Given that laser tag is a special attraction that people travel to experience and enjoy, it seems like it would have little in common with the types of gadgets and games we enjoy at home.
However, there is a surprising relationship between the evolution of technology in the home and the types of light gun technology used in a large number of games you play in event areas and arcades.
This is part of the reason why light gun games became so popular, but also why far fewer of them are made today than there used to be.
The light gun predates a lot of the technology that makes light gun games possible and can trace its lineage back to the shooting galleries common in the late 19th century, particularly with cinematic galleries such as the 1912 game Life Targets.
However, whilst actual electronic light gun games debuted in 1974, they would take a decade to truly become popular, and a big reason for this was thanks to a game that debuted in the home.
Whilst Nintendo’s first foray into light gun games was an electromechanical arcade in 1974, its most successful use of the technology was also its least ambitious.
The Nintendo VS System was introduced in 1984 as an arcade version of their popular Nintendo Famicom home console system that would introduce the system into people’s minds after a dramatic crash in the market.
Each board was essentially a Famicom with a particular game installed, and one of the most popular of these was the game Duck Hunt, which used a light gun later known as the Zapper.
The VS System in general is important to the history of video games in North America, as after Nintendo were warned not to sell home consoles in the region, its success suggested that there could be a market for video game consoles, leading to the launch of what became the NES.
However, it was arguably even more important for the birth of the light gun game as we know it, as whilst examples existed long before VS Duck Hunt and Hogan’s Alley, the particular success of these games in American arcades caused other companies to start making their own.
From 1985 until the mid-2000s, light gun games were very popular and a constant fixture on the arcade floor, aided by a consistent stream of games that would later see more limited versions released in the home.
After Duck Hunt and Hogan’s Alley came games such as Operation Wolf, Line of Fire and Midway’s game based on Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
Each console released during this time would have its own version of a light gun, including the NES Zapper, the Sega Master System Light Phaser (later used for the Zillion laser tag game), the Nintendo Super Scope, The Sega Justifier and the Namco GunCon.
Whilst the Super Scope and the Justifier used their own specialised sensors, most light gun games took advantage of the unique properties of televisions and monitors at the time, which used cathode ray tubes.
However, once LCD and LED screens became the standard starting in the mid-2000s, a lot of these games stopped working and companies needed to redesign how the games worked for them to be sold in arcades and at home.
This led to only two major light guns being made after 2005 (discounting the guns used for the Cabella hunting games); the Wii Zapper which used the Nintendo Wii’s motion sensing technology and Namco’s GunCon 3 for the PlayStation 3, exclusively used with Time Crisis 4.