Monday, May 30, 2016

Baltigeddon - Day 2

Morning came WAY too early for day 2 of Baltigeddon. The second site was about an hour away from my hotel at The Zone (ironically a Force site) in Ashburn, VA.

Upon arrival we had some time to check out the arena, which was themed very similarly to a site I have played up in Canada.

In my opinion, SM5 is a very stressful format to begin with and perhaps that was exacerbated here because of the vast difference in playing experience levels, but what is most important is that we all gave our best as a team and I was pleased that we ended up doing well, winning four out of six of the games we played by a very respectable margin. I played medic every game, which is not my preferred position, but one that I accepted since I was a bit more familiar with Force. I did not feel like this was my best showing, but that role is more about doing what you can to help your team in the moment, so I did the best I could each time out. Pavel played commander (he made a joke that the phaser knew he was Russian as the electronic voice announced "you are red commander" at the start of the game). Irina was ammo so we stayed together. Aztec played heavy and came up with our key strategy of rushing the top and getting those bases, then waiting for a cue to return to the lower level and take out the opposing team's base before returning to hold our position. Gary, Eugeniy, Mike and Nikki played scouts, alternating as needed between games.

I'll say, this was the most stressful format for all of us and tensions were felt, but all in all at the end it was a successful event and I was very pleased that our Ascendance hybrid team pulled third place in the tournament. Congratulations also to the winning team, "Blood, Sweat and Beers".

Shout outs to my team:

Gary - It was great to get to know you better and learn from your experience. I appreciated your mellow attitude and positive energy. Hope to see you at Phocon!

Mike - You and Nikki were awesome and I'm so glad that you came out to this event. I hope to get to visit your family's laser tag business next time I am in the city. I'd love to play with you guys again!

Nikki - Thank you for being our alternate and being up for trying some new things this weekend. It was wonderful to be able to have another player so we could take breaks as needed and you should be really proud of that Force score you achieved!

Aztec - Many thanks for the guidance and tips you offered throughout the event. I appreciate the experience level that you brought to this team.

Eugeniy - It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope to see you again at other events in the future. Thank you for making the cross-country trip to join us.

Pavel - You have a wealth of laser tag experience and it shows. Thank you for joining us and helping to bringing our experience level up.

Irina - Always a pleasure to meet another woman who loves this sport. Thank you for accepting our invitation to join. I hope you had a wonderful time visiting the east coast!

To our MIA teammates Zach, Amber and Joe - Sorry you guys weren't able to make it this time, but I look forward to seeing you at the next one!

And thanks to RNT and all who helped to make this such a great event. I really enjoyed my first Baltigeddon experience.

And after it was all over I still had some energy left so I ventured nine miles down the road to Panther Family Fun Center where they had a really cool Zone arena...and hint, hint...they are tournament ready with a Nexus system. ;)

I enjoyed playing Zone in another arena. However I was surprised by pack was completely silent! I should have inquired whether it was just a malfunction with my pack or if they are all silent, but I can't say I recall hearing any familiar sounds in that arena. I wasn't even totally sure once I got the bases because there were no audio indicators. Still, it was a chance to play with Nexus and more properly with shoulder stuns, so all was good by me.

I only felt the inclination for one game before heading home, but I made the most out of it and got the top score as Ghost on the blue team.

All in all, a good way to end my laser tag weekend. :)

Comments or questions?


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Laser Tag with a Paintball Marker

After leaving the Darklight facility where I played my last round of "traditional" laser tag for the day I went off to explore something interesting. I called ahead to the Skyline Paintball and Laser Tag facility in Winchester, VA. When I asked what laser tag system they run I was told they had icombat. I had never heard of this before! Although it was a little out of my way, I was really curious to learn about the system and try it out for myself. Upon arrival I found the business housed in a large metal building.

Most of the time when I see a building like this I assume that they will be using Laser Runner inside. This place is clearly predominantly focused on their paintball and they are apparently home to two paintball competition teams. But what they showed me for their laser tag was unlike anything I've ever encountered before. I'd say it was closest to tactical in nature, but still completely different. After signing the waiver I was taken over to a rack of Tippman paintball markers that had been modified with an electronic box. The entire game was housed in this box.

The object is to shoot straight into the box or at one of the sensors on either side. Health is limited and updated on the view screen on the back which registered hits on your target or when you got hit.

The arena had fairly minimalistic construction, but there were a number of hiding spaces within wooden structures, some of which had an upper level.

And the games were far less structured than I am accustomed to. Each lasted about three minutes. I was told to just head into a game already in progress. I picked up a marker (seems inaccurate to call it a phaser, but same idea) with the codename "Batman" and I went out into the indoor field to take a few shots. I was actually a bit surprised when the game master announced "Batman" had the high score. Then we went right back in. A young kid said "follow me" and I figured, why not? So he showed me to an upper level in a structure reminiscent of a tree house. Then this kid taught me the finer points of his game! :) It was interesting to play a couple of rounds. Then I chatted a bit with the employees. I told them why I was in town and they were astounded to learn about the laser tag tournament scene and what was happening not too far from their business. They were enthused, telling me they could clean up because they are all really good at laser tag. I asked them what other systems they play and they looked a bit perplexed, asking what other system there were. So I took this as my cue to bring out my phone and show them some photos of the laser tag systems I've been fortunate enough to play. They seemed quite interested and perhaps we'll see some of their players getting involved soon. It was well worth the venture to Winchester before heading to my hotel for the night and resting up for a really early start to Baltigeddon, Day 2.

Comments or questions?


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Baltigeddon 2016 - Day 1

Woke up in Rockville with an hour drive ahead of me for day 1 of Baltigeddon. This journey took a few turns along the way and I was the only one left from the original Ascendance group who was able to make it out to the event happening in Maryland and Virginia. I didn't know my other teammates before arrival, but had faith that things would work out (as they always do) and when I got to XP Lasersport in Owings Mills I started looking around to see who I recognized and who might be joining our Ascendance hybrid team.

The first person I saw and recognized from her online photo was Irina. She was one of the three Russian Qzar veterans who had flown in to join us from Seattle. She introduced me to her husband Pavel and friend Eugeniy and the four of us set off to check out the arena space.

Shortly thereafter we found Aztec (aka Nathan) and Gary (Perceptor)and finally met our newest players, Mike and Nikki from Manhattan. It was great to have an alternate player so we could swap out when necessary. And it was a pleasure to meet everyone and get day one of the competition underway.

First up we went in for two back to back games of Qzar. Although this is not a format I am able to practice outside of these tournament events, I felt like I was doing better at it this time around. Having played some Photon emulation last week, at least I had the return shot concept ingrained firmly in my mind and was ready to do my best to implement that. I enjoyed the Qzar matches much more during this event and appreciated that we had some experienced players with us.

Next we moved right into two more back to back games of Storm.

The "remote control" style phaser feels very odd to me and I am not very comfortable with this format, although I think I am improving a bit every time I get the chance. Unfortunately, I only get to play this about twice a year, the same frequency as I play Qzar. But I did my best and seemed to be faring a little better than my last experience with it at Snowmageddon.

We went back and forth alternating Qzar and Storm matches and in the end we had won four games of Qzar (second place, only one less than the team leading in that format), but we fell way off with Storm. I was appreciative to have about a half hour break in between while they switched out the arenas for the next two formats. During that time we got some Tron tutorial from Aztec who seemed to be the most experienced with the format.

I believe it was in one of the early rounds that at the end I heard my pack ding with the indicator announcing that I was the top score fairness, I'll say I was the top score player that round just on my team, not the entire game, but it was still a boost to achieve that in one of my less favorite formats. We had a couple of back to back successes in both Tron and amazingly also in Tactical. Now, I had never played tactical like this ever before. Forget about "tactical" (a real misnomer) in my local Tron arena and forget about the single experience I had at Armageddon last year playing outdoors on a wet and muddy field. This was completely different. First, I was handed a phaser that in my arms felt enormous and unwieldy, but I figured that was just because it was new to me. I attached the three sensors to my blue headband and prepared to give this a go.

Then we were instructed to go to the back of the arena to begin at our respawn station with the objective to make it to the other side without being shot and press down our team color on each of three ipads. I had a vague recollection of the concept of tactical, but playing in this arena was completely different.

Still, by the end we seemed to be doing much better with it and I was pleased to have contributed a few decent shots while protecting those ipads. I did much better after switching to a slightly smaller phaser that I was able to handle more comfortably and actually use the red dot for targeting.

I want to thank Marc for hosting us at his facility. I had previously only played at XP Lasersport in Laurel during Phocon, but would definitely love to return to Owings Mills on my next trip to Maryland.

After the first day's competition was complete most of the players went to RNT's house for a BBQ, but I had other plans for my evening. In fact, I went the polar opposite direction from BBQ and opted for sushi!

Here are my two favorite things to come out of Japan, sushi and Photon...

...and this is not the time to split hairs and say that Photon originated in Dallas. :)

Then I decided to seek out some redemption at Darklight. I went back to the Shadowland facility in Frederick and purchased a single game, determined to earn a victory in one try because I had other places still to visit before the night was over. So I went into the game and felt quite at ease playing just for fun. There's nothing like playing in a competition (like earlier) to make you appreciate what it's like to play casually just for fun and enjoyment. And I wanted to get more Darklight in before I left because it is yet another system that is not accessible to me back home. I played with moderate intensity (having already played 24 games of laser tag this same day) and accomplished the first place achievement before venturing off to my next stop.

I thoroughly enjoyed day one of Baltigeddon.

Comments or questions?


Friday, May 27, 2016

Where's Your Scoreboard?

It was an easy drive down to Maryland the day before Baltigeddon and upon arriving I joined my friend Jessica for dinner and enjoyed a Maryland crab cake in Frederick before heading over to Shadowland. I've been to Shadowland locations before, but this was my first time visiting this particular one that was located inside a mall. I purchased two games (because I knew morning would come quickly and I didn't feel the need to push it) and was ready to enjoy some Darklight.

While waiting for the current game in progress to end I looked around the place and was surprised to find that something was missing. I asked the staffer "where's the scoreboard?" He said "we don't have one." What?! Well, OK...

I was a taken into the briefing room with over twenty players. We entered a really small arena, but it had two levels to make the most of the space. We were given an overview of the rules to the Endgame format. I hit the gems a reasonable amount of times, but lack of familiarity with the arena hurt me as I didn't properly identify the green base.

The blue team (my team) was the first place team that round, however I was not satisfied with my personal placement, so I got some more detailed instruction from the staff. After all, it's been about a year since I've had a chance to play Darklight and I had forgotten a lot about it.

The next game I went in prepared to win it. I held a solid first place rank for the majority of the game.

However, it wasn't long before the other players got wise and that made me a specific target for a few who teamed up against me. Meanwhile I had nobody to team up with because the tag partner I had expected to be traveling with had to stay behind sick. So I fended them off solo, but they got enough hits after joining forces to knock me into second place. To be honest, that really irritated me. Since this was my second (and last) game tonight I really tried to pull off the win. Keeping perspective, I was brand new to their arena, I should have been happy just that I was playing well. Then literally in the very last second someone got one more shot off that knocked me into third place. Seriously, not even second? Sheesh. I think I'm going to have to get back for some Darklight redemption before this weekend is over. :)

Comments or questions?


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fake Out Strategy and Dreaming In Tag (aka I Can't Believe That Worked)

I'll preface what I am about to write with the acknowledgement that I am too green at SM5 to know any other ways besides what I have learned in my home arena, so my strategy scope (in fairness) is quite limited. However, I am heartened after last night that things about SM5 are finally starting to click in my head, even so much that breaking outside the box not only makes sense, but actually worked last night. In our arena it is fairly well accepted that the resupply break and begin the game in one of two by the entry door and red by the emergency door. I am pretty sure this is not the norm in other Force centers, but for ours it seems to be pretty much the formula. So, that said, it was cool to try a fake out strategy last night that astoundingly seemed to work (at the very least we ended up with the win). In the final game I played before turning back into a pumpkin (as I have to be a responsible adult and work in the morning) our team agreed to kind of an ass-backwards strategic start. I was playing commander for the second game in a row and rather than charge out as I otherwise would have we decided that the heavy and resupply would NOT go to their expected positions. Instead I went to  the green resupply corner while the ammo, medic and heavy went for bases immediately. This accomplished two things...they got their base points out of the way fast and we created a bit of temporary confusion as there was a three-hit (me) in an unexpected location at the start. I'm not saying this was completely original (I have no idea how this would go elsewhere), but it was different than we had tried before and cool to see not only that this worked well enough to garner a win, but also that we were becoming comfortable enough with SM5 to try something new. I'm still completely in water-wing mode with it (and not pretending otherwise), but it was an enjoyable and worthwhile night because it's finally sinking in.

To that same point, I know it all must be gelling because my subconscious is starting to dream in tag. This is not the same as dreaming "about" tag, which I've found happens now and then also. No, this is more like how my mind occasionally lets me dream in sign language instead of speech. Dreaming in tag means my sleep mind has absorbed enough real life strategy that I am actually seeing games play out in logical sequences while I am asleep. That's different than just having a dream where tag is a component. I also think it's a good indicator that the time I've been spending trying to get better must be paying off some because while I used to call SM5 my "necessary evil" and now apparently my subconscious has gotten past that. I also feel much better about this leading into Baltigeddon and I am excited to see what happens in a different setting.

Comments or questions?


Monday, May 23, 2016

League Finals

We played in the league finals last night and I have to say I was pleased with how things started out. The format to be played each round was determined by a random spin of a wheel with ten potential game formats that could come up. Our team was up first and our first format was...PHOTON!!!

I was really proud of my team. This was new to them all (I'm the only one who had ever played any Photon at all...and my experience with playing it is EXTREMELY limited, although obviously this was just the Laserforce emulation) and we got to select team color. Anyone who knows about it will probably not be surprised that I chose for our team to play red.

We were playing against the team that had ranked the highest in the league up to this point. During the course of this first game our team was up by 800 points from the get-go, however the lead changed several times during the course of the game. It was close. However, in the end we came out of that round with a victory. :)

It felt good to win at Photon. When it came up on the wheel there was a resounding wave of groans and I seemed to be the only one pleased with the format. This is not a game I am particularly good at, but everyone knows it is my sentimental favorite for other reasons.

We went back in immediately for a second round against the same team, this time playing on the green team. Although our team lost this round, I at least felt good that I put "Tivia" in the top spot while playing Photon.

I know that nobody else here can appreciate why that was cool (especially while keeping a realistic perspective of the scores), but maybe somebody out there who understands Photon will read about this and smile because they "get it". 

When the scores were calculated between those rounds to determine which team advanced we were behind by only 30 points...about a shot and a half!

We were eliminated in the masters round, but I am still proud of the team. We have struggled this entire league with attendance and consistent participation, but at least we had a core group here to represent, so thanks to Joe, Tommy and Spencer for being there (and Mitch who wasn't there tonight, but was with us from the start).

Also, congratulations to the league winners...whoever they may be. Believe it or not we got down to the final two teams with one game left to go and...they decided to break for SM5 and not finish up the finals. They'll get around to it another day. All I can say is "wow".

However, all the teams did a great job and it was wonderful to play against solid competitors over the last seven weeks. Every experience is a chance to learn, to grow and to improve and I feel like in spite of the challenges (or maybe even because of them) we gained quite a bit throughout the process. So that makes it an overall win in my book. :)

Comments or questions?


Monday, May 16, 2016

What I Did Instead of Laser Tag

This weekend was more about what I did instead of laser tag, although it does come back around to SM5 on Sunday night. 

On Friday evening I decided I had to take a pass on tag in order to prepare what needed to be done for Saturday morning because we had a very early start. I took a day trip to NYC with a few other voice actors for a recording session with Joanna Cassidy.

We finished up recording the audio for some scenes for the animated movie we're working on.

It is absolutely remarkable to actually be working with an actress of this caliber...

Gotta say, being driven to the studio in a limo makes me feel a little like Don Lafontaine!

Thanks Dr. Jay!

And thanks to CDM Sound Studio and our engineer Tyler for a fun and productive session. :)

And we wrapped up the day with dinner out on the town in Manhattan at Pietrasanta.

Now, when the limo dropped us off we were literally across the street from Zero Gravity and I did invite the other actors to go for a round of laser tag with me…but I got shot down on that one without even getting into the arena! Honestly, after being on the road for 15 hours and having a very full day even I was not really feeling up to laser tag that night.

Instead I waited until Sunday when we had SM5 as our league format. Deshawn joined us, although we were still down a does this happen every week?! Long story short, we got slaughtered by the SM5 regulars, however we got some incredibly useful coaching and practice time for which I am really appreciative this close to Baltigeddon. I am especially looking forward to getting back into my other arena for some quality "rebuild the ego" time to remind me how much I love laser tag and get me into a better head space before the tournament. I'm thinking that I need to convince Dr. Jay to produce a laser tag movie next! :)

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Then and Now

In a way it's like a fresh start. I didn't even bother to write anything about league last week because it was barely worth talking about. But this week, for the first time, we had a full team and it's the team I would choose to play with any day. I was reminded of when I first started playing laser tag with some of these guys. It's cool to think back on when we first started playing tag together (when doing tournaments and such was just a kernel of an idea) to where we have gotten to along the way with growth, improved skills, several tournament experiences under our belt and new additions to our tag family. This is the Jim Jim Squad, then and now...



As for how the squad held up in the league...well, Tyler injured his hand at work so he was pretty much out after the first game. I think the rest of us gained some insight (and an ego check) from playing the Z game in a Force arena. For me it was a good reminder of the stuff we have let go of practicing since it isn't relevant in our home arena. Since our standings are moot at this point I viewed it as a good opportunity for some different experience. I think I know what things we need to work on before July. We also had a chance to play a couple of rounds of SM5, which will be relevant again even sooner. This was the first night in awhile that the league was thoroughly enjoyable and seemed to be beneficial as well. Plus, it was great to have a team properly assembled again. Thanks guys!

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Reunion in the Arena

Ok, casual Saturday night laser tag isn't exactly battle, but it's even less so when in the middle of the "battle" you run into a friend from high school you haven't seen in years and you stop mid-game for hugs and reminiscing right in the middle of the arena. I couldn't believe it when I ran into my friend Kristie who I hadn't seen in ages, but in the middle of a game I rounded a base and deactivated her. Then she comes back around to take a revenge shot, to which I responded with "touché" before firing back, when she said "I know you" and we recognized each other and we started catching up right on the spot.

It's funny what a small world it is. We both live a fair distance away and yet ran into each other out in Syracuse. It was nice to see her, especially on a night when I was playing alone. I told her I had started playing competitively and was preparing for an upcoming tournament which really surprised her. No wonder...I was never into athletic activities back in the day. However, I've always been competitive, which she does know about me. And as such I took the opportunity for a solid night of practice...largely focusing on keeping my shoulder sensors down since stuns are being taken out of the Battle For The Fort event.

During the last game something cute happened. A teen girl got a shot on me from behind and she excitedly ran off yelling "I got the lady!" I replied back that "the lady" has a name, but I liked the formality of it. Like "the lady will have the chicken tonight" only in this case when another player said something like "are you serious?" for the rest of the night I went around talking about myself in the third person replying with stuff like "yes, the lady is serious", So cheesy, but fun. The new game master called me the laser tag queen. If only there were a real crown for that! :)

So all in all, it was a fun night out for tag, great to play and even better to see an old friend.

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