Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Tour of the Laser Tag Museum

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the highlights of my most recent travels was having an opportunity for a guided tour of the Laser Tag Museum in Louisville, KY. I want to thank curator Erik Guthrie for taking the time to show me around and letting me film while learning about some of the remarkable history on display at this museum. I hope you will enjoy getting a virtual tour as a result of this video!

To see the entire collection online visit

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Recap and Reflections

Before driving the last hour home I decided to stop by my home Laserforce center in Syracuse to check in on the Nats.

The Laserforce Internationals are taking place and I wanted to cheer on my friends with a show of support. I had to smile at the humorous t-shirts being worn by the Syracuse C team. The front says "Who plays tag?" The back...

And it gave me a moment to share some of my experiences from this week and reflect on the previous seven days. These are by far the top ten most memorable moments from my midwest laser tag adventure.

1. Playing Zone laser tag with the Vice President of Zone Laser Tag US
2. Playing that same game on the last remaining original Photon field in existence
3. Holding the third phaser ever made by Zone laser tag (one of the first ever that was gifted to their beta testers)
4. Being able to play LaserTrek for the first and probably last time
5. Getting to take a guided tour of the Laser Tag Museum and hear some amazing history
6. Playing in 15 laser tag arenas across seven states bringing my arena total up to 56
7. Playing in the semifinals of Battle For The Fort and being on a team that placed above expectations
8. Experiencing System T for the very first time
9. Playing in the World's Largest Laser Tag Arena in Belleville, IL
10. (and this is really number one to me, but I wanted to end on this note...) Sharing this experience with my laser tag family on Team Ascendance

I couldn't have asked for a more remarkable week. And now it's time to recover from it all! :)

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Lazer Xtreme

My final stop in Ohio was to Lazer Xtreme in Middleburg Heights, just outside of Cleveland.

This place was on my radar for two reasons. First, because I was intrigued by a claim on their website that made me wonder what the Laser Tag Guy might have liked so much about them. And second...they had awesome t-shirts.

Honestly as I fastened my Nexus pack (feeling exhausted and like this was a bit of Groundhog's Day dejavu) I decided to play one game and call it a night.

It was a good game against an appropriately aged group (teenagers and adults who seemed to be enjoying a multi-play special and had been playing together since before I arrived). This was a rather convoluted arena to take on cold. It was definitely an impressive use of the space and there were plenty of moving lights to keep you guessing what was a person and what was a fixture. There were lots of lights and interesting things that could easily be mistaken for bases if you didn't know what you were looking for. And after getting used to Helios timing during the tournament it was interesting to go back the other way! It was an enjoyable final stop before leaving Ohio and heading for home at the end of my trip.

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Playing LaserTrek

No doubt one of the most interesting stops on my journey through Ohio was to Lazer Warz in Mansfield. I saw online that they still operated with LaserTrek equipment. The only time I've ever seen a pack was during my recent visit to the Laser Tag Museum. Could this possibly be right? I called to inquire and, sure enough, I was told that this was what they used for their system. Even though it was two hours out of my way I just had to check this out.

The owner, Mark, was kind enough to fill in some of the history of this system produced from 1994-2005 by Heads Up Technologies. The most remarkable thing is that this is one of the last two places in the world where it can be played! Essentially this has been a dead system for over a decade...which accounts for the pack being in the museum. So I loved examining the equipment up close before actually trying it out. It runs on DOS.

I also was really intrigued by the arena. It was fairly simple tag walls which were literally "tagged" with spray painted messages. However, what made it unique was that the 4000 square feet were spread across three rooms in a mall that had previously been a DEB clothing store. In fact, some of the DEB fixtures were even incorporated into the arena space and you could play in and out of what used to be the dressing rooms. I've never seen anything like this!

I had two opportunities to try it out. A group came in and I wanted to experience the system, but I did not want to play full out against the younger players, so I would take a few judicious shots and then I would disappear to the back to take selfies of myself actually in the middle of the game.

However, even playing it low key I ended up taking first...unintentionally.

I really enjoyed playing with the groups and having a unique experience.

I also liked checking out something else I have only recently become acquainted with. Mark showed me the Steradian laser tag adaptors he has on some Tippmann paintball markers for use with his portable laser tag set-up. This is only the second time I have encountered this (the first being the iCombat I played in Virginia).

And I even got a peek at a prototype that I cannot talk about, but was dumbfounded to have him show me. Wow...this was a fascinating stop. Thanks to Mark for taking some time to give me quite a cool education about a system I have never seen before and in all likelihood will never see again...LaserTrek.

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Q-zar that isn't Q-zar

When the tournament was over it was time to meander home...but not without a few more laser tag stops along the way. I was intrigued to see that there was a Q-zar still open in Toledo...although in fairness I did my research in advance to learn that they don't actually still operate Q-zar equipment, which makes the name all the more unusual. Regardless, I was intrigued and wanted to see what they had to offer.

I arrived just minutes after they opened and knew perfectly well (even before walking in) that it would be unlikely there would be anyone there to play against that early in the day. I asked if there might be an employee who could go in for a one on one game with me. At first they said no, that employees could not play, but after explaining a bit about my unusual journey they conceded and allowed the game master, Abbey, to play a game with me. She showed me to the briefing room. I knew that we were going to be using Zone equipment (in a Q-zar center!) and told her I already knew how to play, however she did proper due diligence and gave me a briefing anyway. :)

She took me over to the vesting area and I expressed my surprise when we walked over to a rack of what looked to be Infusion packs. We suited up and went in to play a round.

It may have looked like we were playing Infusion, but the sounds I was hearing and the way the shots were hitting just didn't match. Neither did the fact that I was able to deactivate the opposing base six times. Turns out I wasn't playing Infusion after all...this was System T! Wow...this was a first and another surprise for me at this center. I really enjoyed chatting with the employees afterwards. It turns out that Abbey also plays laser tag wherever she travels, so she was good competition to go against. I asked if by chance they had any Q-zar merchandise for sale and they brought out two different Q-zar shirts!

I had to add these to my tag swag collection. :) This was definitely an unusual stop, but I had a great time and really appreciate the opportunity to play at Q-zar Toledo on my way through Ohio.

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Battle For The Fort - Day 3: Ascendance Ascends!

LOR ascensions began around 7:00 on Saturday evening and I wanted to cheer on my teammates who were doing really well. Amber made it into the ascensions and made us really proud. And Alex did awesome pulling fifth place in the elite division. Go team!

French format we pretty much just played to play. I volunteered to be one of the four to go in, knowing that nobody else was all that eager to do so. But at least it was over quickly and we could focus on the main event that mattered to competition.

We entered the first round of ascensions going up against the Misfits and Going Gorillas teams. Our first game Ascendance pulled second, but that was good enough to keep us in the game. The second game was an exact tie on the scoreboard...however, due to a tick for the other team Ascendance came in first! That was a nail biter and exciting to see up on the scoreboard!

In the third game the score would have put us in second, but DiZ was ejected over a tick involving corking at the base entrance that was not his fault. The matter was brought up for dispute and eventually decided in our team's favor. That was enough to put us into the semifinals!

Once in the semifinals I wanted to bring my best game for this team. I ended up in second place on our team that game and we pulled a second place finish, so on we played! At one point (and I genuinely don't believe he meant this in a rude way, but rather amazed) someone came up to me and said "how is your team still in this?" to which I replied "a lot of heart and a lot of want." :)

That was the most truthful answer. Everyone wanted to prove our worth. Our team placed third in the next two games in the semifinals, so we didn't advance any further. However, we pulled a fifth place finish that we were all elated with. It felt like the achievement of something that was hard fought for and that most people didn't expect out of our team...that was an amazing feeling for everyone involved!

There was still about a half hour of finals competition left before the awards ceremony. We enjoyed some team time together in the back party room we had taken over. Then when the awards were given there was an extra cool surprise. Jammies was named Rookie of the Year!

So all in all Battle For The Fort was a success that proved that Team Ascendance is ready to ascend. I am so honored to play with this team and I want to thank Amber, Alex, DiZ, Jammies and Dice for making this an amazing tournament experience. I love you guys and am so glad to be part of this with you all!

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Crazy Pinz...or Crazy Player?

There's got to be some kind of insanity that comes over me when I compete in a tournament and as soon as I get a break the first thing I do is run to another laser tag facility to play more! This is what I have done at each of my last two tournaments and it happened again in Indiana. I woke up around 2:30 in the afternoon after having played all night long in the tournament. None of my teammates were feeling up to going anywhere (we still had a full evening in front of us) so I explored Fort Wayne on my own. I had some incredible sushi from a place called Asakusa. Then I decided to go play a little Delta Strike at Crazy Pinz.

When you walk into the briefing room you have to watch a captain character (Captain Tag they call him) explain the rules and then you go out into the arena that looks like a pirate ship.

These elements make you take it a lot less seriously. This would be more suited to kids and families, however I did enjoy the game. Something interesting about this place is that they spin a wheel to see what format you will play (one shot, three shot, free for all or Zombies (which is the same as Infection). We got to play a three shot game. I do like that I've gotten to play several formats of Delta Strike during the limited occasions when I've been able to experience the system.

At the end I had to pick up a t-shirt.

I guess now I'm part of Captain Tag's crew!

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Battle For The Fort: Day 2

The bulk of our tournament competition was going to fall between Friday night and Saturday morning. Seriously, we played from 8:00 PM straight through to nearly 8:00 AM the next day. Whew! But this was encompassing three events. We gathered at the Ultrazone and met up with our sixth player who everyone knows as Hot Dice, but this time around he adopted the name Little Rain. This was Team Ascendance.

The first event was Lord of the Rings (LOR), which is essentially a three player dogfight taking place inside a ring of tape on the floor. I had watched LOR competition last year in Philly, but this was my very first time entering the ring.

In my first round it was all brand new and I just had to learn from doing. I played low, but would try to play high next time. The second round I did exactly that. Things started out slow for me, but I was happy that midway through I started getting some shots in...that's my personal victory. In the third round I ended up going up against the guy I figured would likely win the whole thing. He also had coached me on phaser positioning, which I tried to now implement against him. There was absolutely no chance of a point victory here, but again I look for the personal victory which was that I did manage to deactivate him a couple of times.

Although this was not a spectacular event for me I do think I learned a lot from jumping into it. I thank DiZ and Ty for some tips. I was glad to have this competition videotaped because it was really a very useful tool to look back on after the fact.

Next up was the main competition prelims. This is what we came here for. Ascendance fought hard on this night. We were definitely considered underdogs, but we all come together for love of the game and that's what the team comp prelims were all about tonight.

Now, somewhere around 4:30 in the morning the love of the game definitely started to wear off on a few of us as we found ourselves in the middle of the French format prelims. Let me explain French's essentially a base cracking game. Instead of playing five on five the decision was made to play this four on four. One team would be on defense and try to defend a single base for five minutes while the other team tried to crack it. Then the teams would swap vests and take the opposite position. A team could get up to three base cracks per team member (potentially up to twelve points). Now, everyone expected that the defending team would be permitted to start inside the base, however when we began we learned that they would instead have to start on the outside of the base. This changes things dramatically. If defense had been allowed to start in the base it would have been a different animal completely, but as it stood it made for some really lopsided outcomes.

Everyone pretty much hated this and all agreed this was a ridiculous format. A few members of my team voiced the opinion that they wanted to forfeit the remainder of the games and just go to bed. Mind you this was crazy early in the morning after hours upon hours of competition already. However, I felt very strongly that forfeiting was not an least not for me. I told them that I respect whatever choice they decided to make, but I was going to stay, put on a blue vest and play it out even if I played alone (yes I recognize that wouldn't have changed anything with the results, but it would have been maintaining my personal integrity on the matter). Anyhow, after taking that stance I went into the arena with three of my teammates who were still willing to do so...and we started to do pretty well! Still hate the format, but it was just a sweet irony that no sooner had I argued to stay that the tables seemed to turn in our favor.

We returned to our team room and one of the players who had originally wanted to leave spoke up saying that he had given it thought while we were in there and the fact that I was a less experienced player in the tournament scene fighting to stick it out was what made him believe that we should do just that. Ultimately that's exactly what we did, but it was really trying for us to push on with this game format after close to twelve hours of competition. However, I am really proud of my team for doing so. The next game went pretty well too. Now, we all agreed that we were not concerned with the outcome of this format (it had no bearing on the main event) so there was no reason not to just play and make the best of it. However, during that next game the captains of all the teams decided this was no longer something they wanted to pursue (yay for that...if EVERYONE feels it should be dropped then that is a different story). One more game took place to break a few ties for ranking and around 7:15 AM on Saturday morning the second night of Battle For The Fort was concluded. I went back to my hotel and slept until early afternoon. Why do we put ourselves through this? Clearly for love of the game! :)

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Indiana: Warming Up at Lazer X

It's an ironic play on words for this post to say we were "warming up" considering the heat index is around 105 degrees this weekend, but what I mean is my team gathered to play warm up before day two of the Battle For The Fort tournament by playing a couple of rounds of Cyber Blast at Lazer X in Fort Wayne, IN.

This facility had recently reopened after having closed due to a fire. They have been reopened for only two weeks and their center is impressive! I was the first of my teammates to arrive.

We gathered to chat while waiting for the 4:40 game to be called.

And then we went upstairs to a really cool space themed briefing area.

This arena was great! There were three levels and the vesting room opened up so players would start the game on the second level...which is a bit unexpected as all the bases are on the lower level so you have to go down to deactivate them. This place impressed me a lot.

The first game we played included some other competitors from the tournament. I pulled third place, following just behind these other experienced players, so I was happy with that showing.

But honestly the best part of this experience (besides checking out an amazing facility that I would love to visit again) was being able to have a good time playing tag just for fun with the rest of my team. We all needed to enjoy some tag before heading into the evening's competition and this was a really fun time! Glad I got to enjoy it with Amber, Alex, DiZ and Jammies. :)

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