The Six Life Lessons We All Learned From Playing Laser Tag As Kids

by Connor Toole

There are more than a few advantages to being a real, actual person instead of a concentrated ball of energy masquerading as a real, actual person (some people call them "children"), but I'd argue it's impossible to recapture the spirit of childhood's most magical moments: birthday parties.

As I've aged, I've discovered parties tend to feature less and less high fructose corn syrup, pointy hats made of paper and men with unverifiable pasts dressed as circus clowns.

Now, they tend to feature a corn mixture aged in barrels for a few years, people wearing the aforementioned hats on their crotches and coming to terms with the fact that time is an unstoppable force and one of those parties will eventually be your last.

Maybe I'm doing things wrong, but birthday parties are simply better when you're a kid -- especially when they involve laser tag.

I was recently taking my weekly ride on the Nostalgia Express and decided to make a brief stop at Elementary School Station, where I had the chance to reflect on the smoke-filled, epilepsy-inducing war simulation and all of the things it taught me about life.

This was originally written as a joke, but if you happen to accidentally read it seriously and learn something, I'm happy to take all the credit.

Don't expect to win by following the rules.

I should make it very clear that I don't not like rules. I've never downloaded a copy of "The Anarchist Cookbook" and I personally think "No murdering people" is a pretty good philosophy, all things considered.

However, there are certain times in life you're going to come across some rule or regulation that seemingly only exists to make your life more difficult than it should be -- like a sign that says you're not allowed to run or hold a gun the way God intended: with one hand.

Nobody ever won laser tag by following those rules. Don't be afraid to do the same with the rules of life.

Keep your dirty laundry to yourself (and actually do your dirty laundry).

There used to be a time when I thought things like "showering" and "changing clothes on a regular basis" were incredibly overrated, but then I stepped under a black light surrounded by my fellow classmates and quickly decided I was wrong.

I now do both these things on a regular basis, but as you get older, you get to deal with a new kind of dirty laundry (the kind you can't have someone else do for 80 cents a pound because dark secrets only weigh heavy on the soul).

You should avoid exposing that kind to both black lights and the eyes and ears of other people. You would think people don't need to be told this, but based on the Facebook posts from people I went to high school with, some people definitely do.

Find your place, but never get too comfortable in the same position.

Accuracy means nothing when you have no strategy to go along with it. You might be able to snipe the kid next to the florescent green planet on the other side of the room, but that's useless if someone shoots you in the head because you were illuminated by lasers while standing in the open.

As a result, it's important to spend some time scouting the battlefield in search of a more isolated place (likely in the vicinity of a plastic barrel) where you can settle in and put your years of training to proper use without the fear of retaliation.

However, the last thing you want to do is get comfortable in that position -- that's when you're at your most vulnerable. In laser tag, this means getting shot repeatedly until you move somewhere else. In life, the consequences can be even graver.

On a related note...

Adversity can always be lurking just around the corner.

The only thing worse than getting comfortable is assuming you're untouchable. It's more than understandable: If you're blowing up vests left and right while the room flashes and throbs, it's easy to think you're invincible.

But, wait! You never even thought to look for Joey Robinson and his stupid bowl cut creeping around the corner to ambush you. In this case, he was literally around the corner. Life is normally more subtle.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't always be prepared for a sudden change of fortune.

Don't inhale the vapor directly from the fog machine.

I don't have a long, drawn out metaphor for this one. Do not do this. You will get sick.

You can't just hide in a corner and expect your troubles to go away.

So maybe things aren't going so well. You might have started strong, but getting shot by someone with such a stupid haircut is really doing a number to your psyche.

You're trying to maintain your composure, but your vest keeps lighting up and it's hard to aim precisely when your entire body is vibrating.

You try to see where the shots are coming from, but the fog is too thick and your eyes are starting to water. You blame it on the haze, but you know the truth: You don't know how to respond.

You wander blindly until finding a corner, the perfect place to sit down, close your eyes and hope everything goes away.

But it won't. It will just make you a sitting duck, and there's nothing people (and bowl cuts) love more than preying on an easy target.

Get up. Rally. Do what you have to do to survive.

Laser tag is life.