Saturday, April 25, 2015

My Alternate Alter-Ego Plays Photon

Before I get into the Photon part of my story I should explain how I ended up with an alternate alter-ego in the first place, which is new as of last night at the laser tag arena. If you are reading this, odds are you are already into laser tag enough to know everyone plays with a code name and I go by Tivia. However, in the last two weekends of playing Laserforce I have found that playing as Tivia has had its ups and downs in certain scenarios, particularly in terms of practicing as a level six player, which I realize I need to do...but not at the expense of my average. On the off chance Mike ever updates the scoreboard (just kidding...sort of) I want to be in the mix and I would hate to have my average obliterated because by chance circumstance I haven't had enough level six players to practice with and have found myself in scenarios where I just had to accept the three shot handicap against hyperactive level ones. Believe me, I'd much rather be playing it out and sharpening my skills against higher level players, but for whatever reason (and Mitch can blame me for it) the last two Fridays have been kind of quiet. So...what I realized is that I could do one of the following things:

1. Sign in as Tivia and play as a level six, but likely squelch my average in the process
2. Not sign in at all and play as a level one, which does not really help me improve my skills
3. Sign in with an alternate name as a permanent level six so that I don't have to care about the numbers, just the benefits of practicing and improving my abilities

So, I went the route of a second membership and an alternate alter-ego...

And my first game playing with my new code name was ironically the very thing that inspired it (D = Duria) as I got to use it to play a round of Photon emulation. However, there's a story behind how this option even ended up on the table. It goes back to a week ago.

It was a VERY quiet evening and by the end of the night last Friday so we were mixing up game formats just because. That's when I suggested playing some Photon. Mitch was up for it, there were a couple others around and Lenny, the game master, who ended up becoming a Photon convert. So fast forward to this week.

Mike was the game master this time out and Mitch speaks up saying "Let's play Photon!" I loudly agreed (even though most of the other players in the room didn't have the foggiest idea what we were talking about). Now, Mike clearly wants to play Photon even less than Lenny originally did, so what resulted was pretty much him caving in under duress, but nonetheless, it was decided that we would play some Photon tonight...yay! This format may be very old school, but it was brand new to the majority of players in the room, so a tutorial demonstration was given (which was unintentionally funny when one guy failed to get a demo shot off the other to even show everyone the shot speed, which is significantly slower than normal play - 1.8 seconds?). Then we got to go in and play some Photon!

I'm not going to pretend I played well...I didn't. I love it in general and I will fight for it any time the opportunity comes up, but I am not actually any good at Photon. However, I was still ahead of half the field, three of whom ended up in serious negative score territory, so I will call this an acceptable outcome. 

Regardless, just being able to play it is pretty cool. Guys, you made this old lady very happy by letting things go retro for awhile! The next game we played was supercharge, described to the group as "the complete opposite of Photon". Well, that may be, but just remember that without Photon none of the rest of this laser tag industry that we love would even exist. The light still shines! :)

And speaking of loving laser tag, I want to give a shout out to the Syracuse Laser Tag National Team and wish them well as they compete in the International Laser Tag Laser Force Tournament in Colorado. If you want to support the Syracuse team you can show them your support through their GoFundMe campaign at

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

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Justice, Tivia Style (aka Two Goals Set, Two Goals Met)

Yesterday was my designated "Zone Day" for the weekend, but I had a bit of extra time on my hands between work and game time, so I decided to swing by the third center in the area for a game of Lazer Runner, just to warm up for the night and mix things up a bit. Playing at this arena is not anything like playing...well, anywhere else, so I don't spend much time here, but it was convenient and just for a change of pace to get going. I told myself I didn't have time to stay long anyway, so I intended to buy one game only and take a single shot at beating whatever the high score of the day might be (I've mentioned they have a weird way of displaying the scores, but the top score of the day stays posted at the top of the screen until or unless it is topped). That was my plan. However, when I got to the counter to buy my game pass I heard myself say "two games, please". I surprised myself with that, since I was only there for one game to meet that one goal...until I got into the second line for the arena and I developed a way more important objective.

I was in the line to go into the arena and was a few places behind a group of three people...two guys and a girl, all in their mid-to-late twenties or so. Observing these people, the relationships were obvious. One was the alpha male of the group, the girl was his girlfriend and the other guy who was stockier with a beard was the best bud. The guys bore a slight resemblance to Jay and Silent Bob, but since I adore Jay and Silent Bob I hate to bring those characters into this comparison. It's probably more accurate to say that the lead guy looked just like Vanilla Ice. One more important thing to know...the lead guy in the group was being a TOTAL ASS to his girlfriend. I watched him being loud and rude and cocky and definitely acting like he thought he was God's gift to laser tag. I watched him mildly berate his girlfriend when she asked to exchange her vest for a smaller size when the straps wouldn't adjust properly (FYI, I was handed that very vest afterwards and I can vouch for the fact it was too big and didn't adjust properly). And I watched him loudly planning his strategy with his bud in a way that was clearly so that everybody else would know that "they had this". Damn, I didn't plan to be ultra competitive on my "just for fun" warm up, but this guy left me very little choice. I no longer cared about beating the top score. My sole objective in that moment was that I was going to beat this guy, take him down a notch and in some cosmic way let that victory avenge the idiotic behavior I had just witnessed. I hung back unassumingly, but inside I was primed and ready to unleash it.

The guys and the girl made their way into the arena ahead of everyone else as the game attendant activated each vest as we walked by. I kept them in my sights as I waited for mine to be activated...except it didn't. The game attendant told me to hang back. Sheesh, really?! So he let everyone else in and those three were long out of my sight by the time he came back to me and gave me a new vest. I asked if he would wait to start the game until we were all in and he said, no, it already started, but I'd only be a little bit behind going in. Normally, not a big deal. However, I was a bit irritated with this because if there was any game when I did NOT need the disadvantage of a few seconds lost while they were already getting a head start, this was it. But I focused and once I had my new vest I went in and was ready to take this guy head on.

I didn't immediately find him in the arena...but I did find his friend. And amazingly his friend was a relatively easy target. They talked the talk, but the bearded bud did not have the skills to walk the walk. He quickly pegged me as the one taking him out multiple times, but he didn't successfully retaliate. At one point the Vanilla Ice guy was shooting from behind his friend, literally using him as a human shield. That strategy not only looked ridiculous, but made it easier for me to take both out at one time.

Once Mr. Laser Tag realized I was getting in his way he got all the more aggressive with his playing. I am cognizant of the benefit of getting the bases multiple times (something I often think others overlook), but this guy knew it too, so at one point we both ended up in the less populated part of the arena where two base targets were easy to get to. I shot the one on the left side and could tell from behind the barrier he was getting the one on the right. I came around to him from the right side of the barrier, but he was flying. He was a big guy (tall at least) and clearly ignoring the rules about not running because he turned around and started running without looking and crashed into me HARD. And when I say hard, I mean he smashed his phaser into my face (it's a bit tender under my left eye today with a very faint bruise where he hit me...I don't think it was deliberate, just careless) and he hit me in such a way that my own phaser actually turned off for a couple of seconds. I really though he broke it, which would have been bad on a few levels, not the least of which would be not being able to beat him as a result. But he didn't stick around long enough to know if there was any damage done. When he crashed into me I didn't even get the benefit of an "I'm sorry". Instead he just said "oh, shit" and ran away from me. Fortunately, the lights came back on my phaser a few moments later and if I hadn't wanted to pound this guy before let me just say my aggression hit a new height and I played like I had never before. He was going down.

So I finished that game as a powerhouse. I knew even as we were walking out that I totally nailed it and was confident I was the winner. And indeed I was. I came out with a score nearly 2000 points ahead of Mr. Laser Tag and I felt great...that's Tivia's street justice. Now, I can't change a guy's personality and make him any less of a jerk, but I did take a tremendous amount of satisfaction in knowing I showed this guy up at "his game" and maybe at least took him down a peg or two for the night. Is that wrong? (wicked smile)

Then I realized this must be why I bought two games instead of one. I had two goals to accomplish. One goal was beating this guy (I know that sounds so petty, but trust me, it had to be done) and then I was able to return to my original goal of beating the high score for the day. I went into the second game half-hoping that Laser Tag Boy would be back, but he and his friends had left by then. So I just went in with numbers on the brain. I tagged a lot, I took plenty of base points and at the end of that round...success! I came out with the high score for the day at 12,300 (remember this is Runner, so the point scoring is different from the other arenas) and I left feeling fantastic and ready to take on some real laser tag that night.

I headed towards the Zone arena and found a mixed bag of players this night and I won the first couple of rounds without breaking a sweat. I was in first or second place all night and actually...found myself getting a little bored with it. I'm sorry to say that after the variety of laser tag games I've been experiencing lately going back to my Zone haunt seems very...redundant. Since I'd had a full couple of days of laser tag I decided to call it a night a bit early, but the rounds I played were good and it was a fun evening. However, for me the whole night was made by that first victory. A note if he ever happens upon this blog: "Mr. Laser Tag"...treat your girlfriend better and recognize that someone else in that arena came out "Cool as Ice". (cue the music as I walk away...Ice, Ice Baby, too cold...)

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

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Level Six Education

Last night was probably one of the best educations in laser tag I've gotten yet. But before I get into that, let me share something funny...

I'm obviously not the first to see the irony in this (in fact I saw basically this same image posted online not too long ago), but when I randomly grabbed this pack and realized this was on my chest I just had to take a pic for myself.

Now, ironic pack names aside, last night was different in a lot of ways, all of which I found beneficial to experience on the small scale before they come up again in more serious game play.

I've had several members at the Laserforce arena comment to me about being impressed that I got to level six so quickly. In my mind I've sort of been treating those comments ala Elle Woods, "What, like it's hard?" (which I write here with absolutely no disrespect intended...I just did what I did to arrive at this point and didn't realize that this was not necessarily an easy accomplishment for everyone). However, I've largely found myself in games where I was playing in the same level of water. On the way up I was either a lower level playing up or, eventually when I achieved the level six, playing with others of a similar ability and/or for one reason or another playing without signing in. Mind you this has only been in the span of the last two weeks. In fact, I believe I became a level six two Fridays back without even realizing it. It didn't kick in for the tournament and last night was my first experience using my new "powers". What this means in short is that I had to learn what it really means to have achieved this level and I got my education in the oddest way I never a flock of little kids.

Usually I love kids, but at laser tag I feel like Miss Hannigan singing about how she hates little girls (or boys) because playing against kids is not the experience I go there for. Teens, twenty-somethings, other adults...great, but kids are not my demo in this game. I don't think it's particularly sporting and the inner "mom" in me (no, I don't have kids of my own, but I do have that voice that says "don't run in the arena" or "tie your shoes") comes out. However, tonight a family showed up to play for the first time with probably ten little kids...and, embarrassingly enough, they showed me up big time because they are the first newbies (level one equivalent) that I had ever gone up against as a level six. Think of it this way...if I'm a level six playing against a level six, pretty much everything in the game is normal (except nukes, which I'll get to later). But throw a bunch of little ones into the mix and the level six status handicaps me to have to shoot them three times before their packs disarm. And even though I had heard about this before it applied to me, as a new six I hadn't yet internalized it, and I also just hadn't had the experience of playing so many players below my level to feel the effects of what that meant. But I did tonight. First thought I had was "what's up with this pack?" Second thought was "did I suddenly become really bad at this?" And third was "ok, I get what's going on...what else don't I know about this rank?" I suppose if I hadn't gotten there fast I would have caught on more to the nuances at each level, but really this was an eye opener. I do think it's good that Force has this built-in process for leveling the playing field. And once I figured it out all was cool...except any way you slice it, playing against little kids still always feels unsporting.

Then Mitch spoke up and asked me if I knew how to use my nuke ability. God bless this guy for being someone who wanted to "teach" me rather than "school" me as he could have being a fellow six. It was my first opportunity to play around with some of the cool features I was now privy to and between nukes (go hide and hold the button for three seconds to activate it), missiles (lock on through the beeps than shoot) and getting a handle on three shots for the low level players I regained my confidence that I was still a perfectly capable player after all (just not before I let my obliviousness with the kids bring my average down, but next game my score was high enough to basically restore it).

(It's not like I wasn't aware to a degree, but the practical use just had not come up until this point)

Then, those kids all left and it became obvious how quiet this place was on this particular evening. It was out of the ordinary, but I attribute it to the fact that they were hosting an all-nighter the following evening (no, I won't be there, I'm sticking to my Force on Fridays, Zone on Saturdays plan) so I think most people were waiting until the next night to come out. So, there was only a small group left at this point (teens are cool to play against...I view them as fair game). So, we played some experiential games with those who remained.

Lenny, the game master, played along and pulled no punches...he was more about "schooling" me I think. It's cool. When we got into the specialty games the rank thing went by the wayside anyway. We played a round of Z-game (based on old school Zone...this is my game), Highlander (where if you are missiled you are out) and Death Match (like capture the flag minus the flags...but more confusing) and then PHOTON!

I don't know why I get as excited as I do about playing a Photon emulation game because if you've read this blog you know my history with the game...great in concept, less so in practicality. But I fought for it...Lenny was, oh, let's say "curmudgeonly reluctant" at first. But by the end he was a Photon convert. When played against more modern technology the strain of compensating for lag times when firing can be a little...irritating. But, seriously, how often do I ever get to play it? The chance really only comes up when you're in a place where, first, they have a system that can be programmed to do it and, secondly, when there are so few players that you can push for it (even when the game master doesn't think he wants to). So, yay to getting to play some Photon emulation!

Final game of the night was a one on one with Mitch. He's good. I enjoyed a good challenge...and I think we put on a show for the two staffers who sat on the perch above to watch us. He won and I give him total props for being a worthy opponent and good fun to play against all night. In some ways it's a shame the evening was as quiet as it was (in terms of number of players), but it was very useful for me to be able to get my bearings on some of the facets of the game I had apparently speed rolled right over getting to where I am in the level hierarchy. This is another reason why I look forward to forcing myself to switch gears between the two systems over the weekend. Maybe I had become a little complacent with focusing on Zone. I'm ready to let this be my catalyst to shake it up. I'm also going to try to work out my schedule to get involved with league play in the next month or so. Top it all off with a slush puppie and you've got a pretty good Friday night.

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

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why the Guys at Zero Gravity Rock

Yesterday was a really long day and by the time I got to the "almost end" I was feeling totally worn out, then by the time I got to the "actual end" all was right with the world.

From starting out early and driving an hour to the west to compete in a taekwondo competition first thing in the morning then crossing back in the opposite direction to support my valley girls in a different kind of competition in Saratoga that evening it was already a long day before I tacked on an additional half hour drive to get to the laser tag center (which, incidentally, will be my go-to spot from now on whenever I am in the Albany area). 

This has nothing particular to do with anything, but check out my nails for this day...

(belt stripes or laser decide)

I arrived just after 10:00 at night and asked how many games I could get in before they closed at midnight. I was told by the staff member that a game would be starting in two minutes, but that he would hold it long enough for me to change my clothes. I had arrived straight from the earlier event looking very ill-prepared for laser tag in a long polka-dotted dress, ballet flat shoes...and to top it off, my air cast, as I have been pushing my ankle hard this week against all good judgment. So anyhow, with a quick change of clothes Donna Reed went in and Tivia came least in terms of apparel. However, "Tivia" was in hiding for the first couple of games where I played some of the absolute worst laser tag I had in a long time!

On a Saturday night I was expecting more people, but it was getting late by the time I arrived so the main rush had passed. I went into the first game with a group of maybe ten people, college aged guys and their girlfriends it appeared to be. I picked out a pack that I probably should have put back, but I didn't. This particular pack just didn't seem to sit right on my body and I felt like my shoulder sensors were sitting a bit high, but I went with it anyhow. Now, to avoid being an open target, especially while on the bridge where I like to get a height advantage, you really have to keep your sensors low as you move behind the barriers. That is not generally a problem for me, but between favoring my ankle and crouching down in a way to compensate for a little extra sensor height my back was KILLING me! It wasn't great. I thought I did ok that game, but not my best by far. My score reflected it. I came in second, but it was a far trailing second as I was a couple of thousand points from the number one player that game. OK, I thought. Let's just do better in the next round. So I went into the second match and basically felt like a really old lady. More back ache, more ankle ache, and getting worked over even though this was not a particularly competitive game. Sheesh! What was happening with me tonight? My position and score that round were so weak I didn't even let it register...maybe I was fourth or possibly even fifth out of ten?

Paul texted me "Is Tivia kicking ass?" To which I replied "No, WTF? I'm playing lousy!" ...and that right there illustrates the lousy mindset I was in after those two embarrassing losses. Was I tired from this day? Sure. Does that matter? No. I came here to play the game. I honestly feel like the mental attitude you take into the game is really just as important as your actual skills. But I was worn out from practically nothing and coming off two really pathetic games. I so needed to turn this night around.

While waiting after the second match I mentioned to the manager that earlier in the week I had told the refs at the tournament that I would be playing in Albany this weekend and they basically flipped out with enthusiasm at hearing that this center still played using Zone Infusion. So if they get a group of guys showing up from Syracuse area they will know why. We chatted for a bit while waiting to see if anyone else would look to do another game as the place had gotten was somewhat late by now. In some centers that I go to that might have simply been the end of my night. And that would have been a shame because I really needed to play at least one game well this night. I was ready for a mental reset...unfortunately, nobody else was there. And here's where we get to why the guys at Zero Gravity rock...

At this point, Mike (the staffer, not the manager...both named Mike...every laser tag center I go to has at least one Mike) said that if nobody signed up that I could do a one on one with him. I actually really love to play one on one and the opportunity doesn't come up all that often. However, the staff here all seem to be really good sports and willing to jump in. I got this same opportunity with Dominick the first time I played at this center. This is really very cool of them to step up to because I have had the experience of walking into certain places, even centers where they know me (maybe especially at centers where they know me...ha!), and not having any staff member willing to go in. In a way it's a bit dumbfounding that at some places the staff would let a player wait or walk before putting on a pack and going in for a round themselves. So for that I thank each of the staff members at Zero Gravity because I drove a bit out of my way to be there and am glad I got to take advantage of the experience for the full course of the night. I played a second one on one round with the other staff member working that night (though, apologies for not catching his name). Both games were solid, both went in my favor.

Each of these one on ones we played stealth (at my request) and it felt like a total turnaround from earlier in the night. My mindset going in was completely different. I like to prove myself and I think that playing well against a game master on their own turf is a good test of this. I also have to thank the guys for playing sincerely. I've never gotten the sense that any of them weren't playing for real when we did this. Although there was an inherent disadvantage for the guy cueing up the game because I already had the time to find myself a good starting position. The first game I barely left my perch on the bridge, figuring at some point he'd try to force me off, but that didn't actually happen. By the second game it just didn't feel sporting to stay up there any longer so I took to the lower level for a really good cat and mouse chase. When you are trying to move with absolute silence it is a completely different vibe than when you are in a regular game and that manifested the best when we were both on the ground level. Awesome energy in both games...this was the experience that I got by the end of the evening and getting some quality game play in was a great way to close out the day. I thoroughly enjoyed both one on ones and the mental reset to boot. Thanks guys, I'll be back!

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

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Team Tivia vs Team Goliath

Last night I played in my first laser tag tournament. It was not one of the big ones like I hope to get involved with in the future...more like a gathering for the players at this one particular center...but none the less, there were brackets, eliminations and a battle right to the end, so it was a place to get my feet wet with tournament style playing. It was a great time and here's how things went.

It was a three man team event, so I had assembled my team and practiced with them last week. Our team included Paul, Ben and me. I play every week, but mostly Zone and I had only been back to this center a couple of times recently. Meanwhile, they have experience with paintball (and Paul plays laser tag with me occasionally), but they had only played laser tag with me here 1-2 times previously (which includes our day of practice on Wednesday) so compared to the team with two level six regulars we were probably viewed as the underdogs with heart...but who brought it. :)

This was a new experience for me. Not just the tournament format, but the idea of playing with a team and caring more about the team outcome than personal score. Most of the time those two goals overlap and if I do well racking up points it simply helps the team along to do well, but here it was equally about being supportive of other players (both my own team and others...I may be hyper-competitive, but I don't like to let it show. I think sportsmanship matters and wanted to commend other players on other teams throughout the tournament too) and also to not dwell on where there were shortcomings because we were all putting in effort and everyone did their best towards a common goal.

I arrived before my teammates and got in a couple practice rounds and started the night with a couple of wins...good for confidence to start like that. Then the tournament began. We were team six and didn't play immediately. Once we did I took the lead as our team captain and chose to play green after every coin toss (which we seemed to win every time). Which color we played wasn't a huge deal, but I explained my strategy to my team that generally people seem to like to play red (I know I ordinarily do) and I didn't care which one we were, so I started out picking green. However, I continued picking green so that we would always be starting from the same base (get a flow going from one direction of the arena) and also so there would be no chance of getting confused mid-stream by alternating colors. By the end it seemed that this strategy started to irritate the teams who lost the coin toss, but...whatever.

First game, pretty easy win. We moved ahead in the tournament. Second game we faced...let's call them Team Goliath. Although I hate to give them that much credit, the truth is that here was where our main competition would lie all night long. This team was made up of all clearly experienced players, two level six tournament players and one guy who may not have had that level, but certainly had the demeanor and they came ready to win. So...everyone really seemed to be rooting for us when we went in and gave them a real fight. My team played hard and I don't think they expected that (even though I had played with at least a couple of them on Friday and they may have had some idea about me). That round was truly a skin-of-the teeth match where we lost...but only by only a tag and a half. For perspective, that is practically negligible. It was about as close as it could have been and with two more well placed shots perhaps the night would have taken a different course, but they bested us that round and I give them props and congratulations for a well played game. And we were not out of it...we just had to fight a little harder as there was no margin for error from that point forward.

Having just barely lost (but lost, nonetheless) we moved into the single loss bracket and played another team...and another. I get fuzzy on how many games so I'll just post the chart if you really care to follow, but the bottom line is we kept winning and it got us back to playing against Team Goliath. Here's where things started to get interesting. Everyone plays with a code name. I haven't the foggiest idea what names these guys actually use, but if I had to make up code names for them I would call them "Tall", "Hyper" and "Crankypants". I believe Cranky and Hyper were two different guys...although to be honest I can't be certain...maybe Hyper was the cranky one. Regardless, here's what happened. We went into our next match facing the powerhouse competition and again were holding our own just fine. Unbeknownst to me at the time, apparently one of them got huffy mid-round and left the arena. Paul in hindsight thinks it's funny that we somehow inadvertently got a teenager to rage quit, but at the time I didn't even realize anything had happened. The match was being watched by a referee and I have no idea what this guy thinks happened, but he apparently left because he believed our team was following him and using blind shots. Honestly, my guys wouldn't know the difference as they are not experienced enough to know if or how a blind shot might have happened. The ref explained that we were using U.S. rules and that nobody did anything wrong there. I can't actually speak to the matter of following as the rules are a bit complex and my team was a bit green. All I can say is I wasn't aware of it myself, but again, there was a referee there and that's exactly the reason why. He sided with our team as having done nothing wrong. However, Cranky walked out mid-game in a huffy tantrum. If I were on his team I would have been royally ticked off about that behavior, not just because it's unreasonable, but also because his walking out resulted in us winning essentially by forfeit because at the exact moment he walked out we were up by a couple of thousand. Now, this is tournament nuance I did not expect to encounter or have to thoroughly comprehend, so I just listened as I was called in with the other team captain for an explanation of what took place. Side note...I don't know what standard protocol is, but if it were my call I would say that kind of behavior should get a player disqualified from re-entering, but it was not my call and he returned to play again later in the doubt all the more aggressive towards us.

The way the tournament was shaping up, by the next game we played we were pitted against Team Goliath again. I honestly don't remember much other than being aware of an additional ref perched above to get a bird's eye view and confirm that everything was being played properly. I think we were beaten then and that dropped us to the second elimination bracket. That's what I think I remember and what the chart seems to confirm, but things were a little foggy for me because...remember my sprained ankle?...well, it went out on me that round. Not all the way, but just enough that I was more focused on playing through the pain (I know, not smart....probably wouldn't do that again, but I was determined it would not be the thing to take me out of this tournament) and that's what I remember from leaving that game and not much else. That is not an excuse for the loss. That is just when it happened to kick in. I was wearing my air cast under my jeans and I was not going to let on about my literal Achilles heel.

Did we play another team again? Maybe, I don't remember. We probably did in order to get into the final elimination and I'm pretty sure this was the point where that happened. Ultimately it got down to the final two teams...Team Tivia and Team Goliath (I should note that isn't actually what they used for a team name, but who remembers. Everyone else came in with bizarre team names, but all I know is these guys were team seven). It was explained that because they had only one elimination thus far that if they lost we would have to play one more game against them. If we lost, that would be the end of the tournament. Anyone who knows me knows I don't like to lose, but at that point in my head I was kind of hoping I didn't actually have to stick it out for a second game against them. But that doesn't mean we didn't give it our all. In the end, they won the final round and we went home with second place honors. Hey, I'll take that. They did well...compliments to them on the whole in spite of that little display of (fill in the blank). The tournament was fun and well run. I give props to this facility for putting together a nice event that made for a really cool evening of laser tag.

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

Saturday, April 4, 2015

# Are You Kidding Me?

No laser tag for me tonight...instead I get an air cast for a couple of days.

Fortunately last night's injury was only a sprain, but with the rigorous things I had planned in the next few days I've been advised to slow it down and let it heal. This does throw a wrench into my tae kwon do training for the week, but better that I rest up now and be able to do what I need to later on. I still have every intention of competing.

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

May the Laserforce Be With You...

Life is full of little ironies. As I am home from laser tag early tonight with my foot bandaged and iced I think I can paint a picture of how ironic things look to me right now.

Earlier this week I was invited to play with a team in the U.S. Armageddon laser tag tournament kicking off in Detroit in late June. This all came together in the final hour of the night before the deadline, so I was really pleased to be welcomed by some players I will meet for the first time when I arrive at the event. Meanwhile, I will be getting to know them by Facebook.

Yes, Facebook. My arm was twisted because I was told that in order to be found by a team I would have to make myself known to the laser tag community and this is simply the only way that would be achieved. Bottom line...I need to be on Facebook. So I got myself an account last week solely for the purpose of interacting with other laser tag people who I have not yet met. I have fought tooth and nail against joining Facebook. All my real life friends know that I hate everything about it because I think it opens up your private life to be known and over-analyzed by anyone and everyone with a computer or phone and frankly, there are facets of my life that are probably better off left not crossing. So, for anyone in my day to day life who is reading this, I love you, but please do not ask me what my Facebook name is for I do not want to be least not outside of this laser tag world. But, for the purposes for which I needed it Facebook has worked beautifully and connected me with some new teammates, a chance to play in the Armageddon and, as of this writing I'm going to ballpark about 30 Facebook friends...mostly strangers who know someone with whom I am remotely connected and only two of whom I have met in person...once. OK, remember this because we're going to circle back here shortly.

When I didn't immediately find a team I started to have my doubts that because I was not yet known (my account was at that point empty of any information - still is - and I was for the moment Facebook friendless) and because I had no tournament experience so far that I would not be viewed as a desirable candidate no matter how much laser tag I actually play. So I resigned myself to the possibility that the Armageddon might not work out for me this time around, but I could get a jump on correcting these two issues by getting involved in some smaller tournaments in the meantime. So I searched around and, low and behold, there is a three man tournament happening at my local Laserforce center this coming week. Perfect! An upcoming first tournament to get my feet wet with actual tournament style competition. So I assembled a team and headed out with them on Wednesday for some practice since time had slipped by and I realized it has been several months since I've been to this particular center (although I've been playing every week, I've been focused on playing Zone and having other unique LT experiences in the meantime so Laserforce sort of fell off my radar for awhile). So I decided that between now and the Armageddon I should balance my laser tag a bit more and I plan to double up playing Laserforce on Friday nights and Zone on Saturdays so I will become equally proficient at both. It's Friday, so off I went to play some Force...and here's where things get ironic.

So, I'm back playing Force to get practice because I have never been in a tournament. The two tournaments that I just mentioned have not yet happened, so to my mind I am just an experienced player without this particular facet of experience. When I arrived tonight I recognized Mike, the game master, but did not think he would particularly remember me...I'd been away awhile and we only had brief encounters before that anyway. So I was a bit surprised when in the first game he specifically addressed me by code name and said "Tivia, would you stay on this team and Justin, please move to the other team". How did he remember my player name after that long an absence? Then he explained that he was balancing the teams and now the team I was on had four tournament players. At that comment three guys started looking around the briefing room wondering aloud who the fourth tournament player was and I started looking around too...was he talking about me?

Yes, he was. I played that game well and, although I came in second place, it was hard fought and I would have liked to have that score added to raise my average. Unfortunately, something went wrong when I entered the arena and my pack did not sync properly with my membership card so I ended up playing as Spike rather than getting the score credited to me as Tivia. Since the score will otherwise just be an uncounted memory I will post it just for my own satisfaction's not my highest score and it's not the be all to end all, but it was decent and would have boosted my numbers, so what a bummer.

Anyhow, this opened up a conversation with Mike after the game because I wanted to know what went wrong and I also wanted to ask what specifically made him identify me as a tournament player...rolling back to the beginning of this story, I have not yet ever been in a laser tag tournament and thought my lack of being a tournament player was an albatross at the moment. I asked him if it was because I had planned to sign up for the tournament this week (which officially I haven't yet, so how would he know that) or was he possibly one of my 30 new Facebook friends that I don't know. Turns out, it's the result of the latter. He didn't immediately place me, but quickly put my name and face together realizing we now have a few Facebook friends in common, so he knew I was getting involved and pointed out something seemingly obvious..."Anyone who is signed up for the Armageddon is a tournament player". No argument, that's probably the class I belong in, but it struck me as really ironic solely because I still have yet to step foot into a tournament. Damn Facebook (I say that with a smile, but you see what I mean about everyone knowing everything about you, friends or not). It's cool...I like the distinction, but I just generally prefer to be underestimated rather than classified, as the latter can make you a target.

As it happens, it's a distinction without a difference. For the tournament this week all tournament players will default to level six, which is exactly where I am it doesn't matter if he labels me as a tournament player or the Queen of the Pumpkin Patch (hmmm...I do like a royal title), it all works out the same. It just took me by surprise to have someone know more about me than I anticipated and find that already Facebook had made me unexpectedly least in this realm. But it's I guess I am officially a tournament player by virtue of signing up for two tournaments.

Now, that level six ranking and my scores for the night are another irony. If I had not played as well that level could go down...but seriously, I never play less than my best and I do want it to go up. Hence my irritation about the first game not counting. However, my scores were good all night and my game average is looking strong enough that I think I will be on the ranking chart for the top players in this coming month. By the end of April I plan to make myself a fixture there since I will be playing there a lot more.

Then we get to the last game I played tonight. I wanted to make that average rise, so I went into the game quite determined. I got all the bases very quickly and things seemed to be flowing. I got that feeling I get when I know (or strongly believe) I am going to be in the top position at the end of the round. Then...I went down HARD on my ankle. Nothing really happened to cause it. I just had a mis-step. But, man, did that hurt badly. A couple of players stopped to express concern, but I said I'd be fine and could walk it off. Well...not exactly. I did hobble to a hidey-hole while a few players who didn't realize I was injured kept on shooting at me. I thought, "damn, it was turning into such a great game until then". I could have exited the game...but, have you met me? I was stubborn enough to just stand in that corner until the end picking off players who ran past me. Hey, some people do this by choice...I did it out of necessity and in an effort to not give up on the game. However, I had been hit enough times during that retreat to the corner that I wasn't sure my points would hold up any longer. I just did what I could considering my ankle was throbbing.

It is with some small degree of satisfaction that I can report that in spite of my injury I had the top score of the game. I knew it was not worth risking playing on it further (not that I felt I could will be fine, but it still hurts) so I left the center early. I hope I will be ok to play some Zone tomorrow night. However, here's the irony...of all weeks for this to happen, this has got to be the worst timing because not only is it a big ol' question mark going into the three man tournament in the middle of the week, but I am also scheduled to compete in my first tae kwon do contest at the end of the week. So I was expecting particularly aggressive training this week to make sure I am Grandmaster Lim (founder of Hupkwondo) is coming to my class to observe so I figured this was also going to be an important time to perform well...AND it was only just last night that I informed my instructor that I was going to be involved in the Armageddon so I welcomed a more rigorous training regimen to make sure I was up to snuff stamina-wise. So, all these things considered, I think it is very ironic that instead of being in an arena right now practicing to be in my first tournament that I am instead a wounded tournament player sitting on the couch hoping my ankle will be well for me to participate in any tournament at all. Sigh...think good thoughts. I hope to be back on my feet before the weekend is sprained ankle will keep this Tivia down. :)

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My New Office

This week I moved into my new office. Thought I'd share the little touches that add a bit of my own personality to this space...

Anyone who knows me knows that I am really not into Facebook. However I do love a good internet meme, so I have literally posted them on my actual wall instead (just like the lady in that insurance commercial).

Now it feels like home. :)

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

The Animal Called Tron

Over the weekend I had the chance to play at a really impressive well you might expect it to be considering it is the longest running laser tag facility in the United States and boasts an enormous 9200 square foot multi-level playing arena. Yes, I played at Lasertron in Amherst, NY just outside of Buffalo and it was quite an experience. Even driving up to the building was something memorable. When I saw the building it was massive! I was too young to play original Photon, but this is what I have imagined the Photon centers might have been like.

Upon entering I found lots of activity and a professionally presented atmosphere with food, seating and video games in the next room over. There were some kids, but this was predominantly an adult crowd.

When I went up to the counter to purchase my games I was given a card and instructed to head over to a row of computers to fill in some information and take a photo for my profile.

There was a little bit of time to wait before my first game so I went to check things out  in the observation area. The game going in was packed and from the moment I saw the inner space I was convinced this has to be the coolest looking arena I've ever been in.

I was definitely looking forward to learning the game. When my game was called we went into the vesting room which was lit up like a Christmas tree with glowing red and green packs and stands.

The briefing video was cool...although a bit short on details. Until I got into the game I really didn't have a handle on how different an animal this was from the other forms of laser tag I have experienced. First, it was more intense just by virtue of playing a solid half hour. It was broken up into four back to back rounds, but it was a full half hour in the arena which is more than most of the games I've played that cap at about 15 minutes. The phaser was a bit more complex with modes that you could change on a view screen on the back.

The only mode I really played around with was spy mode. It changed the color of your pack so that you blended in with the opposing team. It might make it easier to get to their base, but much harder to avoid friendly fire. And since friendly fire deducts points this was a real challenge because I was playing with people I didn't know anyway, so I had difficulty discerning who was actually on my team. You also had a limited amount of shots before having to reload. I had never before played a game where reloads were needed. Running out of shots frequently was not great since I am a trigger happy player. I found this really annoying and running out of ammo was the main reason I never actually took a base. At some point I resigned myself to guarding and picking off players on the higher level. Scoring was different. I hated racking up points one minute only to have them lost in the next. However, the main thing that was different was that tagging a player did not deactivate them. They had to be hit 20 times before they were deactivated and sent back to their own reload station. During the first game I didn't really absorb that and I thought you had to keep shooting at them to get the points for deactivation. In actuality you could get points with every shot...but it wouldn't slow your opponent down. It was like the shots were just an annoying fly buzzing around, but not doing any real harm. That was strange to adjust to. My first game I didn't do very well...certainly not in comparison to most of the rest of my team. To be honest, that game was not fun...but it was educational.

There were things I really liked about this experience and one of them was the random allocation of players to teams and pack assignments. That meant no playing favorites or stacking the teams. In each game I played there was a nice mix of players with varying levels of experience. By the second game I had a better handle on what was going on in the game and hoped I could be more useful to my team. I was not great at Lasertron...there was just too much that was different about it for this creature of habit. But I did what I knew I could well, which was largely guarding and shooting players even though I never took a base. That freed up some of my teammates to do what they did well and (even though I have no frame of reference for what scores are typically like) I was proud to be on a winning team as I left the second game.

Two games were an ample amount of Tron for me on this particular day. I'd definitely love to play in this arena again. I took home some cool souvenirs along with great memories of a totally different laser tag experience.

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