By Eileen Jones
March 4 2015
It’s not every day you get to see fun like this at Holland College.
Ground Zero Laser Tag lit up the Centre for Community Engagement at the Prince of Wales campus on March 4.
From 11 until 2:00 p.m., students could get away from the books for a few hours and enjoy running around and shooting behind blow-up bunkers.
Organizers Suzanne and Mark McKinney operate the business with help from their teenagers, Ben and Tianne. They fit an elastic headset around your head and hand you a plastic laser tagger.
“We started the business because we needed more entertainment in the Maritimes. More family entertainment where people can get off the couch,” said Mark McKinney.
Equipped with trucks and a few trailers, the family is able to set up a course in places as small as a church, backyard or office, or as big as an arena or gym.
The McKinneys are firm that Ground Zero Laser Tag isn’t about encouraging violence or showing children how to operate weapons.
Since it’s by a family, for families, the McKinneys have given a lot of thought to the differences between the nature of what they do and “real” violence.
“Parents love it. We promote it as athletic. We don’t promote guns or killing, we use the words ‘tagger’ and ‘down’. So we stay away from those words. Teenagers and adults are a bit different, though.”
The reception to the business has been positive.
“It’s been just like this,” says Suzanne, gesturing to the running, smiling students.
No one needed too much prompting from the organizers on what to do. Once the green lights on the guns and headset turned on, everyone in the gym was fair game.
You aim through the scope and try to hit the plastic baubles on the headset, resulting in the enemy being unable to shoot during the “respawn” period.
On their website, the company says its services are pain-free, unlike paintball. In practice, the free-for-all nature and complete lack of pain removes the pressure of being competitive or any fear of getting hurt. It’s all the entertainment running and gunning can bring while in a safe environment.
Suzanne says some people have been hurt before, but only when people have not followed the rules.
“People get hurt when they are not keeping safe. I say to my kids, you’re supposed to use common sense, but sometimes it’s not very common,” she says with a laugh.
Operating out of Saint John since 2013, the family has covered many events, having been to the Atlantic Balloon Fiesta and Teens Against Drunk Driving.
They are planning to attend the national 2015 Canadian Youth Against Impaired Driving event from May 21st-23rd in Fredericton, as well this summer’s Dragon Boat festival and a return to this years’ Fiesta in Sussex.