Sunday, September 27, 2020

Closing Out the End of the Season

This weekend marks the end of the season for tactical outdoor tag at Peterpaul Recreation Park in Rome, so I wanted to return for one last night before it was over until next year. I really couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday evening, tagging outside in the cool night air. We had a full capacity group of 20 players for the first half of the night and the rest of us played right up until closing time.

Sean Jr. had my Battle Rifle Pro loaded up with my Call Sign account before I even signed in, so I was ready to go!

And it really is a lot more fun getting to play with a group of this size, which is also entirely reasonable to accommodate with such a large outdoor field. We got in six games playing mostly rounds of Team Deathmatch, but also some King of the Hill added in for variety. The blue team was on fire and I felt like everything was gelling for me personally. I took Top Gun several times throughout the night, leveling up on my Call Sign account and really just giving me a nice confidence boost as well since I sometimes question my tactical skills. One game in particular everything really came together for me and I was both MVP and Top Gun with 59 kills (which is Battle Company’s terminology, but a semantic distinction that represents more than 59 tags since a player must be tagged several times to deplete their energy and equal one “kill”).

One of my teammates asked me how I was able to get 59 kills and another teammate responded to him saying that he could hear my phaser was “talking to me” as I was getting it done. That’s true. Although it’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to play in an arena where a phaser would call me a “Zone god” this one almost made up for it by announcing my success with the following…"Kill-tacular, Kill-trocity, Kill-ionaire" and my personal favorite "Kill-imanjaro". So…yeah, it was a good night.

I personally find playing at night with this system to be far preferable to playing during the day because the lights really stand out so much more, providing a much clearer point for targeting the sensors. I was aiming at any red light I saw…and I’ll admit that even included a couple of car tail lights as vehicles were leaving the park, lol. But the feeling of being out in the fresh, cool night air playing an exciting game with a really terrific group was the perfect way to end the season. Well, that and also taking home a t-shirt.

By the end of the night I really felt like I earned the badge on the shoulder of this shirt.

And even though this is the end of the season here for now, I cannot wait to return for more outdoor laser tag on this same field next year.


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Thursday, September 24, 2020

LQ Memories

This week Laser Quest (Versent Corporation) confirmed via their website and social media that they will not be able to reopen their sites in North America, all of which are currently closed. However, two other important pieces of information also accompany this news. First, that eight of their U.S. sites will re-open under new ownership and second, that three of their Canadian sites have been purchased by Planet Lazer.

Presumably this means that those Canadian sites will likely be operating with Lasertron equipment, but I’d like to focus on the more positive news about those eight U.S. sites reopening under new ownership...and in spite of what some players may think, I really do believe this is positive news. It certainly beats not having any Laser Quest in the states at all, which was what was being speculated by some people about a month ago when quite a few players were throwing a premature funeral for Laser Quest. On this website I gave credence only to the facts I could obtain directly from Laser Quest corporate (quoted directly from president Jeff Morris) and I think that we can get a much clearer perspective at this point about how things are actually playing out. It appears that we are starting to see them show more of the cards on the table.

Last year I made a very cognizant effort to play at every Laser Quest that remained in the United States as of the end of 2019. I completed that goal in November by playing at my 300th laser tag arena which was Laser Quest Wichita, just shortly before they closed permanently. Unfortunately, there were quite a few LQ locations that closed even prior to COVID and I wanted to visit all that I could while I was still able to, never guessing that the clock would be running out for other reasons. In fact, I had fully intended to play my final few LQ locations in Canada this summer, which would have included Regina, Edmonton and Calgary. That obviously did not happen.

Honestly, it is unlikely that I will make a deliberate effort to travel to Saskatchewan and the mid-part of Canada now, even once the border re-opens, because the whole reason I had would have gone in the first place would have been to satisfy the “completist” in me that wanted to say I visited and played at every LQ in North America (aside from that random one in Mexico). But now I have to do a mental reset and just be happy there will still be a few opportunities for those who want to play LQ in the U.S. at all.

These opportunities may not be as plentiful as we would like and it does mean that some people (myself included) will have to travel quite a distance if they really want to play LQ again, but I’ll tell you that this is still better than having no choices whatsoever. As other laser tag arenas are closing all around me I certainly relate to this pain on a personal level. And yet, I also recognize that the hope of visiting one of the eight that are planning to re-open in the states versus having no LQ at all (unless you go overseas) is still something I will choose to be grateful and appreciative of having. And at a time where we have just witnessed the closing of a longtime institution like Q-Zar Tampa (leaving only two true Q-Zars remaining in Concord, CA and Carle Place, NY), I prefer to be a “glass half full” person and look at these eight LQs as a blessing, even while we mourn all the ones that will not be returning.

For me personally this means that rather than driving 3 1/2 hours to Newington, CT or even further to Danvers or West Roxbury, MA I will now have to travel to Virginia for my closest LQ option. But you know what...I’ll do that happily when I am next able (meaning once NY travel restrictions permit me to). And so will anyone who really wants to play again. Just like people continued to travel to Tampa for Q-Zar tournaments right up until last year and just like the Photon die-hards traveled once a year for a pilgrimage to Maryland. If it really matters there is always a way.

I realize that the most loyal players will still manage to find their way, but for more casual players this probably is the end of an era and I really do empathize. Although I believe firmly that I will play LQ again, I too am feeling emotional about the loss of this company.

I am quite fortunate that I got to experience as many LQ memories as I did. Laser Quest corporate was really quite supportive of me in the last year, so I would like to take a moment to thank them and reflect on my favorite memories from LQ sites that I have played along the journey.

My top laser tag memory at LQ (or anywhere else) has to be playing in the NRH arena with the inventor of laser tag, George Carter III on International Laser Tag Day.

Being given a special welcome (and an awesome souvenir banner to keep) when I visited LQ headquarters and met with Theresa Stairs and Jeff Morris.

Another special welcome when I went to take publicity photos and video at LQ Mississauga.

Playing one final tournament (an independently organized fundraiser for the DKMCF) at LQ Phoenix on Sunday, March 15th...which turned out to be the last day most LQ sites were open in the U.S.

Visiting my 300th laser tag arena, which (by deliberate planning) was Laser Quest Wichita.

My first time winning two Ironman games back to back.

Donning the LQ gear from head to toe...I’m not sure if they actually ended up using this for anything, but they did ask for my permission to use this pic for promotion. 

And just a few more of my favorites…

In retrospect, I have had some amazing experiences and am so blessed that I was able to enjoy as many LQ arenas as I did. I want to thank them for all the memories as well. Even though this is farewell for some, I am heartened to think that it is not necessary farewell forever.


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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Scent of a Laser

Ok, I know this barely qualifies as being about laser tag, but I promise to bring it back around to tag by the end.

Yesterday I was walking through ULTA (not the ILTA, but ULTA the cosmetics store) and I saw a display for Ariana Grande’s new perfume called R.E.M. which caught my attention. After all, it had a space princess shooting a laser gun at a crystal...did anyone NOT expect me to buy this?

I work in advertising so I appreciate when I see good creative marketing and this hit the mark with me. There is no question that the only reason I looked twice at this bottle was the eye-catching display with the laser tag connection featuring the space themed, comic-style art designs of Cheyne Gallarde on the packaging and promotional materials. It’s reminiscent of the kind of theming I love to see in an arena! ULTA currently has the exclusive on this product and I’m really glad that those designs on the display drew me in because the fragrance is quite unique and a nice addition to my collection.

Does it smell like laser tag? Absolutely not. What does laser tag smell like? I feel like each laser tag arena evokes a specific kind of scent memory that is usually an undefinable mix of pizza, sweat and electronics. Please don’t take that as a criticism. I say it with true affection because I actually really miss that! However, juxtapose that against this perfume which is a sweetly floral blend of lavender, vanilla and musk and not likely to be mistaken in the other direction. And yet it just may be my new go-to fragrance when I do get to head out to the laser tag arena. It seems fitting, since a space princess shooting a laser at a crystal is actually where it all began for me when I first became familiar with laser tag as a young girl. And if by chance it isn’t already clear why, then please take a moment to check out my other website,

The packaging for the perfume is based on Ariana Grande’s music video for her song Break Free. Even this video looks like it could have been pulled right out of an episode of Photon!

And that brings us circling back to laser tag and what else I can’t currently do here in NY. Right now there are still quite a few states to which I’m still not able to travel without a mandatory two week quarantine upon return, thank you Governor the sarcasm. This includes some of our planned stops for the Photon documentary I am involved with. However, take heart, because Jason is doing the heavy lifting on it right now since he lives in a state that does allow for travel, so he is getting a good deal of filming for the project done anyway. We thank everyone who has supported this project. Check out the latest teaser for the film...

So until I can travel again (I don’t need to go to outer space, a commercial airline would be just fine) I’ll just have to do my part from the sidelines and spritz a little R.E.M. in the meantime.


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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Tag is Back in Albany!

Playing a full night of laser tag followed by sushi at my favorite restaurant in Albany somehow made me feel like something that has been missing from my life for the past few months has finally been restored. These are the two activities that I have missed the most since March.

I have been able to play a few sporadic games of laser tag as a handful of entertainment venues have gradually started re-opening in NY, however these games have been way too few and far between. That’s why when I heard that Apex Entertainment in Albany had re-opened I made a beeline for it this weekend, vowing to play every game I could for the duration of the night. I enjoyed playing with a variety of players and groups and it was just so great to get out to play again!


Upon arrival I saw a familiar face (well half a familiar face as of course everyone was behind a mask) and Josh and I compared notes about the changes to the laser tag scene in the area. However, the chat got cut short when I realized there was a group by the arena entrance ready to start a game and I was definitely going to join them!


That first game was small, but seriously awesome. These guys played hard and gave me exactly the kind of competition I was looking for. I left that game saying this was already the best night I’d had in six months and it had only just started.


Laser tag is by it’s nature both a social and socially distanced game. After all, if this arena is (I’m guessing) in the vicinity of 4000 square feet and currently running a maximum of 10 players you can do the simple math to see that there is PLENTY of space for people to spread out and play without getting too close to each other. The staff were all very attentive to disinfecting the packs after every game and making sure everyone only touched one pack. Personally, I wore the same pack for every game (ironically named Warlord...Photon throwback) so even after seven games I only touched one pack the entire time I was there. This was actually due to my own deliberate attention to keeping an eye out for it in the vesting room, but regardless I felt very comfortable that things were kept appropriately sanitized and distanced.


So, that first game was a great start to the night! For the second game I had to switch gears. This group included some enthusiastic parents with a group of kids and when I play with young ones I implement my four foot rule (aka no deliberately tagging anyone under four feet). This game I played lightly and just for accuracy instead of score. When manager Mike saw the results he assumed I was the top score, but in actuality it was one of the parents who didn’t mind tagging hard on their own kids. Meanwhile I looked at my accuracy as the accomplishment that game while I watched as the kids all left the arena as happy campers.


The third game was against a couple of guys who I thought would play harder than they did, but the fourth was definitely the best game of the night with a really solid group of ten players (the current maximum in this arena) including seven college aged guys who showed up as a group. I wish they had stuck around longer. The fifth game was another family group, so four foot rule back in effect, but perfect accuracy still gives me a sense of game satisfaction even while deliberately letting the young ones get their tags on me. The sixth game was another big group and the seventh game was a bit smaller, but a still made for a nice, full night. 


I haven’t played a full night of tag since March and I really missed it. I’m certainly glad that Apex has their Albany location open now. It was a great time! Throughout the entire night I was very aware that, as a result of the pandemic taking its toll on other small laser tag businesses, I might have to get used to having a new home laser tag site. I never expected that it might end up being in an FEC. For a laser tag community to develop here I think there is one suggestion I might make. Right now this location is only offering “per game” pricing which I believe can be prohibitive for getting customers to stick around for multiple games. Price incentives to keep them playing can often help to turn an occasional casual player into a returning customer who shows up every week. Even though I was ok with purchasing seven individual games in a row for one night, I know that I am the exception and not the rule. I will also not able to keep up my normal playing frequency at that rate. I noticed that I was the only person there who played more than one game of tag the entire evening, even though everyone who played had a good time and I’m certain that if there were pricing incentives others would have played more as well. I would strongly encourage the Apex management to consider designating an “all you can play” night with a fixed price for that time window, even if it’s just for a few select hours once a week to start developing a laser tag community here. With the other arena in town having just recently closed down there is definitely a gap to fill. I have played at many arenas where players like to come out on these nights when they know that they can plan on seeing other familiar faces and make a full night of it...and while they are there most will also partake of the bar and restaurant options as well. These nights foster repeat business from people like me. It’s also a way to place the more competitive players in a setting to develop skills with other competitive players versus bringing their A game into a round with casual customers. I’d love to see this develop because I could definitely see myself becoming a regular player here and I look forward to laser tag thriving again as we get past this pandemic. Now is the ideal time to start building a base of clientele that can be both competitive and (dare I say it) truly social. 


I’m so glad I had the chance to enjoy a night of tag again out at Apex in Albany. I probably would have eaten there as well, except I had decided to enjoy one more thing I had missed since March. So I used those games to work up an appetite for the BEST sushi in the capital region at Sushi X in Latham. 


A full night of laser tag and sushi? This was an amazing way to start the weekend!


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Monday, September 7, 2020

Laser Tag Cookies!

I have been known to say that my only domestic quality is that I live in a house, so you might not expect me to be someone who spends a lot of time baking cookies…and yet, that is exactly what I did this weekend.

This is definitely not my typical kind of post, but when you can’t play as much laser tag as you want you have to find other ways to fill your time. A few weeks back I had an idea and I spent some time sketching out line drawings of a few of my favorite phaser designs which I sent to a woman on Etsy to have custom made into laser tag cookie cutters. As soon as they arrived I couldn’t wait to try them out!


It’s been awhile since I baked any homemade cookies, so I turned to another blog (because bloggers know best!) to find a sugar cookie recipe that would hold all the details of my cookie shapes. If you are interested you can find the recipe I used here…


I got to work preparing my sugar cookie dough and rolled out a nice surface to see how the cookie cutters would do.


These worked perfectly! Before too long I had several trays filled with phaser cookies, ready to bake.


And once the cookies were done I got to do my favorite part…decorating! You may recall in my last post I said I was at the craft store when the message about the tournament came in. Well, the reason I was there was to buy an assortment of fondant icing in a variety of colors so that I could replicate the look of the phasers with as much authenticity as possible (when you’re talking about baked goods). Fondant was ideal because, much like dough, it can be rolled out and the details cut out with the cookie cutters as well. I was really pleased with how these cookies came out.


I’ll admit that in the past I have managed to bribe a player to join my league team with the promise of making a batch of peanut butter rice krispie treats, but I have a feeling that with these laser tag cookies I may have just leveled up!


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The Six Minute “Tournament”

Well, I suppose technically my winning tournament streak came to an end last night.

Let me qualify that…I had taken first place in several small tournaments in a row between February and mid-March and then of course COVID put a halt to my participating in any tournaments that I might have wanted to do later in the year, so that’s the only reason that my winning streak had held for so long. However, I was surprised by the series of events that resulted in my playing in (and…spoiler alert… ultimately losing) a tournament that only lasted six minutes in total.


I should preface the rest of this by saying two things. First, I had no real skin in this game in as much as I was called to fill-in on a squad with all of about three hours notice. I am appreciative that I was offered a chance to play and was just lucky to be in a place where I could drop what I was doing and drive to Rochester area to participate. My team had won their way into the finals before I even stepped foot inside the building, so this was nothing that I had earned personally. Second, this is in no way meant to criticize the efforts of the host facility (LASERTRON Rochester), as I believe they were doing their best walking through a new endeavor and trying to pull off an event as best they could considering the unusual circumstances that took place. I appreciate that an event happened at all and I hope they continue to host tournaments in the future.


OK, all that said…this may have been the weirdest “tournament” that I have done yet (and that even includes the one where I received an award covered in plastic insects). I was aware of this event going on because my friend Emily was competing with a team right on the heels of winning a similar competition in Buffalo. All I knew about it was what she had told me a couple of weeks ago. So when I heard that a team that had made it into the finals might need a replacement player I let it be known that I was available and interested in trying out the new Battle Royale squad format, which I had not experienced playing yet. I actually didn’t expect to be playing in this event at all, so I was out and about just doing my normal Sunday activities (driving from the craft store and meeting my mother for lunch), when I saw a message from one of the players had hit my phone around 1:00 in the afternoon saying that a player had backed out and inviting me to fill in. Well, that is all I needed to hear to turn on a dime and head out to Rochester to join the squad called “3Strikes” and meet up with Terry (TD), Nardo and our squad captain Layla, all of whom I was delighted to meet and glad to play alongside.


TD and Layla both had kids playing in the youth tournament that was scheduled to take place first, so they were both there a little early and that gave me a chance to chat with them and learn a bit more about the Battle Royale format.


Battle Royale is an elimination game and the object is to have at least one player on your team survive longer than all the opposing teams. You have virtually unlimited shots and lives are limited (I was told normally you start with 60 energy units, but they changed it to 100 for this event) and you MUST tag an opponent at least once every 30 seconds. If you fail to do that or lose all your energy (lives) then your pack will turn purple (aka becoming the Purple Storm) and you must re-energize. When you are Purple Storm you are in a strange in-between state of being both tagged out and yet somehow still in the game, so you want to continue tagging opponents to support your still-active “green” teammates.


The youth tournament had only four teams and they let the kids go through the process of the preliminary games, although when it got down to it the finals in the youth division consisted of the two youth teams that had earned their way there in advance based on points. I think that was just fine and they passed around a QR code to vote for which of the two teams you thought would win. My teammates had kids on both teams, so either way would have been a victory, but I selected the correct team and was rewarded with $9 added to my card. That was nice.


Then it was time for the adult tournament. Sigh…I am using the word “tournament” a little loosely now because the entire thing from start to finish was over in six minutes and one second. Here’s how that happened…EVERYBODY who showed up just jumped directly into one round for finals.


As I mentioned, I had joined a squad that had already won their bye into the finals. Over the course of the preceding thirty days each squad could earn points by participating in qualifiers and my teammates had the second highest amount of points accumulated out of nearly 400 participants on the leaderboard. That is based on the list of standings that was posted online prior to the tournament. My teammates had earned over 1400 cumulative points to get into that spot, which should have afforded them the leisure of watching quarter-finals and semi-finals play out (and other teams exhausting themselves in the process) and then have the victors from those preliminary heats ascend to an earned place in finals. However, out of 28 qualified squads only four actually showed up. And they seemed to be a bit pieced together from other teams (although considering I was a replacement player as well, who am I to talk).


Although the youth tournament had exactly the same number of teams show up, the adult group was not required to go through the same formalities and they did not bother with either a quarter-final round (where one team qualified based on 475 points upon arrival) or a semi-final round (where the other team qualified) and instead just sent all four teams directly into finals. One game, the end. Now, even if the result would have ultimately turned out the same (which with only four teams would have inevitably been the case), it just feels like something was missing in the process.


I’m hard pressed to call what transpired last night a tournament, as by definition a tournament is “a series of contests between a number of competitors who compete for an overall prize” and in this case there was no actual series of contests, unless you are counting the earning of points prior to the event itself. However, in this circumstance the earned points really did not matter at all because everyone who showed up with a team ended up going right into finals anyway. Also, if the rest of the 28 top point earners did not even bother to show up it makes me wonder how many were really consciously participating in a tournament versus simply playing the game because Battle Royale is the only game format that was offered at this site in the last 30 days.


Now, this was clearly an unexpected level of participation and I think that the staff handled things as well as they could have without being able to anticipate the turnout in advance. I’m sure they were planning for more. I don’t attribute this to the pandemic (as everyone had qualified within the last month), but it is what it is. And our team played hard, but ultimately got taken out first from that one and only game (which is just the way the cookie crumbles some days), but I think that from an organizational standpoint it would have been wise for the host facility to have a back-up plan for the handling of this scenario.


I am not an advocate for “participation trophies”, but I also don’t think it makes sense or breeds good vibes to give medals to three teams while leaving one team (particularly one that had actually qualified for the finals on merit) standing unacknowledged. I fear some of my teammates may have felt that sting because I could not even find half of them to say good-bye at the end of it all. Now again, I myself was a fill-in player and recognize that I did not earn anything personally to be here, so I don’t have any real stake in this other than watching the events unfold and thinking there had to be a better way to handle this to make everyone feel that they had gotten a complete tournament experience. Even a warm-up round would have at least made things last a little longer. As it stands, I felt like this one was over a bit too soon and that seems like a shame since the overall concept seems like it was designed to open up more opportunities to compete, not less. Still, I want to offer congratulations to the other teams who placed as follows:


1st Place - AM I TOO SLOW

2nd Place - The House

3rd Place - God Save The Queen


And I must say that all in all I am still glad that I got to be part of this. In addition to meeting some great people and also being able to visit with my ‘geddon teammates Wil and Emily, it was the first time I’ve been back to this site in well over a year. Because I live two and a half hours away from this arena it would be difficult for me to qualify for future events like this in any way other than by joining a pre-existing squad, so I do want to thank Team 3Strikes for inviting me to join them.


Also, I have spent a lot of time collecting unique laser tag experiences as I have traveled and competed all across the country and I can say one thing about last night…I’m pretty sure it will stand uncontested as the shortest tournament that I have ever or will ever play, so for that reason alone I will chalk this up as a new and interesting experience being worth taking the time out of what would have otherwise been a pretty ordinary day.


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