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Infrared Shooting Games – How They Work

All of you must have played a lot of vintage video games like Contra, Mario, etc. and you must have enjoyed them also. But here’s a game very close to all of us Duck Hunt, we used to shoot with the actual model gun, and the duck dies on the TV. How does that gun work do you know about it?

How do Infrared Gun Shooting games work?

Infrared shooting guns work on the principle of light-sensing or pixel sensing. In the game, whenever you squeezed the trigger for only 1 frame there is a white box at the position of Duck and the rest of the screen is black. Thus, when you aim your gun at that white pixel and squeeze the trigger it senses that you aimed at the duck, and the work is done.

Yes, the technology used in these guns is very simple. In modern-day gaming, we use LiDAR, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc. for interacting with the game on the screen. In contrast, to the present time, these guns worked smart. Now, let’s have a detailed look at how those Infrared Shooting games worked.

Duck Hunt was one of the best kid-friendly shooting games and it gave a sense of achievement.

Working of Infrared Games

The working of the Infrared shooting games can be broken into two parts i.e. The Gun and The Screen. We will discuss both of them one by one.

In short, I can say that when a duck flew on the screen and you pulled the trigger of the gun the whole screen goes black leaving the area where the duck is as white. (See picture below) At the same time, the gun senses the incoming color and tells the controller whether you shot at the right position or not.

Duck Hunt
View on Video Game Screen
White Pixel
View when you pull Trigger (For an instant)

The Gun

It is the main part of the game as the gun was the thing that gave us the most excitement. When we pointed the gun at the screen and squeezed the trigger it makes the whole screen black and the position of the duck at that instant was white (See image above).

Now there could be two possibilities i.e. either you are pointing at the duck (or we can say the white block of the screen) or you are pointing the gun, not at the duck (Black part of the screen).

If you are pointing at the duck and pulled the trigger the white block will be in the front of the gun and the photodiode (explained later) will detect it and execute the SUCCESS command and bring that duck down.

If you are pointing at any other position then the gun will sense the black screen and identify that you have not succeeded at aiming and the duck will fly away.

Now let’s talk about the parts of the gun in a glance.

The Gun is made up of 3 parts i.e. Lens, Photodiode, and Accessories (Junk for us).

  • Lens

The lens is used in the gun to magnify the incoming light. The light color (Black or White) when you pull the trigger and the screen changes for a moment.

  • Photodiode

A photodiode is kept behind the lens. This is used to convert the light signals into electrical signals which are then matched for white or black. We will not get into its details because that will make things a lot more complicated.

  • Assessories

There are some other things that are required for the functioning of the gun i.e. wires, motherboard (a very small one), trigger, etc.

The motherboard is the one that decides whether the incoming signal which was converted from light signal to electrical signal by the photodiode is white or black.

After matching and confirming the electrical signal with the prescribed signal of white and black it performs the further actions accordingly i.e. shooting the duck down or not.

Infrared Gun

The Screen

The video screen of the game also plays a crucial role in all these infrared shooting games. But, there is nothing much going on here. The only thing that is happening is when you squeeze the trigger the screen goes black and the portion where the duck is becoming white (See starting images).

For a single duck, there is a single white box at the squeeze of the trigger (See below-left image).

For multiple ducks s there are multiple white squares in the frame but they are flashing in alteration at a very fast speed. The game knows which square is flashing at the time and thus shoots down the correct duck.

White Pixel multiple
Single White Square on Screen (Single Duck)
White Pixel
Multiple White Square on Screen (Multiple Duck)

Get A Infrared Gun

Well to play a game like Duck Hunt you will need a complete setup including Infrared Gun, Game, and the old times CRT television.

Those televisions are important because they emitted photons which these infrared guns detected and the game worked. But now with LED televisions that is not possible because they used diodes which not emit photons and thus our gun can’t work with them.

Still, you can play with these infrared guns, nowadays they come as a shooting minigame for kids. These toys include an infrared gun with cells and a spinning target on which you have to shoot.

They also come in the form of laser tag games in which there is generally a set of three to four guns and vests. When you aim your gun at the vest and pull the trigger the light on the vest glows up indicating you have been shot. It is an exciting indoor or outdoor game for kids as it teaches them teamwork and strategy thinking skills.

You can get more detail and see the price of one through the link below.

For India- Infrared Gun Kids Toy on

For Others – Laser Tag Toy with Infrared Guns for Kids on Amazon .com


I hope that this post has made you understand the working of Infrared guns used in shooting games. If you have any further doubt feel free to write them in the comment box given below.

Thank You.

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