What we think about when we’re shooting laser guns at people

I took Thing 1 (the 10-year-old) to play laser tag over the weekend.

If you’ve never played, you’re given a laser gun that’s tethered to a vest covered with sensors. You have 15 minutes to chase each other through a maze. When you’re hit, your pistol and sensors stop working for a few seconds, so both players can escape.

We played 2 rounds. The first was just us, but before the second game started, the attendant came in and told us we’d be playing with a cherubic little boy I’ll call Pugsley. I’m guessing he was maybe 10.

So, the game starts.

We all head off to find a hiding place from which to shoot each other. I see Thing 1 hiding behind a wall. I sneak up and shoot her in the back. She chases me and, and as soon as her laser gun is back online, she shoots me. (We really are a loving family. Seriously.)

Thing 1 and I are having a great time, zapping each other, and I realize I haven’t seen Pugley. I think, if that was my kid, I’d want him to feel included. I’d want him to have fun, too. So, I go looking for him.

I find him. He’s found a hiding place in the back of the maze, and when Thing 1 runs by, he jumps out, fires his laser gun and screams:


I thought, Whoa, did he just say….

He shoots me.


Now, I have a confession to make. Whenever I take Thing 1 to play laser tag, it’s like I’m a kid again playing “Star Wars” or something. On the drive home, I asked my daughter what she thinks about. She’s really competitive. With her, there’s no role playing. She just wants to win.

I can picture kids today playing soldier, but I was surprised and a little depressed to learn that any little boy would fantasize about fending off a home invasion.

I think, maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe I’m projecting my anxieties about crime and violence onto Pugsley. Maybe his little fantasy about defending his home against a home invasion is as innocent as that scene in “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie dreams of being a cowboy and shooting burglars.

Thing 1, meanwhile, decides she’s had enough of Pugsley’s hide-and-shoot strategy. She ducks behind a wall and waits, and as soon as he peeks out, she shoots him. Over and over again.

Pugley’s pinned down. I feel sorry for him — partly because I still think his little home-invasion fantasy is kind of sad, but also because Thing 1 is showing him no mercy. I imagine how I’d feel if Thing 1 was playing with another family and kept getting shot by an older kid.

I ask Thing 1 to give him a break. She won’t, so  I start shooting her, just to disable her gun and give Pugsley a chance to run, but then Pugsley screams something else:


Now, I understand he’s a child and that he’s just echoing the attitudes he’s learned at home or at school, but when he disses Thing 1 for being a girl, I think, Well, Pugsley, I guess you’re on your own.

I let them play and don’t interfere.

When the game is over, we check our scores. Thing 1 had annihilated him (and me, too).

On our way out of the arena, Pugsley says, “That was fun!”

Glad to hear it.

14 thoughts on “What we think about when we’re shooting laser guns at people

    1. Thanks, Wendy! That’s always been our goal, but, trouble is, she’s already strong and independent, and she’s only 10! When she becomes a teenager, we’re doomed! 🙂

  1. I played laser tag in NC last week. It was a lot funner than I thought it was going to be. But paintball is so much more fun. And the consequences of getting hit hurts just a tad bit more:)

    1. Paintball sounds like it would hurt! You could lose an eye playing paintball. With laser tag, I think the worst that could happen is you end up accidentally correcting someone’s nearsightedness. (Buh-dum-buh) Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

  2. You took me right along for the ride. I felt so sad for poor Pugsley and ended up cheering for Thing 1. Fabulous story; fabulous storytelling. 🙂

  3. You’re an awesome dad. I would have dominated at laser tag when I was a kid. Now I’m older and often drunk, so it might not be safe for me. (Is there a drunk adult laser tag league??). But it sounds like you guys had a great time.

  4. Somehow “gun games” such as laser or paint ball have always made me a bit apprehensive- even though I know it is a safe way to burn off some energy… but I would not, for example, buy my son a toy gun to play around the house with…somehow to me just sends the wrong message.

    1. We don’t have toy guns at home, and Thing 1 has no fantasies of shooting other people (except maybe her baby brother). We usually end up going to laser tag at odd hours, so it’s usually just the 2 of us. That’s why it was so disconcerting to play against this other 10-year-old who apparently had this very specific fantasy where he was shooting burglars breaking into his home. It’s like, “We’re not playing the same game here, are we?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s