Top Ten Laser Tag Arenas

Summer 2004 Contest

Top Ten Laser Tag Arenas Logo

What makes a great laser tag arena?

There isn't a set answer. Because we're dealing in a sort of fantasy realm, great laser tag arenas don't necessarily have common properties.

After playing in over 80 arenas, I have been able to decide on a few qualities which make the best arenas. You can review my criteria for the contest. Each element isn't necessary in every excellent arena, but they are important tendencies.

As the laser tag guy, I've decided to review some of the arenas I played and begin this contest. My goal is to have the contest twice annually, eventually updating. This is my highly subjective start.

The award winning arenas below are in no particular order. They're all fun to play and provide a great visual, making them one of my "Top Ten Laser Tag Arenas."

Laser Dome
Manheim, Pennsylvania
Address:
2050 Auction Road
Manheim, PA 17545
717-492-0002
www.laserdome.com
Description:

We played legs of the Armageddon Laser Tag Tournament at Laser Dome in 2002 and 2003. This is a great arena for it's openness and height. The platforms and catwalks literally extend three levels up in the center. The ground floor has only a few well-placed maze obstacles, making it wide open and easy to play. Even though it is comparable in size to other large arenas, the height and wide open hallways make it feel massive.

Other touches are nice. For instance, lighting is dim, but interesting. It's not just a bunch of black lights. The field is basically symmetrical, with bases on opposite corners. While some would disagree, I feel even new players like symmetry, because it allows them to learn more quickly. Laser Dome feels like a competitive, athletic event. That helps the game appeal to adults, as well as kids.

The facility is great, too. Carl, the owner is a heck of a nice guy and very active at his center. His arcade is great and the "dome" of laser dome offers laser shows and life size video game play. Laser Dome is a truly unique facility.

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XP LaserSport
Laurel, Maryland
Address:
14705-A Baltimore Ave (US 1)
Laurel, MD 20707
301-953-2266 Washington
410-792-8300 Baltimore
www.xplasersport.com
Description:

XP LaserSport was modeled after the Photon arenas of years past. This almost automatically propels it to the top of the heap. When the center was being built, there wasn't quite enough room for a full Alpha field. So, they took the same approach and just squeezed everything around.

Like any Photon arena, it's symmetrical and very open. The arena is designed like a stage, just like the old alpha fields. The front of the field is mostly low (except for the center ramp). The higher parts of the field are in back. This is important because XP also built a large observation deck upstairs. Non-players can catch most of the action on the field.

XP actually made an improvement on the old Alpha design. They added a ramp in the center, making six paths to get to the top level. This fluidity between the levels makes for a more interesting game. It's easy to go from one level to another unlike many fields where ramps are long and hidden.

XP carried on the tradition of complex, subtle lighting effects. In fact, there are hundreds of outlets around the field that are controlled during the game. While players may not take active notice of these lights during the game, they clearly add to ambience of play.

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Laser Edge
Clinton Township (Detroit), Michigan
Address:
35335 Gratiot Avenue
Clinton Township, MI 48035
586-791-5560
www.laseredge-usa.com
Description:

Laser Edge is basically a two-level maze. What sets it apart from many other arenas are the atmospheric and theming touches out on the field. Laser Edge is themed as a space mining colony in the future. Out in the field are areas that are designed to look like a rock mine...very cool.

Normally, I'm not a fan of realistic props or theming in a laser tag arena. Play is usually so fast, that such elements are ignored by players during the game. I have seen live action animatronics and intricate painting. Generally, I think it's useless. But at Laser Edge, I have to draw an exception.

The arena has a space shuttle craft right on the playing field. It actually works because you can play tag all around it. This is interesting for both new and experienced players. The realistic scenery at Laser Edge take theming to its practical limits without going over like so many other arenas.

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Laser Quest - London
London, Ontario, Canada
Address:
149 Carling Street
London, ON, Canada N6A 1H5
519-660-6000
www.laserquest.com
Description:

Back in the dark ages, Laser Quest was a franchise operation. Each of the Laser Quest arenas were very different from the basic three tower style adopted in their corporate arenas from the mid 1990's. London, Ontario, was their first corporate store, I believe.

The London LQ is cool simply because of the building it's in. It's right in downtown London in a sort of "brownstone" building. They didn't have a lot of horizontal space. So, rather than build out like most laser tag arenas, they built up. Starting in the basement, the arena is almost constant ramps as it rises to the top of the second story.

While it's still basically the non-symmetrical, tight LQ maze, the vertical movement of the arena make it very unique amongst arenas of all manufacturers. It's cool to get to the top of the middle tower, almost two full stories in the area and fire down to the basement below. Other players look like ants. It's like riding a roller coaster and playing tag at the same time.

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Cosmo City
London, Ontario, Canada
Address:
176 Dundas Street
London, ON, Canada N6A 1H5
519-432-1107
Description:

While I'm an outspoken critique of one-level arenas, Cosmo City is the ideal example of what to build when you can't build a true two-level arena.

Other touches are nice. For instance, lighting is dim, but interesting. It's not just a bunch of black lights. The field is basically symmetrical, with bases on opposite corners. While some would disagree, I feel even new players like symmetry, because it allows them to learn more quickly. Laser Dome feels like a competitive, athletic event. That helps the game appeal to adults, as well as kids.

The facility is great, too. Carl, the owner is a heck of a nice guy and very active at his center. His arcade is great and the "dome" of laser dome offers laser shows and life size video game play. Laser Dome is a truly unique facility.

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Planet Trog
Whitehall (Allentown), Pennsylvania
Address:
3578 MacArthur Road
Whitehall, PA
610-776-8764
www.planettrog.com
Description:

Planet Trog was another stop on the Armageddon Tournament circuit. I had to include it on the Top Ten list, just because it's so unique and different.

While the theming is campy (just read the story outside the briefing room about the jungle people versus the city people), the arena itself is awesome. Almost every structure and barrier in Planet Trog is made of concrete. Walls, trees, a fountain...it's almost all concrete. This unusual method of construction warrants it's inclusion here. Hiding behind a green painted concrete tree is just a unique laser tag experience.

Because it's made of concrete, the arena is very open in design. This makes for interesting play, despite the fact that it's a one-level arena. There's even a mini version of Stonehenge for you to enjoy. Planet Trog is definitely worth a look.

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Laser Tag & Games
Metarie (New Orleans), Louisiana
Address:
8916 Veterans Blvd.
Metarie, LA 70003
504-469-7475
www.ltag.com
Description:

This is the only arena to make the list that I haven't yet played at. But, it was one of the easiest choices to make. Laser Tag & Games is played on an unmodified Photon Alpha Field. Back in the day when I started playing laser tag (twenty years ago), this was the place to play laser tag...the only place to play laser tag.

Alpha fields were symmetrical and balanced, with named positions like the "gun deck" (I guess we'd call it a "phaser deck" now) "catacombs" and "tool shed." The arena was based on an open style so games could be played to an audience on the observation deck. The open style never detracted from game play. In fact, it enhanced team play when you can observe some of your opponents moves.

Like many of the arena's on this list, lighting plays a pivotal roll in setting the mood and atmosphere. There are a variety of lighting effects and styles that combine to make an integrated experience.

If I could only play laser tag on a single arena every again, it would be an alpha field. Photon has often been criticized for a variety or mistakes. The way they made arenas was not amongst them. They set a high bar.

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Ultrazone - Bensalem
Bensalem (Philadelphia), Pennsylvania
Address:
4201 Neshaminy Blvd.
Bensalem, PA 19020
215-396-9936
www.ultrazonebensalem.com
Description:

I enjoy most Ultrazone (or Zone Empire) arenas. They almost always have a good feel to them and I have yet to find one that's not two levels. But, with a system that is traditionally based on three teams, it's very difficult to create a truly balanced arena.

The Zone in Bensalem (a suburb of Philadelphia) is a "top-of-the-line" example of an Ultrazone arena. It has a good solid feel to arena elements. Even though it's primarily of plywood construction, with the sturdiness and the painting, you get the feeling you're in some space station or other science fiction locale.

The arena is very balanced, too, with none of the three bases too easy or difficult to defend. By placing roofs over the heads of some structures on the ground floor, this arena takes away the upstairs dominance common in many multi-level arenas. It's as much fun to play on the ground floor as upstairs.

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Laser X Treme
Middleburg Heights (Cleveland), Ohio
Address:
13409 Smith Road
Middleburg Heights, OH 44130
440-842-6044
www.lazerxtreme.com
Description:

One of the other Armageddon Laser Tag Tournament board members and I stopped in to Laser X Treme when we were considering potential sites for our tournament. While we couldn't add a ninth location to Armageddon without a rebellion, I was amazed at this arena.

Like many arenas today, X Treme is a maze. But, unlike many arenas it contains a lot of unique elements. For one thing, the entire maze (in fact the whole facility) is themed like some temple in the deep jungle. You really get the Indian Jones feeling as you're moving through this maze. A combination of interesting lighting effects, props (like vines) and theatrical painting make this a very enjoyable and interactive arena.

I'm not sure how big it really was, but it seemed the arena must have 7-8000 sq. ft. There are wide open spaces and tight spaces in this huge two-level creation. After playing two games, I still don't think I went everywhere there is to go.

Interactive lighting effects really got my attention. There are places with pressure plates underneath that cause certain lights to turn on when you stand there. Again, like many of the arenas I love, the lighting is not just a bunch of black lights. Some parts are bright...some are dark. All the lights are "gel'd" with pinks and blues. This makes for a visually appealing arena that is very subtle.

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The Lost City - Honorable Mention
Holland, Michigan
Address:
12330 James Street #D20
Holland Outlet Center
Holland, MI
616-396-6746
www.the-lostcity.com
Description:

I hesitated adding this unique Laser Storm arena to the list for two reason. First, it's the eleventh arena and I want you to know I can count. Second, this arena was designed largely by The Laser Tag Guy. I didn't want to seem gratuitous.

Still, amongst surviving Laser Storm arenas, it is very unique and deserves at least a mention. If you're not familiar with Laser Storm equipment, they created arenas in a unique way. Most of them were small (often 2000 sq ft or less) and they divided their arenas. This means there was a wall (hopefully a snaking wall, but sometimes just a straight wall) that ran all the way down their arena. Red players weren't allowed on the green side and vice versa. You could come up to the center wall and tag players, but you couldn't pass it.

Laser Storm sold arenas that hung, literally, for a dropped ceiling. Arena walls and dividers were made of inexpensive chloroplast (plastic cardboard). These painted walls and pieces are part of the ambience of Laser Storm, love it or hate it.

When I was given the opportunity to design an arena for the new Lost City location, Joe Nelis, the owner, wanted me to create something new and exciting, but he wanted to keep the divided arena and at least some of the traditional Laser Storm barriers.

For my own tastes, wanted to do two things for this Laser Storm arena. Since Laser Storm is always a team game with bases, I wanted a symmetrical arena. Because many Laser Storm arenas were "boring" to me, I wanted to intertwine the two teams very radically. This way, you could be tagged from any direction even though you didn't have to worry about players in your area.

The end result is a one of a kind arena based on two parallel ramps and platform assemblies. These ramps allow the two teams to mesh together with possible opponents (and allies) from all sides. Tagging the base in a competitive game is quite a feat. You have to go up one ramp, exposed to virtually everybody, then down to the base area, which happens to be adjacent to your opponents recharger

While the ramps were necessary to integrate the two teams areas, while keeping them separate, I'm most proud of the downstairs area. Moving is some of the wooden structures underneath the ramps gives you a feeling akin to the catacombs of an old Photon field where danger could be around any corner even while the game rages on above you.

Coupled with some great painting effects and a nice observation deck, the arena has a very polished look for a Laser Storm facility. Joe created another world by theming the Lost City as an ancient Sumerian Stronghold. It's a great look from outside to in.

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Your Arena
Somewhere, Planet Earth
Address:
123 Anywhere Street
www.mylasertaghome.com
Description:

Maybe your arena should be here. It can be! You can enter the next Top Ten Arena contest. Just fill out Entry Form below. I'd love to see picture or play your arena and get to know it personally.

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What Is This?

This contest is a subjective contest of the quality of laser tag arenas by Jason Bock, The Laser Tag Guy, one of the experts in laser tag. It's purpose is to highlight and compliment those arenas which stand out in my mind. Winning arenas are encouraged to advertise their inclusion. New developers are encouraged to visit one or more of these arenas to see what it takes to really have some "wow!".

The Top Ten Laser Tag Arenas contest is my own invention. Currently, I'm the only judge and jury. As the contest grows, I may include more arenas and/or more judges.

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Criteria

While not all great arenas have all of the following qualities, I used the following criteria in my judgment on the arenas included in this list:

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Enter Your Arena
What to Join The Ranks of The Top Ten?
Think Your Arena Has What It Takes?

There are still thousands of active laser tag arenas. Even in twenty years, I've only managed to play hundreds of them. Maybe I missed one of the best. Maybe I missed your arena.

The plan is to update the Top Ten Arenas twice a year. If you are the owner or manager of a laser tag arena and you would like to enter the contest, I would love to have you.

Winners receive a small plaque with the Top Ten Logo on it and the license to use the Top Ten Arena logo on any website or advertising. I will also issue a sample press release to all winners that can be submitted to the local media. Winners will also be submitted by press release to industry trade journals.

To enter, please submit the following items:

All entries must also be accompanied by a $10 entry fee. Why charge a fee? The fee will be used to cover expenses associated with the plaques and mailing costs. If I receive an excess of $25 per winner in fees, I will donate the balance to a charity.

Send your entry by e-mail to jbock@lasertagguy.com. I will send you a message to pay your $10 fee via PayPal (PayPal account is NOT required).

Or, you can mail entries with a check or money order to:
Jason Bock, The Laser Tag Guy
224 Water Street
Pemberville, OH, USA 43450

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Past Contests

This is a placeholder. As I have additional contests, I will post links to the previous winners here.

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Legal Notes
The Top Ten Laser Tag Arena logo, Laser Tag Guy logo and all the information on this website are copyright 2004 by Jason Bock. These logos MAY NOT be used without written permission by Jason Bock. I am in the process of creating a service mark for these two elements.
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