Thursday, August 4, 2022

Simulations That Go Beyond Reality

There has been a lot of talk about what will be the next evolution of laser tag. In recent years many of the major manufacturers have added bigger screens, touch screens, avatars, projections and even selfie cams to make the gear more interactive, so it’s no wonder some are looking to see if virtual reality is the next step. One arena manufacturer is already promoting a way for both VR and laser tag to coexist in the same space.

While virtual reality is NOT laser tag and (with all due respect to Bob Cooney) in my opinion it will likely not displace laser tag anytime soon, I do find it intriguing to see how strides in VR have managed to both simulate and integrate laser tag elements into new gaming experiences in their own way. I feel that VR has a place adjacent to laser tag in the amusement marketplace and there is room for both to complement, not only compete, to provide quality gaming experiences. I can appreciate both the similarities and the differences that make these kinds of games appealing in various ways and I can enjoy them both without thinking that they have to occupy the same function or space (and in the case of Limitless VR, this is a bit more literal). 

In the last year I have started to take a greater interest in watching the evolution of VR attractions, so I decided to get some further firsthand experience by paying a visit to the new Beyond Reality VR location in New Hartford, NY. 

I admit that I have only had a handful of VR experiences and that more of them have taken place at amusement industry trade shows than inside actual free roam arenas (though I have also had a handful of these opportunities too), so I was intrigued when I first chatted with Blake from the Beyond Reality team about a month ago when he told me about this new business and what they were doing. I learned that in addition to virtual escape rooms and other games, that they offer the Hero Zone Quantum Arena, which I had experienced once at a beta testing location in Indiana. As this seemed like one of the most laser tag-like experiences I have had with VR I definitely wanted to give it another go.

I didn’t arrive dressed for gaming, but one nice thing about VR is it does not move at the athletic pace of laser tag, so my attire was not a problem. I waited in the lounge area while my game was being prepared.

I met Steven, one of the business partners, and he showed me to the 15x15 foot arena room where we would play a free roaming VR game of Quantum Arena. I had played the Egypt theme previously, so I requested to mix it up and play the Japan theme. The images inside my headset showed my opponent to have a formidable looking avatar in this virtual simulation.

I presume my avatar looked similar in my opponent’s headset, but all I could see of myself were the virtual items in each of my hands.

The tools that appeared included a shield in my left and a phaser in my right, which I operated with two hand controllers. I could swap out the items by flicking my controller back over my shoulder.

Realistic “walls” appeared to create a visually cool environment to tag in and around. When I was deactivated, I would have to step into a cylinder of “light” to respawn and continue in the game. Then the environment would “reset”. There were three rounds of play and it took me a bit of time to get my bearings, but I did feel more confident about moving around in this space (I have not always felt that way in previous VR experiences) so the game was enjoyable and had a bit of a laser tag feel to it, which was what I was hoping for. I enjoyed this game very much!

Steven told me they have plans to take this VR experience out into the middle of the mall and mobile to events as well, so I am going to make a point to check those out. Competitive tournaments could definitely motivate me to try to develop some skill with this platform. Right now I look at it as an occasional novelty, tangentially related to my love of laser tag, but competition has always been the thing that lights a fire in me. Although it has a few similarities, let me reiterate that it is not laser tag, so a person should not walk in and expect it to be the same kind of game. In fact, I feel a bit like a newbie starting from scratch because my laser tag skills have yet to translate over to the VR realm. Nonetheless, for gamers looking for a unique experience that incorporates laser tag style with real world competition in a simulated environment, the VR at Beyond Reality will be impressive!

So, my evening began with some virtual reality and when I arrived home I got to experience a bit of augmented reality as well. An item I had ordered a few days ago had arrived and I looked forward to seeing if my new Gem Joy augmented reality bracelet would live up to my expectations. 

Honestly, I think augmented reality is more likely to be the next evolution in actual laser tag, so that’s why this technology intrigued me. So what does this bracelet do? Well, it pairs with an app on my phone to create some very realistic interactive images that appear to be happening right on my arm. Check out Heli experiencing some reality vs augmented reality!

This is pretty cool! Between virtual reality at the mall and augmented reality at home who needs actual reality? (Oh yeah, Travis and Trog do, lol) Well, laser tag is played in true reality and my next laser tag adventure will be competing in the Zone Nationals, so if you want to see what’s going on in MY reality, keep following along and see where real life takes me next!

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Thursday, July 28, 2022


 A big THANK YOU goes out to everyone who made a donation to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in memory of our friend, Katt “Harlequin” Savoca. A total of $2435 has been donated to this organization in her name. This is not only a wonderful gesture to honor Katt, but it also helps to support a very important resource for others who may be struggling. To quote directly from the letter that was provided by the Lifeline, which will be sent to her family, “These generous donations, however large in number, must surely be only a small measure of how she is loved by so many. These gifts will be a vital contribution to the Lifeline's mission of preventing suicides nationally.” Thank you to all who helped in supporting a very important cause while dedicating that generosity to the memory of our extraordinary friend, Katt “Harlequin” Savoca.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Mixing It Up

Of course I love to travel and report back about my laser tag adventures, whether it’s a tournament or a road trip or a Tag 4 A Cause night, but sometimes it’s nice to just appreciate a normal night of tag with at your home arena (or as normal as ever we get in Syracuse!) so this past weekend I didn’t plan to do anything all that out of the ordinary…except, well, we kind of did!

What I mean is we had a normal SM5 night planned, but instead of playing that format all night we tried mixing it up with some game formats that we just don’t play all that often, and it was great to peruse the special format options and play some “just for fun” games this week.

Typically Photon emulation is only played when I am there to specifically request it and there were a few players who had never experienced it before. Even the staff normally defers to me to give a briefing on this format (which always begins with a bit of history…Photon emulation is based on the original laser tag game invented by George Carter III in Dallas, TX in 1984) so I gave an overview of the key points before we went into the game. Always one of my favorites!

Then Mama Bear wanted to play around with one of the newer game formats, Laser Ball, which is really a good “team builder” kind of game because it is played a bit like soccer or basketball in that you have to “pass the ball” by tagging teammates or steal the ball from the opposing team and run it up to the opposite base to score. 

Then a bit of three-team Z Game (which is also an emulation of another system I enjoy) was on my list of favorites to play. 

Now, we don’t necessarily play these formats a lot, but they are games we know and fun to mix things up. But when we go off the tablet, that’s a whole other story!

What do I mean by that? Well, I play at a site where the tech-talented staff members have created some of their own variations on the “official” formats. These are unique to our site, so you would not expect to come across them at any other arenas. Even we don’t know them all! So when someone found a custom variation, which I will abbreviate as D.M., as it is a tweaked variation on Masters, we all wanted to see what this was about!

For this customized variation, the points are doubled, missiles are worth 1000, bases are worth 5000, you start only needing one special point for nukes and then subsequent nukes go up by one, maxing out at 10. Does that sound crazy? It was!!! That’s why this creation will never likely be played outside of a special members night at this specific site, but it was a treat to get to try something completely out of the box!

Of course, since this started as an SM5 night we had to make sure to get in a couple of practice games. We did not have full number, so we ran the games with teams of five instead of six, which I think is fine for practice purposes.

A couple of games of SM5 followed up by a bit more Laser Ball made for a really fun night of mixing it up! I think playing a variety of games is not only a way to keep things interesting, but also sharpens your playing skills. I would encourage other arenas to schedule designated nights to mix things up as well and play games from the full menu of what their laser tag system has to offer.

Comments or Questions?


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Thursday, July 21, 2022


The Laserforce players East Coast Tournament (ECT) took place this week at The Fun Warehouse in Syracuse, NY.

This event was happening right on the heels of my return from taking several days off to travel for Armageddon. Life requires a certain amount of balance and I realize that I do have to balance my tag time with little things like, you know, my actual job (lol), so I did not step up to participate in this event, but I did keep an eye on the three days of competition via the Twitch stream.

I have not been a huge follower of these gaming streams in the past, but I was a bit more attentive to this one and enjoyed following the activity over the course of the three days that the SM5 matches took place.

By the end of round 1 on Monday I suspected the writing was already on the wall.

I wrote that prediction on Monday. While it’s true that anything can happen, of the four teams competing, three were made up of Syracuse players, so I felt pretty comfortable with going out on this particular limb.

However, it’s not all about the win-loss ratio. There were moments of individual growth and achievement reported back, like one member of the Syracuse C team being happy just to get a couple of missiles off against the A team and another pleased that they could avoid getting eliminated in those games. StayPuft commented that by not being eliminated early, they exceeded expectations and sometimes it’s those little victories that should really be appreciated. Rumor has it the alleged “10-10-9” lost a couple of nukes to this team as well, but I won’t get in the middle of that one!

What I will say is that this event had a lot of heart and players were wearing it on their sleeve, not just at the ECT event, but across the laser tag community as we united in a gesture of remembrance to honor the memory of our friend, Katt “Harlequin” Savoca.

Throughout the week people who tuned in to the Twitch channel saw the screen relay of the games, but they also saw an active fundraising effort to support the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline with donations dedicated in Katt’s memory.

In this way, ECT took on a bigger purpose than just the competition itself. And over the course of the tournament we were astounded to see how the laser tag community rallied together and helped to contribute towards the $1870 in total donations (as of Wednesday morning) raised in Katt’s name by her family and friends.

But of course, the tournament was the thing that brought everyone together and, while this was a smaller event, players were devoted. In fact, while the majority of players were local, these players traveled not just from across the country, but several traveled internationally just to be a part of ECT.

The traveling taggers include:

Wolfman from Detroit, MI

Markus from Germany

Smally McSmalls from the UK

Hewey from the UK

Poison Ivy from the UK

Kodama from San Diego, CA

Originally their team name was “Get in T’ Van” (which is an awesome name), but they changed it to “Get in T’National” to better reflect the diverse locations represented by the players.

David “Hewey” Hewitson explained that the coming together of this group stemmed from a few deliberate decisions to break off from pre-existing teams and join together at this event with one main focus…having fun together while playing laser tag.

This was also an opportunity for new international friendships to be forged.

Having spent the first two days of the tournament checking in via the Twitch stream, I left straight from my work day to get out to Syracuse in just enough time to watch the final match first-hand. When I arrived, I saw that the bracket aligned exactly with my prediction from Monday.

I watched as the final match took place to determine whether the first place trophies would go to Syracuse A or Syracuse B.

Players headed into the arena, ready for the first game of that final match.

Three minutes into game one it was looking pretty likely that the A team was going to take it. By the time they were four minutes in they had more than doubled the B team’s score. B team lost their resupply early and their team was completely eliminated before the clock had even gotten 2/3 of the way through. But it’s not over until it’s over. It was down to the second game of the match.

I’ve got to say, B team really put up a fight! But in the first five minutes of the game, it looked like the writing was once again on the wall…or was it? By the halfway mark the B team had significantly narrowed the gap and made this an interesting game to watch! Losing their medic at 7:30 and their heavy seconds later was a blow, but they still fought incredibly hard, which I respect.

Jackal as scout was the last player remaining in the game and he held on. I thought to myself as I watched, “if he survives this entire game, I’m dropping the Jackal video here in the blog as his shout out.” He hung in there until the 3:53 mark where the game ended.

Well Jackal, as the last man standing on a team that put up a good fight I promised you’d get something special here. Ladies and gentlemen…The Jackal!

Now all that was left was to recognize the individual and team awards.

Individual awards went to the following:

Golden Gun for accuracy - Beanz

Medic Killer - Evol

Sportsmanship - Hewey

All Star Commander - Cody

All Star Scout - Evol

All Star Scout - Fox

All Star Ammo - Beanz

All Star Heavy - Hammer

All Star Medic and MVP - Schmorg

And team placements (complete with ceremonial paper plates) went to the following:

4th place - Syracuse C 

3rd place - Get In T’National Van

2nd place - Syracuse B

1st place - Syracuse A

Congratulations to all who played in the ECT. I can’t help think that “East Coast Tournament” may not be the best description for this particular event since the only thing truly “east coast” about it was the location, so indulge me for a moment while I contemplate what else the ECT abbreviation could represent. Perhaps…

Extraterrestrial Crazy Teapots

Especially Cold Turkeys

Even Cody Tags

Lol, just kidding. 

I would like to thank all the members of our laser tag community who donated to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline this week in memory of Katt. While this was not the official Tag 4 A Cause for this quarter, it will be for next quarter. However, this week the sole purpose for encouraging donations was to do something positive to remember our friend Katt. I like to think she may be looking out upon her friends in the laser tag community and the players at this event and that she would appreciate what I think this ECT really stands for…

Everyone Comes Together.

Comments or Questions?


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