Star Laser Force
Founder: Bill Lewis
Date Established: April 16, 1985
Date Closed: December 31, 1986 (Assumed)
Number of Locations: 1
Bill Lewis - Founder
Lee Weinstein - Technical Engineer
First Facility: 5810 S. Rice Avenue, Houston, Texas
Equipment: Quoted from a 1986 article in the Houston Magazine: “Each player wears a helmet rimmed with flashing red or green lights…A battery pack worn around the waist charges the phaser, helmet and chest pod. The phaser shoots an infrared beam a distance of 100 feet. The helmet produces a zing! When the wearer zaps someone, a sound best described as a space craft landing when the wearer has been hit, and a trailing off sound when the warrior fires and misses.”
History: Bill Lewis had been working with engineers on a concept of laser tag after being inspired by the movie Star Wars, just like George Carter. While still developing his laser tag equipment, Lewis discovered that Carter had already opened his Photon facility in Dallas. “That was one of the lowest days in my life." says Lewis, "I thought I had a unique idea then opened the paper to see a similar concept already going. It was a heavy blow to my ego."
Star Laser Force on the news
Star Laser Force was highly vital to the development of the laser tag industry because its technology was inspirational to the development of the World's of Wonder Lazer Tag brand. Weinstein reported "The son of one of the directors of Worlds of Wonder was a regular at Star Laser Force, and that led to the highly popular Lazer Tag brand".
Memories from a Player: The Laser Tag Museum received what became a chain of emails from Mr. Allen Huffman recalling his days as a player at Star Laser Force. We have chosen to quote Allen here since so little is actually known about Star Laser Force. Here are the memories from Mr. Huffman from an email dated December 4, 2012:
"I remember having to walk down a long hallway (or covered walkway) to get to the building entrance. I remember hearing the Star Wars Creature Cantina song playing through bullhorn speakers my first visit.
The only thing I remember about the entrance area was a Gauntlet arcade machine. I do recall they had a special package deal where you got a T-shirt and game(s), which is how I ended up buying a shirt.
As to the game itself, after you suited up (in modified BMX padding with a two digit LED counter on front), you were taken in to a small room. The guide would then trigger a recording of a blast off sound effect, as we were being flown to the surface (or whatever the theme was). He would then push open a sliding door to let us in to the arena.
I do not recall how teams were handled, as I get things mixed up with other arenas I have seen over the years. Either they let one team out first, then the other, or they sent us off in different directions.
The arena itself had some very unique things. I found it far more interesting than the more high tech, polished (but sterile) Photon arena that I played later. At one end was a two story area that they called the jail or fortress or something. You could go up top and shoot through some windows. Did they have bars?
At the other end was a spaceship. You could walk up to it via a ramp and be in the bridge with kind of a console with buttons and such (kind of looked like parts from a submarine or something). There was a large "viewscreen" which was a (plexi?)glass window that looked out to a painting of a planet -- Saturn and it's rings, I think? You could actually go back there, and be between the painting and the console, looking out towards the game area. I remember this because if someone shot you through the glass, their light could bounce back and zap them.
In the dozen or so arenas I have played since, that spaceship and planet painting still stands out. I wish I could remember more details.
Star Laser Force was great fun."
Star Laser Force Radio Spot
The Laser Tag Museum would like to thank Charles Peklenk for supplying the scans of the Star Laser Force document used on this website. You can read more about Star Laser Force at the blog created by Charles. His blog is located here.
From The Curator: Star Laser Force is a system that was brought to my attention through emails from older players who were looking for more information. As it so often happens, once the museum was aware of a system, more information and materials started to flow in to our office. The major development was a story written by a tech blogger for the Houston area newspaper that made the claim that laser tag was started in the Houston area and that Star Laser Force was the first manufacturer.
The fact checking by the bloggier wasn't as strong as it should have been but that error was the catalyst for learning more about Star Laser Force. You can read about those events above. But what was amazing was that through a series of sporadic emails over an 18 month period, Bill Lewis and Lee Weinstein were able to share a lot of events from that early period of the industry.
Then in October 2014, Bill Lewis offered something incredible. He still had 3 Star Laser Force packs in storage in a U-Haul box. We arranged to cover the shipping and soon the box was here. The words had escaped my vocabulary on that day. The packs were rough and bear up and not well maintained, but that is how most packs arrive here. The Intern spent a few hours on each pack and worked to clean them up as best as possible.
Later, Bill sent me an email stating that there was a movie made in the Houston area known as "The Outing" (aka "The Lamp") and that at the end of the credits was a Special Thanks to "Star Laser Force". I purchased the movie and now have that movie as part of the Star Laser Force archives.
Star Laser Force deserves a special place in the pantheon of laser tag systems. Though it was the third system ever developed, it has players fondly remember the glorious space battles of yesteryear.