While we love Laser Tag for the game itself, I'd say that a MAJOR component of why we do what we do is because of the ability to customize and build a blaster tailored to your needs pretty easily. Laser Challenge was very simple to do this with because of it's design. The sensor and blaster were separate, making for extremely basic internal designs that made recasing projects and enhancements very easy. Often, we'd go to local thrift stores and garage sales to find broken or cheap Nerf blasters to use as recasing candidates to build our own blasters, something that has really made our group stand out from others.
Because there were no sensors mounted on the blaster, it meant that we didn't have to modify the shell or appearance of the blaster much to make things work. As long as the shell had a barrel and a trigger, pretty much everything else could work just fine. And since Laser Challenge was such a simple system as far as it's programming goes, even blasters that weren't designed for the system could be used. Signals sent from a Lazer Tag Team Ops blaster or a Laser Command pistol could still land hits on Laser Challenge sensors because it was a simple analog signal. Heck, even TV remotes could land hits on LC sensors! Not only did we have the ability to make our own blasters very easily, but we could include other blasters from other systems quite easily, too!
The advantage of the back-sensor was clear... you could easily shoot anyone fleeing the area. Capture the Flag games were also easy to do because of this, a game type we no-longer play when using the Lazer Tag brand because of the lack of a back-sensor. However, this was really the only advantage of the torso-based sensor system for Laser Challenge, as hitting opponents from the front became quite the hassle. Often times, the player's arms or blaster would get in the way, making them tough targets to hit. It was much easier to hit your opponent in the back than the front due to this issue.
In the last few years that we used Laser Challenge, we stole an idea from Mike Yates of CTDYNE: a shoulder-mounted sensor for players using larger weapons. This solved many of the issues folks would have hitting players with larger custom-built weapons. The only problem was that... well... more players were quick to build custom blasters and make it easier to hit OTHER people than to build a sensor system for themselves that would make it easier for others to hit THEM. Self-preservation reigned supreme, and only a handful of veteran players (myself being the first to do this in our group) and eventually, the idea of having sensors mounted on the blaster, like the Lazer Tag system, became a more attractive option. Between that fact, and the harsh reality that we would not be able to promote laser tag if we were using a system that wasn't available to normal consumers. While we do provide blasters at games, it's always been our goal to encourage players to own their own blasters.
There were other advantages that Lazer Tag had over Laser Challenge. LC did not have any teams settings, so friendly fire was quite the issue sometimes. LC also did not perform well in sunlight (the sun could kill you faster than Eleri with a Sniper Rifle) whereas LT had good performance in daylight. With our usual laser tag park closing at 10 pm, we didn't have many games in full darkness during the summer months when we were most active.
I'm looking forward to revisiting our old Laser Challenge armory and having a night of games the way we used to, but I also expect to be reminded of the reasons WHY we've switched to Lazer Tag-brand gear. One thing is for sure... there's going to be a LOT of great looking blasters out there! By the time we retired the Laser Challenge gear for our weekly games, OLCA players had built over 20 custom blasters.
Our first "Throwback" game is set to coincide with our Anniversary game in the first week of June!