What’s the score? The future of competitive gaming


What’s the score? The future of competitive gaming

As technology advances, opportunities for different experiences at Fecs and other venues also change.

By Steven Carson – Editorial Intergame

There are few ways better to spice up a gaming experience than involving others. Over the years, this has become so popular that esports events are now huge spectator exhibitions. But like with professional athletes, such as association footballers, and their counterparts playing in a park at the weekend for fun with friends, competitive gaming is not just for the top X per cent to indulge in.

Naturally, there has always been an interest in playing games with each other – harking back to skipping pebbles the furthest across a body of water – but in the age of the Internet and advances in technology, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (Ar), contemporary games are magnitudes more complex. And that only amps up the fun factor.

As already touched upon, Vr is a relatively new and exciting way to enjoy experiences and one of the industry’s leaders in that field is Laserforce. The company, founded back in 1987 in Brisbane, Australia, is famed for its top-of-the-range laser tag equipment, but has recently launched a new gaming experience called Laserball.
It combines elements of association football (or soccer) with laser tag. “Laserball is the future of laser tag,” said Rohan Kelly, chief operating officer at Laserforce. “It truly is an industry changing laser game. Combining soccer with Laserforce’s award winning laser tag equipment, Laserball sets out to be a staple laser tag variation for decades to come.”
Laserball has already been embraced in Germany, Kelly reports, and sites are already competing against each other. “It is quickly becoming a staple game type at many members’ nights and leagues all over the globe. Customers from the Us all the way to the Czech Republic are using Laserball to enhance their players’ experience.”
When asked why Laserforce’s newest product was going down so well, Kelly said its unique blend of two elements make it stand out; those being laser tag and the most popular game in the world, association football. “It is built upon the most popular game on Earth, soccer. Laserball is decisively the product of Laserforce’s patented proximity detection technology. Using this technology to alter the physical space of players need to command in the arena creates a unique experience only found in a Laserforce Arena. Laserball maximises Laserforce’s industry leading phaser and battlesuit screens, and when combined with our award winning Gen8 infinity lighting system, Laserball becomes an incredibly immersive experience.”

Indeed, Vr – certainly, at the level of immersion able to be put on by Laserforce’s impressive technology – allows its users to delve into worlds in which they are able to lose themselves and really enjoy all the experience has to offer. As lightly touched upon by Kelly, these experiences are perhaps quite often team-building exercises, explicitly involving multi-player sessions by necessity.
But what keeps people coming back for more? “These competitive games of Laserball are very exciting,” added Kelly. “Bringing back members and non-members alike to participate in league nights and special tournaments. What makes Laserball truly impact replay-ability is the simplicity of the game. We see Laserball as the perfect combination of advance play and simplicity, it is a great gateway game type for newer players to progress into Laserforce’s illustrious collection of laser tag game types.”

 

Another angle
There are other ways to compete with each other while playing games, something we have all certainly experienced in one form or another in the last few years, while keeping our distance from one another during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Internet has definitely been a friend for many, helping us keep in touch and remain up-to-date on all matters; in an intensified way it has done so since its inception. But the Internet also allows for quirky additions to experiences, such as Stern Pinball’s Insider Connected platform.
The Us-based company’s latest innovation allows its users to compete with each other, as well as a host of other features for pinball enthusiasts. Insider Connected recently picked up a major award at the Amusement Expo International in Las Vegas, the Amoa Innovator Award ‘in recognition of excellence in developing and delivering unique ideas to the amusement industry’.
“Insider Connected is the greatest technological advance to pinball in decades, giving players even more reasons to play,” said Zach Sharpe, director of marketing at Stern Pinball. “Insider Connected lets players track scores and offers new achievements for connected pinball machines. Through their mobile phones and computers, players can access their profiles, post scores, find the locations of connected machines or explore pinball activities in their area.”
Indeed, these “activities” may very well include events similar to those lightly touched upon by Kelly, including team events.
But the technology does allow for a more strictly online gaming experience, utilising leaderboards and allowing its users to, pardon the turn of phrase, “connect” with each other, kicking up replay-ability a notch. “Insider Connected Pro provides tools for commercial operators to improve earnings and operational efficiency through remote updates and diagnostics,” said Stern’s Sharpe. “All Stern Pinball machines now ship with Insider Connected enabled and players can register on our website.
“Insider Connected has been the biggest source of replay value across locations around the world. Whether it’s an individual trying to earn personal achievements and badges or attempting to become the champion on the leaderboard at an event, Insider Connected is the instrumental driver of replay-ability across all connected Stern pinball machines.”
For many, pinball may not be the most obvious option when it comes to a competitive gaming experience – often, you’d imagine someone playing a cabinet solo, with perhaps a small scoreboard on that one machine alone – but it’s certainly a thriving community, as explained by Sharpe. “Competitive pinball shows no sign of slowing down,” he said. “Whether it’s through the International Flipper Pinball Association (Ifpa) with player rankings and events growing year over year or with Stern Army locations popping up across the globe, promoting competitive language of fun and it’s always more fun to compete!”.

 

A glance to the future
All that said, what does the industry have in store for its patrons and professionals? Kelly, Laserforce Ceo, naturally believes laser tag holds one of the keys to the future. “With more and more competition in the amusement and family entertainment industry, it is becoming increasingly more important for laser tag systems to have competitive play options for advanced and repeat players,” he said. “Laserforce is by far the industry leader in custom laser tag game types, and replay-ability games like Laserball and Space Marines 5 (another of Laserforce’s games) are a few staples of Laserforce’s deep catalogue of competitive laser tag games.”
With a more immediate look to the calendar, Stern’s Sharpe moved to highlight some upcoming events in the pinball community (at the time of writing). The Stern Pro Circuit made its reappearance last month after a brief hiatus. “The demand cannot be satiated,” he explained. “There is a virtual invitational that has garnered massive exposure, featured on Espn, the official Marvel Instagram and Twitch accounts, and on the official Elvira Instagram account, showcasing competitive pinball to entirely new audiences.”
And that final point really ties all of this together – people, perhaps now even more than ever, treat gaming as a social experience. Be that watching or partaking, the interest remains.
The competitive nature of these experiences keep players coming back for more, which adds further fuel to the fire. The same could absolutely be said of other experiences, such as air hockey, electric darts and mini-golf, all of which enjoy unwavering popularity.