In the 1980s laser guns and space battles were all the rage thanks to a little film called Star Wars. Nearly every toy or activity had a space theme, making the timing perfect for laser tag to explode across the nation. With two companies releasing their laser tag toy-sets for the 1986 Christmas season, it was a battle of the blasters! Lazer Tag by Worlds of Wonder and Photon by Entertech were the toys on everyone's wish list. But what made Photon the stand out laser tag game was everything else that was going on with the company. It really was "The Ultimate Game On Planet Earth"
Photon was put into research and development in the summer of 1982 after Photon creator, George Crater III, saw Star Wars. Two years later the first Photon arena was opened in Garland, Texas. By 1987 there were 45 arenas open for fans to play their beloved laser tag.
Inside and out, Photon arenas always looked like something from the future.
Games at the arena had players join either the red or green team (solo games were not an option). Regular players had a Photon ID card that they would give to the game master to load in their codename and accumulated points.
Each Player wore a helmet that matched their team’s color, a chest piece with sensor, and the 15 pound battery belt. And of course they’d be armed with the Photon laser gun!
Before every game all players watched an informational video to learn the rules of the game. Let’s take a look at the video now to better understand the fundamentals of Photon.
Dramatic music by Ken Caillat, strobe effects, and smoke machines were used in the arena during games to enhance play. Players gained points for shooting other players and for shooting the enemy team's base. Players lost points for being shot ("zapped" in game terminology) or by shooting teammates. (A player "zapping" a teammate would lose a massive amount of score and be automatically "zapped" himself.) One feature of the game was that no player could be "zapped" more than three consecutive times by the same player. This forced players to vary, or "clear", their targets before being able to score points on the same player again. When "zapped", a player's weapon would be inert for five seconds and then reactivate automatically. In the end, the team with the most points went home as conquerors of the Photon arena.
If you could not make it to your local Photon arena, then lucky for you, there was the home version. It had a lighter battery pack but still packed just as much fun.
With a popular arena game and toy line, what else could this game need? Why not a TV show? Well, that happened.
Photon the TV show lasted one season (28 Episodes) during the summer of 1986.
The show followed the adventures of a young high school student, Christopher Jarvis with the alias of "Bhodi Li". Chris discovered that the laser tag game, Photon, was actually a way to detect the strongest warriors in the galaxy, who were then recruited to fight the forces of darkness. After shooting his laser gun and saying "The light shines!", he would be transported to a space station to join his fellow Photon Warriors. His compatriots included an orphan Earthling boy genius named Parcival, a shape-changing blob named Pike, a Lizardoid named Leon, a cyborg named Lord Baethan, and Tivia, a black ninja princess from planet Nivia, which was populated with women after the males became extinct. Their mentor was a sentient computer named MOM (Multiple Operation Matrix).
Heroes and villains searched the galaxy for each planet’s Photon crystal just before the end of its hundred-year charge. If the Photon Warriors were the first to shoot the crystal, the planet transformed into a vital place full of life. If the villains got there first, the planet became a barren wasteland. The villains' motto was, "Let the darkness grow!"
The show was filmed in the U.S. and Japan. Many of the costumes were designed and manned by people that worked on Super Sentai and other tokusatsu programs in Japan. Production values were rather low, and a majority of the sets were chroma-keyed in.
Check out an episode of the show below.....
Like most great, fun things from the 1980s, it all must come to an end. By the end of 1989 the Photon company had to close its doors due to lack of financing and loss of franchise revenue. But at least we have this great(?) show to watch and the fond memories of blasting each other with lasers!