In the ambiance of the dark dank basement in Wangjing, Per and Mikael Widing step into the arena armed with fantastically futuristic laser rifles. It is an arena they built themselves, an arena for laser tag.
Often credited with introducing indoor laser tag to China, Per and Mikael, both 37, are more than electronic gaming aficionados. They own and operate their own brand in China, Widing Sports Development.
“My brother and I were engineers for Ericsson. We came to China on business, got laid off and decided to stay,” says Mikael. “We came up with laser tag because we wanted an indoor game to play in Beijing. The weather can change, but with an indoor course, there isn’t any fear of changing conditions.”
Stuck in Beijing, the Widings sought outlets for what they enjoy doing. Both brothers are avid sports fans and aviation aficionados, with Mikael an accomplished hang glider and Per a sky diver.
“I told Per he was crazy: ‘You have a perfectly good aircraft and you’re going to jump out of it’,” says Mikael. “But he said there is no such thing as a perfectly good aircraft.”
Ultimately though, there were serious limitations to the Widings’ aerial hobbies and they developed laser tag for both indoor and outdoor games as well as a series of other activities. They also design their own equipment.
They had originally used the products of a Chinese supplier, but grew tired of problems that arose from poor design. So they designed their own and gave the Chinese manufacturers their specifications. The end result is what they call the X10, a more durable and interactive system.
The brothers also sell their expertise and systems to other laser tag companies. StarTrooper now operates in Beijing, with other arenas in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province and Indonesia.
There is even a StarTrooper in Shanghai, although this has nothing to do with the brothers anymore. They were initially brought on as consultants, but there were creative differences and the Widings have “franchised” their system to the Shanghai-based club.
They are frequently called the inventors of laser tag in China, but the brothers tell a different story.
Mikael says they merely brought it into the country. But, laser tag would certainly not be as popular as it is without the expertise and push of brothers Widing.