Laser tag is a team or individual sport where players attempt to score points by engaging targets, typically with a hand-held infrared-emitting targeting device. Infrared-sensitive targets are commonly worn by each player and are sometimes integrated within the arena in which the game is played. Since its birth in 1979, with the release of the Star Trek Electronic Phasers toy manufactured by South Bend,Laser tag has evolved into both indoor and outdoor styles of play, and may include simulations of combat, role play-style games, or competitive sporting events including tactical configurations and precise game goals.
Although the name implies the use of lasers, real lasers are generally not used except as aiming devices. The actual transmitting element of almost all laser tag gear is an infra-red Light Emitting Diode similar to those used in household remote controls. The term laser (or lazer) is generally a marketing device. The computerized targeting device wielded by a player commonly emits a brief infrared beam which carries an identifying signal, and the target(s) record the signal when they are hit by the beam. In many cases, the targeting device also houses a visible laser to assist the player in aiming. Laser tag is similar to paintball, airsoft and other simulation-shooting or targeting sports, but diverges in its reliance on a computerized control system. The computer system provides score tracking as well as enforcing some rules of engagement – such as an enforced period when a player is unable to shoot after being hit by another player, or discounting all friendly fire. Most laser tag equipment may be used for one style of play, rules, timing and goals, known as a game format, then switched rapidly to another game format. Differences can include switching from solo to team play, or from direct player interaction to siege-style rules, with the software altering both general game play and equipment behavior. Many modern laser tag systems allow for different characteristics to be applied on a per-individual or other basis, based on game progress or personal in-game performance, allowing for even greater customization.