There isn’t much time left to take the Hill. The Blue Team has been camping there long enough to erode your lead, leaving your team little choice but to make a desperate charge and hope for the best. You lean around the corner and hear the telltale sound of assault rifles, your vest shivering as your shield is being pounded into oblivion. You quickly pull back completely behind cover, making a mental note that three of the four Blues are hunkered down securely at the captured location. You wonder where their fourth member is – she was the one that seemed to give you so much trouble. Why, with all of the Reds covering the field there’s nowhere that she could hi-
Suddenly, you feel your vest shake, giving up the last of your recharging shield to the pounding force of a shotgun – and before you can react, she switches to an assault rifle and takes you down rapidly, causing mild electric shocks to the armband on your bare right arm – one pinching buzz for every quarter of your life. Then, you are dead. The buzzer goes, indicating the end of the match, and your team has the blues because you failed to make the other team see Red.
Welcome to Battlegrounds!
Battlegrounds is an advanced laser tag-type game that is presented as a live gaming experience. Just imagine what it would be like to play Halo in the flesh (without actually dying), and you have yourself a pretty good idea of what Battlegrounds is all about. The company was founded in 2012, and is currently running Beta trials to iron out the bugs in the system. Fellow Thumber Evan and myself (along with my friend James) scooted over to their Beta location (a 5000 square-foot area in a warehouse) to engage in some good ol’ fashion shooty-shooty.
What makes Battlegrounds so much more engaging than traditional Laser Tag is the gaming twist that has been thrown into the mix. The guns look futuristic, and have been created from the ground up to deliver a fun experience. Each gun has a powerful emitter that is rail-mounted and very accurate, as well as a holographic sight and haptic feedback. An OLED screen indicates your main stats, and some additional buttons on the sides allow you to switch weapons (each of which has a different strength and effective range). The guns also have audio output, and give out a Wilhelm scream when you kick the bucket.
The vests have LEDs embedded within to indicate team colour, and have vibrating feedback that indicates when you have been shot. Each player has their own personal forcefield that diminishes when hit (and recharges when there is a spare moment). However, once the shields are down, the vest has an armband that delivers a mild electric shock for every 25% of your actual health that has been lost. This electric shock can be configured to be miniscule or jarring – but never enough to cause damage. Trust me – it is an incentive to play more strategically.
The game type for yesterday evening was King of the Hill, in which each team tried to take and hold a single point in the middle. Each team began at their spawn point (opposite corners of the playing field), and tried to take the “Hill”, which was marked by a large three-section light fixture that would slowly “fill” with the colour of the team that was actively occupying the space. Teams could “steal” possession of the hill by “kicking out” the opposing team members and then camping in their place (which would remove the other team’s colour and then start filling up with their own). When killed, the deceased person’s vest LEDs shone white, and they had to go back to their spawn points and press a button to “re-spawn”. Stats were tracked and displayed on a television setup outside of the gaming area, showing a lot of information about the match that had just taken place (and it would update in real-time for spectators as the match was unfolding).
The experience was exhilarating and fun – more so than Laser Tag because of the objective-based play. When we were heading back home, we talked about how Battlegrounds is also much more fun and accessible compared to paintball, as you are entirely in charge of your pain (you can not only set the intensity of the shock, but the device has a kill-switch that you can pull if you realize you have the wrong setting). This interesting element is far more attractive to more people than getting welts and bruises from paint balls – it’s also far less messy. While the Battlegrounds crew are busy tweaking things for their late spring release, they are thinking ahead to the future. On top of larger arenas and re-configurable “maps”, they are also considering structured league-based play, as well as more interesting equipment and more dynamic add-on weapons.
Their IndieGoGo campaign is currently tracking well – but if you like unique, team-building events, or if you want to get your butt off the couch and get some exercise while still gaming, you might want to toss a few bucks their way. It’s totally worth it! You can check out more information on their official webpage, located here.