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How Do Laser Tag Vests Work?

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Have you wondered how a laser tag vest works?  I hadn’t realized how much fun laser tag was until I took my son to a “laser tag” birthday party for one of his friends. 

It was an indoor laser tag place.  There were 12 to 15 kids and all of the dad’s, including myself, decided to play with the boys.  Each player was on their own, the one who “hits” the most targets gets bragging rights.

After donning the vest and heading onto the dark, yet brightly colored arena, I was hooked.

Some of those boys had played before.  They circled the arena maze in groups and zapped everyone in sight. 

When I was first hit, not 30 seconds into the battle, my vest blinked and buzzed and I wondered… How do laser tag vests work?

Laser tag vests have four key features that allow them to blink, buzz and make noise when they are tagged by a laser during the game.  The infrared-sensitive sensor is triggered by the infrared-light beam from a enemy laser gun.  Once triggered, the haptic vibrator is activated along with the speakers with sound.

After that game, I was hooked!  That was so much fun!  There are so many different strategies, and so many different types of games that you can play.  It’s a great, safe family friendly game for kids and adults of all ages.

In this article, I wanted to discuss in more detail how the laser tags work.  At the end, I’ll provide a summary of a couple of packages I’d recommend.

What Makes a Laser Tag Vest Work

The tech behind the vest is what makes or breaks your game-play. Let's take a look at the parts of a laser tag vests that make the magic happen!

The Laser Tag Vest Sensors

The most important thing that makes laser tag vests work are the sensors. Sensors are the parts of the vest that register the lasers shot from the guns, so I'd say they are a pretty big deal in game-play.

What to Look for in Laser Vest Sensors

  • The Number of Sensors
  • Durability

The number of sensors on the vest depends on the brand that you have, but I believe either four or five has become the general standard so that you have sensors that cover your front, back, and shoulders.

When looking for a vest, be sure that you find one with durable sensors. If you get into the game like my kids do, then you might be diving and crawling to get those points, and the last thing you want to do is damage your new vests—even if you think having a broken sensor could help your game-play.

Haptic Vibrators

Another vital thing that laser tag vests have that make them work during game-play is a set of haptic vibrators. Haptic vibrators are vibrators that are activated when a player tags your vest, which makes it easy for you to know what direction the tagger got you from.

What do Haptic Vibrators Do?

These vibrators are another crucial part of the laser tag vest design because they help you find where your enemies are in the game. Haptic vibrators are typically located in the same places as the sensors on the vest so that they catch the same frequencies as the sensors do when you are tagged by another player.

If you are shopping for a laser tag set, it is important to make sure that the haptic vibrators are just as durable as the sensors.

Vest Speakers

The next thing that makes laser tag vest work are the speakers. These may not seem like they would be as important to game-play as other parts of the vest, but they are actually quite important.

Why Are Speakers Important?

The speakers are used to let you know when you have been shot by another player, and they usually say something like player x has shot you or your shot player x – 50 points or the match will start/end in x minutes or any of the other useful phrases needed during a game.

It is important to have quality speakers on your vest to be sure that you are being updated during the game. These speakers are typically shoulder-mounted, but, again, the placement and number of speakers depend on the brand vest that you have.

Let’s talk a little bit about the styles of Vests and Jackets.

Jacket Style

The last thing I found to be important in laser tag vest design is the jacket style. The most common jacket styles are poncho style and vest style. The poncho style jacket is one complete piece that the player puts over their head, and then they may use the adjustable straps to make the jacket fit better.

The vest style jacket goes over the player's shoulders—like a vest—and typically use either zippers or buckles to secure the jacket. These also usually have adjustable straps to make the jacket fit better.

Choosing a jacket design is really up to each player. Some prefer the poncho style for its ease of design while others enjoy the vest style since it's more traditional to the game.

Are Laser Tag Vests Necessary?

In recent years, some companies have started producing laser tag sets that do not include vests. These companies have been moving more towards receptive sensors that are placed on the guns themselves instead of sensors placed on the body with vests.

Whether you decide on a set with a vest or without is really up to you, but there are some pros and cons for each option.

Pros for Laser Tag Sets with Vests

More responsive.

In general, laser tag sets that include vests tend to be more responsive during game-play. This is because aiming at a vest is typically easier to do during the rush and adrenaline.

Also, vests will have more aiming points on them then the guns because there is more surface area to place them. Plus, it is definitely more fun to aim directly at your friends than just their guns.

More realistic.

Laser tag is meant to be a safer option in comparison to paintball or airsoft, where the objective is to actually shoot your partner with some sort of pellet, and it most certainly is.

However, for those who are looking at laser tag as a safer substitute—either for some kids or people who just don't want to get hurt—you would be missing out on the realistic feeling of aiming at the torso.

Also, those who are trying to build their skills for competitive paintball or airsoft would need a set with a vest to truly be able to apply their skills in other arenas.

Battle ready style.

I think we can all agree that the most fun part about laser tag is feeling like you are heading into battle with or against your friends. Strapping on a laser tag vest feels like suiting up for a grand battle!

The vest puts you in a more fun mindset that you may not get if you purchase a set without vests.

Cons for Laser Tag Sets with Vests

Heavy equipment.

Depending on the laser tag set you order, the vests can be a bit clunky and definitely heavy. Some vests can weigh up to eight pounds, which may not sound like a lot but can start to take a toll after running around for one or two rounds of laser tag.

More expensive.

Laser tag sets that include vests tend to be on the more expensive side since you have to buy more equipment. This can definitely be a deciding factor when you are shopping for a laser tag set.

Sizing

Even though laser tag vests typically have adjustable straps to better fit each player, there may be a chance that the vest you order could not fit someone. Some vests may not be able to fit plus-sized players or smaller kids.

Pros for Laser Tag Sets without Vests

Cheaper.  

The main reason people prefer sets without a vest is that they tend to cost less. In most cases, sets with vests can tend to cost about twice as much as sets without, so it makes sense for buyers on a budget to want to look at a laser tag set without vests.

Although this is not always the case, since you could probably find a cheap set with a vest, it would definitely be easier to find a cheaper set without vests.

Better game-play.

Since laser tag vests can be a bit bulky, running with the vest on can be cumbersome. Although home laser tags would not be as big and bulky as professional equipment, it is still something to consider when shopping for your own laser tag set.

Also, if you are buying this set for your family or some children, then it would be better for them to have less weight holding them back.

Better for young kids.

If you are buying this set for your family or some children, a set without guns may be a better option. The vests add a few more rules to the game-play that you may not want to have to explain to your children.

With a laser tag set without vests, there is really only one rule—shoot at the gun. Plus, if you do not want your kids to use the idea of aiming at their friends and family members, this would be a better option.

Cons to Laser Tag Sets Without Vest

No protection.

Though laser tag vests are not made strictly for protection, they definitely play a factor. If you are the type of player that enjoys diving and crawling on the ground while you hunt down your friends, then you would probably want the extra protection.

So, this can understandably be a reason why a buyer would not want to get a set without vests.

Fewer aim points.

If you order a laser tag set without a vest, the only place for you to aim at is the gun. While this may be a fun challenge for some more experienced laser tag gamers' since it makes the game a bit harder, a newer player would not like that.

However, if you are looking for a challenge, this may not be a problem for you.

Lost camouflage opportunity.

Some laser tag vests have some camouflage patterns to make for a more interesting outside game. If you choose to buy a laser tag set without a vest, you would be losing out on that added part of the game-play.

This may be something that more hardcore laser tag gamers' will care about, so if you consider yourself a really serious laser tag gamer, than this may be an important downfall for you.

Laser Tag Rules and Safety

Now that you have the laser tag set of your choice, it is time to learn how to play safely. When you go to play laser tag at a business, they always start each match by stating the rules, but since you will be at home playing with your new laser tag set.

While each laser tag business may have its own set of rules, in general, these seven rules tend to be the most popular rules when playing laser tag.

Respect the rules.

Laser tag is a game that has simple general objectives, aim at your friends. Nevertheless, rules are needed to make sure that you are being safe, no matter if you are young, old, beginner, or an expert.

Think of the rules as the great equalizer because they apply to everyone and must always be followed.

Follow the rules, even if no one is watching

When you are playing in a laser tag arena, there is usually a facilitator there to watch over the game and be sure that all of the games are followed, but you will not have that person at home with you.

I suggest having a family member or friend who does not mind sitting out to oversee the game and make sure that everyone follows all of the rules.

Remember: following the rules is not meant to limit the enjoyment of the game but to protect everyone while they enjoy it!

No physical contact

Laser tag is a game designed to be played with blasters and sensors specifically so that players go not have to come near each other in order to score. So, touching other players while playing would be essentially unnecessary during the game. If you are looking for a more contact sport, check out paintball or airsoft.

Safety equipment will almost never come in your laser tag kit specifically because of this rule that should always be followed. Though the vests that come in some laser tag sets can offer a little bit of padding during game-play, they are not designed to take physical hits.

You can hurt yourself or others if you have physical contact during a game, and you could also damage the equipment in your laser tag set.

No blocking sensors.

The guns and vests that will come in your laser tag set will use infrared technology, and the entire game depends on the vests being able to receiver frequencies from the laser guns.

If anything is in the way of the sensor either on the vest or on the guns, the scores will not be accurate be points will not be able to be counted.

This rule is more about fairness than anything else. Playing at home without a facilitator means it can be easy to just put a hand over one of your sensors when you see someone getting ready to take aim at you, but that just is not fair.

While playing at home, this rule will likely have to be followed on the honor system unless you have someone who volunteers to facilitate the game-play.

Remember: At the end of the day, this is NOT a game tactic or a strategy, it is just plain old cheating and it will ruin the fun for everyone. To truly have fun in the game, you have to play correctly and fairly.

No bullying

Just like no one is allowed to push other players around, no one is allowed to intimidate or bully anyone, either. Bullying includes name-calling, taunting, foul language, or trash talking. No one wants to be hurt either physically or mentally and emotionally while trying to have some fun.

Nine times out of ten, people are buying these laser tag sets to play games at home with their families so hopefully, this will not as big of an issue with your at-home laser tag set as it would be in a public laser tag arena, but it is still important to not.

This game is meant for those of all ages, and this game is not the right time to settle familial scores. Just have fun!

Strictly, closed-toe shoes only

This rule is just as important when playing at home as it is when playing at a laser tag arena. This is an active game that involves a lot of running, crouching, and possibly crawling if you want to plan a track down your opponent.

So, you need to be sure that you will be safe and there will not be any mishaps or injuries.

The best type of shoe for this game would be either sneakers, tennis shoes, or running shoes. These shoes offer a flat bottom and full toe coverage.

Shoes that you definitely should not wear are sandals, flip-flops, high heels, or slides. Any of these shoes can lead to a major accident during gameplay.

No food and drinks while playing

This rule is generally more important when playing in a laser tag arena but also has a place when playing at home. This rule is about safety and equipment care.

If you are eating—or even chewing gum—while you run around and play, it is very likely that you could bite your lip or tongue. Depending on how fast you are running, one wrong bite could mean a trip to the hospital and some serious stitches.

If you spill anything on your vests or guns, it could easily lead to a malfunction. Most laser tag sets could cost between $50 and $200 and one wrong spill could mean money down the drain.

Here are a couple of sets that I would recommend:

My choice for Best Overall Laser Tag Set for kids and adults is the ArmoGear Infrared Laser Tag Blasers. They are mid range price, they have great range at up to 150 feet, they are durable and the package comes with 4 vests and guns.

My choice for Best Budget Laser Tag Set for kids is the VATOS Infrared Laser Tag Gun Set.  This set comes with four guns and vests.  It's range is up to 100 feet, the guns are light weight and perfect for kids as young as 6 to play.

I wrote this article, that compares 11 different laser tag sets, read that article here: How much do laser tag guns cost?

Have fun!

When it's all said and done, you bought this laser tag set to have fun with your friends and family, so remember to do that! You could create a tournament. Y

ou could add new game-play rules, such as if you get shot three times in a row, you have to walk backward.

You can do so many cool and fun things as long as you are being safe!

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