Last week on a Friday afternoon the dayjob organized a teambuilding session. It was a laser tag game – quite similar to paintball but without the supposedly painful impact with physical paintballs and thus supposedly more approachable to the ladies. If you’re familiar with First-Person Shooter (FPS) games like Counter Strike or Halo, then laser tag or paintball are the real-life versions of it. Despite named laser-tag, it doesn’t really use lasers but infrared beams instead – safer for your eyes.
However unlike most computer games, laser tag is a real exercise. The week after the game my thighs hurt so bad, I had difficulties walking and practically couldn’t climb up/down stairs. Why? Likely because I had to walk in a crouched position during most of the game. Otherwise I would be an easy target. All that crouching, hiding, and sneaking up while carrying a 2 Kg (4.4 lbs) laser tag handgun. Some of us chose the twice-heavier rifle for about 25% more range.
There were two game modes, similar to FPS games:
- Capture the Flag. One team tries to infiltrate the other team’s base without dying.
- Most kills. The first team who made the first seven kills of the other team wins the round.
Also similar to FPS games are respawns. If you get shot three times then you need to walk to your home base where you can get another “life”. There are special guns only carried by the “medic” that’s sole purpose is to respawn others. The gun keeps track of how many times you got shot and automatically deactivates when you’re killed and thus need to be re-spawned.
However unlike FPS games, there is a general lack of feedback from the game mechanics. There isn’t any physical bullets or paintballs, so you can find it difficult to adjust your shots mid-way — you can’t even tell if the gun is misaligned and compensate your aims for that. Furthermore people who got “killed” doesn’t necessarily fall down. They can still roam around the “map” and cause havoc if not simply annoying distractions. They can also tip off other team members of the enemy’s location.
Our excercise took place in Bukit Purmei Hillock Park, Singapore and organized by änergy Fun Engineers. They provide the equipment and the staff that acts as both medic and referees during the game. Contact them for pricing information and other details.
View Bukit Purmei Hillock Park in a larger map.
All in all, strategy team games like these should be worthy for teambuilding excercises. But I feel you need to do it rather frequently, have the teams formed in advance, and have them strategize beforehand. On the flipside, doing these activities “once in a blue moon” won’t be any helpful since it doesn’t give enough chance for the team members to “gel” with one another. If cost of playing laser tag or paintball is an issue, there are other alternatives for hosting real-life FPS games that are just as effective such as paper pellet guns or even water guns with colored dyes.