Sunday, March 29, 2015

How I Spent Laser Tag Day

In celebration of National Laser Tag Day (or International Laser Tag Day...I've seen it written both ways) I had the idea to try to play as many different laser tag systems as possible in one day based on the number of centers in my state within a "sensible" driving distance ('geddon, party of one?). This was a slightly spur of the moment plan that occurred to me early in the morning while I was posting info about the website (which I was up even earlier in the morning launching because I thought it would be fun for it to go live on March 28, 2015). So I went to and plotted out a series of stops with the intention of playing one game in each location. Here was my intended agenda:

1. Zone - drive the first hour to check into my regular local center and purchase their special Laser Tag Day offer (a ten game card at a special rate available just for this day)
2. Laser Quest - from there drive an additional hour + to sample a little Quest on the American side
3. Laser Runner - looks like there's a place within a few miles of the Quest center
4. Laser Storm - venture onward to a skate park with laser tag about an hour past that point
5. Lasertron - make my way to the far edge of the state
6. Laserforce - turn myself around and drive back towards home hitting this stop in route
7. Zone - go seven miles over, back to actually play some Zone in my home arena, possibly using the card with the games I bought earlier in the day

Great (crazy) plan, right? I thought it would be a long day, but possible. Well, my actual day went a little differently (in hindsight I probably should have headed out earlier), but was still a great time.

Interestingly enough, what I spent Laser Tag Day doing to a larger than anticipated extent was...well, informing the employees at these laser tag centers that it actually was Laser Tag Day (face palm) and that this was in fact a real thing. I was a bit astonished that this was not even on their radar at three of the locations where I stopped.

I'll predominantly reference these centers by their system, but considering my local Zone center not only knew about Laser Tag, but did something extra special in recognition of it I think they deserve a little extra spotlight. Here's the card I bought...

Since 2015 marks 31 years of the laser tag industry (which began with Photon), the special offer for 31 years was ten games for $31 on a pre-paid card, bringing the price down to $3.10 a game...great deal!

When I walked in just after noontime (an unusual hour for me to show up) the staff member on duty recognized me and reached under the counter before I could even say a word. As I began to say I wasn't there to play right at the moment he pulled out the card and said "I bet you're here for this, aren't you." I that predictable? He rang up my sale and went over the details that there were no restrictions on the card, but that it must be used before the end of November...then he paused and said "but I don't think that will be an issue for you." I love that they know me there. It's a great place to play laser tag.

Everything was on track at that point when I headed out for the Laser Quest Center about an hour and a half to the west. Upon arrival I bought a game from the attendant at "mission control" and asked him if they were offering anything special for Laser Tag Day. He said with wide eyed surprise "there's a laser tag day?" I said "yes, it's today" and someone else chimed in over his shoulder that "every day is laser ta day." Fair enough. :)

I'll fill in the details in another post, but I'll just say that this stop took me a little longer than planned and by the time I finished my first game of the day it was 4:00. So, looking at the clock I didn't know if this was going to work as smoothly as it did on paper. I headed out to the next closest location that had Lazer Runner and I walked up to the counter at about 4:30. I was told that they were sold out until 7:00 that night. Hmmm...ok. I asked if I needed a reservation, but was told they don't do that and it was just really busy. Thinking that this was a result of the day I asked if they were doing something special for laser tag day and the woman said "I don't think so. When is it?" I told her it was today and that I might stop back later if possible.

I returned to my car and thought it best to call ahead to my next stop, the skate park that according to the internet had Laser Storm (which I have never played, so I hoped this would work out). As it turns out the phone number that was easiest to find online was no longer in service. After a bit of searching on my phone I found a current number and learned from the person who answered that this facility had closed down last year and re-opened under new management, which is why the info I found was a bit dated. I asked if they still had laser tag. I was told that they do, but that their system is currently down for repairs. Sigh...this day was not shaping up quite the way I had expected.

Now, from where I was geographically at that moment I had two choices. Either continue on for over an hour further to the far end of my state for some Lasertron or head back the way I came and know that I could spend the evening playing some Zone, Laserforce and feasibly some Lazer Runner at a different facility. I called ahead to Lasertron and was told that the next available game could get into was at 7:00. I made my reservation and continued onward knowing that I probably would not make it to the other locations I had planned, but figuring also that I could play in those centers any day of the week, but it is not every day that I am close enough to the Buffalo area to play something a little different. I drove out and had time to grab some dinner before checking in for an awesome experience.

My experience at Lasertron warrants a post all of it's own, so I won't discuss it in full detail until then. I will say I made the right choice to try something new, but there was no way that I was going to make it back in a sensible time frame to play laser tag anywhere else that night. I bought my games, got my card and asked if they were doing anything special for laser tag day. You can probably guess the pattern...although the girl at the counter did say that knowing about it they might do something special in the future. Maybe if by simply mentioning Laser Tag Day there's an impact on something happening in the future then that is a good thing in and of itself. Anyhow, so I stuck around for two games of Lasertron (which took a full two hours...each session was a solid half an hour in the arena) and I was really impressed with everything about this place and the laser tag experience they offered...although it was completely different from the other forms of laser tag I was accustomed to playing (more on that soon).

Although I left the center shortly after 9:00 that evening I realistically was done for the night. I had played hard and been driving all day long. I was also about 3 1/2 to 4 hours away from home as I got back on the road. So ultimately I spent more of my Laser Tag Day in my car than I actually did playing the game. However, I certainly enjoyed some more unusual games than I would have if I stuck close to home. I think I may plan more road trips like this...maybe allowing more time in my schedule so I can actually play a bit more laser tag. Great day!

If you have comments or questions visit my websites at and or email me at

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The new launches today!

Happy International Laser Tag Day!

I promised it here before anywhere !!!

2015 marks the 31st anniversary of Photon, the original laser tag that started it all, and to celebrate it today is the official launch of So if all these years later you still love and remember Photon and want to check out some fun nostalgia and memories then check out this site that honors the game and documents the history of the Photon television series. is a fan website which includes a collection of exclusive interviews with the cast, behind the scenes photos from some of their personal collections, a peek at some rare prototypes, collectibles and more. If you love Photon, check this site out...the light still shines!

As always, if you have comments or questions please visit www.tiviachickloveslasertag and now also or email me at

Friday, March 27, 2015

Because I Could

My life has been so busy lately that I haven't had the time to blog...but that doesn't mean I haven't made the time to play a little laser tag in between my (many) projects. So let me catch you up on last weekend. I was running the sound for yet another production that I work on annually. In previous years I have served as the director for both the show and for the local program putting it on, which means I typically had to handle a lot of last minute details the night before the production. However, this year I simply returned as a volunteer and did not have those additional responsibilities, so when rehearsal was over I decided to go play some laser tag...just because I could. :)

Rehearsal ran smoothly and I figured I'd be able to leave around 9:00 and catch a few games before the end of the night. The laser tag center I frequent the most was about a half an hour from our auditorium, so I had my mind firmly focused on getting out there. Unfortunately, even when things are going smoothly they always seem to take longer than you expect, so it was about 10:00 before I actually left. Still, with laser tag on the brain I was determined to play since I was already right nearby. So I drove out there watching the clock and as I got closer I realized I was cutting it WAY too close time wise for this trip to make any sense. Why was I so insistent on playing when I knew I'd barely have any time at that point anyway? I think it was partially to make a point that I had the freedom this night to do what I wanted rather than to be married to the production.

The last game of the night goes in at 10:30 and as the minutes passed I started to worry that this trip was going to be wasted. I pulled into the parking lot at 10:35 just praying that the game might have started late. I got there and one of the staffers who knows me as a regular hurried me in even though the game was already in progress ( know why). By that point I had missed half the game, but I threw on a pack and got in there as quickly as I could. I took the bases pretty quickly since that deep into the game everyone probably figured anyone who was going for the bases had already been there. However, once that was accomplished I still needed to make up points and I had to circle back to a base to find where most of the blue team had decided to hang out. They were like a wolf pack and had clearly been working as a team all night. They had successfully intimidated a couple of guys on the green team who (seemingly genuinely) warned me off of going into the base camp. Well, thanks guys, but I'm a big girl and can handle a few base guards. I'm not sure what they were thinking, but it seemed they were all concentrating on one side of the when I realized this I just kept alternating between shooting them from one entrance then running around and shooting them from the other. Lesson to take away...if you have enough teammates gathered in one spot to run as a pack then play back to back and guard both doors!

All in all, it was a decent game, but I really only got in ten minutes of laser tag this particular weekend. Then I had to drive home over an hour and be back at the auditorium first thing in the morning. I had brought a VERY long night upon myself by insisting on going out there. The next day a few of the young women in the production asked me how laser tag had been. I told them that it was good even though I only got in about ten minutes of game play. Some of them wondered why I even bothered for only half a game. To that, all I could do was smile and say..."because I could." :)

If you have comments or questions please visit my website at or email me at Or if you wait until the clock strikes 12:00 keep your eyes open for my brand new site to launch tomorrow in honor of International Laser Tag Day...get ready for it!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An interview with Sensei Graham Ravey, aka Lord Baethan

I had been keeping this under wraps for a few days in anticipation of debuting it with the new website next week, but then there's no keeping anything under wraps on the internet (as someone has already listed it on the imdb external sites list...which is totally cool, we want to keep spreading the word) and besides, if you are reading this blog or checking out my site then this is really for you anyway and you should get a sneak peek. Just know that a new website is on the horizon for anyone who loves Photon and you'll hear about it here when it launches on International Laser Tag Day next weekend, March 28, 2015.

Meanwhile, over this past weekend I had the chance to interview Sensei Graham Ravey who played Lord Baethan on the Photon television series. As we've already covered how interwoven this tv show was with the original laser tag, if there's any question about the tie-in just keep reading the blog. Otherwise, I invite you to enjoy this conversation we had delving into Sensei Ravey's experience playing the cyborg-wizard of the series, Lord B...

Click here to see the interview.

If you have comments or questions please visit my website at (where there's a hint about what's to come) or email me at

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tiv Got Her Groove Back

Yesterday I shared a bit about my first experience playing at Zero Gravity in Albany, but now I have to talk a bit about what took place when I returned for a second consecutive day of laser tag while I was out in the capital region. In no uncertain terms...I got my groove back, big time.

I walked in and said hello to some of the staff I had met the night before. Unlike my usual Saturday night haunts they do not offer an all night special on the weekends (though they do on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which might be a reason to end my work day at my secondary office now and again). So, without a "start to finish" commitment I just bought a three game package for the night and waited to be called in to the first game. With around 30 people in each game it was busier than the night before and there were plenty of targets. Of course that makes a difference when you are going for high scores...but what happened tonight took me beyond my typical expectation (based on previous experience in different arenas). Of course I always say that score is relative to the average/expectations of the specific arena and they are not all apples to apples. But regardless, I was elated when this happened in my first game of the night...

(To clarify, these are two out of four screen shots representing the game because
they can't fit all of the player results on one screen. There were 29 in this game.)

I played as Darth Vader. And you are reading that right. I racked up 33,500 in a single game, which is more than the second and third place finishers in that game combined...unbelievable! From what I understand that is not unheard of in this arena, but still awesome on any scale and a score I've never hit elsewhere. One question I really should have asked for the sake of objective comparison is what is the point value of hitting the packs and for hitting the base? If any of the game masters from Zero Gravity are reading this please drop me a note with that info.

So I left that game recognizing that the previous night when I thought I "tore it up"...not even in the same stratosphere. And anyone who has been following what's been going on with me the last couple of weeks knows I've been in a bit of a "second place slump", so to nail that game made me feel like my old mantra was relevant again..."that's how this Tivia rolls". It also jump started my momentum for the night.

I won the next two games as well. Three in a row for my three game run with my next two scores being between 21,000-22,000 points...again the scale of the arena is an important factor, but this night really helped give me back some of my laser tag mojo. After playing in the same place fairly regularly for the last month maybe I just needed a change of scenery to get back on track. That's what I felt happened last night.

Something else happened...I was able to observe the playing style of some of the Saturday night crowd and a few things surprised me. First, by my estimation nobody was even concerning themselves with taking the base. I'm accustomed to that being the very first move with everyone immediately either going after that goal or trying to protect that goal, but not once in the two nights I was there did I ever encounter a guarded base. Collectively they might just as well have said "free candy, please take it". Now, we didn't get the full spiel each time, which is typical if the players have all played there before, but if you are a regular player, how is that not something you are aware of?

I went in employing a degree of strategy that I drew out on a map a few weeks ago. For the last two games I used the "mix-in" technique to follow the opposing team's flow pattern once in the arena...the colors to execute this were actually the same as when I drew it out red vs. blue, just starting on opposite sides. After zapping a few of the opposing team players out for good measure at the start I then went straight for the base. Finally, it was off to the bridge to get some altitude above the players below. While in the first game there were not so many people paying attention to the bridge, the second two games there were a ton of people under foot...literally. It was interesting to me that the rules clearly state some of the typical things like "no running, no foul language" and even "no following" (which I think is the least relevant to safety), but apparently things like "no sitting, kneeling or lying down" were not on the radar. To me, these are the things I would take greatest issue with, but in at least one of the games there were people practically camping on the bridge (and by that I don't just mean waiting for an opponent to pass by. I mean they were sitting on the floor...they could have had a tent and some toasted marshmallows) and I was tempted to raise the concern because they were literally close to getting stepped on. Don't get me wrong. They were playing the game, not just having a social chat or anything, but no wonder racking up the points against them was easier...although they were trying to use this position for benefit, but you just can't get much game action like this.

People kept trying to take me out on the bridge, but a hit here or there was of little consequence compared to having that vantage point to take out large clusters of players below or from a distance. My accuracy these games was decent and I was focused less on the players who were right on top of me on the bridge and more on those I could see further away in other parts of the arena. I really like the actual arena layout, but am surprised that more of the "regulars" didn't use the bridge for a greater advantage than just trying to keep others off of it. It may have been my viewpoint as a newcomer who didn't yet know the other players, but it just didn't seem like too many people were working together as a team. So, flying solo was fine for me. And it clearly worked out. To win each game that I played had me riding high for the evening, but it also makes me feel like my slump is over regardless of which arena I go to next weekend. I was glad I had a second evening available in Albany to return to this arena because I walked out with more than just a high score...I also left really feeling like I was back. Awesome night.

If you have comments or questions please feel free to visit my website at or email me at

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Night of the Unexpected

I suppose the first unexpected thing that happened last night was that I got to play laser tag at all. This weekend I am running the sound equipment for a production happening just outside of Albany, so I was at rehearsal last night and didn't expect that we would get done as early as we did. I figured I might get the opportunity to go out the following evening, but I did not make plans in advance to play laser tag last night. However, since I had some time available I checked out and found there was an arena within ten miles of where I was, so I headed into the Albany area to explore. I had not brought appropriate clothing for the night. In fact I arrived wearing a dressy sweater and cinch belt and my glasses (as my contacts had been bothering me all day), so I probably looked more unassuming than usual. Thankfully, I had a pair of jeans and sneakers in the backseat of my car, so at least I wasn't running around in the tights and ballet flats I was wearing earlier :)

I arrived at Zero Gravity just as a game was being called in to the briefing room and I hurried up to the counter to see if I could still get into this game. I was told yes, but that it was a group of kids they had been keeping in a game all together and he suggested I wait for the next one in fifteen minutes, which was perfect because the place was full of adult players that would be going into that one. So I agreed, took the token I was handed to join the next round and waited in the lobby while watching the scores flashing on the display monitor. Scores were not as high as I expected...I wondered how old the "kids" were that he was talking about. The next game was called into the briefing room before I had a chance to find out, but based on the uproar I could hear coming out of the arena I imagined the kids were not really all that young. Regardless, I figured I was heading into a more appropriate game as there were only adult players going into the round with me. There were 18 of us playing that round. We first entered the briefing room and it looked like a little black box theater with a good amount of space and risers up against a dark wall of stars. You know I do love a good space-themed arena and based on the Star Trek like doors to the vesting room I was pretty sure this place would not disappoint.

We walked into a vesting room that was lit up with black lights from above and two team colors flashing. We had the option of red or blue (no third selection). At first the other players were calling out for the women to play on one team and the guys on the other, but that mix didn't work out very evenly, so moments later the teams were mixed and I grabbed a red pack with the name "Blaze" and lined up against the far wall.

This center plays Zone Infusion. I asked the staff members a few questions about the system before going in and looked up some details on my phone. I wondered if power ups were the main difference between this game and what I was playing the last couple of weeks (besides playing only two teams). Although I play Zone frequently with the Rift Blaster I was not sure if I had played Zone Infusion before...until I got the phaser in my hand.

This harkened back to some of my laser tag experiences from years ago. It was an older game system (but then I still sing the praises of Photon, so to my mind there's nothing wrong with that) and what clicked in my memory was seeing the hands on the back of the phaser light up in warning when you took your hand off of the heat sensor. Yes, that was very familiar and I'm quite certain the place I played years ago used this same system before upgrading. Very cool to experience it again, as everything felt both new and familiar at the same time. I slid on the vest and secured the sides to make sure my sensors were properly positioned.

Then we went in. The arena was impressive! I was told by a staff member that the arena was painted by hand. It included plenty of day-glow neon touches along with "brick" barriers and barrels to hide behind. Lots of cutouts. And there were multiple levels including a bridge that could be accessed by a steep incline on one side or various ramps. Generally I love to get to the top of the arena as quickly as possible for the best vantage point. However, I decided since I had three games in front of me to play this first one differently. Instead of going all out from the start I decided to familiarize myself with arena first and I simply walked the perimeter looking to find the bases and get acclimated. Within moments I was being shot at...a lot...and I just let it happen. Of course if someone was in my sights I would take a shot too, but for the first few minutes I had a different agenda and I didn't even have both hands on the phaser while I was taking my little tour.

Because I knew I was taking a lot of hits and not defending myself much I didn't expect anything out of that game other than an education about the arena space. I stumbled upon the bases and learned which was which through trial and error (they both looked identical with red lights, so only once I deactivated the "blue" base was I sure of where it was. At this point I was getting tired of hearing my pack register all these hits (they are noisy things, but they gave excellent feedback on hits scored and hits received) and I started shooting back. Actually, one of my favorite moments in this game was while I was still taking my time exploring and someone was shooting at me from behind. In agitation at being looked at as an easy mark I took a very cavalier over-the-shoulder shot behind me and the pack responded with a confirmation I had made that shot blind and tagged my opponent without even looking in his direction...I know that was just pure luck, but it was a cool moment. Outside of just taking a few random shots here and there when they were right in front of me I literally was not even trying until the tail end of that game, then I started to get into it. At the end of it all I had my next unexpected experience of the evening. We walked out and I knew I had done nothing that game and was ok with it because I had accomplished the goal of figuring out the arena. The next game would be different. Everyone gathered around the display monitor and out of 18 players my name was up there in third place...WHAT?! My numbers were not that far behind the other two players ahead of me either. How in the world was it possible for me to score over 11,000 points when I literally WAS NOT EVEN TRYING? 

I was blown away by this outcome, simply for the fact that I knew how little I had put into that game. So...if I could pull third place without making any real effort, I was sure that I could knock it out of the park if I was bringing my "A" game. Time to unleash the Tivia.

I asked the staff member at the counter how much time I had before the next round, hoping to change into a t-shirt since I was still wearing my sweater outfit (I may not have exerted a whole lot of effort, but it's still quite hot to play in a sweater). However, the next game was going right in, so I didn't bother. The next game there were only 13 players, once again all adult players and there were several novices were on my team, but I barely noticed because I was getting "in the zone". That game I brought it. I was playing hard, scoring every time I turned around and taking out one blue team player after another quite consistently throughout the whole game. I was in the right head space and I was positive that I had this one. When we walked out of the arena after that round I left with a confident stride simply KNOWING that I had to have won the round. Then the next unexpected thing happened. We got to the monitor...and I was in third place again...double WHAT?!?! I was completely astounded that I had ended up in virtually the same position between the first game where I played the absolute least and the next game where I thought I tore it up. All I can figure is that because there were novices on my team they must have made for easy marks and lots of easy points for the blue team. I was at least in first place for the red team...of course that and fifty cents will get you a cup of coffee...but the players who outscored me on the blue team did approach me afterwards and ask about my pack name (I used the same pack all night because I play favorites). One of them said "Were you Blaze? I didn't see you in there once!" and another acknowledged this as a high compliment from him, so I accepted the acknowledgement with thanks. Then I bought a t-shirt so that I could change before the next game.

I was ready to go in and take the next round. Unfortunately nobody else was. This was a Friday night and things got quiet by the end. Nobody stuck around for another game, so I hung out for a few minutes just waiting to see if anyone else would show. I got to chat with the staff about some of my usual questions...average scores, typical turnout on the weekends, whether or not they participate in tournaments and the like. I learned they have a good clientele of college students...knowing that would definitely be incentive enough to return, as that would be the competitive age range I like to play against. I want to thank Jordan, Dominick, Mike and Kyle for answering all my questions and giving me some great info about this arena. It was nice to chat with you guys!

There was one final unexpected thing that occurred last night. As nobody else was showing up that late in the evening and I still had one game left I was told that I could either swap it for a game pass to use another time or, if I wanted, I could play one on one with one of the staffers. first reaction was that going up against a game master on his home turf would not likely end well for me (as any game master would certainly know their own arena like the back of their hand and I had only just figured out the lay of the land). But, then again, I never run from a challenge, and I was in the right mindset to play it out, so I accepted. However, first I asked if I might be able to take a tour of the arena and snap some photos for my blog. Jordan was kind enough to show me through and let me ask more questions. While talking I learned that they have the capability to use a key tag system to assign personalized names to the packs (I wrote about this a few weeks back...should have asked how interchangeable those tags are). I offered my two cents on the matter, which is that I always like that option and would happily pay extra to become a member in an arena that offers it simply because I like being able to use my player name and have "Tivia" register on the monitor. I greatly appreciated getting to snap some pics from the top of the bridge also, as I think it's cool to look down on the layout of an arena (even though the camera on my phone has some limitations in really showcasing  the full picture).

Then it was time for my one on one game with one of these guys. Dominick stepped up and suggested that to make it interesting we could play in stealth mode with the lights on the packs turned off. Excellent! We had a blast playing stealth mode in Canada a couple of weeks ago and the opportunity does not present all that often, so I took him up on the challenge. We went in and I got the first shot off the bat. It occurred to me that one of two scenarios might present...either he might be exceptional on his home turf and I would be about to have my lunch handed to me or he might play it soft and not give me a real run considering I was the "customer". I told him not to go easy on me. Kudos to him for meeting me somewhere in the middle. It felt like a pretty evenly balanced game and I could tell he really was not going easy on me...thank you for the respect to play it out for real. At the same time, I also felt like I was totally on my game too. It felt more like the kind of "real deal" game you have when there are just a few really good players in the arena and everyone is gunning for the win. Except, of course with a one on one match you really only have one target, so it was that vibe with a bit of sniper suspense.

There was one point in the game where he was on the bridge and I was hidden behind a barrier with a cutout (from which I took my shots) on a raised level. We both knew where the other was at this point, but he seemed to have the upper hand and get multiple shots on me rather easily when I was in this spot. That makes me wonder if the cover was not as good as I thought and the height difference between there and the bridge was enough that he was shooting over the barrier? Or if he simply tagged my phaser through the cutout that many times from that position I have to give him props for being a really good marksman. I had my best advantage when I was on the bridge and shooting downward at him. The full view of the arena is an advantage, but especially so when you have your eyes peeled for a single point of motion. It was a solid game with a worthy competitor and I could tell we both played it fully. At least, right up to the end when we broke off early for a couple more questions. I asked him if a "courtesy shot" was built into this game (if you're not familiar, don't worry, I will explain the strategy of the courtesy shot in a future post). He suspected it did occur, but was not explicitly addressed in their handbook. And from there we somehow ended up on the topic of National Laser Tag Day (which is coming up on March 28th...plan for it). I suggested checking out the Laser Tag Museum website for some resources for it...the site is I hope they are able to use that tidbit to celebrate the day in style, as 2015 marks 31 years of the laser tag industry.

When we were done with the round we chatted about our respective laser tag experiences in the vesting room (he has apparently played at this center for about ten years, long predating his time as a staff member). Jordan came in and asked who was "Terra" and who was "Blaze". I had once again taken the Blaze pack and he informed me that I had won. Cool. Good way to end the night, especially considering it was with really good solo competition. Dominick said it was the first challenge he's had in a long time. I take that as a high compliment. I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing at Zero Gravity. Since I am not local to the area and was only there because of the show I was working on, I left thinking I would not likely be in a convenient position to return again soon. However, while making the drive back home it occurred to me that, simply in travel time, this facility is not much further away than the places I frequent in the opposite direction. So I think there's a very good chance I'll be back. Zero Gravity is definitely an impressive facility with a terrific staff and a cool arena where I'd love to play again.

If you have comments or questions please feel free to visit my website at or email me at

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Laser Tag 101

The other night I had arrived at the laser tag arena much earlier than necessary. The extra time gave me a chance to explore some shops including a little artists' gallery on the upper level. While browsing, the man minding the store commented on my shirt. "It says 'legally blonde', but you are not blonde" he observed of my shirt from the broadway show. I said "true, but it was the first black shirt I grabbed out of the laundry" as I went on to explain that I needed dark apparel for laser tag that night. This prompted a continued exchange where he had lots of questions about laser tag...

"Are you going to a birthday party?"
"Does it take place in a maze?"
"Do you need to bring a partner or already be part of a team?"

He seemed to take genuine interest and, moreover, he asked really good questions that someone unfamiliar with the sport would sensibly ask or have preconceived ideas about. I suppose I take for granted that anyone reading this blog is already familiar with laser tag, however this exchange made me think that this would be a good time to use this forum to answer some questions and dispel some misconceptions about what actually happens when you enter a laser tag center. First, I'll address what he asked...

Q: Are you going to a birthday party? Subtext implied - Is this a game with a bunch of little kids?
A: Although laser tag is an all ages game and there will likely be some kids around early on, I prefer to go to a center where the players are mostly high school students and other adults who play, particularly into the later hours on Friday and Saturday nights. That's not to say there might not be some never know who will show up...but playing later at night on a weekend helps ensure there will predominantly be a more appropriately aged group of players. I personally would not enjoy a game where I am just playing against little ones...that's not a sport! I appreciate that even though most players are a bit younger than I am, that for the most part they are grown people who play with strategy, tactics and heart...not little kids. Some of the players I've seen on a random night include jocks, athletes or volunteer firefighters, so it can be an athletic challenge and age is not really a factor in the arena. However different places and different days may lead to a different mix of participants and I would fully expect that there would be more younger kids during the daytime than there are at night when I choose to select sensible times if you want to play against other grown players.

Q: Does it take place in a maze?
A: Yes. Each arena is set up differently, but you can expect the space to be large enough to get lost in with plenty of barriers, obstacles and hidey-holes to assist with that. I prefer arenas with multiple levels (the one I was at this weekend has two bridges that constitute the upper deck) as it is nice to be where you can see more of the activity going on below and get a clear shot from the best vantage point. The maze is integral to the game and also really sets the scene and makes you feel like you've stepped into a whole other world...even if it is just the next room over.

Q: Do you need to bring a partner or already be part of a team?
A: Nope. You can show up alone and you will either be put on a team or given the chance to select a team to join based on the colors of the packs you will find in the vesting room. It is often team play with a solo scoring component. Essentially, the better you do as an individual the more you help raise your team's score overall. However, you do not need to arrange  a team in advance or even know the other people playing on your team. Although odds are you will get familiar with them before long.

I'd like to walk you through a typical night of laser tag for me. First of all, it will be a weekend. I go out on either Friday or Saturday night because any other time is hit or miss whether there will be other players there (and during the daytime it's more likely there will be younger kids if there are players at all). On the weekends I expect to see a good turnout, often times a packed arena. Before I leave the house I put on dark jeans, a black t-shirt and sneakers...and usually my lucky hat with my hair tucked through it in a ponytail. You ideally would want to wear dark clothing like this so as to be less conspicuous (even though you will be throwing on a vest with flashing lights shortly anyway). I can't tell you how many times I've seen people show up in bright or white clothing that just looks day-glow once they step into the briefing area under the black lights.

Upon arrival at the laser tag center I will go purchase a wristband if I plan to play for the entire night. This is the best option for the most games, although if I was a newcomer and just wanted to try it out I could buy my games individually or in smaller packages. I'll wait for the next game to be called. When I hear the announcement (which will identify which color wristbands are to go in or the time if you opted for a single game) then I will go into a separate room with all the other players for the briefing session.

A briefing room typically has risers for the players to take a seat...although I've been in several where you just stand as you listen...and the game master (i.e. employee who goes in to make sure everything goes smoothly during the game) will explain the rules and the equipment. In some centers this may be accomplished with a video instead. And believe me, those who have played before and are chomping at the bit to get back into the arena have a tendency to make it challenging for the game master to get through it nice, they have to go through the rules whether it's your first or 101st time there. If the game includes newbie players who have never been there before they may take additional time to explain how the equipment works, how to hold the phaser (the gun) and the procedure for scoring on other opponents and bases. At minimum they will go over the basic rules, which are pretty similar everywhere, but will likely include no running, jumping, climbing, sitting, kneeling or lying down, no physical contact and no offensive language.

When I'm in this room I will casually look around and size up the other competitors. I imagine they do the same and I know at first glance people don't often look at me as heavy competition...I like to be underestimated...and I realize I can easily make a snap judgment based on appearance too. Many a great player may sneak past your radar on the first pass, but if you frequent the same center you will soon identify who the powerhouse players are. Then, if given the opportunity to select the team you wish to play on, you can make strategic decisions about who you want on your side. Sometimes the decision will be made for you and you might be assigned to a particular team by the game master, but more often I've experienced the freedom to chose your color and join up with the players you wish to. When contemplating which team I want to play for I usually don't care what color our packs are. I prefer to play alongside the best players (since I'm going for scores it behooves us to team up rather than waste valuable time taking each other out) and ideally play opposite the greener participants who are easier marks. However, some of my favorite games have been those where I really couldn't predict the abilities of the other players in advance and found some cool unexpected that night where one small, unassuming team of underestimated powerhouses dominated time after time over the jock team who anyone would have perceived at "Goliath"...that was fun :)

OK, so we've learned the rules and scoped out the competition in the briefing room. Now it's time to move into the vesting room. This is where you'll find rows of brightly lit up packs. They usually flash a team color unless you are playing free for all or a specialty game. I'm pretty much cool with playing any color...although I hate to switch colors in between games as it's easy to forget which one you picked in the heat of the moment! Here you will pick your vest with your team color. If I'm in an arena where I have membership I will swipe my card or attach my tag to the vest. If not, I hope to be in an arena where they allow you to select your player code name. And if I'm in a familiar arena where neither scenario applies I look for my favorite packs based on the code name on the back (or on the phaser). A tip about the vests...take a moment to make sure yours fits well. It should have adjustable straps on the side that you can pull for a snug fit. You do not want your vest loose an moving during the game. First, it may make your sensors more vulnerable. Second, it can be more noisy. You don't want your equipment banging into walls when you're trying to be stealth. Third, it's just plain uncomfortable to play with a poorly fitting vest. There are options...make sure you get one that works for you.

Now we move into the game itself. The object is to aim your phaser at the lit up sensors on the vests of any and all opposing team members. Generally there will be sensors on the front, back and shoulders of the vest and usually on the phaser too. These are the points where you should aim. If this sounds like a "shoot 'em up" game, it's really not. There's no violence intended with the are simply tagging an opponent out for a few seconds and they will come right back. You want to rack up as many points as you can and sometimes there will be different values for different sensors. For example, in one arena I frequent you will acquire more points by tagging an opponent in the back than you will in the front, so it behooves you to know this information going into the game. There will often be bases located throughout the arena which will be worth lots of additional points, so it's good to know the values for the bases and also whether a base can be tagged more than once...this varies by system and facility.

When the game begins the players are let into the arena, which is a giant maze of obstacles and barriers. There are plenty of places to hide and a rush of excitement as you enter this new atmosphere. I love artistic arenas that have cool age themes are among my favorites. However, don't expect too many clues to which part of the arena you are in :) The soundtrack will often have cool music to enhance the game and may give you periodic time warnings about how far into the game you are. Some arenas may use fog or interesting lighting. All in all, atmosphere is cool to note on your first pass, but once you are in there you should be focused on the game and not the aesthetics. I find this is an adrenaline pumping time where you are on high alert. Even though you are not "running" per se, you are moving quickly in a "battle-like" situation and it is frenetic and focused. I come out of a fifteen minute round feeling like I've had a great workout. If your team is really playing as a team you should have some support and strategy for protecting each other against opponents and capturing as many bases as possible to boost the team's overall score. This comes with continued experience and familiarity with the space and players.

When the round is over all the players will be directed to exit back to the vesting room to remove their packs. If you are not using your own code name remember to take note of the name or number on your pack so you can identify your score at the end. Once the vests are off everyone will filter over to the display monitor where stats and rankings from the game are posted. You will be able to identify your score and see who got the top scores of the game. There may be additional details about player accuracy and the total points earned by each team. In some arenas you may be handed an individual scorecard...I like that and spend way too much time analyzing the results when I'm handed the details on paper. If I'm in an arena where this is not the case I usually photograph the monitor so I can reference back on what happened in the game. Then I hydrate (water fountains or vending machines), take a short break and prepare to go back in and do the whole thing all over again.

I hope that if you have never before played laser tag that reading this may inspire you to do so. If you're looking for a place to begin you might want to check out for information about where to find a nearby arena. Enjoy!

If you have comments or questions please feel free to visit my website at or email me at

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Attitude is Everything

I would like to strive to be able to say I go into everything, laser tag included, with a good attitude...but I am an imperfect human being and sometimes this just isn't the case. However, with every day and every situation faced there is a new opportunity to learn and to try to do better. By the end of last night's laser tag marathon I had realized once again that attitude really is everything. This is the story of a bad attitude turned right, but I have to acknowledge where I started and how it went wrong first.

In hindsight I really shouldn't have been there at all last night. I had been under the weather this whole week, but I genuinely thought I was over the round of sickness that had me down since Monday night. After the first game I immediately realized that running around the arena was not a great idea as I felt a cold sweat breaking out that was quite different from the healthy feel I normally experience after getting a good workout. I knew then that I may have started out feeling a little better, but I was not yet feeling one hundred percent. However, I was already there and figured I'd play through it anyway. Plus, I refused to violate my number one rule of laser tag: make no excuses.

Now, going into the first game I felt fine. Ready for a comeback. A couple of the guys who are regulars there too played on my team and in that first round I felt like everything was on. We came out of the round and checked the monitor. My name was at the top. The guy I am now referring to as "Bhodi" (who edged me out every game last week and is now the one I consider my greatest competition in the arena) was on my team and was listed second. However, here's something interesting...we actually tied. Let's take a moment to examine what happens here in the case of a tie...

(crickets chirping)

...I genuinely don't know! And neither did the game master. I will speculate on what might have happened based on two previous games I was in where a tie occurred. Let's look at what happened in three games that all ended in ties.

Last night:

Previous tied game 1:

Previous tied game 2:

Of course someone has to be listed first on the board, even in a tie...the question is whether or not that positioning is random or not. "Bhodi" noticed that he was listed second even though his accuracy was better than mine (no surprise there...I shoot at everything and nothing), and it was interesting to observe that accuracy was not the tie breaker. To be sure I examined the other two example games and the accuracy was not a factor there either. So let's write that off as a consideration (accuracy is nice, but clearly only results matter). Then I figured that perhaps it had to do with alphabetical order. I played as Legend and he played as Rocket. Did that make a difference? Well, I'm not sure. (Side note - my thanks to the other player who always helps me make sure I find my favorite pack. Since I can't play as "Tivia" here like I do in other arenas I do like to play as Legend whenever possible.) In previous game 1 where I played as Hyper I came in ahead of the guy I tied with named Ace, so in that other instance alphabetical order did not factor. And in previous game 2 I was also playing as Legend and was listed ahead of Predator, but if alphabetical order doesn't hold as the constant then that could have just been a coincidence. Then I thought perhaps team placement was the determining factor. In previous games 1 and 2 my team scored higher in total than the team of the player I tied with. In the case of last night's game, we were both playing on the red team and our team (by virtue of less players, not lack of ability) collectively came in second to one with an abundance of players (one reason I generally put no stock in team placement). So...a tie on the same team means back to alphabetical? I simply don't know. Maybe. Or maybe it's completely random. Or maybe the system is inherently chivalrous to the lady - just kidding :) I'll just say that for the first game we shared the win and that I've probably put way more thought into the mechanics of the scoring process than anyone else in that arena.

So, the first game was successful...but, man, did it drain me! By the time the second game came around I was starting to feel my attitude turning south. I simply didn't feel like being there any longer, but I had driven over an hour and paid for the full night, so I carried on. That game..."Bhodi" beat me. Game after that..."Bhodi" beat me. Just like last week! And again, I'm coming in second each time, so it's not like I'm missing it by much, but with every game played I felt my attitude growing worse and worse. Yes, I did offer my congratulations each time (sportsmanship is always important), but I felt lousy physically and I was starting to feel lousy mentally. By the middle of the night I just wanted to go home (and I even verbalized this to another player during one of the games), but damn pride kept me going as in my head I said to myself "I cannot go through another blowout like last week, I'm NOT leaving here until I have won again" (apparently the tie at the beginning didn't satiate my competitive nature). As I type this in the clear light of morning I of course recognize how stupid that was. And with each game where I came close, but missed the mark I found myself growing more and more irritated...not truly at the result, but rather because I was too stubborn and couldn't let myself off the hook to just call it a night early.

Interestingly enough, the wrong attitude can diminish a win just as quickly as it can exacerbate a loss. I'm not calling anyone out, but I will say there were moments of a mildly hostile vibe going on in the arena at times (just heavily competitive? Maybe...but no). And the attitude needs to be right or it can sap the joy out of the fun and momentum of the moment for the individual and the team in any instance. That's my "the more you know" observation from the other side of the coin. At this point I think it's worth sharing the tenets I've learned through my study of the martial arts...self confidence, respect, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage, humility and discipline...sir!

By the sixth game of the night I was so ready to just be done that I exerted every bit of energy I had. Thankfully, that one paid off. I took the top score at last (and in a round where the game master even jumped in to play too...bonus) and at that point I would have, could have and should have just said "thank you and good night"...but I didn't. And the only reason I didn't was that I was within just a few points from earning another one of those silly South Park figures in the arcade and decided to stick it out long enough to get the points to put me over the top (and even as I write that last sentence I have to wonder where the marketing executive-business woman that I am all week long goes to when I take these little excursions from reality on the weekend). So, I hung out a little longer until the next game was called and as that happened the thought flying through my head was "damn, I have to go try and do that again"...get the picture about how lousy my attitude was? Even coming off a win didn't help turn my mind around.

I lost that game. I try not to think of missing the mark as a "loss", but in truth I had already lost it in my head and only played with half my heart. Honestly, I walked half of it. That's not an excuse, it's just the truth of how little I had in me that round. What was even the point in staying to do that? I think I came in third...I might have even been fourth. I don't know and I genuinely didn't care. Then I gave myself a little talking to about how attitude matters. Thankfully, I got my head right, just in time.

The last game of the night was different. Not just for me...I could tell that there was a collective change in attitude by then. At least I feel like it was collective, however once you change your own head space maybe the world just looks brighter regardless of whether anything else is different at all. After deciding to play it out to the very end I reminded myself that this hobby is for fun and if I'm going to be there at all I really just need to bring my best self regardless of how I feel or where I place. A moment to make the decision to be positive was something I could have benefitted from earlier, but better late than never. That holds true in all aspects of life.

To me, this final game was really the first game of the night where I felt like I was playing on a team that actually acted like a team and I wanted to be part of that. "Bhodi" took the lead on calling out a quick strategy plan. Those of us who were versed in it followed the maneuver and by mid-game I felt the way I wish I had all night. I was playing hard (last round, nothing to hold back) and I was watching my teammates' backs, calling out warnings and heads up on opponents trying to approach, while generally feeling like I too had allies again. Now, it may just be a matter of my own perception at that point, but that's the way we should all strive to play every game. Teamwork is great. Supporting one another in achieving a common goal is how this game works best. You don't always get that, but when you do the experience can be wonderful. That's what I felt coming out of that final round. Then we looked at the monitor. The team had collectively won, but as far as scores I was once again second to "Bhodi"...and for the first time that night I was totally fine with that. My attitude by the end was good, I left on a positive note...and, trite as it was, I had enough points to take home a little reminder of how much a good attitude matters...

On South Park they always say "they killed Kenny"...but Kenny will be my reminder that "they" can't kill you...only if you bring the wrong attitude in to begin with can you be sunk. Remember to make that space between your ears a positive place and you will feel like a winner no matter what because the final outcome is only a small part of it, while the attitude you bring really is everything.

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