Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fun summer action

I said that I'd found no mention of Star Laser Force in my newspaper-research sojourn this year, but that wasn't strictly true; there was one article that I couldn't find in the archive, and this one, which I already had.  For the sake of completeness, here are the hours and prices, part of a longer list of things to do during the summer of 1986.

Houston Chronicle
July 6, 1986
Fun summer action for those on a budget
Gina Seay

Most parents struggling to make ends meet will have to tell Johnny and Suzy to put their dream vacations on hold. But that doesn't mean the summer has to be long and boring.

There are lots of indoor and outdoor activities in the greater Houston area that fit within a teen-ager's budget....

Getting to the point...

Star Laser Force, 5810 S. Rice Ave., allows visitors to live out their "Star Trek" fantasies in laser gun duels. Everyone gets a light-sensitive helmet and shoulder pads. Purchase a lifetime membership for $3.50. Games for members are $1.25; for non-members, $4. Hours are 2-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 2 p.m-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and noon-11 p.m. Sunday.

In case you're wondering, the other attractions were Fame City, AstroWorld, Water World, Sea-Arama Marineworld, Galveston Island, Armand Bayou Nature Center, The Houston Zoo, The Oil Ranch, Games People Play, The Children's Museum, and Splash Town USA ("scheduled to open in early August").

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Death, you old toad, where is thy sting?

I hope that my two or three loyal readers will not mind another article about Photon. Beyond  repeating the same press-release bullet points, this one gives brief accounts of some municipalities' reluctance to accept laser tag as a business acceptable to the morals of their communities.

It's fair to say the inhabitants of Houston and surrounding communities (both then and today) would generally be comfortable with guns, and that there was scarcely a moment of fear that the game would transform the visiting child into a killing machine. Finding a jackrabbit in the city limits might have been tough, though, even back then. The fathers of some of those inhabitants picked most of them off a generation before.

For those not aware, the Houston City Council will issue a proclamation for the asking. It is of no particular significance and just shows that Sheil was doing her due diligence.

Spokane Chronicle - Mar 27, 1986
For Photon's warriors, death's just an inconvenience
By Fred Grimm

HOUSTON — A sudden buzz, like a burst of radio static, and a phaser-wielding assassin leaps, giggling, from ambush and disappears down a darkened maze. The victim (me) was zapped, fatally.

But death is only a minor inconvenience there amid the rising fog of Photon.

Just four seconds. Just a four-second sojourn into that darkest void. Sort of lacks finality, doesn't it? Death, you old toad, where is thy sting?

Monday, September 9, 2013

First Laser Tag in Houston

(Here's the text of the article posted last year. Errors have been left unchanged.)

April, 1986
pp. 49-52

Two Firms Offer Space Fantasies

In a distant galaxy, warriors like Gandalf, Thorin, Mr. Micro and the Chameleon battle continuously with Sgt. York, Rambo, Captain Kirk and the entire Cleaver family—Ward, June, Wally and the Beaver—for control of the Photon. A few light years away on South Rice Avenue, the Starship Blue Force struggles against the Xenon Red Raiders on the planet Xenon.

Armed with infrared phasers, chest pods and sonic helmets, the Photon warriors zap each other until they have exhausted their energy and their time. After six and a half minutes, the Photonians relinquish the field to two fresh battalions who begin the battle again.

Packing turbo phasers and armor similar to that of the Photonians, the Blue Force and Red Raiders attack, the flash of lasers and rumble of battle sounds flooding the planet like a violent thunderstorm. The battle on Xenon lasts slightly longer, about seven minutes, before the soldiers call a truce to assess casualties.

As the Photonian warriors leave the battlefield and remove their gear, the reveal their true identities. Gandalf is an accountant, Thorin a lawyer, Rambo a truck driver, and the Cleavers are college students. Sgt. York fudged only slightly. He's a private on leave from the U.S. Marine Corps. The group has just finished playing Photon, a high-tech version of "capture the flag." The Starship Blue Force and the Xenon Red Raiders have just played Star Laser Force, a game similar to Photon.

Photon warriors don helmets, slip into chest pods and arm themselves to battle for control of the "planet."
Photon warriors don helmets, slip into chest pods and arm themselves to battle for control of the "planet."
Native Houstonian Bill Lewis began thinking of ways to stage a mock laser battle after watching Star Wars. He built and sold several businesses, including a driving school and a day care center, before embarking on Star Laser Force.