Friday, January 16, 2015

How to Not Be "That Guy"

If there's any question about what I mean by "that guy" I invite you to read this before proceeding. If you already know about it from my last post then please continue on to read about the experience I had this evening...

I recently discovered that there was a place right in my own backyard that offered laser tag and various arcade amusements. I had learned that they use the Laser Runner system and, after having played that system just last week, I was curious to compare and contrast the different facilities using the same game. With all respect, the experiences I was comparing turned out to be like comparing apples and elephants, as the place I visited tonight was not a facility on the same scale of what I am accustomed to playing in any way. In fact, it was a portable structure with plastic tarp walls built inside the center of a large room, more on the scale of what you might expect of a mobile laser tag set-up at a fair. That's fine. The owner told me they cater more to kids and small birthday parties as 6-8 players is about what it would comfortably accommodate. So we are not talking about an arena. Although for kids it would be a nice introductory place to learn the game. 

Because the places where I usually go have unlimited game play on the weekends I typically expect to see around 30 people on a Friday night. However, when I walked into this facility there were only two other players in the entire with me, that makes three. There was a man about my age and a young boy who I would guess was around nine or ten years old. The owner told me privately that they were part of a local charitable organization that helps to empower at-risk youth and at first glance I assumed that the relationship was that of a mentor or big brother kind of situation. When it was time to play the three of us sat down in a row of chairs outside the "arena" for briefing and the following dialogue occurred...

Man: "I've never played laser tag before."
Owner: "I think you're playing with a pro." (while nodding to me)
Boy: "I'm going to win!" 

Can you picture this scenario? So obviously I realize that playing full out is not an option. Even taking it down to half would have been disproportionate to this situation. I'm not "that guy" (or that girl). As a competitive player it was a time to check my ego at the door and do what was right...which according to Paul would have been walking around the whole game loudly shouting "why won't my gun work?" I actually did walk around the arena with one hand in my pocket while shooting just enough to be "in the game" and trying not to rack up too many excessive points. I allowed myself to be more of a target because I genuinely did not want to beat the boy, but I also didn't want to appear that I was not really playing. It was an interestingly delicate balance to play the game and be an active participant without trying to over-play the game. I'm not saying that it teaches real life lessons to just let a child win every time, but I certainly can recognize that this was not the time to unleash what I know that I am capable of doing.

When the game was over we exited and looked at the monitor. Thankfully the boy had done nicely and his score was 5025...25 points above me (this 25 point margin is getting to be an epidemic, but I was thankful for it tonight) and he was very happy about his win. So was I. It worked out well. 

As I was removing my vest the owner asked "what happened to you in there?" We had previously discussed my laser tag experience and I wasn't shy to let him know that I take it quite seriously. But surely he didn't really expect me to be playing aggressively in this circumstance, could he? Once the others were out of earshot I quietly said to him "I didn't want to be Jim Harbaugh in there." I hoped he understood what I meant, but regardless, I wouldn't have played it any other way. Laser tag can be a sport and in that context you certainly want to play your heart out, as I normally do, but it should also be fun for all players as a means of building confidence and self esteem. I hope that boy enjoys every moment of knowing he beat the two adults he was chasing around tonight. :)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Quit While You're Ahead? Never!

I recently revisited another laser tag system that I haven't played in quite awhile. More as a matter of convenience, I was killing some time while waiting to meet a friend for dinner and the restaurant was located in the same mall that had a laser tag center using the Laser Runner system. I had played here before and deemed it ok, but all things being equal (and distance being the big equalizer) not my very favorite. I had only played in this arena once, but decided that with some time on my hands it was worth trying another round.

I purchased three games and went in for the first. I must say, I like the aesthetic of the vesting room better than most. It was dark and the lights of the vests with a few fluorescent touches made for a cool atmosphere (although briefing and vesting happened in the same area and no place to sit, but it was short). I received my pack with a one handed phaser (I usually play with two hands) I went through a lighted and strobing archway into the arena.

The first game was a free for all. I was immediately pegged by a group of teenage girls as their target and, teams or not, they organized once inside and worked well to collectively come up with a strategy. In the end I had more experience on my side, but really enjoyed watching them play hard and I got a good workout myself, ending in a score of 9075. As this system was not very familiar to me I asked the game attendant a few questions before going into my next round. Of course there are so many variables that this is a skewed question to begin with, but I wanted to know what she felt was an average score range in this arena and what a high score range would be here as well. She said most people average around 3000-5000 points and she'd say anything in the 6000-9000 range was really good. So, my top score of that game would put me in that range, but their display ranking needed a bit of interpretation also. The monitors at this center show your score, but not in order of highest to lowest, so my high score of the individual game was at the bottom of the field of that group of players. Meanwhile, the high score of the entire day is always present at the top of the screen no matter what the outcome of each individual match. So I realized that my score was not too far from the top score of that day which was sitting at 9950 points. If you've read much of this blog (or know me at all) I'm sure you can guess that I could not let that silent challenge go by. I wanted the top score of the day and thought that I could do it. So I went in for a second round.

During this round the teenage girls were gone and were replaced with more older players in this game...and by that I simply mean adults (sure it's an all-ages game but when I'm in a competitive mindset I am not looking to unleash my top game against little kids...that's not particularly sporting and if you don't already understand why then you might benefit from reading about the San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh who made some press for this kind of thing here). But back to this game, it appeared a couple of guys in their mid-to-late twenties had arrived with women who were their dates and clearly one of the guys was as competitive as I am and ready to impress his lady. Little did he know that I was there with an agenda of my own. For me to get the top score of the day I was going to have to take this guy down...sorry about that, nothing personal.

We went in and I was in a completely focused and goal oriented mindset. My shots were all landing and in this arena bases could be gotten multiple times so every time I passed one I gave it a courtesy tag, almost as casually as an afterthought and I kept my eye out diligently for the one guy I knew was actively trying to take me down. If that sounds a little "battle-like"...well, we were both in it to win it, so it was. And he played very well, which did make for an interesting and very athletic game. At the end of it I was pretty sure I had won before even looking at the monitors. But was my score high enough to be the top score of the day?

Yes, it was! I came out of that round wearing pack number 15 and I had overtaken the top score pushing up and over to 10,875 points. Goal set, goal achieved. I was in a great mood as I left the arena and headed off to meet my friend for dinner.

We had a great meal and I was still feeling pretty good about having achieved my goal of that top score. However, I had purchased three games and only played two, so I returned to the arena and got a surprise. During the couple of hours I had been at dinner someone else had surpassed my high score and taken over the top spot at 11,425. Sheesh! Now I had yet another round that was more about accomplishing the goal than anything else when I had expected to just enjoy the round without pressure. Yes, it was a self-imposed goal and even though I do enjoy a challenge, for a brief moment I thought that I should have just left before I saw that and enjoy riding the high of the score I achieved earlier that night. But that's not the kind of thinking that benefits anyone because hiding your head in the sand doesn't change the fact that someone else took the victory. 

As for that nonsense idea of leaving before I had played to the fullest...quit while you're ahead? Never! So, the goal was set...beat 11,425 points...and I had been playing well today so I figured the ante had been raised and I would go in and meet the challenge. I did go in...and then proceeded to play more pitifully than I have in ages! I was doing a lousy job of even holding my own, let alone beating the high score of the day. I was getting tagged left and right and I was missing easy shots. I started that game a mess. And do you know why? The space between my ears was consumed so much with "having to win" that I wasn't actually doing the things you have to do in order to win! And after a couple minutes of this I decided to get my mind right.

I ducked behind a barrier in a corner and simply took a moment. I made a conscious decision to turn this game around. It was almost as if something came over me and transformed both my mind and my game. I came out aggressively shooting everything in sight and strategically keeping two very good marksmen at bay so I could make up some ground. And it worked. I was racking up points and barely took a hit after that. I played hard and felt good at the end. I also felt like I couldn't predict for sure how I had done. Although the phasers you use with this system did show scores on the back, not all the numbers showed, so I was not sure if the game had ended high or moderately.

Upon checking the monitor I had to do a bit of math to be certain of what had happened (as I mentioned, they do not list the scores in numeric order). So I watched the other players scores flash by and realized I had in fact won this round, which always feels good. But did I have the points to be the high score of the day?

I got 11,400 points, which means I was 25 points from the high score (face palm). To put this in perspective, I missed it by ONE SHOT, which was all I needed to overtake that number. Sigh. But you know what? I left feeling great anyway. I know I played hard, I got my mojo back and I exceeded both my own score and my own expectations by getting that close after a rocky start to that game. So, at this point I called it a day. Did I quit while I was ahead...not this time, but I did leave while I was riding high. And it reminded me of a line from the movie "Bring It On"..."how does second place feel? It feels like first."

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An Interview with David Stay

This week I had the opportunity to have a conversation with David Stay (formerly known as David Anthony) who played the role of Mandarr on the 1986 Photon television series. This program was introduced at the height of the popularity of the original laser sport of the same name. In the years since it has become a piece of 80s nostalgia and a cult classic among fans. I remember watching this show as a young girl and it served as my earliest introduction to the concept of laser tag. David Stay is an actor, director, producer and writer. He is also a two time award winning film maker and a best actor nominee for the movie "The Sphere of the Lycanthrope". I want to thank David for offering some wonderful insights about his experiences on the show as well as details about the projects he has been working on since.

It was wonderful to have the chance to talk with David. You can find out more about him at

If you have questions or comments please visit my website at or email