I was shouting. I drew arrows and lit the tips with flames. I took aim at the invaders who were trying to bust down my castle door. I think I may have even sworn.
I’m not certain. I was completely lost in the virtual reality world that I stepped into. There, tiny, funny-looking combatants were steadily knocking down my castle gate. I felt like I was 12 again but this was so much better than my old Atari. This, this was awesome.
Oh yeah. My 10-year-old son was there too. I let him play. A little.
We were trying out the games at the new Fairhope Family Fun Center, a new venture in the Winn Dixie shopping center next to Planet Fitness. The simple and unassuming storefront is easy to overlook. Inside there is a massive, 6,000 square foot laser tag arena, virtual reality game stations and a few traditional arcade games for those who need to rest a moment.
Owner Daniel Lundquist, has worked in the movie business for 22 years as both a general manager on the ground level and at the corporate office. He grew up in the shadow of the biggest players in the California entertainment industry: Disney, Sea World and Knox Berry Farm.
“I experienced a lot of great stuff as a kid and I wanted to bring that kind of experience and excitement to this area,” Lundquist said. “I just don’t want people to have to give their kidneys to pay for it.”
Earlier this year Lundquist and his wife Lori say there were gifted by an angel investor who believed in their dream. The Fairhope Family Fun Center was born.
In addition to the astounding, and addicting, virtual reality games, visitors can take on their friends and strangers in a game of laser tag. Unlike most laser tag arcades, here the game is tactical laser tag meaning it is more challenging since players can only be “hit” on small targets they wear on visors, rather than traditional heavy vests.
Players also can recharge their lives and ammunition and have to think tactically and with reason as they weave in and out of the obstacles in the 6,000 square foot play area. Each of the games is objection oriented and players have goals beyond just simply shooting.
For example, in the game called Domination, players try to hit a large glowing cube that, when hit, glows their teams color, all while keeping the other team away from the cube.
“This makes it harder and you play for longer, you’re not just running around firing at everything,” Lundquist said.
The typical demographic for laser tag is ages 8 to 18, he said. But for tactical laser tag that targeted age range jumps to 27 through 37.
“The parents actually like it just as much, if not more,” Lundquist said.
More than an entertainment center, the pair has built a place where kids can play without being bullied. All games are based on teamwork.
“Most laser tag places are all about you as an individual, here we foster teamwork. The wins and losses are not put on an individual player so there is no bullying,” he said.
After a soft spring opening, the center is becoming more of a summer hot spot for kids already singing the boredom blues. Lundquist and his crew host birthday parties, team building events, laser tag boot camp and tournaments.
“We’re growing day by day,” he said.
And there’s still more to come. The center has an additional 2,000 square feet of space that the Lundquists are still working with. They are considering installing a mini bowling alley.
“It’s a lot of fun. I think people will enjoy it,” he said.