Friday, July 31, 2015

"You Got The Best One"

It had been about a month since I'd gotten back to play in Albany for some Zone Infusion, so I ended my day out east so I could take advantage of their Thursday night special. I have to say I was really impressed with the crowd they drew on a weeknight. There were steadily around 20-25 players, and past the first game they were all adult players. I could identify two factions that came group was college aged kids and I assumed they were all from the same local university. The other were employees from a local business who told me they were there taking part in a company challenge. So this was an excellent night because everyone was there to play the game hard.

I was there to play hard too and was off to a very solid start. I was consistently pulling the top score. In fact, the first four games in a row I took the top spot. I picked a pack at random in the beginning, but then I stuck with it all night, so I played as "Link". After four consecutive wins I must say the other team caught on and made a target out of me. By game five I could have used some team support because there were three guys there who came at me and I was a little irritated I could get no backup out of my team who was too focused on not leaving the bridge. I took third that game, but then came back for another couple of wins...was hoping for a perfect night, but at least I know my scores were earned because those guys were not giving it up without a fight.

I enjoyed the competition with these guys. All the more so because I was using my newly acquired hint from last week left and right on these guys...(is that courteous?) because I didn't know if it would work with the older equipment we were playing on, but it did :) One guy couldn't believe I was consistently getting the shot while right in front of him so mid-game he asked to change packs, convinced there was something wrong with his. Once he did I enjoyed continuing to do exactly what I was doing and prove that there was nothing wrong with either pack as my shots kept coming.

I chatted in the vesting room with a few of the employee challenge members. One woman asked if I was there to check out the competition as she noticed I was wearing my Laser Edge t-shirt picked up during the Armageddon. I said no, that Laser Edge was in Michigan and I was just there practicing tonight for a tournament. Another gentleman asked me a bit more about that and I explained that in this case when I say "practice" I just mean "keeping up the chops" and shared some of the differences between what we were doing here tonight versus what was involved with the upcoming competition. However, the best interaction I had all night was with another employee from the group who inadvertently (absolutely no ill intent here) gave me the most backhanded compliment I've ever received and here it is...

This guy looked at the name on my pack and saw I was again playing as Link. Then he told me I was lucky, I got the best pack because that "gun" has been getting the highest scores all night! Disregarding for a moment that he called it a gun (it's a phaser...this is not real battle) I had to take a slight bit of issue with the fact that he was giving all the credit to my pack. I tried to politely say it isn't the pack and he didn't quite get what I meant. Then one of the college guys spoke up and clarified, it's not the "gun", it's the person doing the shooting that racked up the scores. Ah...lightbulb. :) He followed up with another nice sentiment though by wondering aloud if since I was on his team if he could count my scores towards the company team's average. I hope they did well, however, I left before the second to last game. This Tivia is tired final round I was moving much more slowly and sniping from a corner because I was worn out after this long day. So I told the guys at the counter that "I'm too old for this (smile), I'm going home" and wrapped up another excellent night playing in Albany.

Comments or questions?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Practice with a Purpose

Last night was a small group, but a very solid night of tag and from the start it felt more purposeful to me than the average Saturday night. With the Philly tournament in mind Joe and I worked on "self-imposed" rules to follow to simulate tournament play as best we could in our arena that is really not set up for that. He had some friends there and the public players came in and out of games all night, but regardless of what anyone else did, for at least the first half of the evening we worked on shot rationing, proper base evacuation and walking through what would be reload stations (and once upon a time were reload stations in this arena, but haven't been used as such for many years) to simulate some of the things that will apply in the tournament, but don't generally apply to us any other time we play here.

Now, here's something I didn't know about myself...apparently when in the heat of battle I lack the ability to count quietly to myself in my head! To simulate the energy loss of taking shots and taking hits we just estimated that if for each you count up to 60 when either occurred you would know about what the equivalent power supply would equate to before a reload was necessary...and then we'd just walk through the place where the reload ought to be considering we were never really depleted of power. I thought this would be a good exercise to get accustomed to how much energy we are actually expending, because when it doesn't count I just shoot at everything (I've always cared more about score than accuracy). So I could feel this was making me more aware and breaking me of my normal habit. However, the point is I found myself unable to count in my head. For every shot I was muttering the number to myself under my breath, but you know how it is to play actively and more often than not I would tag someone out while simultaneously saying aloud "17!" Smile...just my funny observation.

From the way he was playing last night I know that Joe was a smart addition to the team. Most of the games went to him for top score and I was generally next in line. Sometimes I miss the days of feeling like queen of that arena (he has successfully taken me down a notch by bringing the level of play up a notch), but I respect that this just means a higher bar has been set. Dan said something last night (don't remember what) that made me reply with "I can hold my own against Joe" to which Dan answered "You can?" (which I know was inadvertent smack talk with no malice behind it)...but that exchange was enough to make me say "game on"...and count out loud a little bit more ferociously :) But seriously, last night was excellent practice because the games and the competition, small as they were, were good quality all the way around. And I appreciated learning a new tip for implementing the courtesy shot. So, I tip my hat to Bhodi and all the other players for an excellent night of practice with a purpose.

Comments or questions?

Friday, July 24, 2015

"How's NOT playing laser tag?" Well, Barney...


I'm ready to play laser tag. I find it really ridiculous that I can't.

Since the next tournament is a Zone competition I figured I would show up at the local center that uses Nexus and mix it up some. I also thought I'd use tonight as a solo practice opportunity before tomorrow when I hope to work on some teamwork with my local teammate. However, I am instead sitting here in the outer lobby NOT playing laser tag because the weather is beautiful and nobody has bothered to show up tonight. And while I am killing it at the Wheel of Fortune video game, this is most definitely not what I came here to all! Here's what I have achieved so far tonight...

It's been almost an hour now...

(Sound of crickets...)

Ok, Laserforce it is. Heading over to the other arena in hopes that there are people there, even though I know that the best regulars are pretty much all in Colorado at the NATS right now.

8:30...still haven't played any tag yet. Ok, a game is going in.

Beggars can't be choosers. This is a really tame game with some little kids and some bigger kids, but not a game where I belong. I didn't sign in as a six because I know I'm about to get chased be a swarm of little beings and I'm just not up for that. However, I don't want to be a monster so I'm not really chasing them. This is NOT playing laser tag. This is walking around an arena feeling like a bully who is fighting every impulse to play because it's not sporting. However, I came here for a game so if they cross my be it. Why is it so hard to just play some laser tag tonight?!

Another game. Signing in as six because it's the only way it's even close to right.

Free for all...with one other level six. However, he's pushing for the win by zeroing in on me, so we're at least entertaining each other. least it's a game...a very slight game. All in all this night is mostly a washout, so let me answer..."How's NOT playing laser tag?" Not nearly as good as playing laser tag will be tomorrow!

Addendum: For a couple of games Cass was putting me on a team with the older kids/teens playing against the really little kids and I couldn't quite grasp why. When I asked she said it was because the older ones didn't really know how to play and also because they were trying to tire the little ones out...ha, can do! Best moment of the night....when I deliberately turned my back on the littlest one who was lamenting "I'll never win" and he got his "ha-ha...I got you!" Then once the kids left we got to play some real tag with the handful of the better employee-players who were hanging out at that point. So...I did get to play some laser tag tonight after all :)

Comments or questions?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Collateral Damage" Gets an Education That Goes Right Over His Head (Literally)

I may not have mentioned it yet (in the mix of so many other things that have happened recently), but I will be playing on a laser tag team participating in the Philadelphia Invitationals in a couple of months, which I am really looking forward to as it is a tournament playing Zone. We will be using the most unusual looking Helios Pro phasers, so I will want to check these out in advance on my next trip to the Philly area, but I am really looking forward to it. I'm also happy to report that our final teammate joining us is Joe (aka Bhodi) from my local Zone center, so it's very cool that I will have someone to practice with locally as the entire rest of our team is all out of state. This news came together the next day following our average Saturday night of Zone where we were both there battling it out in the arena until right before the last hour. At that point the majority of the players who had been part of the evening decided to leave. However, I stayed and the arena took on a very different dynamic.

In the final hour I played the last two games with an unusual mix. Two young adults showed up with a VERY young child. These were not the young boy's parents (the parents were waiting out front...I'm thinking they might have been relatives or older siblings). In any case, the boy was much younger than I would expect to see in the arena that late (it was most certainly past a reasonable bedtime for this child), but he was excited to follow around the young guy while the girl was fiercely independent and ready to win this game on her own. We all went in and took different color vests (although the little one picked the same color as his older mentor) and we went into the arena and this is where I faced an unusual new challenge...consciously trying NOT to hit a moving target.

To be honest, sometimes slightly older kids in the arena are aggressive enough players that you just roll with it and play out the game. Hey, in some cases they may even get in more time in the arena than me! This was not the case here. This child was too tiny and just enjoying being with his "big bro" (or whatever the relationship was) and I did NOT want to zap him. However, throughout those two games it became increasingly difficult for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is he stuck like glue to the older guy and since there were only two bigger targets, occasionally I would aim for the adult and the kid would jump right in the way. And in the dark from a distance it was not always easy to tell how high up those lights were. So I joked that whatever the young boy's pack name was, we should just change his codename to be "Collateral Damage" because if I tagged him it was generally not deliberate...just in the wrong place while I was trying to get the other guy. So...oops for the times that happened.

The other reason not tagging him was a challenge was because there were times he and his buddy would come up towards me together. When that happened I would only aim for the older one, but the little one had an irritating tendency all through the game. He would aim his phaser at me and yell "DIE!" Now most of the time I'd let him at least get a shot off (because it really doesn't matter in a game like this and why not let the kid have fun...and he didn't get the shot every time anyway). However, something really bugged me about a person of any age wishing me to "die". Of course I know that's just how little boys play, but he said it so frequently during these games that I felt compelled to impart some words of wisdom (that went totally over his head and unheard) as I made a half-hearted effort to let him know we aren't actually killing people, so "die" is not the best thing to shout at an opponent of any size. Maybe "I got you" or "zapped" would be more appropriate.

I pondered why "die" struck a chord tonight (as I'm certain this is not the first time kids have been like that around me in the arena and I probably didn't think much of it before). I think after having recently interviewed George Carter and hearing firsthand about how even thirty years ago they took steps with terminology, etc. to diffuse the "war-like" perception of laser tag and be clear with people that it is NOT a violent sport, that this night I just had a need to keep that education going. Now, as I say, I know that my words did not register with this child. He was just having fun getting into the game as he saw it. But thirty years ago this message was being reinforced by the laser tag players of the day, so for anyone who has any misconceptions about laser tag being in any way "violent" (which it is not) I would encourage you to watch this feature from around the very least check it out starting at around the 8:00 minute mark...

Let's keep it positive...and no matter what John Stossel says, laser tag beats volleyball hands down! :)

Comments or questions?

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Scenic Route

When my Phocon weekend was nearly over I played a final game of Photon, calling it my "one for the road," and I started back towards New York. However, I decided to take a few detours along the way. I looked at the route on my GPS and decided that I would stop at as many laser tag centers as I could that were reasonably located near my route. So for each city I was going to pass through I ran a search using (a great site for which I recently learned Bill, our team captain from Armageddon, is responsible) to find nearby locations. Early in the day I had some challenges (which should not have been totally unexpected since laser tag tends to pick up later in the afternoon/evening)...I would have loved to play a bit more Darklight at the Shadowland location in Columbia, but when I stopped all they had was a private party and no other players. I figured that was likely, but I took a shot. My second attempt was to see if there was anyone at the second XP Lasersport location in Owings Mills (which, in fairness, they told me they didn't have a group booked until 2:00), but I was still too early. So I continued onward and my third attempt was a success.

Once I was in Pennsylvania I detoured into Hanover and found a game using Lasertron equipment at a family amusement center called Hickory Falls. I purchased a single game and waited outside the briefing room.

Entering the room with me were four athletic looking guys in their mid-to-late twenties. This game would just be the five of us playing a free for all...and let's just say they didn't look overly concerned about me. We watched the briefing video and were let into the vesting room where we were instructed to take any pack we wanted. Now, I had some expectations of what a Lasertron location would be like...and this was very different. There were no bases. There were recharge stations, however recharging was not necessary at all in this game, so I don't quite know what the purpose was other than to have a location to return to after each game. The twenty minute session was broken into two ten minute games. With no bases and no special chips this game was simply about tagging the other players and nothing that's what I did. And I am pleased to report that Tivia made a comeback.

Those guys never saw me coming! I made my way to the upper level right away while they all stayed on the lower level. That height advantage makes a huge difference and I was sniping away without a great deal of resistance...which was strange since they all said they had played before and certainly looked like they could be formidable. However it felt great and the game gelled for me immediately. I felt like I do when I'm having a really "on" night at my home arena. At the end of the ten minutes a voice came over the speakers directing us to return to our recharge station. My pack started to ding and indicated to me that I was the high score player. Smile. My intuition had already told me that, but I enjoyed the affirmation.

Then we went right back into a second ten minute round and I was still feeling really on my game...meanwhile it appeared that the guys were upping theirs. The first round I went in underestimated. This next time out they knew where I liked to perch, so I had to move around a bit more, bobbing and weaving on both levels. And even though it was a free for all I think they started to join forces because I had them targeting from both ramps and eventually trying to take the upper level. However, I was shooting fast and furious (my accuracy was atrocious, but my score was excellent) and at the end of it all I left feeling like I had a great workout and was on top of the world. My pack once again affirmed that I was the high score player...I love that sound...and we went out to pick up our scorecards.

We were only given one card reflecting the scores from the last game. I inquired about why there were no scores from the first game and I was mildly irritated because I believe the answer I got was, well...not quite the truth. They told me there were no scores for the first game because it was just a warm-up session to get familiar with the equipment and it didn't really count. Didn't really count?! Warm up game?! None of that was ever said. And none of that makes sense...the game doesn't "count"? Count for what? This was casual Sunday afternoon public laser counts for nothing, but a few minutes of fun and possibly a bit of an ego boost. What does that mean "it doesn't count"? What I think it really means is someone forgot to print the scores, but...whatever. I was handed the scores from the second ten minute match. And here's how it went...

Incidentally, I was player 08. Even though we filled out a computer profile/waiver that included a request for a player codename it was apparently not used. However, I was very happy with my performance and I bought a t-shirt before getting back on the road and continuing onward.

Further along my route I came across the Carlisle Sports Emporium...

This place was also identified on the web as a center having Lasertron equipment, but unlike the first place I played it was much more similar to the Lasertron I had experienced in Amherst. After a weak showing in this system at Armageddon I really had a strong desire to do well here. Not that a public game on a Sunday afternoon was on the same level, but it was a good re-entry for me that helped me feel enthusiastic about the prospect of playing more Tron in the future.

This time around I understood a lot more and the act of playing again just reinforced the concepts I've mulled regarding Lasertron. The game master gave very clear descriptions and tips about what to do if/when you received the rapid fire chip (the only special feature in play). This time I felt more ready. I understood the tagging (which is quite different from other laser tag in that you aren't tagged "out of commission" with just one's more like 20 shots before you are sent back to the recharge station). And I also better understood the value of tagging the base as well as how your opponents could really do some damage while you are there and while you are retreating. Well, now I get it...a little late, but I understand it much better now. And in understanding the game better I also knew what I could do to play it better. And I still believe that the answer lies in getting the base. So I did...a lot. I got the high score in the first game (and was second place the next) by racking up base points, especially when I had the rapid fire ability.

Of course the other team tried to shoot me down while I was going for the base and also when I was retreating afterwards, but with a little practice I got a feel for how far I could push it and still come out ahead in points...and I am so glad that it worked. Coming out of that game successfully really made a difference in my attitude about playing more Lasertron in the future. It put a positive spin on something I had recently been left with negative thoughts about. Now I feel recharged and ready to take on more of this system. When the new facility opens in Rochester later this month I will definitely have to pay a visit. I think you need to strike when the iron is hot and play when the momentum is high. That's how I felt coming off of this whole weekend, particularly these last couple of experiences, and this trip along the scenic route has done wonders for getting my mentally psyched up to get back to doing my thing in my home arenas. I am ready and can't wait to play some more laser tag again next weekend.

Comments or questions?

To See What Lurks in the Shadow(land), Pull Out a Darklight

While in Maryland I met up with my friend Jessica and we went out for some laser tag following a dinner gathering in Washington, D.C.

Jessica, Christina and I went to Shadowland in Gaithersburg, which is a facility that uses the Darklight system. I have only played Darklight once...the last time I was in town for Phocon a year I was looking forward to playing something a little different. Well, different is exactly the right word for it, starting right with the equipment.

The most distinctive thing about this system has got to be the phaser. It is HUGE! A bit heavy, definitely unwieldy and just...crazy looking as phasers go...

We got there a bit late in the evening and had time for two rounds. The first one was a game of werewolves...(groan)...basically quite similar to the vampire game and not really worth any further explanation than that. I was hoping for something a little more standard, but it was a good time and a chance to get re-acclimated with the equipment.

What struck me most about the way the equipment actually played was the distance necessary to make a sensor react. It appears that if you get too close perhaps the protective bubble surrounding the sensor on the phaser must alter how the beam hits. I observed while shooting that distance shots were easy, but if I was close to an opponent the shots didn't always seem to take. Maybe this is normal...or maybe this is just why some people have the opinions they do about the functionality of this system's equipment. Either way, it was interesting to feel the differences in equipment while playing.

For the second game we played a more standard game (although I think it was similar to supercharge, I didn't catch the terminology they used). It included a special feature...invincibility, which was decided before we began. This was more like it! I felt like I really got to play this round and the competition was good. There were a few guys there who definitely had some experience and it was a much more athletic match than the first game. From out of the darkness I heard someone repeat the phrase "Who is Tivia 13?" several times. Smile. I loved hearing that question because I knew it meant I was tagging him a lot. I was a bit surprised that my rank stayed steady (no movement either way the entire game), but I knew I was playing hard and I tried not to think too hard about scores considering my goal for the weekend was just to enjoy the games. So I let those little comments be my recognition and left feeling great. It was such a joy to get to share my love of laser tag with Jessica and Christina. Thanks for joining me ladies!

Comments or questions?


I love to hit the open road, so I was really looking forward to the drive to Phocon 2015 being held at XP Lasersport in Laurel, Maryland. When I left the arena in Syracuse on Friday night I just drove until I could drive no longer (putting me somewhere in Pennsylvania when I decided to find a hotel for the evening) and then I continued on my way to Maryland the next morning. And when I arrived there was a wonderful feeling of enthusiasm in the air as people were enjoying playing Photon, the game from 1984 that had brought us from all over to enjoy some authentic laser tag nostalgia. Fundraising had taken place over the last month to be able to restore the vintage equipment and take over this center for the weekend (perhaps the only place still in active operation with the actual original equipment and a modified Photon alpha field for play). Upon arrival I was handed my passport and a bag with this year's official t-shirts and my game passes.

Excellent! Then I headed up to the observation deck to check out what was going on with the game in progress. I love taking in the whole atmosphere. It makes me feel like I am/was a part of this cool era in laser tag's history...even though I've pointed out many times that I was only five years old when Photon was launched and I only get to live the nostalgia vicariously through these special events. Photon truly is my first laser tag love (even though I was not a first generation player) because it planted the notion of laser tag in my head when I was young and is the basis upon which all the laser tag I love today was built. I love to be a part of this and Phocon is my opportunity to get in the after a few moments of watching from above it was time to get out there and play some Photon!

Let me walk you through the experience of getting ready to play. First, all players must put on a hair net style disposable protector before putting their head into a helmet. There is certainly a grunge factor to playing with 30 year old equipment (especially considering how hot people get while running around in the arena). Next you put the strap around your neck and attach the belt to secure your chest pack before putting the helmet on your head.

I found it easier to put on the battery belt and plug in the power cord before removing the phaser from its base.

Once you are wearing all the equipment properly you hand your ID passport to the attendant who will scan you in and make sure your phaser syncs up and you are then ready to play.

Now this gear is intended for playing the game, but I couldn't let an opportunity pass to take a few photos...

And one of the first people I recognized upon arrival was Photon Chris, so he jumped into some photos too...

Now, let me fess up. I discovered something surprising last year that continues to hold true and evidenced itself rather quickly. In spite of the fact that I am generally good at laser tag...well, I am STILL absolutely lousy at Photon! I don't know why this is the case, especially considering my affinity for it, but this will give you an idea of just how badly I played (and don't worry, I redeemed myself later in the weekend)...

But you know the most wonderful thing...I genuinely don't care! I had a blast just getting the chance to be part of it and it was refreshing to play without any hang-ups about winning because I knew before I even arrived that it was a completely moot point. Instead I just enjoyed the experience for what it was and that was refreshing and absolutely needed.

In between games I chatted with some of the other players. I enjoyed talking with Ed, a former Kenilworth, NJ Photon player as we sat in front of a display case with some memorabilia items.

Then he looked at the case and asked "is that you?" What do you know, someone must have pulled some photos from my website (which was flattering...what a nice surprise!) and sure enough, there's the photo of me standing next to George Carter at last year's event on the front of the display...

Very nice! In fact, the whole day had been wonderful. Well, there was one unfortunate thing. A friend who is connected with all this and had planned to pay a visit to the event inadvertently got the dates wrong and rather than be in Maryland hanging out with us all he was in his office in California thinking it was happening two weeks later. Ah...sigh. However, I had made plans with my local friend Jessica for that evening (more on that in another post). When she picked me up at the Phocon event I wanted to introduce her to what Photon was all about. So we got her suited up and we had a chance to play a match together.

I'll momentarily skip ahead past how I spent Saturday night (playing Darklight at another laser tag facility) and jump to Sunday morning. I went back for a bit more Photon before I hit the road, however I arrived early enough that the games for the day had not yet started. Instead Marc (the owner of XP Lasersport who made this event possible) let me go in and take some great photos of the arena...

And when I left I was filled with such appreciation for the fact that I got to enjoy such a wonderful escape from reality and hang out with some great people who share my love for the granddaddy of all laser tag, the original laser sport, Photon.

Comments or questions?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Back in the Water, Baby!

In route to Phocon I stopped along the way in Syracuse to play a couple of rounds of tag (Force). If Armageddon was like laser tag Jaws then two weeks should be enough time for me to get back in the water (I did need to lay low for some recovery time).

There was a nice vibe of familiarity going back for a regular night of laser tag. One girl came up to me right away and said "Tivia, you haven't been here in forever!"

I noted that in actuality it has really only been two weeks, but I appreciate that my absence was noticed. I also appreciated this little exchange...

"What do we charge Tivia these days?"
"Whatever the gold member rate is. Depends on when she shows up. If she gets here after 9:30 I don't even charge her."

If I haven't recognized it already (which is possible since I have no idea what the rates even are...only that I'm happy to play here) I just want to say thanks for taking such good care of me as a player. Also, I want to wish these same guys all the best of luck in next week's Laserforce NATS (just in case I don't get back to say so before you all leave for Colorado).

Now, back into the water...

Honestly, I have higher expectations for myself than what I brought to the party tonight. Maybe I'm just wading back into the water?

For the first couple of games, although I was playing with a couple of the serious players (who I suspect were not playing all that seriously tonight) and some seriously NOT serious players (very young level one kids...who I simply do not even want to zap regardless of being signed in), I can't say that this night was my best showing on any front. I'm reminded of a line that only half of my peeps will remember..."Who is this tense and negative person? Who are you?" And if you know the line, you know the answer. I told myself "you are better than this, time to show it". But as I sat and cogitated between rounds I decided that I actually don't need to show it or feel like I have anything to prove (to myself or anyone else). I just need to return to a time when I played just to play for "fun" rather than "prep" or "improvement". I think I need to just have a night where I don't even look at the score...even though that goes against every competitive bone currently holding my body up! 

Thankfully, this is a pitstop on the way to exactly the kind of weekend I probably need where I can disregard numbers entirely and play just to enjoy playing. I am escaping real life (again) and going to play some old school Photon. I also plan to meet up with a friend for some Darklight while I'm there. The beauty of both these systems is I have no expectations, which does afford me a sort of freedom to just enjoy the experience again. I am not going into either game for any competitive reason. I suspect this is the ingredient that will bring back the fun. 

That is not to say I didn't have fun tonight...I did and I always do. It's just that some nights it just gels better than others and two weeks away suddenly feels like maybe I have been away "forever"...but for the rest of this weekend I set that all aside and now it's off to Phocon (after a quick but crucial stop at Burger King for sustenance)!

Comments or questions?
Websites: and


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

An Interview with George Carter III, Inventor of Photon and Founder of the Laser Tag Industry

This past week I had the opportunity to interview George Carter III, inventor of Photon and founder of the laser tag industry, and I want to thank him for taking the time to share some wonderful stories about the history of Photon. It was such an honor for me to have the chance to talk with him and I hope you will enjoy hearing what he had to say...

Many thanks to the man who started it all. :)

Comments or questions?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Armageddon Reflections

It has taken a couple of days for me to properly process what happened during my first laser tag Armageddon. I will say this was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. It was both physically and emotionally draining during a time in my life that was already physically and emotionally draining in other ways, but this took things to a whole different degree of rigor.

When this experience began I took a great deal on faith. I travelled to Buffalo to meet up with four men who were complete strangers to me in the beginning as we embarked on the journey to go through this competition together. I learned more than I ever expected to over the course of spending five days in three states and playing seven systems. Some of what I learned includes the following:

·        I may be a big fish in a small pond as I play laser tag locally, but there is a huge ocean out there. I need to come back bigger, better and badder the next time around...and I will.

·        When you think you don't have anything more left in you, that is not the time to quit. This is when you must keep going without complaint and do not ever let "tired" keep you from giving everything and then some because this is not about "you". It's about the team.

·        Moving outside your comfort zone is okay and sometimes even necessary to allow you to take on things you didn't think you could. This whole deal was something that moved from intriguing, to exciting, to intimidating, to rewarding. How lucky am I that I got to be a part of it?

A few words for my teammates:

Bill: Thank you for taking me onto your team and making me feel welcomed as a first time Armageddon player. There were so many things I learned and experienced for the first time and you always gave a push to keep me going as hard as I could. I wanted to give all I had out of respect for you and this team.

Carl: You are a powerful force to be reckoned with and I am grateful that you made me feel so welcome from the get go. I hope every Armageddon keeps getting better and better and I am glad to have been on your team for this one.

Ziggy: Even in the face of disappointments you kept things positive, always constructively giving great suggestions for tactics and techniques to help us improve and adjust our game every step of the way. I consider it an honor to have had the chance to play on a team with you and I also wish to congratulate you on your status that is now legally recognized. All my best to you on whatever you decide in the future.

Ben: I am so glad that you have found this sport and are using it to get out and about and make social connections. There are many great people in the laser tag community and you are one of them. Stay on the right track and I hope you knock 'em dead at your Laser Storm nationals.

Georgio: Your laser tag heart and desire to improve your skills at every turn are absolutely inspiring. Playing alongside you was a pleasure. I hope that we can play some tag again next time you are back in the states...I'm not too far from some Quest here in NY!  

Andrew: I learned a great deal from you over the weekend...mostly about chips! I appreciate how passionate you are about Tron and everything else that you do. Hope you get the chance to go to Baltimore and have a blast.

Wil: You rock twelve ways to Sunday. Perhaps someday I'll get the chance to tell you a very long story (not quite as long as Andrew might tell, but...) and you will better know why it is that I am so glad that I had the chance to get to know you over the course of these intense five days as we went through this together as Armageddon newbies. What can I say? Build that house!

I want to say big thanks to Ricky Vega for coordinating this whole mad thing. When I told people what it was that I was doing and shared the schedule they told me I was crazy, wondered if this escapade was sponsored by Monster Energy Drinks and didn't quite understand why I would put myself through it. I can't say that I know "why", but I do know I am so glad that I did. Thank you for making this possible.

As I have spent the last couple of days recovering from being part of the Armageddon I have replayed many moments over and over in my head. This was surreal. This was indescribable. And this was...exhausting!

Comments or questions?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Armageddon - Days 4 and 5

On Sunday we had a slightly later start (on the bus by 7:00 A.M.) to head over to the Laser Quest arena. I've already addressed my feelings about this game earlier in this blog, but it is what it is and at least this one is more about shooting than strategy. However, you have to question any game that begins with "find out which sensor on the pack works and just shoot at that".

I have played Quest several times, but this was the first time I can recall playing on teams as opposed to free for all, so there's another element that was different from my previous experiences. Another thing that was different was that four teams went into the arena at once. The arena had a long strip of tape splitting it into two halves and we were instructed "don't shoot across the tape". Sheesh...that makes it difficult to get certain angles and for what it's worth, that didn't seem to keep people from doing what they wanted anyway. At one point some helpers started carrying chairs into the arena. Are we playing laser tag sitting down now? Ha! No, the chairs were used to make a more solid barrier under the tape because apparently some people were stepping under the tape to use more of the arena than was permitted. Really? Sigh.

I could tell this was frustrating for some on our team as the game lends itself in many ways more to chance than skill. However, you can't just not do it, so carry on soldier. Truthfully, I find it a little maddening too. Not that my showing was great, but a score variance from 351 to dropping into double digits was not something I had every experienced before (the last Quest game I played before this I think I was in the 700s, so it was a bit disheartening to see where even my top scores fell). But at this point the writing was on the wall. Although most of my team was still holding their breath for Tron later that night.

OK, here we go. I have only played Tron once in my life (well a couple of games, but one visit to the arena in Amherst) and my take away from my pre-Armageddon experience was this...try to score points and shoot the base. Apparently, I had this game all wrong. This was the system that seemed to mean the most to our team and yet I felt like there was absolutely nothing I could contribute here, and this is why...

All I heard about for three days was "we've gotta play with chips, we've gotta play with chips" (mind you, I was rooming with Andrew, so I probably heard this more than anyone else in the whole tournament, but it was echoed by several others as well). This was not something that I expereinced previously. I do remember having the option to select certain settings on the phaser (like spy mode) from my previous experience, but in this Armageddon they were playing with random chips that would just be assigned to you sporadically during the game. The chips that you could get were "energizer" (the power to recharge your teammates from wherever you were in the arena), "deactivator" (the power to take an opponent out with one shot) and "stealth" (the power to briefly avoid getting shot). Since our captain is a Tron employee he was assisting with...I don't know what exactly, set-up his brother Cage was giving our team the rundown. I suppose I misunderstood something he said because I remembered him referencing that you could be a shield at the base if you got stealth mode. Well, first game out my first feature is stealth. In a moment of panic I turned to Georgio and said, I'm stealth, what should I do, but he didn't hear me. Meanwhile I heard the whole opposing team calling me out as having the stealth mode. So, in a moment of gutsiness I thought, if they can't shoot me, I should try for the base. Well...from the yelling that ensued from our captain informing me that stunt cost us a thousand points and telling me to NEVER go for the base...I resigned myself to not having the foggiest idea what this game was about after all. Good thing I have a thick skin from years of working in sales or that yelling might have hurt my feelings...worse. But I was not the only one to be rattled by the game. One of our players grabbed a pack with the wrong number and as a result had no score to show at all for that game and took some heat from some for that costing us the game. I want to take a moment to defend him. In hindsight, I think it is very possible that nobody actually instructed him that he had to look to the monitor to see which number he was supposed to pick up. In all the other games one pack was as good as the next and for someone who has never played before this would be a completely understandable oversight if clear directions were not given. If I hadn't played before I might not have known to pick up a specific pack either because I can't recall this ever being addressed. In fact I think there were several times when instructions were given in such a rushed manner to not lose time that relevant things may have been glossed over for all the systems (or maybe just assumed to be understood by those who had played before even though there were a number of us first-timers in the event). So, while the heat wasn't on me for very long I did choose to take a walk for my own mental reset and then Georgio and I found the player who made the mistake and made sure he was ok. After all, this is just a game.

The next few rounds our leader put me in the best position I could be in...noisemaker. There were no expectations of my being any good at Tron after that first game (which was probably for the best as the intensity of some of my teammates had rattled me), so instead Bill had me guard the base and just call out loudly who got what chip (as I could clearly watch the monitor) and scream bloody murder whenever someone reached the base. Fine by me, tough to screw that up. And I think I was able to make an ever so slight contribution by shooting at the opponent until the real Tron players could get to the base...and occasionally they did. I would love to say this evening didn't kill my desire to learn and improve at Tron, but to be honest I am going to have to really work to get my enthusiasm back for trying this one again. We'll see how I feel by the end of this month when the new Tron location opens in Rochester.

The next morning was another early start and we were playing Zone, which is my home system. As the only regular Zone player I was given a bit of deference for my opinion on how to approach. Oddly, this was a bit jarring to have that weight put on me. Normally when I play Zone I play solo. I go for the high score and don't worry about the rest of my team. But that's because I've never played in a tournament and the team result does not actually mean anything to me on a casual Saturday night. There is a whole other element when you have to consider the welfare of the team, even knowing what I am typically capable of. I studied the map and made a strategy recommendation based on what I would do if I was playing at home.

It didn't work as well here, but I stand by it nonetheless. I was surprised to feel such a weight on me for the system I thought I would enjoy the most. Bill asked me how good a Zone player I am and I told him that after playing this far in the tournament I couldn't really gauge it any longer, but that I average in the 20,000s on Infusion and have hit as high as the 30,000s (yes, it's lower when I play Rift or Nexus, but how do you answer a question like that anyway?) which he said "I don't know what that means. Can you beat Assassin?" Incidentally, Assassin is probably the best Zone player in the nation and had come in as an alternate to play this system. "Um, no I can't beat Assassin...can you beat Assassin?" Well, I only said the first part of that out loud and just thought the second...apologies, I was a little tense. Then, suddenly shaken by a weird feeling of pressure I went outside to psyche myself up with my laser tag anthem that always helps me get into the right head space. Incidentally, if you want an empowerment song, here is mine...

We played the first couple of games trying to take the bases out first and ending up in dog fights. I was relieved that, even though our team lost, there were games that I took first place on the team at least and some where I was second on the team. In my home system I really wanted to do well here.

It may not have been the best I've ever played...then again, maybe it was. Score aside, I was playing with some of the best so inevitably whatever happened in there was happening at a much higher level, so maybe I need to be thankful that I got to play at that level at all. For the final few games our captain switched strategy. We all collectively rushed the second level (which was more like a spiral ramp building to an apex cage at the top) and just shoot down at everyone from below. The logic being, why take on a dogfight when you can snipe. It was more fun this way, if no more effective. And since this version of Zone include reload stations (something I don't have to deal with in any of my local arenas since the base reloads have long since been removed) when I had an excuse to return to the lower level I figured, nothing to lose, I'd try for bases. And you know what...I got them. We didn't take the games, but I know at the very least I went down fighting and doing what I know how to do. I'm glad that this was the system we went out on. And at this point the Armageddon was over. The results were the Swedish team "Rage Before Beauty" in first place, "Here Comes the D" in second and "#Rekt" in third...narrowly beating out my local friends who were playing on "ZAPOC" (Zombie Apocolypse), the team that tied for third before a tiebreaker decided it. After all this I was ready to get back on the bus to go home and absorb what just happened. I think I will need a whole other posting to properly recap my first Armageddon experience.

Comments or questions?