Photon started out in the 80's as a building where you would run around with a ton of gear strapped to you and shoot at opponents on another team with electronic guns. A computer would keep score. Combine this this eerie electronic music, flashing swirling lights, an area of the playing filed called the maze, and a lot of synthetic smoke and you had a real good time. My first exposure to photon was an editorial in Starlog magazine. Shortly thereafter I saw a 20/20 ABC news story on it. It looked like such fun. While attending the 1987 NASFiC they had busses running to the photon center so I actually got to go to one. It was one of the most fun times I have ever had. I even managed to get a positive score on one game. Whoever picked red and green for helmet colors should be shot. The green helmets look red under all the funny colored lights...
Unfortunately Photon's thunder was stolen when World of Wonder put out the home version of LaerTag. Photon quickly came out with a superior system for home play, but it was already overshadowed. Photon also spawned a rather interesting TV series which was 90% produced using chromakey setups. KTVU in Oakland picked up the show for it's one syndicated season running it most Sunday mornings at 9 or 10am. The TV show spawned a series of one novel and 6 adventure books. There was also a Photon Fan Club you could join sponsored by the toy company. With it you got a membership card, a certificate, a cassette tape of two of the Photon center music tracks, and a jacket patch with the photon logo on it.
I should look this up. I think it was +10 for hitting an opponent, -10 if you got hit -30 for hitting your own player and +205 for hitting the base. This instructions for the home version were pretty well designed.
I mananged to actualy play in a Photon Center one day during the 1987 NASFiC in Phoenix AZ there was a bus running to a nearby center. A bunch of us went and played a few games. The annoying fake smoke was sort of hard on my lungs so I only played three games. I went home wishing I had a Photon center in my area!
The only Photon center currently in operation is located in Laurel, Maryland, which is centered between Baltimore and Washington, DC, You can even take a virtual tour of the only operating Photon Facility. Their web site is pretty goal they even have a Photon based .WAD file for you DOOM game. (sorry it is closed now....) What was it like at the last Photon center? Check out http://ntr.net/~ricochet/finalcom/photon.html Because of legal reasons they can no longer use the name Photon... This sounds stupid to be but ownership is ownership. They moved two doors down the street and opened XP lasersport (get it eX-Photon : ) http://www.xplasersport.com/ Check it out! Evidently they can still use all the same equipment and stuff.. just not the name...
For more info on the game check out http://www.membrain.com/~banz/photon/ he has some of the original patent information on Photon and a bunch of picture of game brochures from different Photon centers.
A photon memorual page can be found http://lolth.com/photon/
maps of the different playing fields can be found http://members.aol.com/RHolli6247/Tavas.html
I think this link may still be working. I really get tired of people who put up pages for only a few months. Feel free to link to my main page http://www.snowcrest.net/fox as it has been there for over 5 years now!
Another good Photon page is here http://members.tripod.com/nightstormer/photon.html
firstname.lastname@example.org or maybe it is mailto:Pholley@cris.com has mastered the original game soundtrack onto a CD-R. All the annyoing rythms and sounds of the games as heard in the real Photon centers! I don't know if he has any left but bet he could burn a few more : ) His web page (with some annoying music can be found here http://www.concentric.net/~Pholley/
Not much on the page but also check out http://members.aol.com/PHOTONKAH/photon.html
And also visit http://members.xoom.com/mavronis/photon/photon.htm
And for a well written experiece of the game check out http://ntr.net/~ricochet/finalcom/photon.html
The home game was sold in a basic set with a gun and a sensor (similar to the Laser Tag setup) the basic difference was that the gun was itself a sensor. so all you really needed was 2 guns. There was also a Warrior set which cane with a helmet a gun and a sensor. The helmet and chest pack were connected and each had sensors. The gun connected to the chest pack though giving you 3 ways to get hit. The connector was a Atari style joystick connector. I have no idea why the home Photon equipment (which was far more sophisticated than the laser tag competition) did not sell well. be careful if you store you set in the attic. mice seem to like the foam lining of the helmet! There were also some electronic action figures which also worked the same way with a built in sensor and a gun in each hand. The figures were of Bodhi Li and Warriar and were very colorful. I never picked up a set. All the toy stores in our area only had the red helmet Photon sets. I wanted a green one myself, but I never did find one. The home equipment was never as cool as the real stuff which must have weighed 20 lbs when you got it all on.
They even had a "Fan Club" for all aspects of Photon, but mostly for the game itself. When you joined you got a certificate declaring you a Photon Warrior, a issue of the club newsletter, a list of all the locaitons of Photon Centers, as well as some other goodies like a cassette tape of two 5 minute game tracks and a Photon patch. laters fans produced a CD containing all the various audio tracks played in Photon centers.
Most 80's kid-vid had a moral tacked onto the end. Not so with Photon. Photon beat you senseless with a moral lesson each week and then used the moral as a blunt object to nail your coffin shut at the very end. Someone call CSI! Topics varied from being responsible to not doing drugs. Of course there was plenty of violence along the way. In the show there are the forces of light (represented by MOM, Bhodi Li, and the rest of the Photon Warriors) and the forces of dark (represented by the Warlord of Arr and his minions whose names all ended in arr... Mandarr, Buggarr (who had a british accent), etc. Shown to the right is Bohdi Li (aka Christopher Jarvis). The show was actually very much like.. well it was like nothing else. Gratuitous Chroma-Key-Fu all over the place! Strangely enough if a Arrian was killed he just returned to the Warrlord of Arr as he was not there, but rather a projection of him. The good guys had no such advantage. if they got killed they stayed dead. However none of them ever did ; )
It seems that each solar system has a photon crystal. This crystal shines light on the solar system for 100 years, then it needs to be re-charaged. (They should have gone with Duracell!) The Photon warriors race there to charge it with light. The Warlord sends out his minions out to charge the crystal with darkness. It is almost always a race or obstacle course to see who can find and charge the crystal first. It seems the the warlord only sends out holographic representations of his henchmen so when you shoot them they simply go back home. however MOM sends real people into battles so should they get shot they go home in a body bag. Of course no one good ever dies in this series. I have about 1/3 of the series on videotape. Most in the 2hr speed in hi-fi stereo. I would love to trade for more. When I get the time I will do some frame grabs. Shown to the left is probably the best of the moster suits. Bugarr. A play on a very naughty british word. Hey he was a bug.. what else could he have been called? Bet this never made it to England! The worst of the monsters was the green space pirate! Arrrrr Arrrrr!
The following advertisements ran in a TV trade publication, Broadcast, I think it was. Click to see a larger version!
If At First You Don't Succeed:
Photon warriors go to Talsion - volcanic planet, trying to "steal" planet from Arr. 3 access periods with no volcanic activity. Arrians set up ion shield to control volcanic activity, so Percival's calculations for the access times are wrong. Baethan gets caught in one of the activity periods and is knocked out. Perc doesn't trust his calcs anymore. Pike and Leon, in Zephyr, knock out the field so the P.W.'s on the surface can access the crystal. Description by DeChrona
The Right Time:
Planet Zeight-looking for skygem coccoons and crystal. P.W.'s need to wait for skygems to hatch before charging crystal. Bhodi gets impatient and charges the crystal too early. Premature skygem attacks and poisons Tivia and she falls into a coma. Bhodi tries a time window that Baethan mentions as a hypothetical solution and goes back a few mins to stop himself from charging the crystal, but Tivia still in a coma. This time skygem hatches on time and tells Bhodi to drink the nectar of some nearby flowers. He kisses Tivia and revives her. Description by DeChrona
Title missing: (last episode?)
Planet Tuton-center of universe and the site of the Big Bang. If P.W.'s don't charge crystal before the Arrians do, the universe will stop expanding and start shrinking instead, destroying everything. Bhodi is sent last...he's mad that MOM sending the others without him. When he gets to the planet the other P.W.'s tell him they couldn't find the crystal and they are just sitting around. Meanwhile, the Arrians already have the crystal, but are having second thoughts about charging it...they will be destroyed as well. Bhodi finds a slab: "put your hand on my gridlock", it shows him the P.W.'s and Arrians as he requests, then transports him to the Warlord. The Warlord tries to make Bhodi crawl to him and shows him the "spectacle" of his past (flashbacks) and what will happen to the P.W.'s. Warlord tells he can save the lives of his friends if he gives up his Photon ring. Bhodi crawls to him. MOM tells Bhodi to use the ring, throws and shoots it...nothing happens. Bhodi gets the ring back...tries to say "Let the light shine", but doesn't have the energy or the will left to get the words out. MOM says it and the ring destroys the Warlord with Photon energy. Then back on the planet, Mandarr and Bhodi charge the crystal at the same time and the planet is divided, but without the Warlord to support his projection, Mandarr disintegrates and the planet goes into the light completely. Description by DeChrona
Rebel of Cyborgs:
Planet MX8-Baethan's home planet. Baethan returns to MX8 to recharge crystal, but MX8 attacks him. Arrians and MX8 clone Baethan and the clones attack P.W.'s who have just arrived on MX8. MX8 plans to bring Baethan back into darkness. Bhodi gets to Baethan and wakes him. Baethan help Bhodi against the Arrians and charges the crystal. Description by DeChrona
Maze of Fear:
Photon Center on Planet Ganema-P.W.'s invited to participate in Photon tournament. Warlord plans to trap P.W.'s in nightmare maze. P.W.'s asked to put modulators on phasers. Blasts start coming at them from all around with no others visible-real blasts, not modulated. Modulators on their phasers won't come off...they run to color coded doors for cover or a way out...each takes a different door. After everyone but Bhodi gone Mandarr comes out...and gives him the choice of going through a door or having to deal with Mandarr and the soldarrs by himself....he choses the door. P.W.'s stuck in situations dealing with their worst fears-need to admit fear and think about positive things in their lives to get out ("think good thoughts"). Description by DeChrona
Episode with tournament on Tivia's planet that she is a participant, another participant is conspiring with the Arrians to kill Tivia. Description by DeChrona
Episode with Bhodi and Mandarr stuck in a cave together--we see Mandarr's past.
There is evidently a mailing list for the TV show located at http://photontv.listbot.com/
There were several Photon books. The first one "Thieves of Light" was a really well written novel taking the Photon premise farther than anything else. The rest of the books were numbered 1-6 and were quite fun to read. They were so filled with in-jokes from everything from the Prisoner to Star Trek that they were actually very fun to read. They would occasionally refer to an episode of the TV series which I never got to see. Shown above are the novel and the 6 Adventure books published in 1987 and 1988.
Photon Thieves of Light was published by Berkeley Books in April 1987 and written by Michael Hudson. This sort of re-caps the basic plot of the TV series but expands and adds loads of depth to the characters who are treated in a very serious way. This book, evidently part of a planned series cut short, is well worth reading, and is more common than the rest of the books at used book stores. This is a lot like reading Phoenix Without Ashes by Ellison/Bryant which was a novel based on the starlost which out shown the TV version.
Photon Adventure Novel #1 For the Glory was published by Berkeley Books/Pacer (which was a young reader imprint) and written by David Peters. In this first book Bhodi Li has to cross the barrier of time because the Warlord of Arr plans to enlist the help of Adolph Hitler. Loads of prisoner TV series references are uttered by Bhodi Li.
Photon Adventure Novel #2 High Stakes was published by Berkeley Books/Pacer and written by David Peters. The Photon force recruits a new member code names the Gambler. he is talented and cunning, but also very irresponsible. He leads the team into one sticky situation after another until his exploits land the team at the mercy of the Dark Warlord!
Photon Adventure Novel #3 In Search of Mom was published by Berkeley Books/Pacer July 1987 and written by David Peters MOM is Photon's central computer. In this book she is stolen. Bhodi Li is called is called into action without being able to rely MOM. This is just the advantage the Warlord of Arr has been waiting for to help him win the war in plunge the universe into darkness.
Photon Adventure Novel #4 This is Your Life, Bhodi Li was published by Berkeley Books/Pacer September 1987 and written by David Peters Bhodi Li wakes up to discover that nobody knows anything of his life as a Photon Warrior. Even the beautiful Tivia denies any knowledge of the Photon Warriors. Has the entire world gone crazy? I thought it was all a communist plot at the time, but that was not the case!
Photon Adventure Novel #5 Exile was published by Berkeley Books/Pacer November 1987 and written by David Peters Of all the books in this series this was by far the most interesting. the author was getting the hang of writing action adventure stories by this point. Tivia is banished from her home world of Nivia by the Queen Mother. Tivi goes out to discover how bad men can actually be by disguising herself as a man. No sooner than she does than she ends up a ship of space pirates bent on destroying Bhodi Li and the rest of the Photon Warriors.
Photon Adventure Novel #6 Skin Deep was published by Berkeley Books/Pacer February 1988 and written by David Peters If book #4 was a Bhodi Li adventure, and book 5 was about Tivia, this book is about the mighty Lord Beathan. In this book Beathan is defeated and reduced to a wimpy human. Without his mighty armor he is afraid to fire a blaster or go into combat.
As far as I know the series ended at this point. It would have been nice to see some of the minor characters receive the same treatment that Beathan and Tivi got in these last two books. If any of you have information about any further novels, or unpublished manuscripts please let me know.
were quite a few toys including a few action figures and of course
the home version of the game. For some pictures and info check out.
The amazing toy archive site!
Another page with a few box pictures
Well, most of the photon centers were torn down. A new one has opened up in MD. It is, I understand a very nice place. You should all visit the one Photon center still in operation. They had kept the look and feel and added great new technogy to the weapons. Ooops I guess they closed up shop....
There is a mailing list for the TV show which you can join at http://photontv.listbot.com/
FROM THE BRIDGE : For Kids Only!
I am standing in a dark chamber, surrounded by ramps, doorways, pasages, panels and posts-all covered with grey carpeting. The air is cold, and a fog rolls across the floor. Pulsing sprays of red and green coherent lighl shoot through the air above me, illuminating the futurislic landscape.
There are eight olher people with me this time. Each of us wears a green helmet with a proteclive visor and stereo earphones that feed us information in the form of electronic sounds. On my chest is a control box which is plugged into Ihe heavy battery pack around my waist.
In my right hand, attached to the control box by a coiled power cord, is my phaser.
This is not a movie, and these are not fake props. This is real.
The chamber echoes with an impersonal voice. .'Five. . four three . two one. . " My team dashes in all directions. 1 spot a warrior wilh a red helmet-the enemy. He slips into a dark alcove, raising his phaser to aim al our tower. Quickly, I sneak through a zig-zag tunnel, and just as he is about to fire-1 shool him The sounds in my helmet tell me I scored a hit, and I know that the video monilors on Ihe observation deck (and in the wailing room oulside) have registered + 10 for Trent-the name by which I identify myself.
The lights that run around Ihe brim of the red warrior's helmet turn yellow the moment I hit him. He turns to shoot me, but his phaser is inactivated for five seconds. Red and green waniors swarm across the floor, jumping in and out of the dark hiding places, firing in all directions The synthesized music pounds with shimmers and booms that seem to match this battle's danger and exhiliration Our leam is determined to out-score lh" red warriurs, and i am Irying to buiia an Individual scor" that tops my last performance.
The baltle lasts only six-and-a-half minutes, but it seems longer. By the time th" master computer de-activates our phasers, and a voice tells us to evacuate the facility, I am wet with sweat, exhausted and laughing like a 12 year-old.
This is PHOTON-a new life sized participalion game that is a complex interaction of computers, ultrasonic communications and light-sensing devices, along with sets, lighls, music and special effects. The result is that players enjoy being inside an electronic game that feels like an SF movie.
In fact, PHOTON creator George A. Carter III first had the idea when he saw Star Wars "Rebel fighters and Imperial storm troopers were running Ihrough corridors firing weapons at each other," he explains without a smile. "I thought it would be something to crawl inside and join the action. " The state of electronics didn't allow for that to happen in 1977, but almost 10 years later, after lots of practical busipess planning, the first PHOTON facility has opened in, of all places, Kenilworth, New Jersey (Route 22 at Michigan Avenue). This is the first of 70 locations around the country that have been bought by local franchise owners. The original prototype facility (not as elaborate as the New Jersey layout) is in Dallas. I was invited to the news conference and demonstration, this past September. I was a lillle hesitant to "suit up" and run around shooting at other members of the press. After all, it was Monday morning, and I just don't do that sort of thing.
Dammit, Jim-l'm a publisher, not a teenager!
Wrong! All it took was one game for me to realize that PHOTON is not a place for kids only Wait, let me rephrase that...
Before you put your helmet on (and pay your $3.50), you had beller check your grown-up inhibitions. 1 mean, take them off and leave them oulside in the parking lot. This is a rare opportunity to return to those thrilling days of your childhood. Nalurally, I expect to hear the usual objections from those who try to protect us from our own "follies."
There will probably be God-fearing groups who claim PHOTON trains youngsters to mug and kill on the streets of Manhallan Just 45 minutes away), but I say Ihey're full of crap!
Whether it's inside a PHOTON baIlIe chamber, in a movie Ihealer, or at a sciencefiction convention-there is something exquisitely innocenl aboul throwing yourself into . a fantasy.
Hey-I don't have to explain that to science-fiction fans. For years, we've enjoyed something the rest of world seems to have misunderstood-the fun of mixing our fantastic imagination with our everyday life. Now, I ask you, kids, what could be more wholesome and natural?
(from an editorial in Starlog magazine circa 1986)
Newsweek LIFE/STYLE JULY 23. 1984 Page 62
Photon teammates march to the start of their obstacle course in Dallas: Calling all would-be,tar warriors tospace-age combat
It may have taken almost as long as Luke Skywalker's search for dear old Dad, but George Carter III has finally built his dream planet. Inspired-somewhat belatedly-by "Star Wars," Carter has created what he says is the world's first live-action video game Called Photon and installed in Dallas this spring (in 10,000 square feet of what was once office space) the game pits teams of players in high-tech costumes against each other and the clock on a strobe-lit futuristic obstacle course "The demise of the video game is leaving a void," says Carter, 38, who proudly points out that he and Steven Spielberg briefly attended the same high school in Arizona "We're here to fill it, You can play hundreds of times and you don't get bored for the same reason you don't get bored with basketball"
For a one-time admission charge of $350 plus $3 per game, players get a "Photon passp,ort" and 18 pounds of gear including a stereo-equipped helmet, a power pack and a phaser "gun" that shoots beams of light at opponents and resounds with a satisfying "kapow" when they're hit. Customers are then assigned to teams of 10 or fewer to wage space-age combat. Teammates must wend their way through an elaborate, fog-shrouded maze of catwalks, towers and tunnels, dodging enemy phasers while trying to zap the opposition Despite the gunplay, however, Carter insists his brainchild is nonviolent. "No one dies," he says When struck by phaser fire, competitors are simply "disrupted" for about four seconds; yellow lights flash on the front of their helmets and their phasers are temporarily knocked out. Three small office computers tally the scores, which are displayed on video screens "The adventure is just unbelievable," says Photon fan Jon Lahnstein,17.
The biggest risk in Photon may be its addictive nature; some devotees manage to spend as much as $100 a day "I've always wished they'd put out a game like this, where you can shoot and not hurt any body," says Brian Simmons, 19, who plays several six-minute games back to back each week. "You use hunting skills, tactics This is exercise, and a lot better than video games." Vince Sullivan, whose nom de Photon is "Marauder," loves the game so much he introduced it to his mother. "She liked it," the 16-year-old reports "She came out shouting, 'I got 60 points!' " Another mother, Sidney Speer, 35, styles herself "The Black Widow," and regularly brings her two kids, relatives and assorted neighbors. "You just get out of your life for a while," she says "It's an escape sort of thing" Even those who are ruled too short for combatthere's a 4-foot-6 height requirement-can still enjoy themselvcs by watching from the Earth Port Observation Deck that bisects the playing field "It was real neat," says noncombat. ant Shannon Bell, eight.
Invasion: Now that he's con. quered Dallas-the game ha,; grossed up to $20,000 a week with no advertising-Carter is planning a national invasion Tournament play begins this month, and Photon's progenitor hopes to hold the first interna tional championship next year A Photon offshoot is scheduled to open in Toronto by Dccember, and Carter wants to have franchises flourishing in 50 cities by the end of 1985 Therc's also a Photon cartoon show and a line of toys in the works The software and hardware are already patented, and their inventor is aiming his phaser high. Carter probably won't be satisfied unless he can convert every would-be star warrior into a Photon freak
LYNN LANGWAYwith BARBARA BURGOWER in DaIIas
pg 64 Video (Video Magazine) January 1986
For me, a shoot-'em-up is the piece de resistance of compoterized games IDon't get me wrong-l'm in favor of gun control and sympathetic to whales and baby seals Hut when it comes to Photon, hand me a laser pistol, son It's not aI video game You are the video game in a high-tech version of capture the flag
Assigned to one of two teams of 10 players each, you shoot opposing team play'ers and their home base with a laser pistol, earning 10 points for hitting an opponent and 200 for the base The team with the most kills' wins and each player is individually ranked Sick, right? Fun, incredible.
To track the scoring, l'hoton's developers use two IHM PCs and high-frequency radio transmissions Each pistol is registered with an individualized FM radio signal. When the signal strikes an image sensor on the harness or helmet every player wears, the comptuer tallies a hit The maze-Iike game room crackles with static electricity. some of it generated by the excitement of the players as they compete
The 10,000-square-root playing area is catacombed with modular hiding places and obstructions Two levels reached by ramps help vary the action There is no safe place You can sneak up behind every nook and crannie to infiltrate and attack an enemy from the rear, but so can the other team A hit deactivates your gun for five seconds EIectronic music and swirling fog add an otherworldly' aura There is no contact in the game In fact, two referees monitor the action to make sure no one gets hurt.
Games cost $3.50 each and last 16-1/2 minutes Sounds like a lot for a little? When you're running around with 15 pounds of equipment, including a belt-type battery pack, it seems to last much longer A $10 registration fee buys a Photon passport good for a vear The two Photon parlors ready for action are in Kennilwworth, New Jersey and Dallas, Texas, but the Company expects to open 10 more around the country and in Canada by the end of the year.