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:

“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”

I thought, Whoa, did he just say….

He shoots me.

“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”

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:

“I CAN’T BELIEVE I KEEP GETTING SHOT BY A GIRL!”

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.