(Laser) Tag! You're It!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that lasers are pretty goshdarn awesome. (Just ask any scientist, okay...) But you know what’s even cooler? Laser Tag. It’s even got its own day — pretty legit, we say. Which is why Timezone is celebrating National Laser Tag Day on 28 March this year with a ridiculously good deal sure to make all laser lovers happy.
Now, read on for some iconic laser-loving moments in pop culture!
Pew pew pew!
How do you know you’ve got Stormtroopers in the room? Say “pew pew pew!” out loud, and see who ducks.
Beloved by little kids and adults alike, the iconic “sounds” given to laser- and ray guns do have an origin. Old SciFi comics used to use different sounds for different guns (often written as “zap” or “blam” in comic format), but the Star Wars movies pioneered the sound effects we’ve all become familiar with. The sound Star Wars blasters make can best be described as “pew”.
The popular usage of “pew pew” started surging in 2005, however, when lolcat and lolspeak (Gen Z, find a Gen Xer and ask them about it) started becoming popular. Urban Dictionary defined “pew pew” in August 2005, as: “interj. 1. Used to imitate the sound made by firing a gun; specifically a laser gun (esp. a Stormtrooper rifle).” That’s your random factoid for the day!
Best laser tag insult ever
Star Wars takes the prize again, for the scene where Princess Leia gave Han Solo a metaphorical bloody nose during this exchange in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back:
Han Solo: “I think you just can’t bear to let a gorgeous guy like me out of your sight.”
Princess Leia: “I don’t know where you get your delusions, laser brain.”
So now you know where that favourite insult came from.
The movies that shaped laser tag
Star Wars has obviously had a massive influence on laser tag, whether it’s the sounds we make while playing or the battles we imagine we’re re-enacting while playing.
Idea: get your friends together and play a game of themed laser tag - choose a battle from Fortnite, Star Wars, Halo... Dress up and cosplay your heart out in the laser tag arena
Starship Troopers, a golden oldie sci-fi movie based on Robert Heinlein’s novel of the same name, also had a big impact on laser tag as a “real life” game. Starship Troopers is set in the distant future, with Earth at war with an alien race of giant insects. Laser tag equipment is slightly reminiscent of the weapons used in the 1997 film, which gave fans of the movie an opportunity to play laser tag and pretend they were in similar Starship Trooper battles.
Then, of course, there’s a rather odd teen movie from 2011... Tagged! tells the tale of a teenage girl raised on her mother's fanciful stories, who then starts believing she’s an alien princess. She forms a laser tag team, and you have to watch the movie for the rest.
Characters who play together...
Playing laser tag is a big deal for some of our favourite characters from iconic TV shows. How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) plays laser tag regularly to relax. He even invites Robin Scherbatsky (Colbie Smulders) to join him at one stage.
Where it all began
Ever heard of the movie War of the Worlds? (With Tom Cruise as the chief tortured hero guy?) Well, that movie was based on an old sci-fi classic written in 1879 by author H.G. Wells. In his books, he’d made the idea of a “ray gun” popular — a directed-energy weapon that the Martians used to devastating effect when they decided to conquer earth. This “ray gun” inspired many people, including George A. Carter III, who invented laser tag in the 1980s.
In the heady days of laser tag’s birth, two main companies were vying for players’ attention: Lazer Tag by Worlds of Wonder and Photon by Entertech. Photon was the first chain of laser tag venues and opened their first commercial laser tag arena in Texas in 1984. They also sold home game kits, starting in 1986 (yup, at one point you could play laser tag in your living room...) The guys at Photon were pretty enthusiastic: they even created a TV show named Photon to promote laser tag and their venues. The main character was a high-school student named Christopher Jarvis who used laser tag to join the Photon Warriors to fight evil in space. Yup.
Talking about really cheesy things...
There was an actual cartoon TV series called Lazer Tag Academy, too. The basic premise: a laser tag champion has some magical powers, and then a villain from the past comes back — and he has power, too. Dun dun dun! This bad guy travels in time, so laser tag champ needs to stop him at all costs. This particular TV series predicted that everyone would be playing laser tag in the future, and take part in huge tournaments to determine the fate of the world. (How did they read our minds?!)
James Bond’s close shave
Okay, so technically this one isn’t about laser tag, but it IS about lasers: in the movie Goldfinger, bad guy Goldfinger catches Bond and ties him to a solid gold table under an industrial-strength laser. The idea is that the laser will cut Bond in half lengthways, starting with his crotch. Which leads to this timeless exchange, as the laser travels ever nearer Bond’s bits:
Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?”
Goldfinger: “No, Mr Bond — I expect you to die.”
Romantic laser tag
No, really: Mariah Carey’s music video for her hit song Touch My Body features a nerdy guy visiting the diva’s home to help with computer issues, and then he has an extended fantasy daydream about Mariah, which includes a sequence where the two of them have some laser tag fun running through billowing sheets. It’s a seriously cringe video, but hey, laser tag!
Be your own hero
Playing laser tag is an opportunity to become a superhero for a day, to channel your inner Stormtrooper or Wookie, and to escape reality for a brief while. Lasers are basically science fiction made real in a tangible, fun way. So get your friends together and come and lose yourself in the pew pew pew!