Shining Light on Playing in the Dark

Who would have thought your choices had such an impact?  Gear, layout, and theme:  these all affect your guests’ experiences.  As your primary focus, they often over shadow the ambience of your laser tag arena.  It is vital that your play area is the right environment to foster that great experience. Lighting, music, sound effects and smoke tie all of the elements together and truly take a satisfactory experience to a new level.  In the end, it should take your guests’ breath away.
Besides the typical black-lit environmental lighting you see in most facilities, you also need focal and dynamic lighting in place to help flesh out the visual impact of your field.  The art on the walls should be bright and exciting, but you need to make sure you use spot lights and other such effects to highlight important areas of the field. Lighting should also be in place for arena events such as a base being destroyed or other game-related actions occurring during the mission.
Filling the arena with color and motion really helps set the mood and keep your adrenaline pumping.  “Above and beyond lighting and fog adds a degree of excitement that is crucial in laser tag,” said Davor Franicevich of Laser Tag of Baton Rouge.  “Pick up good lighting with DMX controls so that you have the ability to change the environment and mood so that every experience the customer has is new.”
“Also realize your laser tag arena will be full of dust and fog.  Go with fully enclosed fixtures that use LEDs and have very few or no moving parts.  They are cheap, reliable, and tend to be ‘smart’ fixtures that you can link into a PC.”
Lighting use extends beyond event enhancement and mood.  Tuned to move with the music, it can add motion and action that your arena cannot provide alone in less utilized areas.  Have high traffic areas that tend to get “bogged down?” By tying your lighting in with your music you encourage traffic to keep moving.
One of the toughest pieces of the attraction to put into place is the music.  This is because everyone has their own opinion on what qualifies as good music and operators often make the mistake of putting their favorite music into the attraction rather than choosing the right music for the experience.  What makes music right?  Often times a simple answer proves convenient and acceptable: high beats per minute techno.  But there is more to it than just one genre.
“Great edgy music really sets the tone in my arena,” said Mark Young of Ultrazone Sherman Oaks in California.  “Techno remixes of some popular music can also be great and we even use some remixes of foreign language music as that keeps any lyrics from being distracting.  We simply ensure that there isn’t any inappropriate language.”
How do you choose music?  It is important you find music that sets a fast pace that moves your guests.  “I take staff recommendations seriously as these kids are my target audience after birthday parties,” added Young.  Music that speeds up, slows down, and then ramps back up again is fantastic.  Avoid music that is lyric heavy as lyrics tend to be the focus of a song and encourages people to focus on the music, rather than the atmosphere.  Music should be loud enough to be heard clearly with a good deal of bass so that a player feels it, but not so loud every other sound is drowned out and the rest of the experience is lost.
Another area of sound that can be overlooked and helps to really set the mood are effects you have scattered around your arena.  “By adding sound, light, and even fog effects to props you are able to bring the arena to life,” said Armando Lanuti of Creative Works.  “With some of our equipment partners it can even be taken to the next level as they trigger the special effects based on events in the arena.”
Have an interesting prop such as a battle-mech, a cave entrance, or something else that begs for some dynamic sound?  “Adding sound and lighting effects into props has become almost second nature in the entertainment business: they are essential to creating the level of immersion that our clients desire for their facilities,” Lanuti said.  “Whirs,” “bangs,” “crashes,” and many other sounds lends themselves to creating that environment that really peaks your customers’ curiosity and makes them explore that prop or just say “Wow!”
The last of many elements, and one that is just as important, is the fog or haze you see floating around your field.  Not only is this a necessary piece of the puzzle that enables your players to see the lasers but it also cements a player’s immersion into the experience.  Regardless of your theme, fog has its place by explaining it as mist for a Jungle theme or smoke in post-apocalyptic cityscape.
“Laser tag just isn’t right without haze,” said Jack Turner of Lazer Blaze in Louisville, Ky.  “The right mood comes from the impression of mystery, the idea that anything could happen, and the feeling you have been dropped into the middle of a battle.  Haze accomplishes all of this for us.”
Having the smoke isn’t enough:  you have to keep it at the proper level.  Too much fog is a safety hazard while too little fog is unnoticeable.  Also, don’t just use fog for the overall look:  certain props are that much more entertaining if they smoke or blow fog while active.  Couple a fogger with a flying saucer prop, some great lighting, and sound effects and you have drawn the player into your experience.
Laser tag creates that experience very few other attractions can ever compete with.  Use every tool at your disposal to engage your customer’s senses and make them want to play again and again.  They will thank you for it by spreading the word for you, ensuring your success for years to come. –
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