Socorro laser tag gets youth moving

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Getting children outside and playing in a safe environment that engages them without breaking the bank just got easier.

Three young men in town have established Socorro Laser Tag — but it’s not what you might expect. Richard Chavez, Fred Chavez and Steven Thibedau have taken traditional laser tag outside and added mechanics from popular video games such as the “SOCOM” and “Call of Duty” series.

“This is to bring some extra stuff to the community,” says Richard Chavez.

Their goal is to provide a low-cost activity for local youth to help keep them active and out of trouble.

Richard works with Socorro General Hospital as a health educator, working on Community Based Programs. In the past, he ran a risk avoidance class, which focused on keeping young people away from drugs, gangs and other risky business.

When that program lost funding, Richard started working on projects to provide young people with something to do to keep them out of trouble — shifting from the “don’t” to the “do.” He is involved with movie nights in the park and a flag football group. Getting young people out and active is one thing, but flag football doesn’t grab everyone.

Video Game Inspiration

Richard and Fred both enjoy playing video games, as do many of their friends and Chavez’s students. This is where the Chavez brothers came up with the idea for establishing Socorro Laser Tag.

It started with setting up a Nerf club, then changed into setting up an attachment to an existing paintball group. Paintball, though, requires safety equipment and can be painful, which they were concerned would drive participants off.

Electronic toys, however, are growing rapidly more complex as costs continue to plummet. They found a laser pistol that runs on batteries, eschewed the normal sensor vest in lieu of a top-mounted sensor and had an effective range of nearly 100 yards — though according to Chavez, “You really have to aim (at that distance).”

Based on their experiences with video games and the limitations of the hardware, they designed a set of rules and a few game types, as well as a ranking system and other mechanics, such as smoke bombs, grenades and care packages.

Chavez said that the system is oriented around the players, so he’s always open for suggestions for making things more fun.

Richard said he was planning on “pushing the low cost.” Although players do pay a fee, the goal is to cover operating costs, not to profit, said Richard.

Players who want to register and track their statistics — another mechanic adopted from video games — can pay $35 for a full year membership or $20 for six months. Members will also get $10 off the price of each session; non-members must pay $15 per four-hour session while members only pay $5.

“I know it doesn’t sound cheap,” Chavez said, “but it’s only $1.25 per hour if you do the math. That beats seven bucks for 20 minutes (a typical price in Albuquerque).”

They have guaranteed 28 sessions per year, though more may be available. The schedule will be on Facebook at www.facebook.com/socorrolasertag.

For information, call Chavez at 418-8011, email him at socorrolasertag@gmail.com, or contact the group via Facebook.