Let’s build a maze, shall we?
Laser tag is a comparatively new type of business on the Russian market. Nevertheless, it has been competing successfully with its other more violent counterparts - paintball and airsoft. The combination of the interactive performance and sports elements, its being universal and accessible to all visitor categories makes laser tag very attractive to clients. Indoor laser tag is one of the most perspective types of entertainment business. That’s why we are going to discuss it today, in particular indoor laser tag arena building.
If you made up your mind that indoor laser tag is the type of business you are inclined to do, we suggest that you first of all calculate the forthcoming spending and decide whether you should invest the money in it. Second, a thorough study should be made on everything that has to do with maze building.
You will have to consider the following:
- according to western experts, arena may only function well in a city with a population of at least 200 000;
- the business will start paying off in a year or two;
- the equipment is expensive. Although now, when our country company has started producing its own equipment range for indoor laser tag you can cut your spending a lot. Foreign equivalents are a lot more expensive and every month their cost is getting higher for clear reasons;
- you will briefly have to become a construction foreman who will have to pick the supplies, supervise his employees’ work, manage the building of the maze, and so on and so forth. You certainly cannot do without specialists. Yet only a person who is a real expert in this matter can fully rely on others.
Nevertheless, laser tag is a major business which can become a source of high and reliable income provided you are ready to develop and grow alongside.
Choosing a place
Stationary labyrinth arenas are most frequently built in shopping and entertainment centres. This allows to save a lot of money on advertising as there is a continuous flow of customers at such places. Besides that, shopping centres are very spacious, which is fundamental for building an arena. But there are negative points about it too. One of them as you may have guessed is high rent.
If you cannot open arena in a big shopping centre, before you choose a place make sure it is easily accessible: the customers must be able to easily reach it from anywhere in the city.
Analyze the prospective clients: find out about their age range, sex, paying ability and what triggers their interest in such games. Consider the family factor. Very often families go to shopping centers to do shopping and have fun. So help them get bright memories and experience positive emotions.
The size of the place
An arena is made up of two main parts – the reception area and the labyrinth itself where people play the game. Normally 12 to 30 or more may play simultaneously in the labyrinth. Therefore your aim is to make it more spacious. There is a formula for calculating the area of the labyrinth: per each 10 players - 200 square metres, 16 players – 300 square metres, 20 players – 400 square metres, more than 30 players – 500 square metres or above. As to the reception area, it must be spacious enough to take in both players and the "sympathizing” who don’t take part in the battle: a minimum of 1 square metre per person. If you can afford equipping a briefing-room (in order to free the reception), then certainly hold all the meetings and discussions with players there. The area is calculated in the same manner: you divide one square metre by one player – then there will be no complaints about lack of space. The more the merrier is not your approach.
Ideally, the arena must comprise several isolated rooms: a reception room, a technical support office, a discussion room, a changing room, the labyrinth, a recreation room (with slot machines and a mini-café), a storage and a staff room. Yet we all know that perfection is hard to achieve. This all can take a lot less space without any damage to your business. Partitions may be helpful here.
Much depends on whether you have got competitors in your city. If so, bear in mind that it is going to be really difficult to lure their permanent customers, considering the general concept of labyrinth and same type of equipment. You have to attract customers by more technically superb equipment, unusual maze design and its bigger size, a flexible pricing policy and a bonus system for permanent customers.
No one attempts to limit your creativity. You can devote your labyrinth to a certain idea if you like. Do experiment with special effects if you crave for it. Our only advice is do not overdo it. Even the most austere design of the labyrinth will be unforgettable due to light and sound effects, visible laser rays and bright glowing equipment – especially for the unexperienced player.
We have come close to the most problematic issue – constructing the arena. It must be mentioned here that ready made labyrinth blocks can be purchased from the manufacturers without a hitch. Some arena business owners manufacture labyrinths by themselves. Which option is more cost-effective is hard to say. Building materials are not cheap either. If your budget is very limited, you can search for used labyrinths.
You must consider the fact that a lot of your customers are going to be children. That’s why you have to plan the arena really well and think twice before making any decision. Kids are noisy, very active and extremely adventurous, so it is highly recommended not to bring two teams together in one room. Those who have just come to play and those who have just finished playing had better not meet either in the changing room or in the recreation room. Otherwise you are guaranteed to have a headache.
It’s entirely up to you how you design this area. The point to remember is that it must be spacious and light. This is a through room, so be sensible: use high quality laminate flooring or floor tiles.
The walls may be decorated with theme posters: arena rules, the floor plan, bonus system rules. Remember about diplomas, awards (when you get them). It is a great idea to make an achievement board with photos of the most active players and teams: people love boasting their attainments.
Put a reception desk for the administrator meeting the customers. Behind another desk (ideally, in a separate room) a person managing the game process will work. He will have a computer with a labyrinth managing program, a printer (to print out the results of the game and give them to the players), a small acoustic system, a microphone for getting in touch with the players, a cashier machine and so on.
Place wardrobes for players’ personal belongings here. Put long benches on the floor. Get a separate area for a changing room if you can. But if the size of the place does not allow for it you can have it in the same room where the reception is. A common screen or partition may be used.
If you can’t make up your mind whether you need that room (or two of them), then you need to have it. Even if it means that you need to rent an area a few square metres bigger than you had planned.
Briefing room is used for instructions and for discussing the battle after the game. This room makes it easier to pass the arena: while the teams that have finished playing change, the next few players will come in for instructions. This way you will avoid confusion and stampede near the reception room. That is why comfortable chairs and sofas are an important part of the briefing room. In addition to this, a big screen on which game results and statistic data will be displayed can be mounted on the wall. It is the ideal situation when the battle can be watched live on the monitor. For it is in this room that the support group is going to wait for the team and stand up for them. By the way, it is going to be a good idea to take care of their entertainment. Slot machines as well as a mini-café will help the supporters pass away the time while giving you additional income.
Again, remember about the kids. If you hold children’s birthday parties (which is nearly the main source of income) then you cannot do without a briefing room. Children can have a rest after the game there, have a glass of juice and a slice of cake.
Storage Room and Staff Room
You will definitely need at least one storage room and a staff room. Don’t forget about a very important room, which is toilet, especially if your arena is not inside a shopping centre. Is it possible for you to get a shower cabin? You can be sure the players will be grateful to you for this.
By the way!
If you don’t want the players to stumble on the cables (there are going to be a lot of them), tidy them up in the walls. Make sure you have enough sockets. For instance, you will need to plug in a computer and a printer, a TV set and various specialized equipment in the reception room, to name the least.
The Shape of the Labyrinth
Naturally, labyrinths are most frequently square or rectangular in shape. Thus we use up all the free space. Though walls and partitions may be arranged in such a way that they form two or three sides of a rectangle. The main rule here is to make passages wide enough for people of various shapes and sizes to cut through. The rest is up to you.
If you have the opportunity to create a two- or three-level labyrinth go for it. Several levels is not a necessary condition for successful labyrinth functioning, but such an unusual labyrinth will help you beat your competitors. Besides, you can be creative with the design: for instance, you can make a spaceship out of a multi-level labyrinth.
When it comes to planning, you must bear in mind that players need to be free to move, although it is permitted to create tangled corridors and dead ends, which is intended to make conquering bases more difficult. By the way, bases are almost always built in the corners of the labyrinth or in its opposite parts. Leaving out too much open space is not recommended: the arrangement has to encourage the players to move fast. You shouldn’t encourage them to stay in one place for too long and use trench warfare. Don’t make the arrangement too complicated though, or else the players will get lost.
Don’t miss out on ventilation, for you are almost certainly going to use a smoke machine. Along with that, you have to take fire safety measures, make sure you have fire extinguishers and additional emergency exits.
The Walls of the Maze
A labyrinth is built using hollow metal posts (40-50 centimeters in diameter and up to 3 metres high) and partitions of various hight. Plasterboard is the most commonly used inexpensive option for labyrinth walls. Yet it is not very tough, and the players are not too careful, that is why the walls are frequently reinforced with a 10-millimetre plywood. The plywood has to be treated with a special anti-fire liquid.
Sometimes small holes are made in the walls. They may be used as loopholes or mesh inserts for additional view.
The labyrinth may be collapsible (then you can vary the arrangement of the labyrinth), but all the walls must be fixed well. Should it happen that a player bumps into a wall at all speed (this often happens in the heat of the battle), the construction must withstand it no matter what.
Cover all the protruding parts with plywood (windowsills, radiators), sharp corners have to be covered with soft material to stop players getting hurt during the battle.
For ceiling, walls and posts, black matte paint is normally used. Any images may be drawn on top of it with fluorescent paint.
The Labyrinth Floor
Let’s recall that players’ safety is above all. The floor must be even, without protruding and sticking out elements. Normally, carpet floor covering or performance surfaces are used for the floor. But bear in mind that fitted carpet wears out pretty soon.
You will need two types of lighting. The first one (ultraviolet) is used to highlight fluorescent images on the walls and partitions. The lamps are scattered evenly all over the surface of the maze at a hight of 2 to 3 metres. One 36W lamp is enough to lighten 8 square metres of the area.
The second type (daylight lamps) will be used for maintenance works and cleaning the arena. One 36W lamp will be enough to lighten 16 square metres of the area.
We are not going to go into detail about what the equipment for indoor laser tag has to be like and how it differs from outdoor laser tag equipment. This subject matter is for a separate article. We would like to mention that besides the standard play sets (vests and armory) you may also need smoke machines, stroboscopes, acoustic system – all of this is required to create the futuristic atmosphere. The rest (it also concerns the cool design) is a matter of taste.
Specialists can prepare and fully equip the place, as well as assemble a factory made labyrinth in less than 30 days. You can do it all by yourself within just a couple of months. And afterwards… afterwards develop and prosper! The demand for laser tag keeps growing year by year, so you are guaranteed to have customers.