I used to love playing paintball when I was a kid, but it was a double edged sword. Pelting a middle school friend squarely on the forehead was immensely enjoyable. Taking a paintball to the forehead was one of many childhood experiences I wouldn’t like to relive, though. It ranks in between when I got bronchitis and the time I tried to remove a yellow jacket nest with a Wiffle bat.Lasers, in small doses, do not hurt at all. They’re benign beams of light that can render eyeglasses obsolete or tell a cashier which can of wax beans you’re buying. Lasers’ greatest implementation is in laser tag, however, where two teams of battle hardened commandos duke it out in order to determine who is better at laser tag.
Realizing that life is absolutely meaningless without laser tag in it, I decided to go to Elite 6 Ops in Bloomington. I assembled the ultimate dream team of comrades. There was myself, perfect in every way and an ideal addition to any situation. There was Gabe, a bouncer whom I could hide behind for cover. There was Scott, a waiter whose specialty is serving up pain. And finally, just for good measure, I brought along Dave, a combat veteran and field medic. It couldn’t hurt.
We preregistered for an evening game and showed up half an hour early to pick our battle names and put on our special laser receptor vests and headbands. We got our laser rifles, pretty accurate looking replicas of the real thing minus the dangerous parts. Then we saw our competition, which I’ll admit had me pretty flustered. These were the best of the best: Preadolescent boys in polo shirts and plaid checkered shorts, forged in the fires of a million Xbox Live deathmatches. The look in their eyes said “We may not know algebra, but we know how to simulate shooting you over and over and over again.”
The indoor arena at Elite 6 Ops is top-notch. Its 12,000 square feet are laid out to look like a little town, complete with parked cars and storefronts. There are hallways to creep down, stairs up to higher areas for sniping, and nooks and crannies to hunker down in and ambush from. There is a base on either side where scores are displayed and equipment can be reset to working order after getting deactivated by an enemy’s zap. The laser rifles have CO2 cartridges that simulate kickback with each trigger pull, making the experience that much more immersive.
We played several types of games. In one, the goal was to get as many of the other guys out as we could. In another, the goal was the same, but we were penalized for wasting shots. There was even a capture the flag style game (in theory only — my team never captured a flag).
We loved it. We tore up and down stairs, cleared out rooms, slank around corners, and cheered as we fought tooth and nail. I loved getting nixed by a guy up high, returning to base to reset my gear, and then finding a way to sneak up on him from behind for revenge. They were some of the most fun 90 minutes in recent memory.
The way the boys skittered around my friends and I while they lit us up from all angles looked about like what a hippopotamus would trying to fight off a school of piranhas. We lost, and we lost very badly to those cold-blooded, junior varsity death machines. The joke’s on them in the long-run, though, because I’m old enough to do cool adult things like rent a carpet shampooer and buy supplemental life insurance. Take that, youth.
Crushing defeat or otherwise, I couldn’t have had a better time at Elite 6 Ops. The course was so big that I never even saw the whole thing, there was no learning curve to waste time on, the staff was friendly and helpful, and everyone had a blast. If you want to spend an active and unconventional evening out, consider laser tag. If you have a kid and want to both treat them to great fun and dearly deplete their energy reserves for a while, then I can’t recommend Elite 6 Ops highly enough. It’s like virtual reality, but in real life — I wonder if there’s a word for that?
By David Scheller