year in which the company “TSR” released both a guidebook and handbook for the laser tag equipment and game rules. One was for playing the game in a backyard setting and the other was for tournament type activities.

1988
1988 sees Worlds of Wonder manufacture more Starlyte pistols and StarSensors in the all-white version. This piece of laser tag equipment was slightly longer and larger than the original version.

1989
This is the year when Worlds of Wonder went bankrupt and continued operating until 1991, when being unable to get out of bankruptcy; the owners were forced to close their doors.

1991
The head of marketing for Worlds of Wonder, along with Worlds of Wonder founder, David Small, opened a new company called “Shoot the Moon”. Their next step was to buy the rights to the Lazer Tag brand name.

1993
Shoot The Moon executives and engineers worked together to create the new Lazer Tag System. There appeared to be one snag – their laser tag equipment manufacturing price was too high.

1994-1996
Shoot The Moon, who by this time had again partnered with Tiger Electronics, reintroduced Lazer Tag. This laser tag equipment, though, was not compatible with Worlds of Wonder’s equipment.
Some of the advantages of the new lasertag equipment included:

  • Achievable range was increased;
  • Elimination of ability to continue shooting once tagged;
  • The receiver was not longer as bulky and fragile. Also, it did not require factory tuning or re-tuning in the field.

1997
A new combo in laser tag equipment was put on the shelves – the Model 7-930-4 “Deluxe Sport Pack”. Due to last minute changes in the IRLED, this laser tag equipment had to be changed from the original design of +/- 5 degree IR-LED, to +/- 10 degree IR-LED, without a lens. The results were:

  • There was no need to aim so carefully and,
  • The range was cut down by 100 or so feet, under good conditions.

In spite of that, the laser tag equipment was well received by the public.

Another item which was resurrected was the walkie-talkie. These were also manufactured by Tiger, under Shoot The Moon, and were the very best available on the market, then. The Model 88-063, Star Wars “Rebel Alliance Long Range Walkie-Talkies”, had a range of over 1/3 mile and used FM and squelch to drown out noise. The walking talkie soon became an intrinsic part of the laser tag equipment package.

The Double Deluxe Pack of laser tag equipment modeled after the Star Wars’ equipment. (Photo courtesy of home.comcast.net)

This was a very exciting year for Tiger, for the company had purchased the toy rights to Star Wars properties and manufactured the Models 88-093 (single player) and 88-094 (Double Deluxe Pack), “Star Wars Rebel Infantry Blasters”.

In this same year, Tiger also manufactured another laser tag equipment pack – the Model 88-101 “Rebel Command Assault/Communications” pack, which came with two of the Star Wars Rebel Infantry blasters and chest targets plus two of the Rebel Force Walkie Talkies.
This same year also saw the introduction of the Model 7-941 “Sport Pack”, for one player with a stationary target, to entice the solo player.

Model 7-941 "Sport Pack" for the single player. (Photos courtesy of home.comcast.net)

1998
If the previous year had been exciting, 1998 topped the charts. This was the year when Tiger successfully bid to maintain the toy rights to Star Wars toy equipment, allowing Lazer Tag exclusive rights over the manufacture of Star Wars-looking toys.

It was also this year that the Model 7-930-4* “Deluxe Two Player Sport Pack” 10-degree IRLED was corrected and brought down to +/- 4.5 degrees. This piece of laser tag equipment was also given the capability of increasing the range to 250 feet, under good conditions versus the original 100 feet. Other characteristics of this new model included the elimination of the wrist webbing strap and a new button to turn the safety chirp off.

Comparison of previous model with the new Model 7-930-4. (Pictures courtesy of home.comcast.net)

Other Past Models

Other more exciting laser tag equipment models were to follow. The one with the biggest impact on the public but, because it was over-priced did not do so well, was the Model 05-103, or the “B.L.A.S.T.” Bazooka. This piece of laser tag equipment could be set on “Mortar Mode”, allowing it to fire in a flat 90-degree arc while simultaneously protecting its sensor from frontal attack. Another plus was the ability for it to fire in long range “rifle mode”. Using a red-dot style scope it could easily achieve over 350 feet in broad daylight. It had a vibration motor and very deep, loud sound effects including a great digitized voice that announced “Mortar Mode! Bazooka Mode! Rifle Mode!” as you changed configurations.” (http://home.comcast.net) This model also came in the dual pack, for two players.

In keeping with the Star Wars design, which cost an arm and a leg, laser tag equipment models such as the Model 88-404, “Star Wars Episode 1 Naboo Assault Set”, featuring blaster designs just like in the movie, with a design inspired by real assault rifles and the Model 88-402, “Naboo and Droid Fighter Battle”, which when hit for the 10th time would blow up into pieces right before your very eyes! This model was for inside use and was compatible with the TLT models.

The Naboo Assault models. (Picture courtesy of home.comcast.net)

In continuing with the sci-fi Star Wars fantasy, the Model 05-101 “Stinger Pack” was created, which allowed the player to place the receiver on the gun or on the vest, depending on whether the gamer wanted to have his/her weapon disabled when tagged, or not. The range was also increased to over 300 feet, in an extremely sunny day.

Today

Laser tag equipment has come a long way since its inception. Now, the weapons look like toys again and not like real weapons. This may be due to the equipment not passing the toy safety laws. In addition, they would not be considered as “politically correct”, by many parents.

Accessories

Some of the new laser tag equipment accessories available today include walkie-talkies with headsets, to free up the gamers’ hands as well as reflected dot-type “Virtual Scope” and a vibrating “Thunder Pack”.

Laser tag equipment has been around for a while now. If you cannot afford to buy brand new equipment, you can always get used laser tag equipment from a respectable seller. It is as fun and way cheaper.