It's like paintball without the welts, or laser tag without the dated technology.
Laser tag, paintball, and airsoft all seemed like terrific ideas at the time they were introduced to us all, then generally after a few minutes of either searing pain, getting completely owned by local pros or smelling the decades old laser vest—you start to wonder what exactly you just spent your money on.
Enter Battlegrounds, easily the most exciting thing I saw at the Toronto Mini Maker Faire 2014.
Battlegrounds is essentially laser tag of the future, stripped down and rebuilt from the old version with current FPS dynamics in mind. You still strap on a vest, but the bulk has been reduced and it doesn't feel like something that was dated 20 years ago. You also strap a GoPro-mounted helmet to your head so that you can live-stream your experience.
The weaponry is fully customizable and there's a certain strategy to choosing said weapons—you can set your gun to energy weapons, which can disable an enemy's shield but costs health, or go for a shotgun, with limited range but massive damage.
It's designed to emulate Halo or Call Of Duty as an actual live experience, so things like stat tracking, team-based missions and strategy come into play, not just running around zapping things. There are even respawn points and regenerative health. In 'Capture The Flag' mode (which was on display) the lighting in the playing field changes color based on which team has the 'flag'.
This was the first time Battlegrounds has been publicly displayed. The team has been running private tests for investors and they plan to open a full facility in Downsview Park next year. The units on display were still rough, but they showed immense promise.
Founder and CEO Miles Bossons has only been at this since 2012 and it hasn't always been easy. They tried to showcase this at Maker Faire last year, but it was a essentially in alpha and barely worked. A year of refining later and it's easy to see why kids and adults alike were losing their minds.
The playing field at the Faire was tiny and essentially worked as proof of concept, but the upcoming facility will have a full playing field comparable in size to a Paintball or Airsoft arena with obstacles an different terrain. They also plan for a full bar and spectator area where the aforementioned helmets would be streamed. They're also working on electric shock force feedback to add some realistic danger. Thankfully that was not yet part of the demo.
Battlegrounds should be launching their IndieGoGo soon for interested parties. They're hoping to get proper beta testing underway and utilize the IndieGoGo as a way of getting a dedicated group sending feedback right away, so if this interests you I recommend checking it out. This could very easily be the thing that gets you from shooting your friends on the couch to shooting your friends in person.