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The Journal Gazette

Monday, March 20, 2017 10:00 pm

Game skills put to test

Tara Zwick | For The Journal Gazette

If you’re into such video games as "Call of Duty" and "Halo," then Combat Ops Arena may be the place for you.

The new combat laser tag facility at 702 Ley Road lets participants play their favorite first-person shooter games in real life. Combining paintball with military tactics, Combat Ops Arena challenges players to complete team-based missions and specific objectives.

"You don’t just run around and score points," says Brett Veit, manager for Combat Ops Arena. "Teams can fail easy missions by not working as a cohesive unit."

The owner decided to open Combat Ops after he played tactical laser tag with his young son in Florida and wanted to bring a similar experience to Fort Wayne. It took quite some time to decide on the business name before opening in November. There are plans to build additional tactical laser tag facilities across the country.

Jason Watts, one of the game masters and retired 20-year veteran of the Air National Guard, creates 3 to 7 minute missions using a computer program designed by real-life gamers.

A playable selection between 40 to 50 runnable missions continually rotates to keep things interesting, Veit says. Sessions start at $13. In addition, an actual school bus and dump truck can be found inside the arena, Veit adds.

"Everyone’s favorite by far, is Infection, a zombie-like scenario," Watts says.

A simple laser tagger rifle emulates the sound, damage and accuracy of a variety of programmed weapons, behaving proportionally like they would in the real world, Watts says. There is no gear or mask to wear, except for a halo, he says.

Taggers, halos and the computer software sync with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Watts says. Wireless technology makes live scoring possible and allows players to view their statistics in real time, he says.

Inspiration for the design and layout of the 10,000-sqare-foot arena came from "Call of Duty," and the tagger rifle is modeled after the battle rifle from "Halo," adds Veit.

Combat Ops appeals to non-gamers, too. Military personnel often come in for real-life training, Veit says. "The Guard guys come in to practice room clearings and friendly-vs.-unfriendly drills," he says.

While regulating logistics of the session and adjusting game rules for corrective measures, game masters also enjoy interacting with players. Sometimes they will even join the mission to spice things up, Veit says.

"Ten-year-olds love taking on the game master, who happens to have a flamethrower," Watts says.

Unlike real combat, players are not allowed to run, charge or have physical contact with another player. Safety is taken very seriously, Watts says. Even the tagger rifles are made with rubber tips, he says.

Veit says that all too often families don’t spend quality time together. The new facility encourages parents to share in game play with their children because it becomes a family bonding experience, Veit says. An optional Kids’ Mode features quieter and less-intense weapon sounds, adds Watt.

One of their regulars, a 4-year-old, routinely comes in with his dad to play against others. Veit says it’s always a great time because he’s so short that he’ll come up behind people and surprise them. "This is the only place in the world you’ll hear a kid yell, ‘Cover me, Mom!’ " laughs Watts.