Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fighting Idiocy with a Laser

Since I am scheduled to be a "Diva" for work tonight (not unlike all those other times I'm a diva at work when it's NOT scheduled, but this time it's for a special event) I decided to play laser tag last night instead. Not sure if that decision was for better or for worse, but it was certainly... interesting. We started late and I had a couple of easy rounds against a group made up mostly of high school girls that appeared to be on an athletic team together. However, by the third game the dynamic had thoroughly changed. There was a group of young guys - athletes, either high school seniors or first year of college I'd guess - who showed up. As we entered the vesting room I said to Kimmy, "this should be interesting."

I knew that I would probably beat these guys easily and I kind of enjoyed doing so. Why? Because they were behaving like TOTAL asses. Now, I'm sure they came in expecting to win and couldn't have been too thrilled to see me taking the higher placement each round, but from the get go they were acting rowdy, cocky and obnoxious to everyone in that arena, but especially towards me. I was so glad my aim was on the mark this night because I was tagging them at every turn. I pretty much left the girls on the other team alone and just focused my energy on targeting these guys.

While it was fun for me to stomp them on points each round I couldn't believe some of the crap they were pulling. One of them actually catapulted the wall over the blue base and landed on the lower bridge feet first. Another (I think...could've been the same one) was scaling walls and jumping off parts of the arena he should have never have climbed on in the first place. Not sure how it escaped notice. And please realize I'm noting it now only because it was idiotic, not impressive. At least one also had a habit of running his mouth and saying some really inappropriate things...and in this case these boys I'd never met were making very uncalled for insinuations about me, apparently stemming from my playing ability and how fast I tagged them out...astounding how teenage boys can take ANYTHING and make it the source of innuendo. But remembering that I was the "adult" in this situation I called him out and "corrected" that much because there is quite a difference between smack talk and being thoroughly out of line. These boys need to learn it. They also need to learn not to hate on someone who has more practiced skills. So often I see athletes come in anticipating that laser tag will be yet another game they are immediately good at, but frankly it's all the time spent practicing that really accounts for my scores. Heaven knows I'm way older and more out of shape than any of these young athletes, but my sniper shot is well honed from consistent playing time and I know how to hit my mark in this arena above anywhere else.

Towards the end of the night the man I perceived to be the girls' coach (or at least a father of one of them) came over to me and said he wanted for all of us to beat those guys. I nodded my agreement and teamed up with the girls. Since I had been playing for points on lesser teams all night (some evenings I just gravitate to the team with the least players for balance) I was beating the guys on solo score, but technically their team score (with more players) was higher. So this time we set out to earn a total team win. The girls took more bases, I didn't need to watch my back with any other team color (except with the game master, Kevin, who jumped in and went rogue playing green by himself) and by the end we had earned a solid team win...and I walked out of there with another first place notch (which continued to be an additional thorn to those guys). I had used the Legend pack (which had a battery I could tell was dying) and at the end they had switched from their earlier unacceptable language to saying things like "she is a legend". Smile...recognize, boys.

Then during the last game something changed. Their demeanor turned more hostile and they were chasing me down and surrounding me in groups. Not in a sporting way...more like to hold me captive in the game. I could sometimes fend off at least one, but I needed backup too. Kevin played backup (and I'm assuming he was not calling them out on it because it was the final game of the night and probably less hassle to just get through it and go home). I was still taking points, but the stunt did knock my score down. When we exited the arena I realized I had come in second to Kevin...but they didn't. He and I were the two top scores. However, when those guys saw it they just assumed that my score continued to be the highest and it seemed to infuriate them, so I just shrugged and didn't correct the assumption...Kevin, if you kept quiet, I owe you one! :) There seemed no real harm in letting them continue to think that, especially on the heels of the way they played that final game and the fact that I had legitimately triumphed over that idiocy all night. And so they left that arena having faced the wrath and suffering the defeat at the phaser of Tivia...and we all went our separate ways, which was invariably for the best.

The end.

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tagging with my Toronto Guys and Teammates

I always have the best time when my friends from Toronto get to visit!

...ok, technically the otters were already here.  ;)

I missed seeing Ilana this time around, but the rest of my crew made their way down to Rochester yesterday for a visit and some laser tag along with Steve and Rick who joined in for some fun at Lasertron.

So much I enjoyed about this experience. First, returning to the tactical arena and NOT feeling like the game was going to kill me (see Snowmageddon for clarification on that). This time we actually played the tactical game in the tactical arena and it was fun again. I enjoyed being able to share some strategy with Steve who landed on my team while Ankur and Rick were getting in some good shots for the other side. In a way I appreciate that at Lasertron they randomize the teams so you don't know who you are playing against. To that end, I discovered I also really didn't know who I was playing with on my own team until the end when a girl I didn't immediately recognize came up to me to return a lipstick I had dropped. We paused momentarily, each thinking the other looked familiar...turned out to be Madison, another young woman I know from the sparkly hat world and now (considering I've also played tag with Tracee and Lauren) I can say I have now played laser tag with more titleholders from the state class of 2015 than anyone else can claim...actually that statement was probably true just with Tracee, but still.

Fun the last two years this girl has held the alternate/sister title to two of the titles I held back in my own competition days...

It was cool to run into Madison unexpectedly in Rochester (in part because we both live on the other side of the state, so who expects that to randomly happen?) doing something that neither of us likely expected to see the other doing since we mostly only encounter each other at dressy, formal competitions (or the rehearsals before where I am usually running the sound equipment).

I was pleased with my scores in the game...

And also seeing that I was among the top scores of the day to boot...

After leaving Lasertron we paid a visit to the House of Guitars (nothing to do with laser tag, just a cool place to check out in Rochester) before the Toronto crew headed back and I continued on to play a little Laser Quest while I was in the area. This is when I started to realize just how much I have gained from tournament competition. Until Snowmageddon I think I have always treated Laser Quest as more of a sniper game (well, I suppose I want to turn everything into a sniper game since that's kind of my thing), but during the tournament I realized that was the wrong way to play it. It's all about dog fighting. And while you can't play as severely during a public game, in principle it is still true and I played it way more one to one implementing those skills and, WOW, did it feel like a whole different game! I was playing against a group of high school seniors (maybe early college students based on their apparel) and a few guys who talked a good game (telling some of the players to just follow them like they had some experience) I had no difficulty taking the top placement here and I attribute that in part to the tips and skills I picked up in tournament play.

When I was done playing Quest I decided to head back east, stopping over to the Laserforce center for the last couple of hours of play. When I got there I found Joe, Tommy and Tyler had all shown up (can't remember the last time we were all at tag at the same time) and it looks like our league team is shaping up to be the Return of the Jim Jim Squad with that roster plus one, so it was a cool first to play with them all in this arena. So we played a few good rounds, I played on each one of my memberships (, maybe time to update the scoreboard again?) and I suspect the guys made their mark because I was around to hear an employee suggest balancing out the teams to compensate for "her crew that knows what they're doing." Smile at that.

I smile at something else also. You may remember my little rant about the meaninglessness of unlocking achievements and how some of them mean very little and others mean absolutely nothing. Well, I had occasion to acquire two completely meaningless achievements by helping Lenny to test a pack mid-game. Now, he warned me not to go bragging about them on Facebook because they wouldn't mean anything to anyone. I'll pause here to say that if I was going to brag about anything online, first, it wouldn't be on Facebook, and second, it wouldn't be about these silly achievements...however, I will tell the story anyway.  :)

So, he and Sanch are walking through the arena and his pack is lit up like a Christmas tree with multi-color lights. I don't know why or what he was doing. While I was tucked into a cubby Sanch told me to shoot at the pack...maybe just because I was there, but I think more likely because I was the only level six player signed in. I had no idea what I was testing, but when it was over Lenny explained (and I hope I repeat this correctly) that he had simulated in the pack something to replicate a hallway from a Laserforce arena in Australia where you "shoot the crystals" ( the Photon that isn't Photon?) to unlock the achievement. And as a result of tagging the pack during the test I am the only person in the arena to have unlocked the "Make it Spin - Activate the Time Vortex" achievement. OK, I don't care that it means nothing, I like the idea of being the only one to do anything, so...

Sorry Lenny, I guess I had to brag online anyway.  :)

And as long as we're checking out my achievement screen, the whole episode also afforded me the "Lenny Down - Aided in the defeat of a Lenny-themed Uber Target"...which is just something he made up! So, it doesn't mean a thing, but hey, I'm the only one from "my crew" to have those two boxes lit up on my screen so...whatever, there is no sensible end to this sentence. But at least there was a decent end to the was a quality day of tag playing three systems, visiting with friends and rounding the evening out with a cherry slushie. All good by me!

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Winning Isn't Everything

I've been mulling that green haired sentiment since 3:00 yesterday (smile and wink to Ankur and TJ)...but here's how it plays out in my laser tag experience from last night...

I got to tag a little bit early because I wanted to grab dinner first. When I passed the lobby I saw a pretty decent looking crowd of competitors. And I zeroed in on one particular group inside...there was a group of very confident looking guys, all on dates and clearly ready to impress their ladies. I smiled. This is my favorite kind of competition. I feel kind of evil for saying that, but...

I went in with my favorite pack, Legend, and for the first time ever...the pack failed! I got as far as the first base with two of those guys on my heels and right there targeting me and my phaser was simply not firing. Ugh! I had to swap out the pack, but the game master didn't hear me so I just did it myself...and got locked out of the arena! OK, interesting tidbit I learned after the's only the red door that actually locks. But regardless, I went out to get Kevin to let me back in and I easily lost three minutes of game time during this whole thing, so I went in fighting extra hard to make up those lost points. And I did it. And it set the tone for the night.

I took the first two rounds by a pretty good margin and I could tell that after two games those guys were very much aware of me and were irritated by me. Fortunately, there was an infusion of fresh competition...and it was a solid group, close to 40 players for most of the night. And I went round after round pretty much doing the same thing I always do and enjoying the occasional overheard comment like...

"Who's Nitro?"
"Probably that sniper chick."
"What?! She's the master!"

I smile whenever I hear stuff like that. However, I also think that it's gotten very easy to appear impressive here simply because I do this every week and am generally up against more casual players (no matter what they come in thinking) unless I'm joined by other tournament level players. Now, playing in tournaments has certainly put me in my place as far as serious competition goes. However, it puts some real perspective to even the most competitive public game night and I do appreciate being able to play at a higher level occasionally. Because frankly, I've come to the realization that winning (which did happen every round, another undefeated night) really isn't everything. Even though "I hate losing, I hate it!" (another green haired reference...get where I'm going with this guys ;) ...the truth is I really prefer playing against stronger players who give me a run for my money, even if that means I'm not always taking the win. It's way more interesting to not know for sure what the outcome will be. That's why I'm really enthused about the upcoming leagues and being able to step up with others who want to step it up. Because the win means more when you have to work for it.

I mentioned that I am re-reading one of my favorite light sci-fi books and I'm at the point where the hero is challenging for his place in the platoon, but being told there is nothing he is being asked to do that he is incapable of doing. It's just a matter of getting his mind right to believe in his abilities and worth. There's a parallel to be drawn between that and stepping up to a more competitive level with laser this book especially, there's a really specific parallel to that. I know it's one thing to be the top scoring player on a casual Saturday night, but I've gotten to the point where I have nothing to prove in this arena any longer. So my mission when I'm there now at this point is just simply to have fun, keep my skills sharp and not take it too seriously. Because at the end of a night when I've been on a winning streak I can even more clearly recognize that winning isn't everything.

...of course when I have some serious competition again it's game on!  ;)

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Sunday, January 10, 2016


Well, coming off of last weekend's tournament where I was playing incredibly hard against some top level competitors there is a really comfortable ease in returning to a simple night of regular game play at my home arena. Last night at tag everything felt natural and easy...instinctive really. Like every shot was clean, on point and delivered with purpose. Maybe it's just because I'm re-reading Thieves of Light, but what it best compares with is a scene out of a book where everything is going just right in and you feel that momentum carry through in every action of the game. It was a really enjoyable way to play while completing another evening with an undefeated streak. And it was even more fun to play the game with Lauren who got to play laser tag for the very first time and did really well with it!

I love that now a couple of my "valley girls" have come out to experience laser tag...and I'm pretty sure Lauren is likely to return based on the great time we had playing and the success she had from the start (and the adulation of a couple of kids who were very quickly impressed). It's cool to watch someone who is brand new to tag take to it so well and so quickly. Although I'm not surprised because I think she probably shares many of the attributes that I have which make me love the game so much. For those of us with a competitive nature I think that is probably part of what makes this sport so appealing...and whether it's for rhinestones or bases, healthy competition makes things fun and interesting. Maybe that's something else that is instinctive in me. :)

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Sunday, January 3, 2016


How would I describe my weekend of intense laser tag playing with and against some top caliber players in the Snowmageddon? Exhausting! And rewarding...and strenuous...and fun...and educational. And even though every muscle in my body is screaming at me right now I would have to say this was an incredibly worthwhile endeavor for which I am so glad I had the opportunity to take part along with my team, Ascendance.

However, it began with a rocky start when we learned the evening before that our team members from Fort Wayne area had encountered an unexpected problem and were unable to make the trip. Suddenly it became Stressageddon because we had two spots on the roster to fill by morning. However, Joe's younger brother Tommy had been out to practice the night before and paid attention when we went over the different systems, so he came along and filled one of the spots. One more player to round up. I knew there was a team that had an extra player, Jerome, and hoped we could bring him over to our team. I was pretty certain that would work, but as it turns out there was still a question mark up until the morning of the event. I kept an optimistic attitude while waiting for our team to gather for coffee before heading to the first arena when who walks in? Jared, a game master from our local Zone arena. He had heard about it and was on board...sort of. We were joined by Ziggy (one of our experienced veteran players) and then headed to the arena where we met up with Jabber, an Armageddon champion who had also joined our team with the intention that the more experienced players would be able to help the newer players to improve their skills and strategy. OK, showing up with six players. Roster settled? Not quite! Jerome was still up in the air, although I welcomed the idea of having an alternate extra player...but so did RNT. So a coin toss determined he would go with the other team. Well to cut to the chase of a confusing series of events, Jared could not play for the Rochester events, so Jerome came onto our team after all...then Jared played as an alternate for the first three systems. So that explains how we ended up with a roster that looked nothing like what we had expected twelve hours earlier! With the absence of Amber and Zach I somehow became the de facto team captain, so when a couple players from the other team wanted to take Jerome back I stood up for keeping him and he said "she's my team captain, I'm staying here" and I felt for the first time like I had a responsibility to that role in spite of its dubious value...after all, for anything big I would defer to the more experienced players anyway. So that was how we started off this year's Snowmageddon tournament.

First thing first...we walked through the arena to scope out the placement of the various bases and energizers for the Q-Zar and Storm games that were being brought in for the event. I marked them on my dry erase map (which was noted by some opposing players as a good idea...I do like to be prepared) and we got ready for our first games. We were scheduled to play a series of Q-Zar and Storm games on alternating sides of the arena, many of which put us in back to back game scenarios which made me appreciative that we had an alternate to rotate in. I made the call on players for each round to try to balance the playing time and we got the competition underway. It moved along so quickly I had to take notes and screen caps that I wasn't really able to analyze until after the fact, but my general feeling was that I had improved a tiny bit since the last time I played Q-Zar...

And that in general I'm still lousy at Storm...

After a short break we returned to the arena to face the other teams in Laserforce (SM5) and I was especially glad to have Jerome and Jared with us for this system since it was taking place in the arena where they play the game all the time (and I play SM5 every now and again...but at least I know the space). We had a rocky start finding our groove, but moving around some of the positions helped significantly and we held our own. I was excited to cheer for my team as they pulled one victory while I alternated out. Then, was even happier to go in the following round and be part of the next success...

After finishing that system (which involved four back to back games...sheesh!) we had a break. Those of us who were on the team in advance had gotten custom team shirts made, so we sported the team style for a photo...

Here's a closer look at the shirts that include the logo Amber designed...

And then we took our dinner break. A few of us might be completely crazy for doing this, but on our break from the laser tag tournament what did we do? We went to our Zone site to play some more laser tag just for fun!

I've got to say, after being in competition with real powerhouse players all day up to that point it genuinely made me feel like a rock star to walk in and kill it during the first game I played. I know the level of competition is not even close, but it felt good to play well and feel perfectly at ease with the system I know best in the arena I know like a second home. I also enjoyed answering questions from a teenager who remembered playing with us a couple months ago and who wished us good luck in the tournament. When Ziggy joined us Joe and Tommy and I were happy to be able to share some time playing in our home arena with our new teammate. Then it was off to Rochester to compete again, this time in Quest.

We played round robin games with three teams in the arena at once (although you can only see two of the teams on the scoreboard at any given time). The games fluctuated a bit and success varied, but I was pleased with my placement here as I compared my outcome and ranking with some of the stronger players...

I felt my recent time spent practicing in this arena was beneficial in some ways and irrelevant in others. In this competition a cluster of players focused their attention pretty much exclusively in one tower. Up until this point I'd been practicing more as a sniper, but in these games I found myself having to go head to head in more dogfight scenarios with the tournament competitors. But I had put in some time and my confidence was higher for going into this system. On the whole I felt that some of what I had spent time working on definitely helped me to hit a lot more sensors and hold my own during these rounds. Yay for practice. :)

It was 2:00 in the morning before I got any sleep and then had to wake up and play some Lasertron (the system I've learned to appreciate on a casual Saturday night, but that also intimidates and exhausts me when things get serious). We had two games of rest sandwiched between three sets of back to back games. I'll be honest, after the first game I felt like Tron was going to be the death of me...possibly literally! I had a bad reaction to some medication the night before and I think my cough and labored breathing were exacerbated by the intensity of the game play. But I did everything I could to play my best (which I recognize is not in the same universe as some of these players). I don't know exactly what happened here, but when I saw my ranking I thought that might be my best placement for this system (although a far cry from my best score...which is an even further far cry from anyone else's best score most of the time)...

But our closest game came down to this narrow margin...

And when it was all over with I was so relieved it was over and was walking around in such a hazy fog of exhaustion that I almost left without saying a proper goodbye to my teammates...sorry, guys (head out of the clouds) and thanks to Ziggy for pulling me back to reality so I could say my farewells and be part of the group photo op before bee lining it home for some much needed rest. Every muscle in my body was in pain at the end of this...but I think it's the good kind of pain. :)

Our team came in fourth place. Looking at the caliber of talent and skill around us I will take that happily and find satisfaction in knowing there were some close calls along the way, the sharing of a lot of skills and strategy and more value gained through the experience above all else. Many thanks to the exceptional players I got to share this experience with...

Jabber - The caliber of skill you bring to this game is tremendous, but what stands out to me even more so is your willingness to share that skill with others. From the beginning we expected our team was largely going to be made up of newer players so the experience you brought to the table was such a benefit to us all learning quite a bit. While the roster changed, our desire to learn stayed strong. Thank you for teaching us all some of the finer points to build upon in the future.

Ziggy - After playing with you at the Armageddon I really looked forward to playing on a team with you again. I remembered how every time we played before you always had useful feedback and sought to improve our team through positive critique and with kindness to those who were still learning. I saw that happen once again and am appreciative of all you had to offer. Thank you for giving us the benefit of your experience and for being great company to have on the team.

Joe - As always, it's a pleasure to play tag with you. This weekend it was cool to see how you applied your existing skills to some systems that were brand new to you and grow as a player as you learned to play on different equipment than usual. I'm pretty sure you are going to be one of the powerhouse players of the future, so keep doing what you do.

Tommy - You were quite an asset as a last minute addition to the team. Your skills are growing every step of the way and you should be very proud. Keep at it and thanks for joining us. Hope it was a Blast (hmmm...maybe that will be the next system you

Jerome - So glad you were able to be part of our team. Even though we didn't know what was going on until the last moment, I'm pleased that it worked in the end because you have some awesome skills and I hope this was a great first tournament experience for you. See you at tag again soon!

Jared - For all the time I've played tag around you it was really great to at last play a few games with you. Thanks for joining us for as much of the event as you were able. And thanks also for sharing your knowledge and...we'll go with wit ("how do you play Force?") as we went along. :)

Amber and Zach - You were with us in spirit. I'm so sorry you weren't able to join us for the event, especially since we'd been planning to do this since September, but you are the reason we have this particular team and we WILL play again together soon.

So that wraps up my Snowmageddon experience. It was a great time with a great group of people doing what we love most...LOTS of laser tag. Once I recover from this weekend I'll be ready to do it all over again!

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