Sunday, August 9, 2020

Saying Goodbye

This has been a VERY hard week. Although I’m not going to peel back every layer of the onion regarding what’s been happening, I am going to share the one part of it all that I think is probably relatable to a lot of laser tag players right now who are unable to play because either their local arenas are temporarily closed or…(sigh) permanently closed.

 

I didn’t write about this immediately because it’s tough to know what is really “permanent” in the middle of all this uncertainty, but from all indicators and according to what I see on Google it appears that my home Zone arena, Zero Gravity, has indeed closed down for good. The removal of their FB page further reinforces that this is likely correct. This really hits me hard right now because, after the week I have had, what I really need most right now is to have someplace to go and tag out all my frustrations and I simply don’t have a place to go and do that right now. And this is now the second time that I have had to look back on the last night I had at one of my favorite spots and shake my head at the fact that I had no clue it was the last time.

 


If only my birthday had fallen on a Thursday I would have gotten one more opportunity to play there. You see, my birthday was in early March and all I wanted to do was play tag and go out for sushi. Every time I played at ZG I would also go out to Sushi X in Latham for dinner because they have THE BEST all you can eat sushi menu in the capital district. But this year my birthday fell early in the week when both places were closed, so I settled for eating at a lesser sushi restaurant and playing laser tag at a bowling alley instead. Then two weeks later COVID shut down the country and I never got the chance to play at Zero Gravity again.

 

Even though at the time I didn’t know it was my last night there, a couple of weeks prior to that birthday evening I do remember going out to ZG on the weekend and having a killer night of laser tag and driving home feeling very happy. I’m grateful that at least I have that as my last memory of this arena where I have played regularly for over five years. In fact, I am lucky to have many wonderful memories of Zero Gravity, so let me take a moment to reminisce with you and say a proper goodbye to one of my favorite laser tag arenas as I reflect on some wonderful memories from the many nights I spent there. I’ll always remember the smell of the briefing room and the vortex gate opening into the vesting room.

 




My very favorite memory was starting a huge weekend-long party with friends who were visiting from all over the country and going out to play for what would be the very last time on the Infusion system about one week before they upgraded to Helios Pro. Big thanks to Mike for making sure we had a party room available to hang out in for our official pre-event gathering!

 

This is where I taught my mother how to play laser tag (her first and only time doing so).


 


Spending International Laser Tag Day playing laser tag with French foreign exchange students was a truly international tag experience.

 


I had a blast tagging with the Royal Rangers.

 


Big thanks to Donnie for hooking me up with the very first ZG membership card slightly before they were officially available to the public.

 


And I'll always remember ruling the ramp!

 


ZG was my first stop just after I got my new phone in February and I tested it out by taking some arena photos, so I can share with you what this 5000 square foot arena really looked like.

 


And if memory serves me correctly this may have been the very first laser tag shirt I ever acquired, starting out what would become a pretty massive tag t-shirt collection!

 


I want to thank Donnie, Mike, Samantha, Josh, Justin, Brendan and all the others who were part of making this place so special for all of us who got to play there over the years. Reminiscing about it is bittersweet. Perhaps it’s just as well that I didn’t know that my last time there was really my last time because my memories can still stay in a “perfect bubble”. Goodbye Zero Gravity.

 


Yesterday I took a different approach by deliberately going back to say goodbye to my childhood home. The house I grew up in will likely be sold by the end of today and, so long as I’m already walking down memory lane, let me throw in a couple of pics of my childhood bedroom (where I social distanced myself LONG before it was a thing) and the view out my window to the lake, which I have just visited KNOWING it was for the very last time…which is a whole other kind of bittersweet.

 

 



So, to both of these places that I considered my “home” in different ways, I fondly reminisce about all the good times now that I am here in a new world having to say goodbye.


Comments or Questions?

Contact: Tivia@tiviachickloveslasertag.com

Websites: www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com and www.photonforever.com


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Tiviachick’s Top Ten Laser Tag Arena Contest – Vote Now!

Join me in recognizing some amazing laser tag arenas with a fun contest to showcase a few really impressive locations! Please cast your vote!


“Tiviachick’s Top Ten” laser tag arenas are all locations where I have personally played and each was selected for being particularly impressive in their respective category. To see which arenas were chosen and cast your vote please visit https://www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com/tiviachick-top-ten-contest.

You can also view photos of each of the top arenas to help you pick your favorite!

There is an opportunity for ANY laser tag to be chosen as our People’s Choice favorite. Just type your vote on the ballot for your favorite laser tag arena. The People’s Choice favorite will be the arena which receives the most write-in votes. Contest runs 8/1-8/31/20. Votes will be accepted by entry form located at www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com with one vote for each category and limited to one vote per email address.

Please feel free to share this to build excitement and participation. Keep in mind, this is JUST FOR FUN! What do the winners get? Essentially, bragging rights. And maybe a little bit of publicity. For being chosen as a “Tiviachick’s Top Ten” laser tag arena the selected locations will receive a certificate of recognition at the end. Based on the votes, the top three winners in each category will receive awards of placement. I just want this to be a way to give a nice shout out to some arenas where I have personally enjoyed playing during my travels and found them to be particularly memorable and worthy of sharing. Have fun and please vote!


Comments or Questions?

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Laser Tag Audio Drama Continues


I hope you enjoy the latest installment of the Chicagoland Grand Scrim laser tag audio drama! If you can’t actually play laser tag right now you can at least live some tournament adventures vicariously by listening to episode three of this mock sports radio broadcast.



Comments or Questions?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Remembering an Innovator


This week the laser tag industry said goodbye to one of its true innovators with the passing of Mr. Jeff Schilling, founder of Creative Works.


I never actually had the chance to meet this man in person, but his work left an indelible mark on my life. I would say at least 60% (and that percentage is probably even higher) of the laser tag locations where I have played over the years have included the arena designs of Creative Works. Any time I have made a reference in this blog to “those walls” I have been referring to the familiar aesthetic of the design work of Jeff Schilling’s company that is responsible for brightening the interiors of laser tag arenas all over the world, including my home site in Syracuse where we can’t wait to get back to playing around those very walls.

One thing I learned just yesterday is that Jeff Schilling was the recipient of a very special honor from the Laser Tag Museum. Last month he became the third person ever to receive the Industry Innovator Award. To give you an idea of the company he keeps with this award, the only two other gentlemen to receive it are George Carter III and Martin Shoebridge, so this really was a very fitting honor and I am heartened to know that it happened when it did.


So, it is with respect and appreciation for all his work I want to take a moment to say thank you to Mr. Jeff Schilling and express my condolences to his family and friends. He was indeed an innovator for the laser tag industry and will be remembered.


Comments or Questions?

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Limited Edition Lazer Tag Inspired Pins


I do love a limited edition, so you can imagine how excited I was to find these limited edition Lazer Tag inspired Lazer Blaster enamel pins designed by an artist whose work I recently discovered on Etsy.


These pins are the creation of a very talented artist named Nathan Anderson and if you are a fan of all things from 80’s pop culture (as I am) his work will likely resonate with you. You will also recognize that in this context I am spelling “Lazer” with a Z because this is specifically harkening back to the Worlds of Wonder Lazer Tag brand from 1986. I asked the the artist to tell me about what inspired him to create these pins.

“I love the vintage Lazer Tag so much, still a futuristic and sleek design. It was one of my all time favorite toy guns growing up. I love that it has found a foothold in pop culture of today, being featured in Ready Player One, etc. This is a pin I’ve always wanted, so I made it (and had to make the Ultimate Edition alt white colorway). I'm hoping to make more pins in the Lazer Tag world in the future. Thanks for your interest and enjoy the pins!” - Nathan Anderson of NAARRT.com


There are two versions available. One design is based off the black StarLyte pistol phaser that was widely available and marketed to the public. The other is an alternate version based off the white manufacturer’s sample StarLyte pistol phaser of which there were only about 20 ever made and reportedly only six known to remain in existence (one of which I’ve been lucky enough to see up close at the Laser Tag Museum).


Ok, taking a moment now for some Lazer Tag history. Although the white StarLyte pistol is the rarity and the black model made it to the mass market, the colors were reversed for the StarLyte Pro Rifle model. This version was sold in white, but there was rumored to be a prototype model made in black. Yep, it exists! And it is also in the care of the Laser Tag Museum.


When my pins arrived, my immediate thought was that one could be turned into a pendant to replace my “Tivia” necklace that I lost on my last laser tag trip somewhere around New Orleans. I thought I’d put the pin next to the black StarLyte phaser that is part of my own collection courtesy of Gord Armstrong of Laser Storm (thanks again Gord!) so you can see how accurately the pin represents the actual article.



And you’ll note that I am also wearing the one converted to be a pendant, which I am certain will be a real conversation piece! 



This is a special item to have and perhaps with its limited production it could be considered something of a laser tag collectible as well.

You can see more of Nathan Anderson’s artwork at http://www.naarrt.com and if you are looking for a modern day Lazer Tag collectible these pins certainly hit the target!


Comments or Questions?

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Sunshine, Fresh Air and Laser Tag


What could be better than soaking up some sunshine and fresh air outside on a beautiful day? How about adding some outdoor laser tag! That was how this group and I spent an afternoon out at Peterpaul Recreation Park in Rome, NY. 


This place is a summer tradition in the town where I grew up. It has been part of the community for over 40 years. Although I must admit the last time I had been here myself was when I was still in high school watching my boyfriend being “so cool” hitting (and missing) pitches in the batting cages. But a LOT has changed since then, including the owners. Last year the business was taken over by Sean and Tammy Arnold and their family. This outdoor fun park was already known for bumper boats, go karts and those very same batting cages, but this year they decided to add Battle Company laser tag to their line-up of summertime amusements.


They were able to facilitate a mid-day game that I was able to join with a group of players ready to try out the new laser tag gear and we had about ten people enjoying some tag on a gorgeous afternoon. Everyone wore masks, but we also kept a very appropriate distance apart during the game since the outdoor field had plenty of room to spread out and move around.


Sean Jr. gave an equipment briefing and explained the first game format before passing out the gear. They are using the Battle Rifle Pro model here.



This is a vestless system using only a phaser and headband with sensors and each player kept the same set for the duration of all the games in our session.


He told me the gear is sanitized in between groups/sessions. My headband fit easily around my hat.

Each team began behind a fence at their designated respawn/base station.


Our first game was Deathmatch. It has been awhile since I last played using this system, so I had forgotten that you have to get several tags in before you deactivate a player, so at first I questioned why more of my shots didn’t seem to be landing. Then I started to realize that in fact they were hitting the mark, but it is a little more difficult to see in the sunlight, so it was just tougher to tell what was connecting until a complete deactivation occurred. For the Deathmatch game I was the MVP, meaning I was the highest scoring player, however another player actually had the most deactivations (aka “kills” in tactical, but that’s just a matter of semantics).

The next game was King of the Hill. Lots of systems have variations on this, but I had never before experienced Battle Company’s version of this game. Essentially the goal is for your team to “hold the hill” for as long as possible. In this case the hill was the round black platform in the middle with a Ubox on top that served as the hill sensor.


When you are near enough to the sensor it emits a sound (almost reminiscent of a digital piggy bank) every few seconds to reward you for the accumulating amount of time that you have been able to hold the position without being deactivated yourself. Of course, you are a wide open target when you are near the hill.

I played this one pretty brazenly, heading straight for the hill and fending off opponents with a firing sequence where I’d focus on tagging one player, shift to another, then immediately cycle back to the first to deactivate. This back and forth strategy worked well. I held my position there longest. I was deactivated once or possibly twice, and had to return to base to respawn, but those interruptions didn’t outweigh the amount of time (and points) I was able to accumulate while holding my position.


After having scored the most points (256) during King of the Hill, I was asked to be “it” during a game of Infection. Now, this is a game format that is popular across many systems, but it goes by a myriad of names and I made the suggestion that for the time being they might consider calling the game “Vampires” instead. It’s exactly the same game...one person is “it” and as that person tags other players they are converted to the other team. This is another instance where it’s just about the semantics. The game itself is a good option, although I personally prefer the other two formats.

The final game was Boss Hunt, which is essentially Infection in reverse where everyone is targeting one player who is “it”. These to me are more novelty games, meaning they are not the main format I would look to play regularly, but they are enjoyable as an occasional change of pace. Deathmatch and King of the Hill were definitely the games I enjoyed the most.


This was such a nice way to spend an afternoon. I had arranged my day to be able to join in with a scheduled group (as sessions are booked in advance online) and I’m so glad I did. This was absolutely the best part of my week! I look forward to the next opportunity I have to play some tactical laser tag out in the fresh air at Peterpaul Recreation Park.


Comments or Questions?

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Cybertag Me!


I recently had an opportunity to play a few private games of Cybertag with the owner and family of Tag Me 607 in Cortland, NY and it was such a great time!

First, let me say that I am in favor of wearing masks because I would rather be a little more cautious, regardless of what anyone else requires. Walt (the owner) told me he encourages masks and he also wore one the entire time I was there. So I decided to just work with the look and take it a bit further with a headband to turn it into a Photon throwback...


Tivia: Social distancing and tagging from behind a mask since 1986. Just a little ironic humor for those who recognize the origin of my code name. :) Shout out to the original Tivia, Loretta Heywood.


Tag Me 607 is a small facility with capacity for ten vests, but it is sized just right for kids. It features an eighties theme and a bit of their own throwback style in the decor, from Mario on the walls to Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris pieces inside the neon painted arena.




Before we started, Walt showed me the gear. This was my very first time getting to play using Cybertag, so I took some time to examine the vest and phaser.



The phaser has some simple indicators on the digital screen including one that represents the hand sensor. You must hold these phasers with two hands as one must be on the vertical front handle and one on the trigger.



So, let’s talk Cybertag. The equipment itself was the main reason I wanted to visit this site. Cybertag is the indoor system manufactured by LASERWAR out of Russia and I was intrigued because I have never before seen this in use at any other location I have visited up until now. To me it was quite a novelty to find it “out in the wild.” Actually, I had been given heads up about this site back in November, so it was on my radar specifically because I wanted to try out the gear. Let me say, I am now a fan!

I asked Walt how he decided to select this brand for his business. He told me the price point was a factor, but also that he had done some research on other operators in the U.S. who have used it and he got a positive impression. I must say, for this being on the lower end of the tag equipment price spectrum I was quite impressed with Cybertag. It may not have some of the fancier bells and whistles, but it played well and felt accurate and easily intuitive to learn the sounds and indicators during the game.

Walt and I did a 1v1 game so he set the system for free-for-all. Although it can run a variety of games, he opts to keep things simple for now with free-for-all or team games. For this game we both wore vests with green lights, although it didn’t take long to learn that the player in the lead at any moment will have their vest turn white. In a 1v1 that doesn’t make you any more of a target, but it is good info to have and with more players it will let you know who to focus your attention on the most.

The vest vibrates to let you know when you are tagged. You can be tagged a number of times before you hear the words “all lives depleted” accompanied by the lights on the vest turning purple for several seconds. At the end of that time you hear “lives regenerated” and are right back in it.

The packs have a steady red beam and you can see the shot most clearly when aimed against a wall.


There’s a generous radius for hitting the target. Per my usual M.O. when just playing to have fun I sprayed with the trigger and didn’t worry at all about my accuracy. However, if I were looking to challenge myself I could make an effort to improve that, as the final results do track your accuracy.

I won this round...good game Walt!


This next thought is more of a constructive critique for the manufacturer of the equipment. As I look at the screen I notice something that may be in part attributed to cultural differences (I speculate) as the equipment is from a Russian manufacturer whose emphasis is more in tactical. You will notice that while the scoreboard reflects “shots” and “hits” (which are common stats to see here in the U.S.) there are also columns titled “death” and “murder”. I think this probably boils down to a language interpretation, but most systems I’ve played favor less intense sounding terminology, such as “deactivated” and “tagged” or “zapped”. I think it is always important to reinforce that there is nothing violent about this game at all. Perhaps the manufacturer might consider using different terminology more in line with the fun elements of the game in future versions. However, I also suspect that I’m the first person to play here and even think twice about the semantics of the wording because all most people care about is the final score.



For team games we played green vs blue as Walt’s kids joined us (also wearing masks) and I found it interesting to note that the kids had no trouble at all keeping an appropriate distance from anyone else.  Very good to see!


I also appreciated seeing that each pack was disinfected immediately after use, even though I kept mine on and personally only touched one vest and phaser the whole time.


I want to thank Walt of Tag Me 607 for an excellent experience. I appreciate having had an opportunity to try out Cybertag for myself and I definitely hope to return again!



Comments or Questions?