Sunday 22 April 2012

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Planet Lazer Kelowna - Hunger Games Lite

Laser tag used to be different. Once upon a time, it was a man's sport (I mean, for those of us too good looking to incur the welts that paintball would leave). It was a chance to get out on the playing field and test your wits against an opponent whose sole goal was to eliminate you. It was a throwback to the primitive days when man's survival was based on his skill as a hunter, and you had to rely on your basic instincts just to make it through the game. In short, it was a place for men to be men.

Then everybody went and watched this Hunger Games movie.

It's all different now. My daughter was invited to an all-girls laser tag party at Planet Lazer in Kelowna a little while back, and having played my share of laser tag in my youth, I decided that I'd tag along for a few laughs (That and the fact that Lori told me she'd done the last five birthday parties, and if I ever wanted to sleep in the same bed as her again then it was my turn.). What I expected to find was a group of timid girls more concerned about chipping their nail polish than getting shot. What I actually found was a room full of pre-teen girls, each of whom thought they were the next Katniss, and after watching the pre-game briefing, I think they may have had a point. Pretty much all of them already knew how to handle their guns, and the most focused upon part of the instructions was how to take out large clumps of enemies with your grenade launcher. It sent a couple of chills down my spine, and made me very glad that I wasn't playing.

You see, what I considered a "man's sport" when I was young (and apparently oh so chauvinistic) has morphed into something ideally suited for girls. Laser tag is a game of planning, thinking ahead, and gamesmanship. It's about trying to understand what your opponent is up to and where they're going, then counteracting their plan with one of your own. You want to be fast, you want to be stealthy, and you want to be deadly.

What you don't want to be is a Dad.

Teenage girls may never be able to agree on "Who Johnny likes best", but when the need arises, they are an amazingly unified and organized group. If you want to change the entire dynamic of a laser tag game, just put a Dad out on the playing field. Actually I imagine that pretty much any male would do (except for the aforementioned Johnny...he might get a pass). All it takes is the introduction of a little extra testosterone to the game, and it's all different. Girls who moments ago were locked in a fierce battle with each other, suddenly stop and turn their focus to any man silly enough to invade their playing field. I made the mistake of wandering out into the open, and you would have sworn that I had an allergic reaction from all the red dots that covered my body, and I was only there to take pictures. I wasn't even playing. I felt somewhat sorry for the birthday girl's Dad, who was the sole male playing and was left on his own to face the wrath of a dozen teenage girls. Man, I remember that feeling from high school.

It all changes soon enough though. I mentioned this was a birthday party, and while Dad's may be enemy number one on the laser tag grid, we're always more than welcome at present time. Planet Lazer has two party rooms available for rent, so after spending an hour trying to hunt each other down, our group was able to retire upstairs and rehash the battles over birthday cake. There were no hard feelings and, unlike the Hunger Games, everybody gets to go home safely. Unless "Johnny" decides to show his face around our daughters. Me and a few of the other Dads wouldn't mind having a word with him.