Founder: Jimmy Haycraft
Date Establish: October 6, 1992
Date Closed: Still Active
Number of Locations: Active Manufacturer - Please contact the manufacturer for number of locations.
Jimmy Haycraft – Founder and President
Christ Strode – Technical Manager
Arthur Haycraft – Sales and Marketing Manager
Julian White – Manufacturer
Jeff Tyndall – Electronics and Software Design (former, no longer with the company)
Peter Davies - Director (former, no longer with the company)
First Location: The Enigma Zone Lincoln, UK
Equipment: The DarkLight vest is made of leather and contains 6 sensors, which the DarkLight company refers to as BLOB’s. These sensors have the ability to produce four colors, red, yellow, blue, and green. This allows for up to four teams play using the DarkLight product.
The DarkLight phaser requires two hands to use. Located on the front of the phaser is another sensor, or BLOB. The phaser has dual triggers which require its user to us both hands to use it. On the back of the DarkLight phaser is an LCD screen which displays things such as ammo, lives, and rank.
Another piece of equipment produced by DarkLight is the GEM, Game Enhancement Module. These GEM’s can be used as team bases, energizers, or mines.
History: On October 6, 1992 Dark Light Systems Limited was incorporated in Lincoln, UK after its founder, Jimmy Haycraft, visited a Laser Quest which inspired him to create a system of his own.
In December 1992, the first DarkLight location opens in Antwerp, followed by the second location that opened in Amsterdam, Holland.
In January, 1993, DarkLight introduces V2 which improved upon the radio and LCD screen for real time scoring.
The first UK DarkLIght opened in Lincoln, UK at a facility named "The Enigma Zone". It opened using the V2 equipment. The arena had a GEM located on the ceiling of a ball pit. A player had to wade into the ball pit to actually tag the GEM.
In June 1997, DarkLight introduces the V3 set of equipment. The V3 had a fabric vest in contrast to the firmer plastic vest that had been in V1 and V2. The V3 equipment also had a removable battery for easier battery charging. The V3 system also had a yellow shoulder hit indicator that was not in the previous 2 versions of equipment.
In October 1997, the first DarkLight location in the USA opens in Columbia, MD. The owner, Randall Briggs, later expanded to five locations using DarkLight equipment. Randall Brigss was awarded the first Golden Phaser Award for Operator of the Year by the International Laser Tag Association in 2008.
On April 21, 1998 a new company Dark Light Developments Limited is incorporated in Gloucestershire, UK with a team of two directors.
On April 5, 1999 Peter Davies and Simon Willets leave Dark Light Systems Limited. Peter and Simon then went on to develop the laser tag system known as Crystal Laser Games Limited.
On May 17, 1999 a meeting of creditors is posted in the Gazette, which began the liquidation process of Dark Light Systems Limited.
On September 14, 1999, according to an Actual Reality press release, Dark Light Developments Limited and Actual Reality began a joint marketing relationship. This joint marketing meant that Actual Reality could sell Dark Light equipment in the United States and Canada. This was the first joint marketing of its kind in the laser tag industry, two competitors had never before agreed to such a partnership. Even though this was such a significant partnership, no deals have been associated with it.
On March 15, 2000, according to www.lasertag.org, Actual Reality and Dark Light Developments Limited ended partnership.
On February 26, 2002 the final dissolution notice is sent to Dark Light Systems Limited. The company status of DarkLight Systems now stands as dissolved.
In September 2002, DarkLight introduces the V5 equipment. One of innovations with the V5 was on rack charging systems. Also, the V5 had "blobs" as hit indicators. The blobs were small round target sensors. V5 also had remote diagnostics along with other features.
Currently Dark Light Developments Limited is still an active company and continues to sell laser tag equipment.
From the Curator: This system has always been one of my favorites to play and one of my favorite companies to speak with about the industry and its changes. My personal relationship with DarkLight hasn't always been as smooth as I would have desired given the convoluted industry politics.
The appeal of DarkLight was that its founder, Jimmy Haycraft, was the first laser tag manufacturer that I ever met that designed for the playability of the game, for the love of the event and for the excitement of the player. Almost all other manufacturers, especially those in early 1990's, were selling laser tag equipment to make some cash. Jimmy was making laser tag for the player and the operator.
In the late 1990's, I got to know the DarkLight team very well and even spent time at their office in UK. Jimmy Haycraft and his team were always open to new ideas and hungry to know where the industry was headed.
I eventually trained a few DarkLight locations in the USA and worked closely with some of the sharpest operators in the industry. I had many conversations with Randall Briggs of Shadowlands. I spent an enormous amount of time with Keith and Mary Shell of The E.D.G.E. in Belleville, IL and watched their business grow beyond the original concept. Jerry Weber of The Web in Fairfield, OH approached his project in the most methodical of manners and it taught me that much of the industry could be quantified and measured. There are many other DarkLight operators I could name that are just great operators.
DarkLight needs to be remembered as one of the pioneers of the industry for its game play and software versatility. The genius behind DarkLight is both incredibly brilliant and yet headstrong. A trait that is both its strength and its weakness. Jimmy has the drive and determination to create a laser tag product and a company that questions the norm of the industry and then tries to change the industry to his vision. I cannot say that about many other companies.
Lastly, I need to thank DarkLight's long time staff member Chris Strode for having the most comprehensive company Facebook page. Chris and I had exchanged some emails about the history of DarkLight in mid-2013. Chris then created an incredible timeline complete with pictures. Search Facebook for DarkLight to see the evolution of the product.