“Do you see the numbers counting down,” says Philippe Roberts with a grin, pointing to the laser-shooting device in his hand. “When it gets to zero, you don’t want to be next to me.” We look behind us. The veteran players have vanished. Suddenly the noobs realize— it’s time to run.
Located on the corner of South Grand Avenue and West Pico Boulevard, the LazRfit studio is in a large converted warehouse split into two sections: reception in the front, arena in the back. Co-creators Philippe and Lucie Roberts, a husband and wife team, founded the studio in two thousand seventeen after a five-year development period and a two-year studio launch. The concept of LazRfit is simple— to make cardio training fun and accessible through the sport of laser tag. The numbers that LazRfit advertise are impressive, 400 - 500 calories burned every 24 minutes. All those calories just from laser tag? We were intrigued.
“Where was the idea born?”
“Switzerland. France and Switzerland,” says Philippe.
“We’re French, but we lived in Geneva,” comments Lucie.
All members of our class scatter among the maze of wooden modules. We quickly find a place to regroup and survey the environment. Almost everyone is running, dodging, and shooting inside the maze. However, we notice a few have taken up sniping positions in the corners. The longer the battle continues, the more we feel the burn in our muscles. Laughter fills the room.
“How did the journey begin?”
“Basically playing laser tag,” Philippe smiles.
Lucie and Philippe didn’t play laser tag as kids; they came to the sport later in life. Philippe reveals that he was thirty years old the first time he played. Playing laser tag they noticed two things right away: how fun and exciting the game is, plus its physically demanding nature.
“It was really good cardio and I wasn’t dragging myself to do it,” says Philippe. “My wife could play too and she was as excited as me. Each time we never knew who was going to win. She’s a sniper and I’m more of a striker. It changed everything!”
As partners, Philippe and Lucie find themselves to be extremely compatible. Everything that Lucie doesn't like doing for the business, Philippe does; and what Philippe doesn't enjoy, Lucie loves. "He's a great brain and he has amazing ideas," says Lucie of her husband. "He's a great problem solver, marketer and an amazing teacher."
When we ask Lucie what her specialties in the business are she replies, "After the idea is created you have to make it work, that's what I'm good at. I also know how to make people pay."
Lucie laughs and we ask her where the two meet in their collaboration together. "We're very compatible because we love to communicate and always discuss everything. We don't step on each others toes, we don't fight or get competitive. Every time we have an idea we exchange with each other and approve upon it. Things grow faster that way."
Philippe and Lucie knew that if laser tag was going to be competitive in the modern fitness market, there were a few issues that needed to be addressed first. “Laser tag wasn’t appealing to woman. The equipment is big, bulky and never washed,” says Lucie. “It needs to be clean with good mobility.”
The first step was to look at the laser gun itself. Instead of the traditional blaster, LazRfit has created a shooting handle, which wraps around a single hand, is lightweight, and does not negatively impact personal animation. A screen that displays game information, such as calorie count and ranking, is on the device next to a sensor. To fire the laser you depress a button releasing the laser in a constant stream, three red dots are projected from the device forming a triangle (much like the aiming system of Predator) and at the center of the triangle is the kill zone.
“Our advisors thought we were crazy,” laughs Lucie.
“You’re getting rid of the gun?” they would exclaim. “Do you want to make money?”
Second was to design a lightweight harness with an emphasis on agility. A large sensor, covering your heart, is the vest’s nucleus. Pipelining from the core, and running up the shoulders, are two strips of sensors. When the sensor is white, you’re all right. When it’s red, you’re dead. When it’s blue, you’re at the top of the leader board! All scores are streamed in real time to a monitor in the arena as well as the players' shooting handles.
Once shot by another player, your sensors turn red and the shooting handle is deactivated. As part of the fitness element of the game, Philippe and Lucie calibrated the system to only unlock with movement. During the game we saw some players sprinting across the room to unlock themselves, while others jumped up and down in place.
"What if the clients sweat?" we naturally thought.
“We fix that like this,” says Philippe. He pops a strap on the harness and in one swift motion removes the hardware from the fabric.
“Everyday we wash and clean them,” nods Lucie.
The game is intense. Ducking, squatting and dodging lasers does burns your legs and breaks you into a sweat quickly. At the same time, you need to have a steady hand for aiming because the laser has been dialed in with pinpoint accuracy. It’s not an easy combination to manage the first time out, especially if you’re challenging experienced players. It’s like being thrown into a Call of Duty lobby on Christmas day. "As long as I'm not last place," you say to yourself.
For additional perspectives on the sport of LazRfit, here are a few testimonials from first time players:
“It was a fun experience that I found very engaging. A short round is more intense than you would think, especially if you use the environment to propel yourself.”
“People camping made it pointless to run around.”
“Brand new experience, something fun to do.”
“I think that it would be interesting made into a sport. I would like to see capture the flag, teams, etc.”
“I was sore the next day because you use different muscles that I usually don’t exercising.”
“LazRfit fulfilled my competitive spirit and rekindled a youthful energy.”
Our overall review is that LazRfit is a fresh spin on a classic game. The technology makes it fun to play, and the workout is strong. We look forward to seeing how Philippe and Lucie evolve the concept in the years to come. We know that they have some big plans ahead— Philippe was telling us that he sees LazRfit becoming a major competitive sport one day.
For now, the mission is to communicate to the downtown community how laser tag can change the way you view fitness. Don't think of cardio as work, instead play a game as if you were a child again. Come to think about it... kids are pretty fit.
LazRfit • 400 W. Pico Blvd. LA 90015 • 855.529.7348