Thursday, December 31, 2015

Prepping for...

For the last couple of days I have had my mind largely focused on the upcoming tournament. My team has had the benefit of some degree of insulation from the drama llama which I think has been a real asset to just staying positive about an opportunity to see each other again, play our best, learn from the experience and strengthen our overall skill set so that we can come back bigger, better and badder down the road. What I like best about the group I am playing with is that I genuinely feel a camaraderie and support from the team spirit that makes me happy to be a part of this no matter what happens. Now, some external nonsense surrounding all this has been making me want to scream (and disconnect my internet), but I will rise above it and be happy with whatever happens so long as we can do this united and ignore the imaginary issues.

So, to that end I've been doing what I can from here. Picked up the team shirts (which look awesome), got myself to the neighboring arenas for practice and got a very useful refresher tutorial on Q-Zar.

Honestly, these packs are so alien to me. I can practice most of the other systems fairly easily, but Q-Zar and Storm will be the variables over which I have zero control other than to do my best on the fly and to pick up whatever skills I can. Last night I went out to the Force arena knowing full well there would not be a chance to get in any SM5, but I was at least able to introduce one of my teammates to the environment and the system to get familiar with the space to avoid having him jump blindly into the fire at the event. And that was my main purpose also...even though I've spent many hours playing at this location I have also been away from it for awhile. And while I know my Zone location so well I could probably play there blindfolded (ok...that sounds like either an exaggeration or a fun challenge for next week) I recognize that the thing I have in my favor here is simply access. So I went and played a fun night with an unexpected crowd considering it was a weekday night. And we went over the systems as best possible from there. Had a great night, definitely a worthwhile trip. But between now and Saturday I'm going to just rest up for whatever is about to happen and know that regardless of what goes on at the tournament I'm going to have a great time playing laser tag with my team.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Perfect, Undefeated Night

This happens now and again, but it's been awhile since I've accomplished it in Syracuse...last night I had a perfect game streak, start to finish, first place every game of the evening. How? Sarcastic voice: "Joe wasn't there" (...and ok, that was true, but I say that just kidding...smiley face). But I prefer to think it's because I was just very goal oriented and focused last night as I had set my mind to do this even before arriving at the arena. However, there was still an ample challenge in front of me. Nearly every game had between 30-40 players...

So there was plenty of competition anyway. Particularly from a few distinct factions that formed throughout the evening. I stayed on one team using the same pack all night. I am recovering from a cold so I figured I'd confine any residual germs to one pack so I picked up my old friend, Legend, and stayed with that pack all night long.

After a couple of games the other players had me in their sights as a target...especially a few on the blue team. A couple of them stood out to me in particular. There was an older guy there hanging out with quite a few college aged players. Turns out this guy is a professor (of the cool, hangs with his students variety) who came out to play tag with his twenty-something daughter. He chatted me up because I was wearing my Lasertron shirt and he deemed me a "pro" I think I was his target from the get go. But once I made efforts to keep his daughter from taking a base, let's just say the switch was flipped and it was "game on". The daughter actually played quite well. Another young woman about the same age was WAY more aggressive when it came to the bases. She seemed to lead a coordinated faction to go get the bases (and prevent others from doing so) while another young woman seemed in charge of defending their base. There were actually quite a few college aged women there playing smart, coordinated efforts. I had the benefit of experience on my side, but I really give them respect for coming in and executing a decent strategy. This illustrated something I've thought for awhile...please forgive how sexist this sounds, but laser tag really would be a very different sport if there were more women who played. And that's not to say that there aren't quite a few good, female players, but what I witnessed this evening was just a great example of the ladies leading the charge and a very good show of coordination on their team. Call tonight the Nivian challenge. But with so many players there was plenty of opportunity to play hard and achieve my goal. Even though what happened tonight has absolutely no bearing on anything, this was a good way to reinforce some confidence before next weekend's tournament (one more reason I played seriously for the wins tonight) and I can't wait. This was a good evening.

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Day After Christmas!

When your best friend knows exactly what you want for Christmas and shows up with the perfect gift...

Merry day after Christmas!

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Returning To Rochester

I'm going to post this at the top because, well...who knows if this will ever happen again...

This was at Lasertron in the sport arena where I got an especially worthwhile education out of my game play. However, that's fast forwarding to the end of my day. Let me start at the beginning.

I decided that another trip to Rochester prior to Snowmageddon would serve me well, so I first headed out to the Laser Quest arena. First game out was a chance to warm up, but I ended up in second place. First and third place players were clearly regulars here as were a couple others who seemed surprised by the outcome. :)  Getting some practice time with those packs and phasers (which are so large with triggers that I really needed to get accustomed to again) was such a benefit. I figured out how to tweak my aim a bit to get better target accuracy and I also got some quality time scoping out the arena.

One of the employees who remembered me from a month ago commented to me "I really want to watch you compete." The next game I came in first place, but I played it stealth and with less gusto, so I'm not sure I really gave him the show he expected. I took less shots, but I also hid myself better, so my score was the highest of that round, but not by way of terribly aggressive playing. Still using this time to get familiar. The third game does not count or merit discussion...I pretty much ended up just walking the arena that game. Trust me, that was the right thing to do. However, the final game for me at that arena I saw a group of teen guys come in very confidently and I decided I was going to really go for it. To quote one of my coworkers...aww, yeah!

After four games of Laser Quest (which neatly utilized the four free passes they gave me last time) I moved on to Lasertron. When I arrived I was told that the first game of sport Lasertron that I could get into would not be for an hour I decided to have some fun and try my hand again at tactical. They advised me that I could get into a tactical session, but because of the schedule I would be going directly from my four games of tactical straight into the sport games. That's basically like an hour of consecutive tag...damn, I'm a glutton for punishment because I said yes!

I found myself consistently doing well at tactical (which made me feel good to know that the last time wasn't just a fluke). Then right on into the sport round, which I have said many times is my least favorite and the format where I feel I am the weakest. I was told I'd be with a group of about 34 people, but the majority of the group didn't actually show. So instead we had two smaller teams. This actually was a tremendous help. It offered a much better simulation of what it might be like in the tournament with six man teams and gave me some valuable insight to how to work that to a mathematical advantage. I won't detail my thought process now, but after having seen how to do it with smaller numbers I think I have a much better handle on what to do next time around (which will be at Snowmageddon) so it was not only a cool ego boost to be the leader on my team at this format (which was unexpected in and of itself), but also a confidence boost to see what I was capable of and what was possible. All in all, this was a really worthwhile return to Rochester.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Earning It The Hard Way

Moments after I snapped a picture of the scores from a round of tag last night the owner of the Laserforce center says to me "you know I can give you a detailed printout of your score, right?" I said, yes, but I was going to blog about it so the photo was better. Though I really don't even need that because I wasn't recording the scores for posterity. It was more about analyzing the context of this game, not solely my own performance. 

I went there last night to re-familiarize myself with this arena because it will be one of the sites for the upcoming Snowmageddon tournament that I will be playing along with my teammates on team Ascendance (formerly called All About That Base).

Part of me was really irritated because I was playing with several level six players who, during that round, all simply opted not to sign in as such even though I had. I need to practice and if better players are there then they should be playing at a better level, not copping out and getting easy least that was my temporary thought process. But mid-game as one of those non-signed in sixes was taking aim at me I had a change of attitude. I shouted to him "I appreciate you. You make me earn it." And there was only a hint of sarcasm intended. :) But back to the pic of the scores...who signs in as what really doesn't matter. I took my lumps and didn't score as high as I could have if I played below my level, but I earned it harder than they did in that scenario. And what I earned was one more round of experience to get me further overall as a player. At the tournament plenty of players will be well above my playing level because of their time put in towards building experience. So, if I have to earn it the hard way, so be it. Let the others sign in at lesser levels. What is not always on the scoreboard…sometimes you just need to know what you have done for yourself.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Kids and the Christmas Spirit

Last night I felt a little like Miss Hannigan. Today I feel like an elf. What a total 180 and an infusion of the Christmas spirit! Let me explain.

I knew early on yesterday that I'd be the only one of my group out at laser tag, so my first thought was to mix it up a bit and go to the Laserforce arena instead. When I arrived I was surprised to find that they had a different kind of crowd...two parties, lots of kids! In any other situation kids are great, but I do find having little ones underfoot does make it tough to play an aggressive game of tag. I prefer to play in a more balanced situation (although since I was already there I played one light game for the road anyhow).

Then I decided it would be better all around for me to go to my Zone center where there would likely be an older group of players, but you know what? They had parties going on there too...more kids! In the context of my night out at the arena I found myself feeling like the house mother from Annie (cue the chorus of "Little Girls"), but that was clearly just how the cookie was going to crumble. So, I rolled with it, but basically felt it was a lost evening as far as laser tag goes. Then this morning I ended up with a whole new perspective.

Remember the toy drive I mentioned last week? After several weeks of raising awareness and broadcasting from numerous collection stops we had the most heartwarming finale to what has been our largest toy drive yet...

Over 20,000 toys were collected and made available to 28 charities to pick up and distribute to less fortunate children locally. This overwhelms me on many levels. The toys we collected spanned four bus lengths, two rows deep. The generosity of our community is is the need. To realize how many children might have gone without a present on Christmas morning who will now get a gift because of this effort makes me feel really humbled to be a part of this. I realize that I take for granted that I will go out to tag each week, but days like this really remind me of just how very fortunate I am. Some kids may never be able to experience laser tag. Some kids may not have a toy on Christmas morning. I don't have children of my own, but suddenly Miss Hannigan has melted away and I am grateful to be in a position where I can help a drive like this in any way, to make a difference for a child in any way. And that warms my heart even more than tagging a base. :)

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Picture It...

Picture it. Sicily,, wait. That's wrong.

Picture it. The briefing room, right before the last game of the night. The game master comes in and scans the room making an assessment of whether or not to offer us the option of special game play this round. He begins...

Kevin: OK, you all look pretty cool...
Me: Said no one ever in a laser tag briefing room. :)

And with that smartass remark...standard game. But it was a good one to close out a pretty good night all around. I had to work earlier so I showed up late, but there was a decent crowd waiting outside even though there was already a game in progress. Packed house tonight! When I went in for my first game of the evening I was ready to hit it hard. Came out of that game with the top score, only about 300 points ahead of Joe. That set the tone. When my teammate and I compete against each other there is only one thing either of us is take that top spot with the high score. Team play is irrelevant on an average Saturday. One of us and only one of us is getting that spot so the battle is on. The next game was played out just as hard and every pack in the vesting room was spoken for. We played with 42 players (the absolute maximum capacity) and I went into that game ready to take it. I played hard and knew I was killing it. When all was said and done I took my vest off an was positive there was no way I didn't win that one...except, I didn't! I came in second this time and Joe had the top score with a whopping 15,000 (a score not often seen based on the point values in this particular arena...the scoring here is significantly different than at some other arenas where I play). Wow! For that I can't even begrudge him anything. I'm crazy impressed that it happened and reasonably proud of my own outcome also (second place means I still took a whole lot of points). So I snapped a pic of that outcome because you just don't see that happen every time...

Then a few of us played a round just for accuracy before mixing things up with various team combinations for the rest of the night. It was a good, well played night of tag and I always know it's been a worthwhile evening when I go home with a buddy...

A minion in a french maid's costume? Thank you and good night!

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Friday, December 4, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...For Laser Tag and Giving

My heart was warmed by an experience I had with a local shop owner earlier today. I work for a company that puts together one of the largest toy drives in Central New York. Over the course of several weeks our radio stations have broadcast from many different locations collecting toys that will be given to 28 local charities to distribute to less fortunate children prior to holiday time. So today I went into a shop with the intention of buying a laser tag toy to donate to the toy drive myself. My hope was that in doing so I could share the love of laser tag with some child out there who might not otherwise get to have the experience.

I was disheartened to learn that the laser tag toys I found required the use of an iPhone or similar device. Somehow I don't think this technology requirement was a factor when the first laser tag toys hit the store shelves in time for Christmas of 1986. Suddenly this idea seemed impractical because I would think a less fortunate child would be unlikely to have an iPhone. Sigh... I would have to pick out some other toys to donate instead. When I mentioned in passing that this was the reason I came into the store the owner demonstrated some serious holiday spirit. He went into the back and came out with a huge box. I asked him what this was. He said it was a case of brand new toys that he wanted me to take back as a donation. So even though the laser tag toy did not work out as planned, it ultimately resulted in a gift that will benefit many more children in the end. Thank you Art. ;) And thanks to everyone else who has donated to help make the Christmas season more merry for lots of local kids. For anyone else who may be interested in helping you can visit .

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Changing the Name of the Game

Tonight was an unusual situation, but I figured out how to change the way I play to fit the scenario without being either a monster or a total non-entity. At first it didn't look like I'd be able to play any laser tag at all. There was NOBODY at tag tonight until a Boy Scout troop showed up. In fairness, they all looked like teens or close to it, so it's not like I went in with a group of young kids. But I also knew that this was a group that I could seriously hammer if I went in playing hard and I did not want to do that. So I approached the game differently.

What's the thing that I generally care the least about at tag? Everybody say it in unison..."ACCURACY!!!" I probably should care more about that, but I don't. I just go for points any way I can accomplish it. But tonight I decided to make accuracy the name of the game. I deliberately allowed myself to take hits openly. However, I was a lot more judicious with my shots and didn't fire at just anything unless I was pretty certain I could hit it with one shot.

82% accuracy...I’ll take that!

This made it interesting and way more fun for everyone because the scores were closer (yes, I ended up winning on points anyway, but not deliberately), and the others got to have a good time while scoring tags against me (I could tell I was a trophy for some of them when they got a successful tag and tonight that was perfectly fine by me). And playing only for accuracy does hone my skills in a different way. So tonight turned out to be fun anyhow. So glad they showed up...but also looking forward to playing way more seriously this weekend!  :)

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

To Buffalo and Back

Following my evening in Rochester I continued on towards Buffalo to meet up with some friends who were visiting the area from Toronto. We decided to go to Lasertron in Amherst (the major appeal for the group was the proximity to Olive Garden) and play a round before I returned home. While TJ and Ilana explored the flavored drink options in the lounge (yes, grape water is a thing!), Ankur, Garth and I took on the arena...

I love to play with these guys. :) Although the timing of showing up mid-afternoon meant we were playing with a very different group than I had the night before, it was still a good time. I did ok...not great, not lousy. But props to Ankur who got the higher score during game 3 and said he had the best time there out of any of the times we've laser tagged together. Meanwhile TJ and Ilana watched from the observation area and reminded me vaguely of proud parents watching us run around and do our thing. Well, they reminded me of parents only until a swarm of actual kids ran by them in the lobby...but I appreciate them indulging the rest of us a chance to play some tag while we were all together.

I didn't leave the Buffalo area until around 8:00 last night, but somehow it timed out perfectly for me to be passing back through Syracuse just in time to catch the last game of the evening. OK, one shot to do my thing...but there's a new guy playing there who is gaining traction very quickly. I like that because I knew he would give me a really good challenge. So when I pulled the top score I can honestly say it was hard fought for last night and I give my respect and appreciation to this new player and all the others in the arena who gave me an excellent run during this final game to round out the weekend.

And before leaving I claimed a prize that I'll just call "the hitchhiker who followed me home".

Great weekend, lots of great laser tag!

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Ready for Rochester

Spoiler: This story from Friday ends with me loving tactical laser tag...

I was a little unsure of where this night was going to go as I had planned a trip to Rochester and Buffalo that was centered around playing a late night event at Rochester Laser Quest...that as of 5:00 looked questionable as to whether or not it was even going to happen. Now, I'll drive anywhere, anytime, especially for a laser tag adventure, but with the event up in the air I was hesitant about setting out knowing that if I went I was into this trip for my time, my mileage and the cost of a hotel room because of the distance. But I'm an optimist...and knew I could make the night worthwhile either way by checking out the new Lasertron that opened over the summer in the Rochester area. So, while waiting to see what developed with Quest, I decided to try out this new Lasertron location.

When I walked up to the counter I had to decide whether it was worth it to hedge my bets on staying here all night or going to Quest with enough time to arrive by 10:00. I prefer buying the best package, which was the four attraction deal, and was very happy to learn that if I didn't use them all tonight I could save them for another day. Sold! :)

While chatting with the guy at the counter I mentioned that I'd be going to Amherst the next day. The manager on site overheard and gave me a free game pass...very cool and many thanks! He said he remembered seeing me there before. I told him I'd only been there once, but he insisted he remembered seeing my Photon hat...ha! I guess that's my statement piece...even if only the die hards know the statement I am making with it. He said to tell them Steve sent me and I thanked him and said to tell Bill I said hello and that I had played on his Armageddon team. Laser tag land really is a small world.

I took my new card and registered. I also took the electronic alert that would signal when my game was going to start. Makes good sense...

I hoped it wouldn't go off when I took my t-shirt out to my car before the game. Incidentally, the Rochester shirts are much cooler than the ones at the Buffalo location. I really like the style much better.

Ok, time to play. I opted for a game of sport laser tag, knowing if the Quest event ended up falling through that I could return and try out the tactical arena too. But because this is one of the Snowmageddon sites I figured it would behoove me to get into this arena at least once.

I went into the briefing/vesting room with close to 40 players and watched the video.

Our team immediately divided up into offense and defense. I opted for offense because getting bases in this game feels not only like I'm helping my team, but also like I'm validating something from know what I mean? However, tonight I fully recognized where my mathematical folly was five months ago. Here are the numbers to illustrate it...

8-24 people = base points are 100-200
25-40 people = base points are 150-300

You gain 40 points when you tag someone, you lose 5 points when you are tagged. So, partial logic dictates that if you are tagging a base and someone is tagging you the minimal value of the points you lose would be outweighed by the greater value of scoring higher base points. BUT...if a swarm of opposing team players are gaining 40 points per person, per tag by tagging you out while you are in the process of getting those base points the value of the points you've allowed the other team to score may be greater than the amount you bring back to your own team for the base itself. I had processed the first part, but not adequately examined the second until tonight. Then it all clicked.

I didn't score the highest, but I felt I played respectably. I was red 11.

And a chat with the ref afterwards solidified my understanding of the game. Still not my fav, but I enjoyed playing four back to back rounds (I forgot how long it takes to get through a complete session...exhausted already!) and then I called to see what the situation was at Laser Quest. I was told the late nighter was a go, so I hopped into the car and took off for the Quest arena 20 minutes away.

When I got there I knew immediately that this was not going to happen. I went intending to play until 2:30 AM at this scheduled event...

But when I got there I was the only one standing there. Apparently there was a group in an iron man round in progress. If they stayed we'd be good to go. However when they came out of the arena it was clear they were a bachelor party with other plans for the remainder of the night. The few people who were candidates to stay quickly deemed it not worth the time with so few players around. Then it was just me again.

It was apparent that this wasn't going to happen tonight. The girl on duty felt badly that I had travelled so far for nothing, so she gave me several free game passes. That was nice. I asked if I could at least walk the arena with the lights on to take some photos and get my bearings. I figure that was at least worth hanging out for. And depending on my schedule I might try to get back there tomorrow before I head home. But for tonight, no Quest was played. I decided to head back to Lasertron to make something out of what was left of the night.

When I arrived I asked to get in on the next tactical game. Unfortunately that wouldn't be available until 1:00 AM (and this was at midnight). Sigh...well, I had arcade dollars on my card and I won myself a shot glass. That's something I suppose.

Meanwhile, let me give additional props to the staff, especially "Markie Mark" who made a point of asking me how I enjoyed myself here since he heard me say I had played in Buffalo before. It felt like a personal and genuinely interested inquiry and I appreciate that as a made up for paying $3.50 for a bottle of water (seriously?), thanks.

Once 1:00 rolled around I had my first experience with playing tactical in an arena setting.

Three words I never thought I'd say...I LOVE TACTICAL!!!


Either I have had an incorrect idea of what tactical tag actually is based on my one experience with it outdoors in a wet, muddy field OR it's possible I've just given it a misnomer by assuming all tactical laser tag was like that. Playing tactical at Lasertron was very similar in a lot of ways to playing Zone. I called upon my Zone experience, particularly my sniping skills and our team never lost a game. And we were with some aggressive players for sure...on both sides.

My favorite moment of the night was when one of the most aggressive and intimidating players on the other team came out after the session and said to the room "She was the man on your team. She ate her yogurt today, that girl Tivia!" Smile...I get a giggle when people think my name has anything to do with Activia yogurt, but nonetheless. The feeling of victory and that comment at the end made it well worth playing until 2:00 in the morning. I had an unusual, but very rewarding night.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Step Up Please!

I was at one of my frequent laser tag haunts last night...I won't say which one. It was a whole lot quieter than I expected, especially being the night before a school vacation I figured some teens would at least show up. However, I got to play a few rounds with a nice group of three people who were learning the game (the guy picked it up very well and the girls seemed to be getting a hang of it by the end also). I was there to play, but NOT to stomp, so I actually did take it down a notch. I wanted them to have a good time too, if for no other reason because they were the only ones there! So I tried to show them how to get bases and answer questions during the rounds. But they only came for three games so once that time was over and the clock was only at 8:00 I looked around to the four employees hanging around. I extended the challenge to go one on one. Technically there was a fifth, a female employee who would have taken me up on that, but literally seconds after saying yes her ride arrived. So I looked back to the four guys...not a one stepped up. OK, you all are great and I look forward to playing at your facility, but come on disappoint me to leave me hanging when this chick came to play. I have given you all props for jumping in when this very scenario has happened in the past. Sigh... but last night not a one was willing to accept the challenge. Very soon I plan on playing again in Rochester…don't let those game masters show you up! The next time I play at this arena I am hoping for a full capacity night, but if for some reason it doesn't work out that way and I find myself looking for another one on one game...step up please! I'll play nice.  ;)

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Monday, November 23, 2015

It Means Nothing? I Can't Even Process That!

It's funny the things I care about at laser tag and the things I don't. Most of the time I could care less about accuracy as long as I'm racking up the points. As my strong suit is as a sniper, if it sometimes takes an extra shot I'm still getting my target. Meanwhile, tonight I was playing SM5 and found myself focusing on the bases (proud of myself for taking them very quickly in the first game) and just staying alive (which I did right up until the last three seconds) and picking off any target with more experience (which is just about everyone who comes out for SM5). What I don't pay any attention to are the achievements. No idea how they work, what I've done to earn them or what to do once I've got one. But as I am still learning I got inquisitive tonight and asked about the little trophy icon next to my two bases. I was told that I unlocked an achievement. Ok, that's cool...what does that mean? I was shown my latest on the monitor. 

My achievement was "You'll Be Back...return and play a game on another day." What?! What does that even mean? The general consensus is that it means absolutely nothing. Clearly...but to me that particular achievement is so...random...that "it means nothing" is so accurate I can't even deal with it. I love a trophy (even a digital icon of one), but it HAS to mean SOMETHING! If all it means is I appear likely to return...well, that sounds more like an achievement I might get next time I actually do return!

I may be dwelling on this achievement because it's easier than dwelling on the fact that I thought I played pretty well that game, but my scores seem to indicate otherwise. Sigh. Now I was in the same range as a few others, so maybe it's just tough for me to identify where my scores realistically should be landing at this point. Second game felt like I performed weaker, but I had a slightly higher (though not by all that much) score. It's tough to go from being a top dog in certain arenas to recognizing your weaknesses in other scenarios like this. I think I have to just focus on the personal improvement (forget scores, I know I played better this time than last time) and just not sweat the numbers because I know I'm playing with a whole different dynamic here. Like the last game when I played my bases, stayed alive...and I know in that position that means I was doing my part. So I guess I just need to keep persevering at SM5...and keep unlocking meaningless digital achievements. :)

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bye, Bye Mickey

I heard some news last night that saddened me. I was told that one of the local laser tag centers (albeit one I almost never went to) has closed. Now, I count myself very lucky to live in an area where I am in relatively close proximity to a fair number of laser tag options. But seriously, when I say "relatively close" I still mean an hour and a half or more depending on what I want to play. The locations I plan to visit soon in Rochester are three hours away and, to do them right, will necessitate staying overnight. So even though I have options, I sure don't have enough to think nothing of it when I hear one is closing.

What I will remember most about this facility is the rumor that the layout for the arena was designed based on Mickey Mouse's head. No idea if that is true or not, but if you squint while looking at the map you could sort of see it. I'll also remember Raj giving me a good run for my money, picking out the cooler prizes there and insisting a game master adjust his prepared briefing speech when I recognized and informed him that his base values were incorrect. I'll remember the girls who thought they knew all the rules...but didn't. I'll remember the feel of trying Nexus for the first time. But most of all, I'll remember Mickey in the map. Thanks for the memories!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Props for Comps...and I Don't Mean Base Comps!

I know that's what it sounds like I'll be writing about, but no. Instead let me tell you how my evening played out. I'd been looking forward to getting back to Albany (even though it's only been a couple of weeks) and so I ended my day at my satellite office so that I could go back for their wristband night, which has always proved worthwhile with decent, generally college aged competition in the past. So I showed up a few minutes early and watched as a couple of groups showed up. However, the groups were a kids party and an ARC group...not appropriate competition for me to play against tonight. I know when it's just better to hang back. I waited in hopes that others would show up, but it didn't happen. So I left. Rather than turn around and drive home I decided that since I was already in the area and there's a nail salon two doors down that I would kill an hour by getting a manicure and see if anyone showed up later on.

Once my nails were shiny and sparkly I returned to Zero Gravity and here's where the staff impressed me again. I was waiting for a chance to inquire about whether any more players showed up in the meantime when Donnie (one of the managers who I don't generally see when I play on the weekends) came over. He knowingly said "I have a rough idea who you are. You're the laser tag...connoisseur." (OK, I'll take it) and he began writing out a free game pass for me. I started to say it was not necessary, but he said he insisted for the inconvenience of my stopping in twice and not being able to play. Well...that's a nice surprise! I'm appreciative of that. Many thanks for the comp pass..and also an excuse to show off my manicure...

Now, here's why I'm impressed. Generally I play laser tag a couple of times a week at various locations. There have been more than a few times that I've been ready to play and there just wasn't anyone to play against. Sometimes I can get a game master to go one on one, but plenty of times I've had the employees either just not take my money or give me a replacement pass for another time...which is fine and just par for the course. However, I have never before been given a free pass simply out of respect for my time, which is always my biggest investment in this sport since I live about an hour and a half from any of my playing options...the location of my office aside. For me it's not about the pass itself (because you know I'm playing the whole night whenever I play), but the gesture was really nice of him and appreciated. This is the kind of customer service that makes me want to return because it demonstrates that they care about providing a good experience...especially when the situation was not that I couldn't play a round, just that in fairness I shouldn't have played against those who were there this evening. So that means something to me and I want to say thanks for making it worth my while...even if I didn't actually get to play tonight. Like the Terminator, I'll be back.  :)

Comments or questions?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Close Calls

I think the theme of last night was an evening of close calls...meaning rounds that were won or lost by the margin of only one or two shots. On one hand I think that this makes things very interesting. I really do prefer to play out a good, close game and not be absolutely sure what the result will be until looking at the screen. That's one of the reasons I enjoy playing here. However, on the other hand it can be incredibly frustrating to lose by such a tiny difference. In the final game of last night I came in second by 50 points...that's one shot! ONE SHOT!!! I think Charlie Brown captured that feeling best...

But you know what, that's the stuff that makes you take it up a notch the next time around. And that's why I play every keep up the chops when you keep up with the challenge. So kudos to all who played hard last night...keep it close!

Comments or questions?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Photon Alliance Practices Hard

Feeling the good kind of pain this morning. I've played a lot of laser tag this weekend and last night I went in playing hard from the start and didn't let up. There's a small tactical tournament going on this week and so Joe, Will and I played as a team in preparation for it. We had a lock on the top three spots all night in practically every game we played while volleying the top score back and forth. It was great to play it hard and see a consistent success while still keeping it interesting among the three of us. We will be working as a team at this event and the practice last night was really good.

We needed to come up with a team name. Joe suggested the Photoners. Aw, an homage to the original...always cool. Though, I suggested a tiny adjustment and we agreed on playing in the tournament as the Photon Alliance. Where are my old school players to appreciate that?

That was a suggestion which I appreciated almost as much as this little exchange with some other players after one of the rounds...

"Are you a Marine?"
"No, I'm not."
"You must be in the military to shoot like that."

Wow...that's a pretty awesome compliment. And some others echoed it later on in the arena and called me a "super trooper". Honestly, if I was that good I'd be nailing it every single time without exception. However, only in the final game when my team split apart did I feel the need to prove anything particular with my shooting. Now, I can accept that my dogfighting may need work, but my sniping was on point and I enjoy knowing that I've found my forte in that regard. So that's what I did and really enjoyed rounding out an aggressive and competitive night with my fellow teammates. Wish us luck to repeat that success on Wednesday!  :)

Comments or questions?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Three Arenas in One Night

For several weeks I have been wanting to check out an arena to the south of me that runs Lasertron and I had never been to before. My hope after learning about this place was that it would be a good spot for me to get some Tron practice closer to home. But after playing there...well, let's just say I don't think this is going to replace any of my other go to spots. The one thing I'll say I did like was the aesthetic. The arena had a cool industrial theme.

But as for the rest of's what happened. I showed up at the arena for what was supposed to be unlimited tag 7-11. They also offer roller skating here and one wristband would get you access to both for what sounded like a pretty good price. Well, shortly after 7:00 I bought my pass and was told to add my name to the list for tag. There were already a decent number of names on the paper so I asked when the next game was going in. I was told they would play when they had enough people (the group on this list wasn't enough to start after 7:00?) and that I might just want to get my skates now until tag is announced. So I did. I got quarters, rented a locker for my shoes and hat (no hats permitted in the skating area) and laced up my skates.

No sooner were the skates on then they called "cheerleaders, laser tag". Damn. OK, so I forfeited the locker rental, put my sneakers back on and got in the line...with a REALLY rowdy group of cheerleaders. I actually had the thought that I'd rather play against the football team!

Well, it didn't matter because the game master curtly stopped me from going in and said this wasn't part of unlimited laser tag. I'd have to wait and unlimited would be announced. Sigh, but ok. Back to rent the locker a second time and put my skates back on and figured I'd get out there and skating would be like riding a's not! I used to be pretty good (thank you Sandy for that lie about skating resulting in skinny thighs...that got me to a decent level of ability back in the day)...but as soon as I stepped out onto the rink I realized this was a MISTAKE! Fortunately by the time I got to the opposite end of the rink there as an announcement to change direction and I just made my way back to my locker, put my sneakers on yet again and returned the skates. That's not why I came here anyway. I wanted to play some tag, so I just waited by the arena entrance. Some time later I hear unlimited tag called and "first 24 people come to the entrance!" First 24 people? Was this about to be a free for all just to get a spot in line? Apparently, because I was already right there when several young (but old enough to know better) players just shoved ahead to make sure they got in. They counted heads as the first 24 people went in...weird way to do it, but ok.

I looked at my watch and as of 7:45 I had not played any tag, but I was at least now standing in a briefing room (no benches or seats)...a very TINY briefing room with 24 people about to watch the Lasertron instructional video on a monitor on the wall. I've seen this video several times in the past, so instead I focused on how claustrophobic this space was making me feel. Very uncomfortable.

Then we went into the vesting area. Code names were pre-assigned to the vests, so you would just grab whatever number you wanted. Mine was green 16 - Hawkeye. The game master instructed the green team to follow him as he walked us over to our recharge station (no bases in this arena). Then as he was shouting additional instructions (shouldn't this all have been covered in the briefing room?) he realized that the settings were wrong on the equipment, so he left our group there while he went to make adjustments. This at least afforded me time for a photo op in the arena.

It actually afforded us PLENTY of time as we are just standing there, waiting. It's about 8:00 now...still haven't played any tag. Eventually the game begins and,'s sort of Tron with no bases. Essentially just tagging the other players. But since it's Tron that feels very unsatisfying because nobody is immediately tagged out (this is where my Zone bias comes into play...I'm not really a big Tron fan in the first place). Now, I know how to do this and I go take care of business with the red team, periodically returning for a recharge. However, this arena feel very tight. There is no running, but there is plenty of close quarters because (in my opinion) the arena does not comfortably handle this many people. So I'm feeling like I'm playing like a sardine. Normally my first move would be to get to the higher level, but somehow keeping a sight line to the recharge station feels more advantageous than fighting the crowd of my own team to go up and down the ramp.

When the first round (out of two consecutive rounds) ended and we were called back to the recharge station my pack informed me that I was the high score player. In fairness, it was only the high score for my particular team. The other team cannibalized this team pretty well, but such is Tron and the overall outcome of that round was about what I expected based on what I saw happening.

The game master warned a couple of people on my team that they were coming too close to running and if it continued they would be thrown out. I'm surprised that was actually possible in this space. Then we played through the second round and I just didn't feel like anything was comfortable in this arena. I don't think my team did either. Many of them clustered at the recharge station (which the game master loudly suggested made them easy marks...gee, thanks for alerting the other team to that). This made actually using the recharge station a bit more challenging. I went through the motions, but this was not the experience I hoped for. This was not likely to improve my Tron playing since the elements I might want to practice were missing (like the bases) and the atmosphere didn't have the right vibe to make me want to stay. So I didn't.

It was ten minutes after 8:00. I left after one game (or two rounds if you want to look at it like that). In the parking lot someone did shout "good game" to me as I was getting into my car. Props for some courteous clientele, yet both of us were leaving one game into the night, so...there you go. I checked my GPS and realized I was equidistant between going home or going to Albany. Let's make something out of this night...Albany, here I come!

I got to Zero Gravity and the evening was quiet. A game was in progress, so I just chatted for awhile about my experience earlier in the night. Since the players in the arena were not signed up for additional games I was treated to a one on one with a staff member on the house. What a nice surprise! So I went in for a solo round with Josh. He played quite well and I deliberately spent more time on the floor than on the bridge, so it made for a more evenly played game. I must say, I was impressed. We came out of there with scores quite close. The edge was in my favor, but it was a pretty well balanced round and I appreciated that. Good game Josh!

Then a group showed up and I bought a two game package to go into the next couple of rounds with them. No high pressure, but it was a decent couple of rounds and coming out to this arena definitely redeemed my night. I ended things there around 11:15, but I had a second wind (and a Dunkin' Donuts in sight) so I figured it was worth the short drive to go visit Spare Time while I was in the area (knowing they are open later into the night) so I got my caffeine fix and headed to the third arena of the night. Well, it was quiet here too. Sometimes I think that's just what Friday nights are becoming. But there was a game master here who was willing to go one on one, so I said let's do it!

Alli got the ok to break away for a solo round and we headed in. I commented to her about how much I really do like the look of this arena. Playing one on one gave me a much better appreciation for the playing space also. It's small, so a small game is appropriate here (I'd almost hate to see this place with too large a crowd). Going one on one really in a way feels like you have to "stalk your prey" so to speak. Alli played well, but I was getting into the game and got into my strategy space. She commented after the game that I had killed it and every time she turned around, there I was...and could I show her how I did that. Thanks Alli, I appreciated the good game!

Considering how far I have to travel, even when I arrive at an arena during a slow time I still want to feel like making the drive was worth it. I definitely felt like both these arenas at the end of the night made it worth it, and that's a credit to the employees. Half my issue with the first stop of the night was that I didn't feel like it was a great "customer" experience even despite my gripes with the playing experience. But I give big props to both Zero Gravity and Spare Time for being enjoyable places to play with staff members who take good care of their players. Three arenas in one night...turned out to be a great evening after all!

Comments or questions?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Tagging for the Hoops

It's funny how things work out sometimes. I had seen a post online about something happening at the local Laserforce center. I didn't know exactly what was going on, but figured I'd check it out. To my surprise I ended up unexpectedly playing in a tournament! Now, I use the term "tournament" loosely because this was really just a little local gathering (NOT on the same scale as the other recent events I've written about). In fact it was a fundraiser for a local youth basketball league, predominantly made up of the players and their families. 

I felt that the shirt I was wearing was particularly apropos considering I hadn't expected to be doing this...

...but I am always game for a competition!  :)

When I signed up at the registration table the organizer asked me how good I am at laser tag. That always feels like an awkward question to answer, but she pegged me for being a more experienced player (aka a "ringer") and added me to a team with some less experienced players for balance.

The team had an interesting dynamic. One player was very competitively aggressive (no, I'm not talking about, which was a stark contrast to another player who was trying laser tag for the very first time. After the first game the ref whispered to me that there was a player on my team who didn't know what they were doing and when I saw after the second game that she actually scored zero points I decided that my reason for being here today was to help this player learn the game and gain some confidence in doing so. I approached her and asked if I could offer some tips. I also explained to her that I understand very well what it is like to be learning this game while surrounded mostly by overly confident guys and feel a little intimidated (sure, it's been ages since I first learned to play laser tag in general, but I am still learning different systems and different formats like SM5, so I do still get it). I tried to take her under my wing and encourage her while teaching her how to go around the back way to rack up quick points by tagging the center base and the generator. And you know what? In one short evening she went from zero points on the board to getting bases and being a real team contributor! In fact, our team was neck and neck for the lead right up until the finals.

OK, there was an upset in the finals and the underdog team won out over us by a small margin, but you know what? It doesn't matter. Everyone had a blast and I am proud of how the team pulled it together. My only regret is that I didn't realize what kind of event this was sooner because I would have tried a little harder to show up with a prepared team. But it all worked out and was a great event to show support to a worthwhile local group.

And at the end of the night I won a it. 15 years later I'm still a Salt City girl!  :)

Comments or questions?

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Last night was Halloween. I didn't play any laser tag, but instead I went to a party dressed like I was ready for laser space. I knew before leaving the house that my costume was not likely to be recognized by too many people at the party (although when my brother arrived he looked at me and said "nice" with recognition in his voice, so I think he may have been the only one who did get it), but nonetheless I decided this was the night to go out dressed as Tivia.

This may require an explanation already. Aren't I Tivia? That's the player name I adopted years ago as a nod to a character on the 80s television series Photon based (loosely) around the original laser tag game. On the show there was a kick-ass ninja princess who was chosen to be part of an elite team based on her amazing laser tag skills. You can see why I chose this name, right? Well, tonight I also chose her costume...

If you want to compare and contrast here is my version of the outfit side by side with the original worn by Loretta Heywood, the actress who played Tivia when the show was shot in Japan. Now, mind you, Loretta went to Japan as a working model with an agency, so she could pull off that 80's spandex look way better, but for a modern adaptation I was pretty pleased with how my costume came out. I'm pretty detail oriented so my favorite touches were finding the mesh pattern on the silver body suit, getting those leg guards to stay in place (sort of...I was told by one of the actors they didn't really stay put while filming either) and the molded chest sensor (you know, because you need a target). So even though I didn't go out to laser tag, I was certainly ready if anyone aimed a phaser in my direction!  :)

Comments or questions?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Not Quite Laser Tag...But Close

Last night before tag my friend Sandy and I did a zombie apocalypse paintball walk. 

Ok, so not quite laser tag...but close. As "creatures" jumped out at us (or more accurately moaned and alerted us to where they were) we targeted them with balls of paint and one by one they all tumbled down. 

We put on masks, which smelled awful, but gave the experience more of a Photon-like quality (except I could see better out of the paintball helmet).

My brother was working the equipment table and when we got back he said "you guys should have used a lot more paint." I argued that I shot and hit every creature that came at me, thank you very much. 

Laser tag lesson learned: When you've got good aim you waste a lot less paint!

It was a muddy 15 minutes out in the dark woods. A good time, but not the adrenaline rush I get from a good game of tag. So after taking a photo with our group I decided some laser tag was exactly what I needed to occupy the rest of the night.

By the time I arrived the night was half over and a game was already in progress. Kevin let me jump right in, so I took both the other teams (and my own) by surprise by showing up mid-game. I played hard with hopes of pulling top rank in a round where I didn't play for the entire length of game. And like the butler...Did it.  :)

The guys I was playing against came out and told me "you're a really good shot" said with complete shock and surprise. Smile and thank you. Next game the group of eleven of us split. The guys all went five and five (or as I look back on it, I guess it was four and six) on red and green teams so to mix it up I went rogue and played solo as a team of one on the blue. Could I pull it off playing entirely by myself and while being target number one for everyone else in that arena? it done.

That was fun. Actually the whole night was enjoyable and these guys were good competition even though there were not as many people to play against. Those who were there brought a good game and I had a good time playing with them for the remainder of the night.

Comments or questions?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Teammates in Toronto

I am just back from a weekend excursion to Toronto and I had a really fun opportunity to reunite with one of my Armageddon teammates, Giorgio, for some Laser Quest at his home site. 

I brought along a group of my friends from the area and we had a great time enjoying a new setting (we went to the Toronto East location, which I had never played at before...we've gone to the Mississauga Quest in the past) and explored a cool arena playing one of the systems I don't get to experience often. Now, Giorgio plays as Onyx and was not going to be taken down this night (he's neck and neck right now with another player, duking it out for overall top placement in this arena...very impressive), but I held my own this time, pulling a rank in the top three.

And he gave me a very useful tip for Quest. In one on one dogfighting he told me to aim for the shoulder sensor (I'm more of a sniper accustomed to going for the chest sensor) and that made a huge difference once I started doing so. 

My friends all had a good time as well (...ok, Ilana isn't really wild about kids, noise, crowds or yelling, so laser tag may just not be her thing), but otherwise we all had a blast. The guys all did well and Garth even won a couple of prize drawings.

Having shown up straight from supporting opening weekend on a movie we all had been involved with promoting at our event in August, we were wearing our movie t-shirts and someone stopped me during the game to ask if we directed the film. But I'll use this forum to say please give the director a break and go watch the film before you judge it.

Getting a chance to play Quest again was great. Playing with friends is even better. Had a great time in Toronto and I can't wait to go back!

Comments or questions?