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Laser tag vs. airsoft

We are happy to present you an article in which we compared laser tag and airsoft. It has been written by a person who knows a lot about recreational activities and has devoted a great deal of time to studying the aspects and details of paintball, airsoft and laser tag. We are talking about Vladimir Zamotin. I have already compared indoor laser tag and paintball before. That material evoked certain response and I drew great pleasure from browsing the web and reading what people write and think about. I even took part in some really hot discussions. They asked me – why didn’t you consider airsoft and why didn’t you go for it – for isn’t it akin to paintball? I will undertake an attempt to explain this.

I learnt about laser tag accidentally – as to airsoft, I had been familiar with it for ages. I made a conscious decision to not play it. I went back to that decision again and again, I tried playing, I gathered and analyzed a huge volume of information that is available to everyone. I talked to players that rent equipment and visited clubs. I talked to members of professional teams and owners of shops selling airsoft equipment. Each time I analyzed the information I had gathered I understood that it was not me, I don’t want, I can’t do it! In order to support my words by facts, I will explain my point step by step, just as I did with paintball. As my experience with the previous article shows, describing each point is more constructive – it does not let one drop down to the level of “I know what I like but I cannot explain why”!

I would like to point out that I am not a professional airsoft player – my point of view is just an “image” seen by an average player who wants to play airsoft or is in the process of choosing a military game for himself, seen by a person who starts searching for information. It is a cast of what anyone can read on forums of airsoft players, the echo of what I hear after watching videos about airsoft.

The compared points have been slightly changed and more info has been added to them… as to the parts concerning laser tag – I left them almost unchanged.

EFFECTIVE RANGE

Airsoft – data varies a lot, but an effective range of over 100 metres has hardly ever been mentioned. The average combat range is 30 – 60 metres.

Laser tag – the effective range of some blasters comes up to 500 metres. Combat held at a distance of 150 – 200 metres is a norm. At times, it comes down to knife fighting.

REGISTERING HITS

Airsoft – a ball hits the body or equipment. Registered by a player. The game is based purely on trust, which often results in conflicts and arguments. The hit may not be felt in the heat of the fight or due to coming from a long distance, or is the result of a ricochet. Yet this will be discussed later…

Laser tag – the electronic system detects hits and the amount of inflicted damage. If the damage amounts to “game death”, the equipment gets automatically switched off and there is no need for a referee.

DEFEAT ZONES

Airsoft – the whole of the body can be defeated. Selective strikes. The weapons are precise enough for pinpoint firing.

Laser tag – in the majority of cases, hits are registered by a headband. Vests with sensors on the chest, back and stomach have come up. The further away the target, the bigger the defeat area. But as a rule, it does not exceed 1.5 metres. At a distance of 100 metres away from the target one can just aim into the chest and if the blaster has been set up correctly – you will not miss. It does not feel adequate at first, yet one gets used to it soon enough. When firing powerful blasters inside premises there are ricochets. In my opinion, this is quite realistic – I would have lowered the power of ricochets though. There is a special function for this, lowering the power of infrared diode firing significantly lowers the power of ricochets, yet the effective range decreases and aiming becomes harder.

LOCATING A RIVAL

Airsoft – all is as simple as it is in paintball. The rival is where balls are coming from. Besides, the firing sound is well heard from as far as 40 – 50 metres away (the average fighting distance).

Laser tag – it’s all quite different here. The sounds produced by a rival’s weapon firing can be heard at a distance of 20 – 40 metres. In the dark one can see lamps flickering on a gun barrel. Yet at a distance of over 50 metres one must prepare oneself for an attack that may come from any direction. The sounds that are produced by own blaster are of great help – “whizz of bullets” warn about fire that is held in one’s direction. Sometimes you may hear – “killed in combat” – and not know where the fire came from. It reminds of combat actions where special unit fighters use weapons with silencers. The shooter can normally be located thanks to a special shot illumination – this is a really cool function.

CHEATING PLAYERS AT THE PLAY FIELD

Airsoft – this is the most delicate subject matter for airsoft. Honesty is really important in airsoft. Despite the claims made by players and organizers that absolutely everyone in airsoft is honest, there are in fact no airsoft competitions, while arguments and disagreements at various events are always present. This is one of the reasons why those who rent airsoft equipment are rarely admitted to games in which professional teams participate – professional players do not believe that those who rent equipment are honest. Besides, there is hardly anyone who believes them to be honest, for the desire to win will most probably outweigh their ability to be honest. So, the player will highly likely pretend to not feel the ball hit their clothes. As for me, I could have never understood why – while I do not cheat anyone, there was no ball hit – yet I must leave the game just because a rival believes that he has hit me?

Just take the excerpt form an article written by an airsoft player about the game: “It is for the abovementioned reasons that no “competitions” are possible in airsoft. Does anyone have illusions that players will admit own defeat when there is a battle for medals?”

Laser tag – you can’t cheat electronics. It’s an exception rather than the rule. This mainly happens during big games (this hardly ever happens at rental clubs). Most violations can be dealt with by clearing game statistics.

PLAYERS’ SAFETY

Airsoft – playing without protective glasses is forbidden. Using a mask is possible – a net or a paintball one – yet professional players believe that this is breaks the rules. Even though there are rules and it is forbidden to fire weapons with high muzzle velocity at close distance, anything may happen. While a soft and heavy gelatin ball in paintball leaves a bruise, a light yet strong airsoft plastic piece can go under the skin or knock a tooth out… there are plenty of examples. 

Laser tag – no hitting object and therefore no pain. No need to look for a separate safe shot adjustment area, recreation area, etc. Women and kids can join in. Besides, there is no need to protect one’s eyes – neither mask, nor glasses are required.

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT

Airsoft – there are glasses in the least and the possibility to strike a random spectator does exist. Pain shock may lead to loss of balance. Therefore, playing at several levels/ floors is risky. The size of a game area must be decided upon. 

Laser tag – full freedom. No masks, no pain, no harm can be done to people around. Extra moves may be required to get behind enemy lines – that’s all right as long as no passers by get scared by the aggressive look of the players.

ADRENALINE

Airsoft – there is adrenalin in airsoft. The adrenalin from firefight, the adrenalin from expecting pain. One cannot get away from the adrenalin caused by offence when colliding with a “MacLeod” who does not admit defeat, nor from the adrenalin after being unfairly blamed for something.

Laser tag – adrenaline is different, and no pain here. Many believe that this is bad when there is no adrenaline. Yet is this so? Here are a few excerpts from an article on pain by a laser tag club “In a game, pain is not a motivation”: “…practice shows that few people enjoy experiencing pain – more often, people enjoy causing someone pain – this is players’ nature. As a result of the poll “Would you like to experience pain YOURSELF provided YOUR rival WILL NOT experience pain?” none of the players answered Yes. It has been precisely noted that there are few masochists, there are rather more sadists…”

So, is pain really important during a game? In laser tag, you will get adrenaline from tracking down your aim, from expecting fire that may come from any direction… and this is awesome.

GAME POLYGONS

Airsoft – unlike paintball, airsoft players do not take it seriously when it comes to choosing a polygon, though reasons for this are not completely clear to me. Ideally, a surrounded territory is required and spectators should not be allowed in without protective clothing on, etc. Yet airsoft is not limited to dimensions. Combat imitation at which the game is aimed predisposes for a very large game territory. Upon that it is hard to find a good polygon within city area, for lots of plastic balls are going to be scattered around after a game and safety areas must be arranged.

Laser tag – it is as easy as a pie. You can hold a game ANYWHERE! In a forest, at a city park, even at a children’s playground. No special preparations for a polygon are required. The size of the polygon had rather be big though – or fewer open areas, otherwise one won’t be able to lift one’s head if rivals hold fire from as far as 100 – 150 metres away.

HOW WEATHER CONDITIONS AFFECT THE GAME

Airsoft – frost and wind are a no-no. Frost will not just cause accumulators failure. Not to say about gas-powered guns. What is even worse, the fragile and expensive internal construction of air rifles fails due to overcooling. Low temperatures are not good for the moving parts made of plastic and silumin. The wind is the worst enemy of an airsoft player. The firing ball is too light and its travelling direction can be easily fluctuated by gusts of wind.  

Laser tag – the only limitation is heavy rain. Frost, snow, heat will not cause any damage to equipment. Playing in the winter is common, laser tag can be played throughout the year. The wind does not affect infrared rays.

ORGANIZING VARIOUS GAME SCENARIOS

Airsoft – much can be done, yet that won’t be easy to realize. Equipment won’t sense hits by 2 gram balls so it can’t be blamed for being “macleodish”. Mines can easily damage eyes when a destructive element comes from below. Besides, that is not easy to accomplish. As a result, airsoft players often make mines and grenades by themselves… sometimes they have to face problems due to illegal actions.

Laser tag – your fantasy is the only limit. Anything can be programmed – inflicted damage, number of lives, cartridges and magazines, time required for reloading and fire rate. In laser tag, there are mines, artefacts, anomalies, checkpoints. The variety is striking! For example, can you imagine creating a paintball scenario with a radioactive snork from STALKER world, whose even “dead” body will defeat players? In laser tag this is as easy as a pie, and 5 hits will not suffice to knock one out. A player with an interesting equipment set will get great benefits during a game. Unlike airsoft, there are scenario games and sports tournaments that are sure to be honest and fair.

REALISTIC WEAPONS

Airsoft – is a trendsetter, its leadership is beyond any doubt. There are dozens and hundreds of various pistols, machine guns and rifles. Weapons size, details and weight are same as those of combat weapons. There are varieties of balls feed. There are no limitations as to the types of weapons, well, there are some to be exact… yet a bit later on this. As to the weapons, everything is just fine here – airsoft is top of the range when it comes to the realistic look of weapons.   

Laser tag – all is as in real life. Blasters are made from plastic or converted from air rifles. Some are made from replicas of combat weapons – basically those are neutralized combat weapons. There are pistols, assault rifles, light and heavy sniper rifles, grenade launchers and mines with grenades! There are shotguns with low muzzle velocity – shots produced from them cover a large area. There are knives that kill from the first strike and make it possible to have two weapon units on. There are mines and bombs that kill everyone in the nearest vicinity. Do you want to carry two weapons at once? No prob! Would you like to be lying down with a heavy sniper rifle outside Dragunov rifle defeat range or run around carrying a “real” AK? It’s easy!

DOES IT FEEL REAL

Airsoft – here is an excerpt from an article about airsoft: ”Just how well worked out in detail a selected model will be is determined by two aspects: modelling and reconstruction. The term “reconstruction” is defined as a maximum correspondence of form and construction. It means that only what is used in prototypes can be applied in replicas. And not otherwise. If an original cannot be obtained or its price is excessively high, then only the “right” replicas can be used instead – those are the commercial copies that bear true likeness to the original”.

What we get from the above stated is that reconstruction and modelling will draw you to reality as close as possible. You will only have to put up with such small things as low effective range, invincibility of a player sitting in the bushes and cheating of a rival that desires to win.

Laser tag – it is a lot closer to reality. Here, there are effective ranges, weapon settings, even division into defeat areas! For example, when using vests with sensors, hitting the body causes less damage, while a player wearing a helmet can get more health points. A sniper and a machine gunner will have a different number of cartridges and rates of fire. It takes less time to replace a magazine in an assault rifle than in a machine gun. You will get the right amount of cartridges and will be able to block access to a firing point by mines.

THE NEED TO BUY OWN EQUIPMENT AND WEAPONS

Airsoft – you cannot avoid that. Using a rented equipment for a game is not a good thing to do. Well, you can, but… renting airsoft equipment is not well developed. There are two reasons for that. First, guns maintenance is expensive for organizers. Second, professional players refuse to play with those who rent their equipment. You cannot join a serious team if you haven’t got own weapon and equipment, etc. Before you manage to join a team, you will have to play in a narrow circle of likeminded players. Not to say about reliability and power/ effective range of own gun.  

Laser tag – no doubt, it’s better to have own blaster, while own headband will be cleaner. Yet a blaster that you buy for yourself will not be much better. It all depends on the model, yet the difference between own blaster and a rented one will not be as great and playing with rented equipment is not shameful.

A GAME BETWEEN AN EXPERIENCED PLAYER AND ONE THAT RENTS EQUIPMENT

Airsoft – this has been discussed earlier, but there are still a few more things to add. A player who rents equipment is not taken seriously… “… airsoft players only play with reliable people – with other airsoft players, those who are part of a group, who understand the many unspoken rules of conduct on a playfield. This is another reason why airsoft cannot become widespread. How can you be sure that someone with potentially traumatic weapons is adequate, that they will behave correctly towards you, considering that you see them for the first time in your life and, most likely, will not see them again?”

Laser tag – there is hardly any difference. Well, own blaster may have a greater effective range, own scope is also a good thing. Yet this is not as significant as it is in airsoft! The electronic components will smooth out any differences in rates of fire, ammunition and life levels. Both experienced players and those who rent their equipment feel quite at ease at a play field. Everyone feels at ease and no one expects any dirty trick or deception.

EQUIPMENT COST

Airsoft – there are two separate prices. There is a price is for a gun (3000 to 30000 roubles) and there is a separate price for customization. The second price may come up to two to three times the price of your gun. Don’t forget that you will need to buy extra magazines and a second weapon (pistol) – this is considered the standard for a professional player. The cost of a rifle maintenance and repair is a separate topic. As this equipment is rather fragile and sensitive – it just won’t stop breaking.

Laser tag – prices for blasters used for renting out start from 14000 roubles. It gives an effective range of up to 200 metres. Scope prices start from 500 roubles. The remaining cost covers the special atmosphere and the attractive look, comfort (wireless connection to defeat sensors) or for far greater effective range (sniper rifles and machine guns). No one will stop you from assembling your own blaster using a special electronic kit and the outer shell, thus getting the look you need, the size and shape of a weapon for less money. Would you buy a VSS or a Dragunov sniper rifle for 30000 roubles, or would you rather go for an AK with an underbarrel grenade launcher?

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO PLAY A GAME?

Airsoft – the price of airsoft balls is really low. Therefore, you won’t have to spend much on them. As to rental prices – they are rather high – 500 to 1000 roubles per game. A player with own gun plays almost free as part of a team. There are extra prices for disposable items, such as grenades, etc.

Laser tag – to rent equipment for 2 hours will cost you 400 – 500 roubles. This is for a weapon and an outfit. Clearly, there is nothing else you need. Even grenades and mines are reusable. If you have your own blaster, all you will need to pay for is a minimum entry fee. At 1500 roubles, you will be able to join a three-day event, which includes meals, stay at organizers’ tents and participation in a game of combat tanks and helicopters. THAT’S IT! You will also need to pay for charging your blaster battery… well, that’s nothing really.

THE NEED TO WEAR AN OUTFIT AND GAME CONVENIENCE

Airsoft – the game is clean and no one will make you dirty on purpose. Yet you will have to buy a special separate outfit. We will talk about this later.

Laser tag – you can wear any comfortable clothes for a game, for example, a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. It only depends on you how dirty it gets.

HOW EASY IS IT FOR A BEGINNER TO JOIN IN

Here, in my opinion, comes the most important issue. As I have mentioned before, airsoft is a game where honesty truly matters and that players that rent their equipment are not really welcome into the game… Yet that is not it…

Airsoft – is a get-together, yet a very private one… Let’s look into the reasons for that. First, that’s because beginners are not trusted. The “macloads” that won’t admit own defeat are feared. They fear point-blank fire and safety rules violation. Second, one of the key aspects in airsoft is modelling/ reconstruction. You cannot just join a team as you will. You must get permission, you must be same as everyone in this team – same weapons, equipment, outfit, and be ready to follow the rules and standards of the team. Third, at the beginning you will have to spend a lot of money. It may not be everything at once, yet you won’t be able to get away from buying. For you are part of the team. It seems to sound just fine – team, modelling. Why wouldn’t such great guys let such a great guy as myself in – “… I have already purchased an outfit of a Gork, a Stechkin pistol, same as my Dad had when he was at war, and an M16 same as in movies…”??? Here we get down to the notions of “drish” and “pokemon”.

Pokemon is an airsoft player. To be exact, it is an individual who tries to look like one, yet neither his look nor behavior meet the standards and rules requirements. This is very common for beginners or even beginner teams, who didn’t quite get the idea about what they are actually doing”.

Drishes are the people who openly neglect both generally accepted rules and traditions. First of all, this concerns the look – they come to an airsoft event wearing civilian clothing. The most experienced airsoft players ridicule drishes in every thinkable manner, turn them into an example that should not be followed, create funny stories in which those act as anti-heroes”.

Here is another comparison – “for example, one can stand the outfit colour of one of the NATO countries on top of the Russian camouflage – this is common for “pokemons”. Yet only drishes will wear jeans. In this case, even a helmet and an armor vest won’t save the ruining image of an airsoft player”.

What we get here is that the look of a player matters the most. Its authenticity does matter!!!

I asked questions on forums and in groups, had a chat in clubs. And I kept stumbling upon this – “…but you cannot wear a NATO camouflage and hold an AK in your hands… for this is wrong!” Once I was given a link for a video review of airsoft followed by these words: “everything’s alright there, no one ridicules pokemons there”… in 5 minutes time I could hear that person discussing the light and the dark sides of airsoft (NATO and the Russian Federation/ USSR) and that if I join the light side team then I have to choose an AK and a berezka camouflage – this way it will be easier for me to get into the team! I remember really well how a guy was made fun of just because he took a pistol and a rifle – the prototypes of which are used by different armies – with him to a game… He was really upset for he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t use this weapons pair! Airsoft is too hard for beginners. A beginner must become part of a team… single players do not survive! “There are no single players in airsoft. While you can play paintball on your own or with several friends, and as you come to a club you join one of the two sides to play a particular game. In airsoft, if you are not part of a team you don’t exist”.

If you happen to want to create a team of your own you will have to face an issue of rights holding! You will learn that you cannot wear that particular camouflage – because it has already been selected by, say, a Moscow Penguins team who are modelling a Brazil coast guard of the year 1983 before they changed their outfit to black… That’s it – you won’t be admitted to the game wearing such camouflage, for you do not respect the traditions and the more experienced participants.

All-in-all, airsoft is a private get-together. It is a caste. It is a stronghold of constructors, an estate of those who recreate the image to the finest detail and for whom it is “… an attempt to live one more life on its dark side”. I didn’t make it all up… This is the public opinion that formed as a result of collecting the information, and during chatting with airsoft players… It is all on the surface… And no matter how much airsoft guru try to persuade you there is nothing of the kind and that pokemon teams are treated with respect… It is not true… for according to the dictionary of airsoft terms:

Pokemon (insult) is a negative phenomenon that has nothing to do with airsoft yet at times accompanies it. Pseudoreconstruction.” Let’s compare it to paintball, which airsoft players love measuring against so much. There, beginners are called Hamsters.

HAMSTER is how beginner players are ironically called. These players normally behave as a team and are more concerned with own survival rather than with achieving the game target.”

Can you see the difference? Let alone a paintball hamster can choose to play on the same field with professional players. How about laser tag? Laser tag is a game and possibilities. This is a fun game – you can play together with your kids and your girlfriends. In this game both professional players and those who rent their equipment can participate!

This is a game of opportunities. Besides, there are way more opportunities than in airsoft. You can set up life level, damage done to weapons, while the helmet and the vest will not just be a tribute to the image. No one can forbid a player from choosing the colour and shape of his boots to suit the style of the British SAS and get the relevant equipment.

You can come on your own here. You can come and start playing right away. You can buy a blaster and not have another thought whether it is the right model or it is not. Or which team you are going to join.

You can play laser tag. As to airsoft, you need to change your lifestyle…

This is quite different from comparing it to paintball. Yet the games are quite different, too… Some may share my point of view, others may think otherwise. Airsoft is not a game. First and foremost, it is an image. It is modelling of real divisions to the finest details, it is ”… an attempt to live “one more life”, the “dark” part of it”.

On the other hand, laser tag is a fun game. The game is real, beautiful and joyous. It is sure to give you positive emotions, combat adrenaline, and everything else you may wish!!!