Sunday, October 18, 2020

Whatever It Takes: Tagging in Honor of Doreen

If it weren’t for the pandemic, I was supposed to have been in Denver this past weekend laser tagging in support of the Doreen Katz Memorial Cancer Foundation. Since that couldn’t happen, I decided to support anyway and tag another 5K locally in honor of Doreen. I did it as a progressive 5K, doing a mile (roughly four games) in each of three local arenas so I could still end the day having tagged for this great cause.

Remembering back to when I was leaving LQ Phoenix after the last DKMCF fundraiser on the night of March 15th (heading home right as things were beginning to lock down throughout the United States), I had no idea how the world was about to change. One of the last things I said to Adam Katz that night was that I would be there on October 17th in Denver. I had to settle for figuring out another way to support and be creative in doing so…whatever it takes. So that’s why I decided it would be fitting to donate the amount that I would have paid for my registration, even though the event could not take place at all because the host arena in Colorado is still temporarily closed. I have great empathy for those businesses throughout the country that have still not been able to re-open, but I also am greatly appreciative that several of the laser tag arenas I enjoy playing in New York have just recently re-opened, so I figured this would also be a way for me to show some support to those businesses, both by being a customer and by showcasing a few of the places where laser tag is currently available in central New York.

My day began with a visit to Apex Entertainment in Syracuse and their New York City themed arena inside of Destiny USA. This location re-opened about a week and a half ago, so a return visit was well overdue. I arrived in the early afternoon and was pleased to find that there were groups ready for tag from the time I arrived through the end of my final game and I was able to get in some quality games to start the day.

The first game I considered a warm up and according to my new Fitbit (I did decide to invest in a better tracker and it was well worth it for the improved accuracy and app info) I tagged for .19 of a mile that game. Off and running! However, the second game I forgot to turn the tracker on until midway through the game, so once I remembered it only calculated .16 of a mile. That’s a mistake I won’t make twice, lol. I figured I would just have to make up for it by working harder in the next game, when I was able to tag with a nice size group. Half my attention was on the game, while the other half was on making up for lost steps by circling the arena more than usual and making a deliberate point of going up and down the ramps repeatedly. Apex Syracuse has some serious ramps leading to the half-arena upper level.

The upper level is almost like a balcony with quite a view.

That third game I really earned the .35 of a mile (and I could feel it!) and then I finished another round of “fitness on the ramps” at .36 in a solo format game, so in four games at Apex I got my first mile completed and was already feeling the burn with two arenas left to go!

Next up was a visit to The Fun Warehouse. The groups that were playing there were young beginners, so I was not about to play hard. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to get discouraged because FWH also just re-opened last week and since tag is still a little slow, I want to make sure everyone has a good time (and sticks around) so we can all get some games in. So, to adjust my game play accordingly I just played for accuracy, mostly focusing on the rotating targets, and instead of playing a proper game I mostly just walked through the maze at a brisk pace, feeling a little like Pac Man (or is it the ghosts?) by just tracing a path and only tagging those who happened to cross into my path. This allowed everyone to have a good time AND got me to the second mile goal a lot faster than I expected.

Then it was off to my final arena, Tag 607 in Cortland. This is a smaller arena geared more towards kids, but they use Cybertag equipment which is REALLY unusual and I had only played at this site once before. I was looking forward to tagging with this gear once again because it is such a novelty, so I thought this would be a great place to finish out the night.

I took the top spot as we started a series of games.

It took four games to complete the third mile and change, during which time I realized that I can either tag well by focusing on the game or take a lot of steps while not paying as much attention, but it is very difficult to do both at the same time! Walt’s kids got to hear about my goal and learn a bit about tracking distance and I told one of the kids who tagged all the games with me that they could tell the kids at school that they tagged a mile this weekend…bragging rights for everyone, lol!

I wore my Gameworks t-shirt to represent where I had previously planned to be this weekend, but as my plans actually changed multiple times because of travel restrictions I have to believe I was right where I was supposed to be.

And I was pleased to complete the 5K in honor of Doreen while still finding a way to support the Doreen Katz Memorial Cancer Foundation…whatever it takes.


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Tron Trek - Part 3: Things That Make You Go…Hmmm

The third stop of my Tron Trek was…interesting. I don’t mean that as necessarily good or bad, just interesting in that there were things I was not expecting when I visited Pinz in Milford, MA. When I arrived there were a handful of customers milling about, but I could tell I was the only one there looking to laser tag, so I enlisted staff member Tim to do a one on one and he showed me to the entrance in front of a stairway to the upper level arena.

The first thing to make me go “hmmm” was seeing the Lasertron logo at the top of a Lazer Runner stargate. I assumed this arena must have previously operated with Runner, but didn’t spend too much time on that thought as I was led to the combo briefing/vesting room. I stood there and watched the Lasertron briefing video (I know it’s a formality) before being handed a Lasertron pack. I’m not sure which version the pack was, but it looked a little older than I expected. Actually, the whole atmosphere felt a little older than I expected, which was the next “hmmm” moment because I had an impression in my head that Pinz might be a newer, “glossier” kind of FEC. I had anticipated it being a little more bright and active-looking with a typical Tron arena. And that brings me to the next “hmmm”…the arena itself.

This is actually not a criticism because I really prefer to play in unique arenas, and this one definitely qualifies. The other arenas I had played in earlier in the day were both typical Lasertron arenas. This one was not. It was a VERY long and narrow space, actually much larger than it looks. As I walked deeper into the space the length of it just seemed to keep going and going, but the narrowness of it meant there was limited play space width-wise.

Tim sent me in first as he started the game. I waited…and waited…hmmm. I had a feeling the game had started, but everything was silent. Then Tim walked into my sight so I took a shot and tagged him and realized that he had in fact started the game, but there was no music or any other audio playing. The game was completely silent! Hmmm…

This was an interesting experience indeed. I remember Nick (aka Glendale) asked me once about my thoughts about music in arenas and I thought he meant actual popular songs when I said I didn’t hear music played all that much, but in hindsight there is always a background track of some sort of music. And when it is not there you become REALLY aware of the absence of sound.

I try to step lightly when I play in order to be stealth while also listening for other player footsteps over the background music. However, in this arena with no music the sound of my opponent’s footsteps seemed amplified because it was the only sound, and with this elongated arena layout that made it fairly easy to tell where he was at any given moment. This was not a particularly challenging game, but it was fun.

As I passed one wall in the middle I noticed a flashing Runner base. So, my earlier assumption was correct, and Tim confirmed that they had switched systems a couple years back. I’m always curious when I see this why it is that arenas that have transitioned often leave the old base on long after they have started using new equipment. I’ve noticed this in several arenas, but it only seems to be a common occurrence when the previous system was Lazer Runner. Can anyone tell me why? Just curious. In any case, here’s the old Runner base, still flashing.

Although may not have been what I expected, I always enjoy unusual arenas and games. They tend to be more memorable, so when I think back on my Massachusetts Tron Trek I will remember the Pinz Atomic Warehouse arena as being the one that was distinctively unique in its own right.


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Tron Trek - Part 2: Checking Off My Final Xtreme Craze

Having played so far at all the Xtreme Craze locations except for one, I decided this trip to Massachusetts I would rectify that and check the last one off my list. That’s what prompted me to make a visit to Foxborough, where I think I had the best time out of all of them!

When I showed up I was told that they could accommodate a game in about twenty minutes, so I took this opportunity to visit the sushi restaurant just up the road. AMAZING sushi at Sushi Madness…just saying! By the time I returned the place was bustling with some customers, but none signed up right then for laser tag, so instead I had the chance to play a four round session with staff member Conner who gave me some EXCELLENT competition all the way through.

This arena has the sectors set up for a variety of game play options and differed a bit from the set-up of the last arena in that the bonus base targets would light up at each of the different sectors (as opposed to on the wall), which meant that three times during each game there was a frenzy to get the most targets tagged glowing underneath each of six sectors. 

In between base activations Conner and I kept a tight cat and mouse chase that resulted in some VERY close results.

I absolutely LOVE to play games like this and often feel like it is more worthwhile to play against one really good sparring partner than with an entire public group. This single level arena was the perfect size for a session like this and it was the best workout of my day!

I’d report the results of my steps/distance, but unfortunately I was still using my low-end fitness tracker at this point in my journey and as I share this several days after the fact I can’t retrieve that data, which is one of the reasons I’ll be using a better quality tracker going forward, but let me just say by the end of this visit I had no doubt that I had tagged like a marathon runner and I left feeling the endorphins kicking in from another great workout. Tron Trek part two was a success!

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Taking a Tron Trek - Part 1: In The Game

Taking a Tron Trek – Part 1: In The Game

 I took a Tron Trek…yeah, I just made that name up. However, it seems like a fitting way to describe an afternoon spent traveling to eastern Massachusetts and playing at three arenas in a row that are all running Lasertron equipment….so there you go, a Tron Trek. My first stop was to In The Game in Peabody, MA.

I was greeted at the door when I arrived and I appreciate their diligence in checking my temperature and signing me in as part of their steps to keep things safe inside their facility. I was shown the way to the arena where, after a four hour drive, I was ready to burn off some energy and enjoy playing three games  of shields up/down solo format with Dylan and Sam while I continued testing out fitness trackers. I want to be able to accurately measure my steps and distance inside different arenas while playing different systems and games and this was a chance to see how the results would vary compared to last week.

We climbed the steps to the upstairs arena.

Then we played three five minute games, which really got both my steps and my heart rate up as we tagged between the double levels.

I have taken a liking to arenas that utilize the bonus bases.

I found it easiest to dominate those bases when they activated by playing the majority of the game on the upper level. In this case bases were everything and I took each round easily off of base points alone. I checked me steps at the end and questioned the variance between a couple of my fitness trackers. I’m probably going to be investing in stepping up to a Fitbit before the end of the weekend because if I’m going to keep doing this accuracy in my tracker will be paramount. But if I take the results of those three games at face value I can say I got an AMAZING workout in a short amount of time while enjoying some great competition at the same time.

Before I left Katelynn was great to hook me up with some tag swag.

Many thanks to the staff at In The Game for starting my Tron Trek off with such a great time! I was impressed with the entire experience.


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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Laser Tagging My Way To 5K

This weekend laser tag returned at the Fun Warehouse in Syracuse! And I was right back there to support my home site on opening day with a new goal in front of me. I planned to laser tag my way to 5K…and of course I mean distance, not score, lol.

With so many run/walk events going virtual I thought it would be interesting to track how many games it would take me to laser tag that same distance inside an arena. So I got involved with an online runners group (even though the first rule in every laser tag arena is “I will not run”) and received tremendous support for this idea!

I purchased a fitness tracker with an app to keep a log of my steps and distance covered in each game. What I found was that on average I was moving about .2 miles in every game, although that varied a bit with each game and I noticed a particular spike in my steps/distance when playing Supercharge, so I’m sure my results will vary based on which system or format I’m playing. I imagine arena size will be a factor too. All the games I played this weekend were at FWH, but in future I may execute similar challenges by going between multiple arenas.

It was great to be back playing here again with some familiar faces. OK, you can’t see the faces under the masks, but trust me, they are familiar!

And it’s also nice to play here feeling very confident that everything is being kept clean, safe and sanitized. I only wore one pack the entire time I was there (and they also have the capability of changing vesting rack colors to identify the packs that are “in-use” versus those that are being sanitized) and I witnessed some of the cleaning procedures first-hand so I can vouch for what they are doing to keep their customers safe. Here is Jackal (aka Ryan) who was cleaning the vests immediately after one of the games.

After tagging the equivalent of 1.5 miles during seven games on the first night, I returned to Syracuse for a few more games the next day.

I arrived early in the day intending to play as many games as necessary to achieve 5K (or 3.107 miles) before I left. With a few Supercharge games tossed into the mix I was able to reach my goal in only six more games, meaning I did indeed laser tag over 5K of distance over the course of two days and 13 games total. Although there have certainly been times in the past when I could have easily knocked out 13 games in a single day, right now FWH is operating with limited hours, so to accomplish my goals I will have to work around the game availability at the individual sites I go to. This means I may have to complete my future 5Ks over more than one day also and, regardless, I would have to add up my game times as individual segments, accumulating them to reach the total goal.

It was great to tag once again with both public players and members who I had not seen in quite awhile during the final game that put me over the top.

What a fun way to celebrate the return of laser tag in Syracuse!

Playing a lot of laser tag games consecutively is nothing new for me and I’m sure I’ve done this many times before without realizing it, but from now on I am going to measure and track my miles and join more of the virtual 5K events going on to benefit good causes at the same time. In fact, this first 5K is the completion of one such online distance-based online challenges through Medal Chasers, appropriately called “Ready, Aim, Run” and a portion of my registration for this event went to benefit Kidz Outdoors.

Although most people who participate in these virtual events complete the challenge by running or walking the distance, I was delighted to find a great deal of support when I shared that I was going to complete my 5K by laser tagging. The general opinion seems to be that as long as you keep moving, any activity is great for going the distance and I actually got some response from people who seemed genuinely interested in hearing more about laser tag. Now that I have a starting point to know approximately how many games it takes, I am looking forward to taking on plenty of future challenges that I can complete inside laser tag arenas and start to use my favorite game for fitness just as much as for fun!

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From One Collector to Another

I love eBay! When you are a collector it is like a treasure trove and I love to explore different search topics and see what pops up. Recently I stumbled upon a seller who had a tremendous amount of cool, vintage Lazer Tag items from the Worlds of Wonder collection.

What caught my eye first was a grouped lot of three Lazer Tag novels (I believe they were of the “choose your own adventure” variety), which I have always been curious about and noticed that they were selling together at a very reasonable price. This purchase lead to my shopping with this same seller and finding a few more vintage Lazer Tag items of interest, so we messaged back and forth about the shipping options. Then something unexpected happened. I got a really nice message back from this seller because he recognized my name and congratulated me on my playing laser tag in all 50 states. Wow, it’s such a nice surprise when that comes up out of the blue and someone remembers me because of it. It never ceases to amaze me how many wonderful laser tag people you meet through unusual connections like that. Connecting this common interest in laser tag led to a nice exchange of messages and accounts for why he had such an amazing collection and no doubt also explained why I was buying so much of it all at once. He seemed pleased to know that the items he had collected would be appreciated by another collector.

As we communicated, I mentioned that a couple of the items I purchased I planned to donate to the Laser Tag Museum and this seller generously added an extra item to donate on his behalf as well, which he shipped to me along with my purchases.

This play-makers press photo from 1987 features brands including Lazer Tag, Photon and Laser Combat with a BART droid in the front. I want to thank that seller, Jason, for sending along this awesome rarity that will be donated shortly to the Laser Tag Museum. I am so pleased to be able to have a few of his items as part of my collection, while making sure that some others can be preserved with the museum. From one collector to another, thank you so much! I also had one other unusual eBay find recently from a different seller. Imagine my surprise to stumble upon this gem!

Of course, those who follow along know I was not an old school Photon alpha warrior myself, but to find one of these pins 35 years later is a really special thing. So, to whomever sold this item, please know it will also be treasured as part of a personal laser tag collection and it will be appreciated for being one of those rare and special pieces of history that you occasionally are lucky enough to stumble upon.

And even though this unique find happened a few weeks ago, this seems like the right place to share one more Photon treasure I acquired on eBay.

Have you ever seen sunglasses like these? The only time I ever have was as part of a Photon licensing advertisement. I simply couldn’t let this amazing (albeit really tacky) piece of laser tag history get away. Yes, eBay is a wonderful thing…now, time to let my credit card cool off!


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Saturday, October 10, 2020

I Had a Little "Spare Time"

The last time I had ventured into CT I won a gift card loaded up with laser tag and game cash from the tournament in Bristol, so it seemed appropriate to use that up in CT also with a visit to Spare Time locations in Vernon and Windsor Locks.

What I love about Spare Time is that after visiting several of them (five or six I think) I have not seen the same arena theme repeated twice! Unlike another large FEC chain where I can stand in the same spot and take the same photo in every location (we’re all thinking of the same place, right?) I did not have that redundancy here and have really enjoyed each Spare Time for the unique experience I’ve had at each one.

Vernon was up first and I really LOVED their Jurassic Jungle dinosaur theme! Of course, I raise a “baby dinosaur” (aka my little gecko Leon), so I thought this was a really cool look that I don’t come across all that often.

The lobby area was nice (especially in that they had couches to lounge on between games).

And I snapped a photo with their mascot, Roxie.

But inside the arena was a little bit unique. Perched atop the greenery there were dinosaurs guarding their terrain.

Although it wasn’t the design aesthetic that struck me (as it was classic CW work the walls and such were typical). And for what it’s worth that is not a criticism. I really do like this theming and thought this one looked new and really pops, which is also a testament to how the right lighting makes a difference.

But what was interesting about this arena was that it was a double level arena with only ONE ramp access point to the top. It was a VERY long ramp that circles around the entire bottom of the arena, gradually getting you to the second level. The thing is, with only one way up or down you had better REALLY want to change your position because once you move on either end it is really easy to track which way you are going and there is nowhere to hide on the whole length of the ramp!

I enjoyed tagging with Tanner and Evan and getting to finally use up a little of that tag credit I’ve held onto for about a year. I followed up the game time with a plate of some delicious quesadillas before leaving the Jurassic Jungle behind. But before we leave it completely, it's been awhile since my little guy appeared on the blog so let me be proud mama…here’s a recent pic of Leon being very dino-like as well!

With a little more spare time on my hands (aka the rest of the night that I had earmarked to play in my final location) I headed for the Spare Time in Windsor Locks. This one was called the Infinite Station arena (meaning clocktower theme) and I had seen this elsewhere before, but again I give Spare Time credit for not duplicating between their own arenas.

When I first arrived it was still early in the night and I was the only one there for tag. However, staff member Anthony was willing to give me a 1v1 game and this was the best game of the trip so far! He played really well and prior to this trip it had been so long since I’d gotten to play hard with my favorite gear, so this was just a really great time all around. Better yet, the final score came down to the difference of only one tag! I love when games are tight like that! When we left the game Anthony told me I really had to play against his co-worker, Adam, who would be showing up any time now. Adam takes the game SERIOUSLY and apparently nobody had ever beaten him since he’d been there. Challenge accepted!

While we waited Anthony was kind enough to lend his photography skills to my arena pics so I could showcase the arena with some cool angles and lighting effects.

One of the noteworthy aspects of this single level arena is that there are large mirrors, some of them even full length, scattered all throughout, which means you really have to be aware of your environment or you could be tagged in your own reflection.

When Adam arrived he walked up to me and asked if I was his challenger. I smiled (though you can’t tell from under the Mandarr mask) and said yes and was ready to go. We played for the best two out of three games.

The first game I think I surprised him. We were tagging in sync for a lot of the game, dancing around the arena as sparring partners. Sometimes we were trading tags simultaneously, then at other time each of us had our moments knocking the other one down with a surprise shot. When that first game was done I was the winner. I took a quick break for some ice water, during which time Anthony shared my victory with the manager telling her I was the first person to ever beat Adam, so that was a nice moment of recognition.

However, the next game he knew better how I was going to play and we both needed to use a little more intuition to predict the others moves. We did a little more base-sparring this game and ultimately Adam won round two. Very well played (and it is his home arena, lol) so we had tied it up.

I had to wait out a game in between while Adam took a family group in for a game of their own. I sat back. Although I certainly could have joined in, by this time I didn’t want to have to tone things down. If given the choice I would much rather play a hard fought 1v1 than scale the game down as is sometimes the case when public groups are in the mix. That gave me a chance to chat with the game area manager about other arenas and we both reminisced about our respective experiences at various Ultrazones. Laser tag really is a small world!

When we returned to the briefing room I noticed something that I had not given thought to prior to everything these last few months. I am confident that all the arenas I’m going to are sanitizing their equipment and I’m opting to make certain I play using the same vest every time, but what I noticed was that Adam had changed the lighting feature on two rungs of the vest rack so that they glowed yellow to specifically identify which vests were ours in between other games so there was no chance of anyone else using those vests in between and until they could be sanitized when we finished. This is really smart! It makes sense for this to be an available feature, but it isn’t something I had ever seen before. I’m not sure if all manufacturers have a feature like this for their system-specific racks, but kudos that Zone at least does, even though I had never even considered it until now. I’m sure that is quite useful in keeping track of the vests that are “in use” versus those that need to be cleaned.

OK, time for the final round. Third game Adam and I went into the arena wishing each other luck and declaring that this was “for the glory” and “for the honor”, which any eighties kid knows you have to follow up by shouting “OF GREYSKULL!” So that’s how we started and this game was intense because we were both clearly being super competitive about this round. It was a great way to round out a full day of tag and an excellent night of competition with a skilled player. We both played hard, but youth won out and Adam took the win this game. I have total respect for that because the way he played absolutely made my night and made Spare Time Windor Locks the most memorable stop this entire trip. Thank you Adam!

He sent me off with a consolation prize, a tag coupon as an award for being the first person to beat him in a game, so I’ll keep that as a nice memento. But above all else what I’ll keep that means the most was the memory of a great first experience tagging back “out in the wild” and returning to some small semblance of normal with this day trip to Connecticut. Thanks to all the arenas that helped me to remember what I love so much about exploring new places to play laser tag!


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