What’s the Difference Between Paintball and Laser Tag?


Exciting team sports where you shoot your opponents, paintball and laser tag are both very fun and intense games. The objectives of both of these sports are very similar but the rules and equipment used are extremely different.

There are several differences between the two activities:

Paintball   Laser Tag  
Shoots hard paintballs that break   Shoots lasers that you can’t feel  
Painful   Painless  
Popular among men 15-30 years of age   Popular among all ages  
Very aggressive   Fun  
Expensive gear   Inexpensive  
Medium cleanup – biodegradable   No cleanup  
Paintball vs. laser tag

From the table above you might wonder why on earth should you play paintball. Well imagine that rush of adrenaline going through you everytime the game starts in paintball. Not once I felt the same when playing laser tag.

When you know it can hurt when you get shot, it really adds the authenticity of real combat and you really don’t want to move like Rambo in his movies, but instead follow more tactical approach. If it results in victory the satisfactory feeling is unparalell to the victory in laser tag. And if you loose you will have a strong incentive to come up with a better strategy.

Adrenaline rush in paintball games is unmatched by laser tag.

While these activities have their differences, there are some key areas where they are very similar. The objectives and play styles of paintball and laser tag are basically the same – and they’re both a lot of fun. If you’re wondering which to play, check out the information we put together here.

Main Differences Between Paintball and Laser Tag

These two sports have very different aspects to them even though the objectives may be similar. Here are some of the key differences between these two sports.

Comfort vs. Pain

If you have ever played both of these games or even seen videos, it will become apparent that one leaves welts and bruises all over your body where the other is painless.

Yes, paintball can leave lots of painful reminders on your body, even if you wear all the right equipment while laser tag is absolutely painless unless you fall down or don’t pay attention and trip over stationary obstacle.

Exclusivity vs. Inclusivity

Paintball is very popular with men between the ages of 15-30 years. One of the reasons for this is undoubtedly the pain factor, young, old people, and most women don’t want to have large bruises and welts on their bodies that last for days.

Older people take longer to heal, and the pain can be more pronounced because the likelihood of them injuring themselves is greater than a young person. Paintball is actually restricted to people of certain ages because of this reason.

Ladies, kids and elderly folks enjoy playing laser tag far more. There is still strategy and competitive elements to laser tag, so it brings in young men as well, making laser tag much more inclusive than paintball.

Relaxed vs. Aggressive

The main objective is almost always to wipe out the other team; paintball players are usually the most aggressive when compared to laser tag players.

This is because most of the players are young men with high testosterone, some players may find it fun to inflict pain on their opposition as well. Other players may be as aggressive as possible so that they don’t get hit themselves. The best defense is a good offense. This is especially true in paintball.

Laser tag has no way to hurt somebody unless it’s their pride when they get them out. The only satisfaction laser tag players can get is when they get a player out and defeat them.

Gear Cost: Expensive vs. Cheap

Paintball can be very expensive to play, because of the mask, body gear, paintball gun, and most importantly lots and lots of paintball rounds.

It doesn’t matter where you are. There will almost always be players with maxed out gear that can fire faster than you with more power and more range. This usually isn’t a small difference either.

Some guns can be optimized to shoot multiple times every time the trigger is pulled due to a gravity-fed mechanism. The only way to counteract this is to either go somewhere with strict rules or to get overpowered gear yourself.

However, when playing laser tag, you don’t need to do any of this. There is no expensive gear with large-quality gaps between products. You simply rent a laser gun from the arena. Depending on who you are and your personality these differences will mean many different things to you, some love intense, aggressive, shooting games, while some just want a casual fun combat simulation.

Paintball Basics

  • Paintball is a very extreme sport where teams or individuals compete to eliminate their opponents by firing capsules at them with water-soluble dye coated in a gelatin shell.
  • The capsules are fired from a paintball gun; the paintballs are non-toxic and biodegradable.
  • Games are played outdoors or indoors on fields that can vary wildly in size; there can be natural and artificial terrain that is used as cover by the players. One type of artificial obstacle is an inflatable that’s referred to as a bunker which is integral for players in formulating plans and strategies. 
  • Game modes for paintball can also vary, from simple matches like team elimination to more complex games like capture the flag, ammunition limits, bomb squad, attack and defend. Games typically last 5-10 minutes while scenario game can last days.
Paintball promotes the use of teamwork and tactics.

Paintball promotes the use of teamwork and planning, as well as healthy-natured competition. Paintball is on the rise for schools and youth groups as they incorporate them into their team development plans.

Companies aren’t the only ones that use paintball to promote unity, fellowship, and teamwork. Boy scouts, frats, churches, sororities, and many other groups of people are all flocking to paintball.

There are a couple of varieties of paintball:

Woodsball

This is the traditional form of paintball that’s also known as rec ball. It involves playing outside or in semi-built environments. Some variations of these fields have been known to have complete villages.

Woodsball is great for recreational players.

Big games can be played in Woodsball because the fields are so much larger, and paintballs usually don’t have that far of a range. Most popular game modes are mil-sims (military simulations) which have very tactical objectives to keep players constantly adapting their strategy.

Speedball

Played on level fields with grass or turf, these games are much smaller which enables fast-paced and shorter duration. These matches use a lot more paintballs than woodsball because of the amount of firing going on.

Laser Tag Basics

  • Laser Tag is a game played with guns that fire infrared lasers.
  • These infrared lasers are aimed at special armor that the players wear.
  • The armor contains infrared-sensitive targets that will respond to the lasers when hit.
  • Laser tag can be played outside and inside with specific game modes to enable more intense competition and more strategic thinking.
  • Laser guns shoot a lot farther than airsoft and paintball guns, in broad daylight two types of guns, the S-7, and the Eclipse can shoot players 650 feet away.
  • This makes the laser gun such a great weapon for indoor and outdoor play because the range is never an issue with fields never reaching more than 650 feet in distance.
  • Guns have one sensor and headbands have three sensors. Players can shoot at the opponent’s guns and headbands to get points. Some places will have bulkier vests and equipment.

Laser Tag Safety

Laser tag is much safer of a game than paintball, and it’s also a lot cleaner. You will never have to wear safety equipment besides the special laser tag armor that’s given to you. Players shoot infrared lasers at you instead of physical projectiles like paintballs and pellets.

Laser tag can be played by anyone at age because it is so safe and simple. It’s a great game to play at parties, indoor arenas, paintball, corporate retreats, etc.

How Your First Game of Laser Tag Will Work

You need to have a good understanding of the rules and how to formulate a good plan with your teammates.

Easy things that employees will go over before you start playing:

  • How the equipment works such as targets, guns, and bases.
  • The safety rules and the rules for the game mode you’ll be playing
  • Play area boundaries, where you can compete and where to go if eliminated or the game is over.

One of the best game modes for newer players is team elimination or immortal arena because they have very easy-to-follow rules and are simple to understand.

Laser Tag Rules and Equipment

Here are some basic rules and equipment explanations that most places go over before they start the game.

Overview of the Guns

  • You will be shown how to wear your sunband, as well as tighten and loosen it. An example will be shown of how the sunband lights up when you’re hit by someone else.
  • Example gun firings, so players know what the shooting sounds like
  • Players will be shown how to reload and what that sounds like
  • Players will be shown the ammo and health information that is visible on the gun, as well as demonstrating the sound that’s made when they’re hit.
  • Explanation of the sound the gun makes at the start of the game.

Basic Safety Rules

  • Climbing trees is not allowed
  • Keep at least 5 feet from other players so that nobody runs into each other.
  • If anybody falls down and is hurt, the game needs to be put on hold while everybody tries to help that person.

Aiming Practice

Arguably, the most important skill to have in laser tag is the ability to aim accurately. This will help out your team and make you a better overall player that can put immense pressure on foes.

Newbies will undoubtedly struggle at first to aim and hit people; some places set up targets before games so players can practice hitting the target from many different areas. They will also have the opportunity to use the gun and get an understanding of how it works.

These shots are not visible because they are beams, paintball shots make visible splatters, so you know how far off you were, but lasers are invisible so you can’t adjust your shot based on where it goes.

Here are some tips to improve your shooting:

  • Practice shooting target dummies so you get use to different distances and sights.
  • Shoot from many different positions such as kneeling, standing, and lying down.
  • Shoot while leaning out of cover or while you’re running.
  • Start with the gun aimed straight and the ground and then aim at the target
  • Practice aiming for specific targets

Tactics and Teamwork for both games

A lot of game modes in laser tag and paintball will have at least two teams which means that teamwork and tactics within your group will need to be developed to play as efficient as possible.

While most times, groups of children are perfectly happy to run around shooting each other, adults can use these games to help develop as a team and promote strategic thinking:

  • Communication. Make sure all the players on your team know what game mode you’re playing, the conditions required to win will change, depending on the game mode. If you’re using a really large field, you can try using walkie talkies to work with each other.
  • Change management. The tactics you utilize will change depending on the game mode, make sure your team has enough time to talk to each other before each match so they can all agree on a game plan that will work.
  • Strategy. Have a map of your battlefield available so that everybody knows what the layout is, and you can organize, formations and movement better.
  • Teamwork. Try to give each player a specific role to increase their confidence and decision making while they’re playing. For example, you could have one player be a scout to make sure nobody gets behind your team.
  • Leadership. Try forming small groups or just have one central leader that calls out targets and plays in the middle of the game.

Laser Tag advantages over Paintball

There are a lot of advantages to choosing laser tag depending on how you look at both of them and which values you prioritize more than others.

Anti-Cheating Features

There’s no way to cheat in laser tag because it will turn itself off when it’s been hit several times. Paintball does not have this. You could get hit many times and still fire back at your opponents.

Mistakes happen all the time, and you probably don’t mean to cheat, but sometimes you don’t feel paintballs, and in the middle of firefight there’s a lot to process. Some guns in paintball fire so fast that it’s almost impossible for these types of situations not to occur.

Favorable Legal Position

Unlike paintball guns, laser tag equipment isn’t considered firearms or replicas, and there aren’t as many legal issues to deal with. Some countries outright restrict paintball to people of a certain age because there have been life-threatening situations where paintball weapons were discharged unlawfully and with neglect of safety.

Broader Market

Laser tag arguably appeals to a larger market because it’s available to more people; young teens are really into simulated combat games because of the popularity of Battlefield and Call of Duty. Laser tag wins this demographic over most of the time because laser tag wins in price, safety, and legalities.

Farther Range

The range in laser tag is far greater, and the technology attracts a crowd that wants such a combat simulation system. With this greater range, laser tag fields can be much greater than the average paintball field.

Paintball fields are usually small because they can’t hit players that are 60 meters away even if they’re in a clear view. However, the action in paintball starts almost immediately and is very intense.

With laser tag’s larger battlefield:

  • Players can use whole new play styles that aren’t possible in paintball. Patrols and ambushes finally have their place in simulated combat.
  • Team play is more critical than ever, and many opt for radio communications over walkie talkie which adds in another dimension that average paintball doesn’t have.
  • Players can take longer shots.

Paint pellets are very inaccurate, especially for a 100ft shot, they will almost always veer off course; however, in laser tag, you can make a 600ft shot if you aim correctly because the laser beam is in a straight line. Laser tag can also be played in small fields, but the main thing that separates them from paintball is that they can be played on much bigger fields.

Paintball Tips

Paintball can give a huge rush of adrenaline because there is a threat of painful paintballs that laser tag just doesn’t have. That being said:

Play with group of people that you can trust. You don’t want to play with people who will shoot you at point-blank range and draw your blood. Some players also purposely turn up their gun’s FPS (fire-rate per second) to fire incredibly hard paintballs that are capable of lots of damage.

Be ready to get very physical. Some paintball arenas allow you to climb trees, dive on the ground, sprint, and hide in nooks and crannies, unlike some laser tag places which have very strict movement rules.

Play with people who are similarly armed. Laser offers an even fight because the equipment is very similar across all lines. But some higher-end paintball equipment can just offer huge advantages to those with the biggest pocket.

Be ready to get dirty. These aren’t lasers; this is paint. And quite often dirt, mud and who knows what else.

In Conclusion

Whichever game you choose, if you are re looking for fun, strategy and competition, paintball or laser tag will offer all of that and more. Get out there and have a blast.

I believe laser tag is more appropriate choice for broader audiences. Which is clearly shown in the article. It has more advantages. But despite all of that my clear game of choice is paintball. It feels more real. You get painfully punished for wrong moves and you will do your best next time to not repeat the same mistake. It’s tactically deeper and just more manly game overall.

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