Sunday, June 28, 2015

Armageddon Day 2...or is this 3? Who can tell anymore!

This morning I woke up in Michigan. Tonight I am falling asleep in Ohio and tomorrow I will be headed to Indiana all as part of this five day, seven system (almost...we'll get to that) Armageddon adventure upon which I have embarked.

My day began at 4:00 A.M. with no time to spare before heading to play some Laserforce. As the most regular Force player on the team despite being new to SM5 I was still regarded as a good bet for the important role of Medic as we got our games started. However, for the first few games nobody was getting the bases, which is crucial to this game, so instead I swapped to scout stationed on the lower level. This was way more within my comfort zone to contribute because I knew I could get the bases and at least pick up some points by catching opposing players off guard. Scout is the role I have practiced most at this point. Now, I am not suggesting these were great games, but things did improve and I felt like I had more to contribute to the team after switching roles. It certainly reflected in my score, which was not exceptional and didn't win us games, but was at least a respectable first step for me on a personal level into the phase of competition I had been preparing for. So, indulge me and don't look at the green team score. Just celebrate a personal success as I started to feel better about playing again.

The last Force game we played was a significant one in that we were up against the one team we had taken some wins over and also because this win would either push us a bit further ahead (no delusions of grandeur, we're still at the bottom, but second to last at this point) or tie us with them for last place. So take the significance of this game with the proper perspective. However, it was the hardest we fought, my best showing (in terms of scores, base capturing and overall performance) and the closest game we had played. Unfortunately, we ended up a hair behind and lost that game by less than a single base value. If one more person had gotten a base that would have been a third victory, but instead we found ourselves in the tie for 6th.

I realize with the caliber of players here that I am an incredibly green newbie, but I believe you rise to the level of the water around you and by playing with these exceptional players it gives me motivation to keep growing my skills in hopes of joining their ranks in time. This is an interesting social adventure too in that there are only four female players in the entire competition...Katt, Exit (Vanessa), Emily and me. I believe Emily is a team captain and Katt and Exit are both such impressive players that I knew about them by reputation even before arriving here. When I had a moment to chat with Katt between games she told me I nearly took her out when she was launching her nuke (meaning she was playing Commander) and that gave her a good scare that her team would kill her if that had happened. That's just a tiny example of a piece of the picture that makes me feel like playing with these players is getting me little by little to a better level, regardless of what the final scoreboard says. It's cool to be around top talent when it comes to the disproportionate number of female players and also to be treated as an equal part of a game dominated by men (52 guys are in the tournament with the four women). Although I am accustomed to often being one of, if not the only, female player in an arena, I didn't know if that would make me feel separate in this group or not. As it happens, it's a total non-issue in the midst of this big, happy, dysfunctional family riding around on a bus and taking time out every now and again to shoot laser beams at each other.

When we were done playing in the Force arena, which incidentally was a very cool, large, two-level space...

...we hopped on a bus for four hours headed to play tactical in Ohio. We drove along in the rain for a large part of the trip. The organizers were being kept apprised of the field conditions four hours away and we were told the field was dry...ha-ha, gotcha! It was NOT!

The captains were called together to look at the original field once we arrived. Apparently it was like a giant pond back there, but they decided to try playing in the open stretch of space in the front of what is apparently a paintball field. Good thing we have all this manpower, as they helped to set up an elaborate outdoor course with tents and barrels and such.

However, the ground was sopping wet. Two steps onto the field and my sneakers were soaked! Sigh. Now, since I have gone through two months of physical therapy on my injured ankle I was a bit concerned about running around on wet grass. And a bit skeptical about wet sneakers and rain disrupting the equipment. But I tried to be a good sport...

We were given a tutorial on using the tactical equipment...

However, there were a number of challenges. The weather was not great, a mist or rain gradually soaked the equipment, the wind kept blowing over the tents and the phasers did not work consistently. In fact, the bright red dot that was supposed to allow us to target from across the field disappeared from my phaser entirely before we had even started. Our team was up first, so we did our best to proceed forward with the goal of getting someone into the tent with an iPad (I think this is called a NOD and that those letters stand for something, but I don't know what...someone drop me a note if you know) in order to press a button, start some time and in doing so the length of time it stayed on would determine a winner. At least that is how I think I understood it. I never made it past the first tent. I swear I tried, but I was also very careful moving on that wet grass because of my weak ankle. Additionally, not having that red dot to help me target meant I was really just firing blind and eating up shots, so I was constantly replenishing shots and being an inadvertently easy target so I was running back to the re-spawn tent more often than it felt like I was moving forward! Even if we continued, I know I would have had very little to contribute to my team with this format. But that is entirely beside the point to what happened next.

During the second game the question was floated by our captain to gauge how our team felt about continuing on under these conditions. He was not suggesting we quit, but rather preparing for an anticipated vote among all the team captains to determine whether the conditions warranted dropping the system (and the remainder of the games) from the tournament. At this point one team had already forfeited and six captains remained. One of our teammates was incredibly passionate about playing this format (everyone has an affinity for their home system) and took it quite hard before the vote was even cast. I give Bill (our captain) tremendous credit for standing up for his teammate's feelings about it and voting to keep the system despite being the lone vote in this direction. Ultimately it was decided to drop tactical due to the weather and equipment difficulties. Although this was not a favorite system for me, I really felt for our friend who came out to this event largely to play this tactical game with some of the best players around (clearly not me, but still).

Well, dropping the tactical system allowed us to get back to the hotel early so I had time to try and dry out my soaking wet sneakers with a hair dryer. 

And with day two behind us I was glad for a chance to sleep and recharge in preparation for day three. This is intense and tiring!

Comments or questions?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Armageddon - Day One (and a half)

Armageddon is here!

The tournament, that is. And I am happy to be playing with a great group of guys...Bill, Carl, Wil, Andrew, Georgio, Ziggy and Ben...aka "Team Let's Go Buffalo". 

Here is the story of my first major laser tag tournament experience...

They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and if that's true I'm about to be the strongest woman I know! I was up at 5:00 A.M. on Armageddon Thursday packing up everything I'd need for my five day excursion. The first Armageddon injury is mine to claim as before I even left the house I jammed a finger on my trigger hand and had to ice my injury.

So, that's how I started my journey towards Buffalo to meet up with the other New Yorkers on my team and carpool out to Michigan for the start of the tournament, as we had to arrive at the first location by 9:00 P.M. We set out at noon, went the shorter route through Canada (passports please) and only stopped once for food and once at the duty free shop (no ketchup chips?), but somehow the trip still took longer than planned and we did not have enough time to stop at the hotel (Ziggy came in earlier from San Francisco and had a room where we could crash for a nap of time allowed), so instead we went to the first arena early to check things out. They had a public game of blast going in and we decided to warm up by feeling out the arena. A few other early tournament arrivals had the same idea, do we played some Blast and got acclimated to the space where we would spend 13 1/2 straight hours playing three tournament systems later that night.

The warm up game was fun and I did well. In a round with my teammates, other tournament players and some public players I left that round in third me that was a fairly good start.

Then we grabbed some dinner and returned to meet the rest of our team and get briefing on the three systems that would be used for the 63 games of the tournament to be played back to back that night...Q-Zar, Laser Storm and Laser Blast. This was a disadvantageous way for me to start because I have NEVER before played Q-Zar or Storm and the Blast was to be COMPLETELY different from what I had just done earlier that night. But I came for new laser tag experiences and was ready to give it my all with whatever came my way.

The first game we played was Storm. This is very different from the other forms of laser tag I have played in that, although you do wear a pack on your chest, you don't shoot at it. Instead your lights appear on a headset and you have an odd phaser that is almost more similar to a remote control than it is like a gun.

We did not win the first game. I hoped it was just a matter of getting our bearings, but there are lots of really incredible laser tag players here and somehow I suspect our team is one of the underdogs. Still, we did our best in a game that included lots of elements that were new to me. We began each game by running through a line-up to energize our phasers underneath a charging station like this...

Periodically as you ran out of ammo you would be called back to recharge (what a pain/inconvenience) and then at the end of the game you would hold your phaser under the charger one final time to register your points. Then at the end our team captain checked out our scores (as this was a system brought in for use at the facility there was no built-in scoreboard for us to follow, so I don't have many individual stats to share). Then, when the players in one round of competition were done they had to walk up the second level ramps and exit the arena from above in order for the next game's players to enter immediately from below being suited up with packs from the alternate system in play.

Because three laser tag systems needed to be completed in one night at one location, packs were brought in for Laser Storm and Q-Zar. Thanks to everyone who set this up to run as smoothly as it did. This is what the vesting room looked like. 

Upon arrival for each game a full team would need to be on deck before the game in front of them was completed. If one team was using the Storm packs the next team would be already suited up with Q-Zar packs and everything ran tightly and promptly in ten minute intervals continuously for 13 1/2 straight hours...that was the "what doesn't kill you" part of the first night experience. Although I must give big thanks to everyone who made it run so smoothly. Ricky Vega (the organizer) and Kelly and Anita and everyone else who made it all work so well.

When our team was called up next we were on deck for Q-Zar (another first for me).

In this game you must start by charging you phaser at an energy station.

After being tagged you have to periodically return to energize your phaser again. Then you set out with the goal of tagging enough opponents to super charge and then (IF that is accomplished) you can try to take the base. That did not happen for me at all this night, but if it had I would have found bases for all three systems set up in the same base area.

Instead I just tried my hardest playing games that were totally foreign to me, but it was enjoyable just to play and learn and work with my team...although the novelty did start to wear off around 2:00 in the morning :) Anyone who knows my background with the land of sparkly hats knows I love healthy competition, but HATE the show "Toddlers and Tiaras"...however by the middle of the night/early morning hours I was preparing my own recipe of "go-go juice" from Pixie Stix and five hour energy drink. This is the only thing I've learned from Honey Boo Boo that might (in this circumstance only) have some practical application. IN THIS CIRCUMSTANCE ONLY.

Seven teams of eight players each took turns playing against all the other teams on each system. And we played hard and were exhausted. Most of us used our team table less for strategizing and more for a place to take a nap.

Our youngest player had the roughest time with this grueling schedule (sometimes you'd get a lengthy break, sometimes just a game or two in between before you were back on deck) and at one point he felt too sick from the day to continue. However, we cannot play with less than eight, so...friendly peer pressure at least ensured he finished the night with us, which at that point (or whenever...the hours all blurred) we began playing Laser Blast. I recently wrote about a great experience playing some one on one Blast. I was familiar with the equipment and the feel of the shots...and it couldn't have mattered less because what I experienced was unlike any other laser tag experience I have had...EVER!

Playing Blast we had some odd particulars, apparently requested by the local players (and approved by the captains) that I hope to never deal with again. The phaser would only shoot one time every two seconds (even Photon is 1.8 seconds I believe) and then if you were tagged you were down for 14 seconds AND had to return to behind your designated area immediately to wait for your reset. O-M-G...the most boring and unpleasant format I've ever played. But my perspective on it at 10:00 in the morning (having played 13 1/2 hours straight through the night and not slept since 5:00 A.M. the day before) might have been a tiny bit tinted because by that point I no longer had the ability to stay conscious.

OK, front street...our team at this point in the tournament has only won two games, putting us in second to last place. We are all playing with heart to the best of our abilities, but this is new for several of us and it has not yet gelled. I am way more optimistic about the systems I am familiar with, but in spite of not killing it with scores we are having a good time. I didn't have unrealistic expectations because I am hear playing with and learning from some AMAZING players from all over this country and other countries too (the Swedish team is FIERCE) and so as a first time competitor I am trying to take away knowledge and experience this time around in order to be better next time. However, first I must survive the rest of the event :)

Comments or questions?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

An "Infusion" of Positive Attitude

It is entirely probable that tonight was my last opportunity to play any more laser tag before I leave next week to meet up with my team "Let's Go Buffalo" and head off to Michigan to compete in the U.S. Armageddon laser tag tournament. I feel very fortunate I got to end tonight with an infusion of positive attitude, especially in light of my sour mood at the arena last night. I had occasion to be in the Albany area earlier today, so I stopped by my go-to tag spot out east. 

I showed up earlier than I normally would since I was already right there. I hoped on a Saturday there would be a bit of a crowd. However, this was Father's Day weekend, graduation weekend and a nice weather Saturday...the trifecta for a slow night. And when I arrived the only players in the place were really little kids. I'm not a monster and that would be no fun for anyone, so I said I'd return later and in the meantime I killed time by getting my nails done. I'm probably the only player preparing for the Armageddon by getting a manicure :)

When I returned an hour or so later they were wrapping up a party...and otherwise nobody was around yet. But at this center the staff are very cool about going one on one (even though I suspect some of them no longer want to because they know what to expect from me in the arena). So they found a new challenger for me, a worthy opponent named Lexy. We went one on one stealth and she was good...and I was less good. I suspect the beam on my pack might have been askew, but no excuses, she gave me some good competition and came out of the arena 300 points ahead. Lexy is the first person to have beaten me in a one on one in that arena...great job, you rock! I was actually kind of glad she won because that's a cool badge of honor considering the guys I've played against there have not done that yet. So, we both came out with an adrenaline rush from a good game and I said "I'm warmed up now, who's next?"

Well, next was a three way challenge...Lexy and another staff member named Will against me in a free for all. Now, I changed out my pack because of my question over the beam, and depending on how you look at it, there was either an advantage or disadvantage to the one I grabbed. It made no noise at all. In fact, the lack of sound made me genuinely think I grabbed a bad pack at first. But it otherwise shot fine, so I just resigned myself to the lack of feedback/affirmation of shots I would normally expect to hear.

That round was intense. Although I won by a good margin, the score was not what made it a great game. I really enjoyed playing with these two. They played with heart and going up against staff members (even though Will says he doesn't play much) always feels like better than average competition, so I appreciated their willingness to take up the challenge and play hard tonight.

By the time that round was over a couple of groups of adult players had arrived. Yay...people over four feet tall (as opposed to the kids from earlier). A group of five women arrived together and a group of either older high school teens or young college guys (sometimes it's tough to tell) showed up for the next game. Count me in! I was ready for another round. The guys went blue (as did I) and the ladies went red. I went immediately for the red base...and I should have mentioned it while I was there, but something was definitely not working right with the base. I shot at it consistently for about 60 seconds, but only once I started shooting off center did it deactivate. I may have been the only person even thinking about getting the base since the other guys went directly for the bridge. 

The women were easier marks because they seemed to play as a cluster, but I enjoyed the round. I also appreciated the little comments they made about my playing skill "this lady is ON", "she's too good" and the like...thank you for the compliments. Definitely a nice way to end the evening and my final game before the tournament. That's the "infusion" of positive attitude I needed while playing a little Infusion. We came out of that game and my top score was more than the next two highest scores combined. 

I left feeling great. Even though the competition was not as intense as I face in other places, this final game was the perfect note to end on before putting on my game face and playing with and against some of the best players in the country next week. The Tivia that left the game tonight feels ready to say "bring it on!" Thanks to everyone who turned what could have been a lost night into a great way to wrap up the week. I am once again psyched up with positive energy.

Comments or questions?

Friday, June 19, 2015


So, something really heartless happened to me yesterday (if you think you know, do me a favor and just don't ask...all is cool now), but what I've realized is that thinking about it tonight has made me a thoroughly heart-less player (as in I am totally playing without heart tonight). My big rule is "no excuses" so let's call that a "rationale" instead. My mind is absolutely elsewhere and I feel it affecting me. I just came in dead last in a game of Gladiator, which normally is a game that I really love to play. And earlier I won a game of free for all by signing in as a level one, which I told myself I was not going to do...and yet... So all in all this has not been a night I am elated with. I'm giving myself a mental reset even as I type this. I don't care what happens...whatever the next game is I am turning my night around here and now. Come whatever, giving it heart...

Ok, that just sucked, but it sucked with heart! At least I put the challenge on myself by signing in as level six. I was about to sign in as a level one simply because it was a small game...two on two on one and I was the one flying solo until Lenny jumped in playing as a level three (really?) and joined my team. But you know what...those level ones were a couple of very capable guys who could hold their own (well, at least one of them could) and if I wanted to play with real heart I wouldn't have put limits on myself. But at the final second I decided "come whatever" meant signing in as a level six and pushing through.

Now my ankle is hurting and I'm back with the same group again. The time for principle playing is done. This will be my last game of the night (I have to work in the morning anyway), so I'm going in on even footing...except I'm really not because they just decided it's going to be a game of Highlander...dammit :) we go... 

Second place to Mitch. Nice job. But even coming in second he still blew everyone out of the water at Highlander and as Reba sang..."she ain't going out like that." So one more just so I can leave with my mojo.

Instead, she's going out like that.

Comments or questions?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Absence of Malice

Remember the difference between the Peach Pit and the Peach Pit After Dark? That's kind of a...well, a really ridiculous parallel to the difference between laser tag and SM5 laser tag after hours with the better players last night. I just got to experience this on a whole different level. But as I was perched atop a raised platform (how did I even get up there?) watching during the one game when I rested on this otherwise steady night of practice I couldn't help but think "this isn't Kansas anymore, this is Pink Floyd's dark side of Oz".

One night of playing with the serious players (at this game format which I really hope to eventually master) definitely gave me a much better feel for the game. I must say, I felt no direct hostility towards me from anyone, likely because I am regarded as the newbie and all the players were giving me a chance to learn. I certainly appreciate that and found it worthwhile. And to some degree I was braced and prepared for what was to come. However, as much as I had been told that this was a whole different experience, I was still a little bit taken aback by the intensity with which everyone literally seemed to attack the game. From the language to the confrontations, the walkouts and the drama I must say if I didn't experience this night of practice for myself I doubt I would have believed it was even the same game I played last week.

And really, it wasn't. I think it boils down to this. Everyone plays so passionately and puts so much into it that when something doesn't go quite right in the arena the tempers do get amplified. However, I think the most important thing I took away from being part of this night was an appreciation for the absence of malice. As heated as things might get from time to time and as loud as some of the disagreements might become, as far as I could tell nobody did anything with the intent to be difficult or to deliberately cause a problem. I believe everyone had the genuine intent to play hard and play their best. In every game there are bound to be different perspectives and I think that accounts for some of the heated exchanges I observed that I had trouble wrapping my mind around. However, if that's the way it's going to go next week (and I suddenly have no doubt that it will) then I'm glad I got my first glimpse of it now. I'm accustomed to extreme competition in other facets of my life, but the way it is handled from scenario to scenario may be dramatically different. When I next encounter this level of intensity in laser tag competition I will just take it in stride with a deep breath and try to remember three words..."absence of malice". So long as that holds true then everyone should come out of the arena in one piece...I do hope!

Comments or questions?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ladies, please...

Here's something I have never before experienced while playing laser arena with nothing but female players. It was interesting...and ear splitting...and like Kreskin I predicted to the game master that this night would be short lived. But tonight deserves a pink phaser award as it certainly was a first for me.

Forget all that "role model" stuff from a couple of weeks ago. And also forget when I said I understand how teenage girls are because I was one...I mean, obviously that's true, however when I arrived for some Zone tonight and found the center had nobody there except for this swarm of overly boisterous teenage girls I was ready to head elsewhere again. Not because I didn't think they could do well and not because I don't want to encourage girls to play and love laser tag (and for the record, I do). No, the reason I left after one game is that I value my hearing.

There was an unbelievable level of noise in that arena because every time one of them got tagged she would scream with a level of intensity that would make you think she had actually been shot! I'm talking blood curdling shrieks EVERY. SINGLE. TIME!!! I commented to the game master (also female...I swear this may have been a first both for womankind and laser tag) that we would feel quite foolish if someone was actually murdered inside that arena, which would be the only thing that might legitimately warrant that amount of screaming. 

Interestingly enough it wasn't only the girls getting tagged who were making a riot. Even the girls doing the tagging had something to shout about. Occasionally a victory saying seems to catch on with members of a group and this appeared to be the case tonight. What was odd to me was their particular choice of phrase. In an arena populated with ONLY female players the phrase these young ladies jubilantly shouted over and over and over upon tagging an opponent was...(ready for this one?)..."Got your nuts!" Seriously, ladies.

So after a single victory (and all I could handle of that) I switched gears and headed to the Laserforce arena, essentially flip-flopping my original game plan for the weekend. Here I was the only female player in the game, but at least it was a game that didn't have me rubbing my temples and shaking my head. Now, I said last week (or whenever) that my messing around with levels and multiple memberships was over for now as I want to focus on upping the ante and improving my game between now and the Armageddon. So I signed in as a level six for the rest of the night among a sea of level ones because (ego aside) this is much better quality practice than simply shooting at a gaggle of giggling screamers. And the results playing this way at least count for something...something that may not be earned in blood or tears, but definitely in sweat!

Here's an example of how/why this avenue has more value, OK, I was not first place overall operating with the disadvantage of the triple shot on the level ones, but being first among the level six players in this game means it was earned in terms of the overall better quality of the competition, so I'll take it :)

Comments or questions?
Websites: and

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Unexplored Option

Despite a tornado watch in the area I decided to brave the weather and head out for some laser tag tonight. Unfortunately, I was the only one. I hung out for 45 minutes, but when the crowds of players failed to show on this rainy night I decided to try to salvage some tag elsewhere. All things being equal I would have preferred to stay at Force, but since things were quiet I decided to visit an arena I don't think I have mentioned before in this blog (mostly because I haven't been to this center since well before I started blogging). It's the sister arena to the Zone center I frequent most often. I won't go into why I opted against playing here for so long, but I will say that when I called ahead to the other locations they seemed to be the only ones who were busy on this dreary evening.

They use Nexus packs here so I chatted with the owner about differences between Nexus and Rift packs. I took the opportunity to inquire about why they don't play more of a variety of the games with the infinite Nexus options. 

He says it's too complicated for the less avid player, unlike myself. I asked how it was that he pegged me as an avid player without ever having met me before. He said it was first because of the very fact that I was discussing the differences between Nexus and Rift and secondly because of my shirt...forgot what I was wearing. I guess I'm not really incognito tonight.

My first game I came in second by a shallow margin. That surprised me. Until the next round when there was a first time player so the game was explained and a point of note I was unaware of came up. Apparently in this arena you can get each of the bases twice per game instead of just once. Interesting...yep, that little fact would have covered the difference. Next game, knowing this useful tidbit, the win was mine.

Another interesting point with this system, if two players shoot a base at the same time they split the points. I was trying to convey that to my teammates, but in the heat of battle sometimes info doesn't take.

By the second half of the night I was texting the Force center to see if the turnout warranted my returning because things had gotten quiet where I was. Still, it was a change of pace, so I stuck with Zone. There were fewer players, but a few older, experienced guys were there to make it interesting. And two enthusiastic young boys who followed me around proclaiming to anyone in earshot that I was the gotta love an ego boost like that :)

Although this was not where I expected to end up tonight it was an enjoyable experience that gave me a chance to play in a different arena using some different equipment, which can only be an asset.

Speaking of assets, referring back to a goal of mine from a couple of weeks back, here's this month's top 10 list from where I play Force. Goal set, goal achieved...

And one final thought for the night, here's a plug for an upcoming event...

Phocon is returning to XP Lasersport in Laurel, Maryland! They are selling tickets in advance to make certain it can all be pulled together. If you love Photon and want to play with the original equipment that has been rebuilt to enjoy 31 years later, then check this out and support these guys in the next ten days!

Comments or questions?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Perpendicular Lines

Tonight I had an opportunity to practice some SM5. Thank goodness! It is rather humbling in a way because this is new territory for me. Now, I've shared plenty of stories of the experiences I've had playing laser tag all over the place and for the most part I walk away feeling like I am on top of the game...however you rise to the level of the water around you and now it's time to wade into deeper waters. That means learning some new things...and clearly I'm still learning. I think I am picking it up, but the only way to make progress is to dive right in and do it. So that's what I am doing and there is a lot to absorb. Each game continues to reinforce what I am seeing come into play, however the big thing I took away from tonight...perpendicular lines.

I observed an explanation of keeping sight lines for the sensors with a particular way of holding the phaser.

So for the rest of the night I made a conscious effort to hold my phaser in a perpendicular line to my upper body. I was VERY aware that this is not how I typically hold my phaser, perhaps in part because of how I play Zone where I can angle my shots sideways which allows me to protect my chest sensor with my arm. But this was good to be conscious of. And what I was equally aware of was this crazy/random earworm song from Square One TV in the eighties that got stuck in my head all night..."Perpendicular Lines". So, there's my takeaway from tonight. Where on earth did that come from?! Tomorrow...straight up tag...maybe with a nineties soundtrack :)

Comments or questions?


Sunday, June 7, 2015

How Did I End Up In Jersey?

Yes, I ended up in New Jersey. And that part of my weekend was AWESOME!!! Here's what happened on my weekend excursion to Staten Island.

I went down to Staten Island to support Tracee and Lauren who both did an AMAZING job in their big competition. However, that only took place in the evenings, so I had all of Saturday free. So I decided to explore some laser tag in the vicinity. Now, I explained a couple of days ago that just because I felt like playing during the day did NOT mean that I would be able to just anywhere. Out of nine laser tag facilities I called there were only two that told me I could just walk up during the day and play. So I began by going to the one I found just a few blocks from my hotel on Staten Island.

I drove to this location that was one of several businesses in a plaza. When I parked my car I looked around and realized that I was equidistant between a kids arcade (where the laser tag was located) and a...oh, let's go with "gentleman's club". The landlord has clearly used some excellent (read the sarcasm) judgment. Now, it's early in the day at this point and although they were open, there was NOBODY there. They said things start to get busy later on and that was that, so I decided to just move on and maybe stop back later if time allowed...even though I had a gut feeling about the place already. Sigh. Next...

So, how'd I end up in Jersey? That's where the next closest center that I could get into was located, in Eatontown. As I plugged it into my GPS I wondered how close Eatontown might be to Red Bank. As it turns out, they were VERY close. So Before heading to laser tag I made a slight detour and visited Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash comic book store (which some people may recognize as the location where the tv show Comic Book Men is filmed). This was not my first time here. I am a HUGE Kevin Smith fan. Actually, the last time I was here was about three years ago and when I walked into the store my jaw dropped because the man himself was standing right there (in town for the Q and A I had tickets for later that night).

I had the very slightest glimmer of hope that lightning might strike twice when I walked in. Well, no second time meeting Kevin Smith, however Walt from the show was there just doing his thing. He was very cool to take a photo with me and I had another fantastic visit to this store. If you're ever in Red Bank it is well worth stopping in.

Then I proceeded onward to my laser tag destination. I went to Funtime America in Eatontown and want to thank them for an excellent experience.

They use Laser Blast for their tag system and I was eager to play some Blast again since I hadn't had the opportunity since my Canada trip earlier this year. Now, they too were a bit quiet for laser tag that early in the day, however they had a much better attitude about customer service. When I said I wanted to play tag even though there was nobody else there to play they immediately offered to find a staff member to go one on one with me. I was introduced to the game master named Paul and immediately knew I liked this guy. When I walked into the briefing room he said "I should probably tell you I'm the best laser tag player in the building" to which I replied "Until I walked in". It was good spirited banter, but we put it on front street right away that we were both good and this game should be played out hard.

The arena was rather small and there were no bases or gems as I expected to see. Instead it was just about tagging each other in a one on one "Death Match" (his words, not mine). I put on my pack and played as "Ranger" while Paul played as "Super Fang".

The first game I played incredibly hard. Paul was an excellent player, however I really wanted to prove my worth here and I was gunning for the win (shocker, right?). When we came out of that first match he said to me "you weren't kidding when you said you were the best player in the building!" Thank you for the compliment. I won that first game 7480 to 4100.

We both came out of that feeling like we'd engaged in a really intense match. He also told me he hadn't had a good challenge like that in a long time. We took a few moments to catch our breath before going into the second match. Knowing better what he was up against this time the gap was a bit closer, although I still took the round. We thanked each other for a couple of good games and I left thanking the girl at the counter for facilitating the one on one. I would definitely return to Eatontown to play here again. It was well worth the trip to New Jersey!

Once I left I ran another search for laser tag facilities nearby where I was at that point. I called another Zone location within 10 miles, but once again I was told they were booked solid that day with parties and wouldn't take walk ups...sigh...back to Staten Island.

So once I was back in New York I went back to the first location from earlier in the day. Here they play Lazer Runner. I purchased two games and was sent up a stairway to join in the next available game.

I could tell before I started that this would be a tame experience. They had a full group going in as I arrived (no packs were left, so I would have to wait for the next round) and the game master said I could walk around and check it out. I did was a small, simple arena, quite typical of what I would expect for Lazer Runner. However, I walked it once and noticed that there were no bases. That surprised me. So points are for tags only here I guess. I asked about the bases and were told they are installed, but they just don't work. Also that the system was really old. And although it wasn't said until the end of the game, they had no individual ranking scoreboard or even a way to identify individual scores short of everyone comparing the number on the back of their phaser before handing back the vests. For real?

The party that had filled up the arena was leaving. I went in with the next game which was absolutely ridiculous. I played with a big guy and his two nephews. With four players I knew going in that this would not be any real challenge, but it could still have the potential to be fun...I was mistaken about that.

I could tell immediately that something wasn't right. I took several solidly placed shots against the big guy's vest and nothing happened...but he was able to get shots off against me. Clearly my shots weren't registering, so I asked to swap out my pack. However, once I returned to the game it was more of the same. Turns out that the problem wasn't my phaser not working. It was his vest sensors that weren't working. So what am I to do with that? I just avoided him in the arena as best I could from that point on since he could shoot me, but I couldn't do anything to him. That left only the younger ones to really play with. I was not originally trying all that hard to tag them. I was walking this game. It was already proving to not even be worth the time. Although I tried to play it out to be a sport. However, my desire for that was short lived. One of the kids would periodically be on the floor crawling around on his stomach in an effort to get a surprise shot from below. I suggested to him that he may want to get up before he got stepped on. And twice that same kid came up on me trying to cover the beam from my phaser or physically push it down. Needless to say the only thing I had left to combat the ridiculousness of this game was to just go at it. Yes, I an enormous margin. Do I feel great about that? No, not in this scenario. Do I think that game mattered in any way? Not at all. Was I irritated about the failure to offer a decent arena with equipment that worked? Um...yeah.

There was nobody left after that round and I asked the game master for a one on one. He said he was not allowed to do that. He also said if I didn't play my second game and went downstairs for a refund he'd vouch for the fact I only played one game and there was nobody else around. So I inquired about a refund and was told they wouldn't do that, but would either give me tokens or...I could play with the game master one on one. Didn't he just say that was not allowed? But with the permission of his boss it was suddenly like he'd just been granted a free pass to take a break. The guy behind the counter gave me a warning...He told me "You're playing against a pro. Don't let him hurt you in there." To which I rolled my eyes and said I wasn't really worried about it. In truth I was less concerned with whether the guy was good competition and more concerned with getting a vest that actually worked. We tested all the sensors before going in. Then we played hard. This guy clearly had as much of a point to make as I did. I must give him his due, he was very good and this was possibly the most interesting game of Lazer Runner I had ever played. He gave me a good run, but I can give it back as good as I get and when all was said and done we did NOT compare scores on a scoreboard (since there wasn't one) and instead we simultaneously turned our phasers around to see the results. Smile...I won.

Now, I would be unlikely to return unless this place gets their act together with the following...

Fixing the vests and ensuring the sensors all work
Fixing the bases so that the game can be played as intended
Fixing the scoreboard and/or getting one that shows all the individual results

However, the one on one game went a long way towards making me feel I had at least gotten my money's worth out of this visit. Thanks to the game master for a good run.

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

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Learning Experiences

Tonight was a good learning opportunity as I got to try out a few different games including the one that's about to become most relevant to me, SM5 (Space Marines 5). I showed up for a members night, but due to my work schedule I arrived late. When I walked in there was a game in progress and...knife in my heart...they were playing Photon without me!!! LOL, ok I am being intentionally melodramatic there. Apparently I had once admitted that I'm not really that into actually playing Photon (more adoring it as a concept with a healthy dose of respect for what brought me here) and so when I started this same line of lament there I was quickly called out on it. Smile...fair enough.

The first game I got to play was Dungeons and Dragons and there was so much complexity in the way that game was described that there is no way I could properly repeat it. Fortunately my role as a "warrior" did not require me to do much more than play a little regular laser tag while getting benefits from the "cleric" on my team and steering clear of the "thief" on the other team...I think. It was a fairly complicated game, but in the end I came in second on my team and third overall, so I figure that's not too bad for my first time playing this game.

After that I got to do what I came here for...get some experience with SM5 which is the tournament format and yet not a game that I would ever get a chance to learn on the average Friday night. The positions were randomly assigned and I took on the role of ammo alongside the medic. To be honest it uneventful game. However, I recognize this is because there were several new players being eased in and taught along the way. So in baby-stepping me into it I suppose I got a clear picture of how these two roles function...though I didn't really see that in practical play. However, I am so appreciative that I had the chance to do this at all. Big thanks to the nine other players who turned out tonight and especially to the veteran players who took the time to patiently teach us in the arena as we went along. This was a very valuable experience. I also really appreciate the extra effort being made to make sure I have ample practice time with some of the better players using this format before the Armageddon (and since I now know he has found my site I'll give a personal shout out...Hi Beanz...thanks!). It's actually a completely different experience segueing into the things that I need to know in the competitive laser tag world. Though anyone who knows my background probably isn't the least bit surprised that I'm once again jumping into another competition scene. In fact I think this is the ideal answer to everyone who has asked me in the last three months "what are you going to do with all your spare time?" (as if there was any) and the answer is...this.

Second to last game of the night was Wedlock. Short explanation...someone in the arena is your partner, you don't know who until you go through a process of elimination, but whatever happens to your partner registers to you also. I can describe this game very succinctly...W-T-F? Good heavens, this is not a good game! I think I was the only person in the arena to not locate my partner (well, I guess by definition I wasn't the ONLY person) until I realized at the end he had to be the person wearing the green pack...but the only thing I recognized was the color of the pack and I could not for the life of me figure out who was wearing it! Sigh. But it was still cool to try out some new games. I do enjoy having a variety of experiences under my belt. We wrapped up with a small game of Highlander (which I wanted to play to refresh my own memory before bringing in my team for the Highlander tournament next week)...let's just say it was time to call it a night. Had to head back anyway as tomorrow will be a long day, but wrapping up on the note of competitive nature...I want to wish both my girls Tracee and Lauren all the best. I couldn't be there tonight, but I'm in your corner ladies and can't wait to see you kill it again tomorrow!

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

Is This Normal?

I was very excited about the prospect of being able to play some Q-Zar during an upcoming trip where I will be close enough to make a drive to Long Island. When I learned there was a Q-Zar facility that close to my target destination (Staten Island) I figured it would be well worth making a day trip. Sadly, that will not be possible. In fact, I'm finding it incredibly difficult to make arrangements to play laser tag anywhere in that general area and it has really surprised me. I thought that by planning ahead I would be able to make reservations if necessary and be able to explore some new places and, if all went well, get some practice on this unfamiliar system prior to it coming up first at the end of the month. However, the problem is this...I am looking to play on a Saturday during the day. That's it. Silly me, I want to play laser tag on a weekend during the day since I have plans that will keep me from being able to play during the evenings. What I have discovered is that a great many places in the NYC vicinity (and by that I mean within a 50 mile radius of my hotel on S.I.) have their days committed to exclusive parties and will not take walk-up players. I called about nine different locations and, with only a couple of exceptions, found that either the facility was not the right match for what I wanted to do or, more commonly, was just booked solid during the day with their exclusive groups. Well, glad I am calling well in advance. I'm just a little astonished. Maybe I've been spoiled, but locally I take for granted I can hop in my car on the weekend and go play whenever I only concern being making sure there are other players around that early in the day. And in fairness, I don't usually play during the daytime...but it never occurred to me that I couldn't. So, I have to this normal? Am I in a fortunate locale where I have several choices that make it easy for me while the rest of the world has to plan around the "exclusive party" business? Is this maybe the norm in bigger cities? I don't know. I know I wasn't expecting it to be as big of a challenge as it appears to be and I will in all likelihood plot out a day trip into New Jersey (one facility in the Garden state said they were pretty well booked, but if I wanted I could get in between 10:00-11:30 A.M. so I guess I have to count myself lucky for any time) and just explore. Sigh. Quite a bummer though because I was definitely looking forward to the idea of playing some Q-Zar. Maybe next time.

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

An Interview with Erik Guthrie and a New Look for the Website

This past week I had a chance to interview Erik Guthrie, curator of the Laser Tag Museum in Louisville, KY. I thought he had some very informative and interesting views to share about the past, present and future of the laser tag industry...

Big thanks to him for taking the time to "talk tag". I am appreciative of the interview and I am also glad to be able to debut it along with the newly revamped website I have been preparing for the last few weeks. You can check it out here...

Or it's possible you might already be reading this right on the site because I am now hosting my blog in two locations. From now on you can find it under "Tiv Talks Tag" on the website and also in its original location at Whichever place you are reading this, I thank you for checking it out!

If you have comments or questions please visit my websites at (new version finally launched!) and or email me at