Sunday, April 30, 2017

Arena Identity Crisis 2

Ok, once is a novelty, but twice is ridiculous. So the next stop was to Interskate 91 North in the Hampshire Mall in Hadley, MA. In researching this center I found that they run Laser Blast, so you can imagine my confusion to walk in and see this...

Then I walked through the entryway...

And walked up to the elevator that goes up to the second floor...

And on the way up heard the speaker announce "Welcome to the Laser Storm transport system. You are about to enter the 22nd century. This is level two, the galactic arena." It sounded very much like the "Welcome Photon Warriors" voice.

And even upon arriving at the ticket counter (next to a skating rink that seemed to circle around a good part of the upper level of the mall) there were more signs referencing Laser Storm...except they were all wrong because this place currently runs Laser Blast. At least the wristband was correct.

Now, why am I making such a fuss about all this Laser Storm branding? What difference does it make? Well, it's like if I walked into a restaurant with two Golden Arches and the guy behind the counter says "Welcome to Taco Bell". It may be food, but it's not what you thought you'd be eating. And if you didn't know any better the next time you saw that logo you might go in expecting one thing and be very surprised to get another. Frankly, Laser Storm is absolutely nothing like Laser Blast in my opinion and the name should not be used interchangeably with other forms of laser tag. It's confusing...and irritating if you go in expecting one system only to find something else. Even though the irony is I would really like to play more Storm and there isn't anywhere near me to do so...just don't bait and switch me with an incorrect neon sign!

Moving on...there were more oddities going on here than a mis-marked game of laser tag. As I mentioned, they actually run Laser Blast here. What was strange briefing or vesting room. In fact the guy in charge (not even going to call him a game master as he sat in the next room the whole time we played) went to get our vests OUT OF A CLOSET and then had us watch a briefing video on a monitor in a hallway on a balcony overlooking the mall food court. 

We were instructed to enter the arena when we heard "Yahoo!" But calling this an arena was a further stretch than the last one in that it was basically an open room with black lights and neon wall decor...

...and in place of a standing maze structure there were pieces of fabric dividers suspended from the ceiling!

These would sway if you got too close. So this was not exactly a challenging round of tag, but it was an interesting stop for all the other strange things it had going on. So this is the second center in a row to have a definite identity crisis...or maybe laser tag is just an afterthought to their skating business. I'm guessing that Storm must have had a good presence in Massachusetts once upon a time for there to be all these remnants remaining at the arenas to this day. 

When we were done playing it was back to the elevator. The Storm voice coming from the speaker informed us we were "returning to earth"...and just in time to catch half price appetizers and happy hour in the restaurant down on the main level of the mall. It was almost like if Photon had an elevator! :)

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Arena Identity Crisis 1

Fun America in Lancaster was the next stop. Clearly this used to be a Laser Storm site as it had some pretty clear indicators still remaining, even though they now run Zone  Rift.

Driving past the side of the building you see this...

Once inside there is a colorful array of decorations and party spaces on the perimeter of a roller skating rink to make you smile and LOL.

But if you head towards the back you will find the laser tag area with a few interesting things going on that make me think this arena has an identity crisis. First, barely any effort was made to cover up the fact that this is a Laser Storm logo with "Zone" added in place of the word "Storm". 

Just further affirmation of what must have been here previously. Inside the entryway there appeared to be a hand painted Zone logo to better clarify what was to be found once you got to the next room.

The briefing room was small and space themed with a video monitor.

They played a very well produced Zone briefing video that I had not previously seen. In most locations I have seen the Zone vid with the corny computer animation, but this was a much better quality company produced video that actually reminded me very much of the Lasertron briefing video. 

That was not the only similarity to Tron. Once inside the arena (which was quite small, so the word "arena" is used generously here) if you looked to the left you would see a row of Zone Rift packs against a glow in the dark painted spacescape. 

However, if you turned to your right...

We were basically playing Zone in a Tron arena!

I had to get a picture to juxtapose the colliding tag elements. :)

So I am guessing that between the Storm signage, the Tron arena design and the Zone vests that we are really getting a glimpse of the evolution of laser tag at this particular center. So these are the reasons why I say this arena has an identity crisis. However, I suspect the average customer here is a casual player who couldn't care less about the details I found fascinating...which is a statement that could also be applied to most aspects of my life. :)

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Kids Say the Darndest Things

I preface this post from the start by saying that obviously I KNOW this is not really playing laser's just a cute story from my trip. :)

I wanted to visit a few Massachusetts laser tag sites on the way back from Boston, however to accomplish this put me there a bit too early...aka in prime kids time when I got to Laser Craze in Woburn. 

This center was incredibly well set up for children's parties with bounce houses set up in the "Adrenaline Zone" for kids, but there was also plenty of seating in the Craze Cafe for older players who just want some food and time to chill between games. There was a nice arcade area and it was a very nicely put together establishment. 

We signed in at the computer terminal to register membership cards and then were sent into a game as the only outsiders (and adults to boot) with a large group of kids. Not the way I really wanted to play, but ready to go with the flow. I stood in the back with a few parents as the game master attempted to give a briefing on how to play Lasertron...and it was the funniest thing I have ever witnessed at laser tag!

During the briefing the game master went over the basics and just like a class of kindergarteners the hands went up with TONS of questions (some even related to laser

One boy had the most genuine vocabulary question (and please understand there was zero ill intent from this child, it was a simple and honest inquiry). When the game master got to the part about "no vulgar language" the little boy raised his hand and asked "does that mean no speaking Spanish?" because he didn't know what the word "vulgar" meant so he thought it meant "foreign" language. I swear, kids truly do say the darndest things! And again I stress that this was simply an innocent misunderstanding of vocabulary for the benefit of anyone who can't see that.

However, his was not the only memorable question. Once one hand was raised the inadvertent game of twenty questions turned interesting. One child asked if there were any booby traps. Another would laugh maniacally whenever it was explained that you get 500 points for tagging the base. And most of the other questions just reflected that not a one of these little ones understood what was going on at all.

Then we went into the arena with the kids and the parents.

The walls had a cool smokey neon aesthetic and I appreciated being able to take pics from the second level.

Needless to say I did not really "play" tag here. I went in. I guided. I walked to the base. And just for the first game I did this to make sure the kids on my team (red) got to be winners...

This reflects nothing but base tags. I did not tag a single kid, whether they tagged me or not...and more often it was "not". This was all I could do in there because...

1. I am not a Birthday basher.
2. It's boring to do this, but again it is important that you know that this was without tagging a single kid.

Then for the next three games I just walked back and forth to and from the base. What else can you do except be helpful where you can and try not to get in the way. Hey, it's Tron. I can let this one go by as just an experience. :)

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Ironman Champion

I didn't expect to play at Laser Quest in Danvers during my recent trip to Boston. I was there to see Rita Rudner perform for the Women in Comedy Festival. However, an early show time afforded me just enough time to get to LQ and get signed up for the Ironman...and feel pretty good being named Ironman Champion at the end. :)

While I maintain that every Laser Quest is pretty much the same as the next I did think this one felt pretty large. Although I wouldn't say spacious as there were ample structures to hide and shoot around.

Everyone in the game were twentysomethings who seemed like regulars here...well, almost everyone.

And a group of three guys who had their own little alliance were the primary competition. Especially one who I later learned called himself McDavid. Towards the beginning of the game I was a bit cheeky and shouted "pace yourself boys", but in actuality I think that's the best advice to anyone in an Ironman. It's twice as long as a regular game and even for those who play a lot of back to back rounds it can be a bit of an endurance game.

At the end I found myself at the top of the scoreboard (and on the top five players list for the day) and being handed the ceremonial red phaser for a photo op and a certificate for a free game, which I gave to McDavid since I wouldn't have a chance to use it again (even though since the closing of the Rochester site this Laser Quest is one of the closest to me so I guess it should be my new home site).

This tied for being one of my top two highlights of this trip. The other was being present for a surprise appearance by Bob Saget as he presented Rita Rudner with the Women in Comedy Festival Award for Excellence.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Just PLAY!

I have become increasingly irritated when I read discussion online between players that claim to want to play tag, but somehow never do because they can't pull together enough people to play their specific way (SM5, forget everything else, does any other form of tag exist? - read my sarcasm), their specific day (a Tuesday night usually after 9:00 PM...does nobody have to work the next day?) and at their perceived level of quality (sure, tell everyone they suck compared to you and the handful of players who existed and then vanished years ago, that will bring more people to your party) and when that doesn't work then announce to the world that "tag's dead". RIP, end of story...sheesh.

I can say with certainty that tag is NOT dead. It thrives, there are more laser tag centers operating today than ever before (cite - my interview with Erik Guthrie), but it isn't Burger can't always have it "your way". I've recently played a few nights elsewhere and had a great time with the house being packed to full capacity (41 packs available, for two weeks in a row every single one was in use). I've had to leave the state to be able to find competitive opportunities because the apathy described above has killed every recently planned local tourney...but guess what. Albany just stepped up to the newest Zone equipment (Helios Pro). I expect good things to happen there now that they are getting their membership system up and running. New Hartford is about to have Gen 7 Laserforce packs... and size does not matter if it's the choice between playing or not. I've got a map with so many dots marking tag centers I plan to play this summer that it looks like the map has chicken pox! So far I have played in 85 different laser tag centers across 24 states and plan to make it to my 100th within the next few months.

So to those whiny players who say they want to play tag, but never actually do...I say JUST PLAY!!! Find a way, travel outside of your zip code if need be, but seriously, JUST PLAY! I cannot be the only person who knows how Google works. I know that my first Armageddon team captain is actually the person who maintains And the fact that in two years I have played in a dozen tournaments without being tethered to a local team/center in order to do it proves that if you want to compete and you actually do want to play tag you then it IS possible and you can do it too. So for crying out loud, STOP crying out loud and JUST PLAY!!!

The end.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

This Just In...

Yesterday I was called into my boss's office to join him on a telephone call and contribute my thoughts about... laser tag? This was unexpected because, although as a hobby this takes up a great deal of my free time, my actual job is in radio advertising and marketing so I can't say that laser tag really comes up all that often at work. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he wanted me on the call because the gentleman on the other end will be opening a new laser tag facility in our city in just a few weeks!

I am thrilled to know there will be a new center open much closer to where I live considering it takes me an hour and a half in either direction to drive to the closest sites that I frequent every week. Although their "coming soon" sign references iCombat I have it on very good authority (the owner himself) that they will be running Gen 7 Laserforce packs at this center. This is great news and I'm glad to hear of his choice in systems.

Of course I realize that this center will be smaller than some of the other places where I play, but I am optimistic that having an arena so close by will afford me the chance to get more frequent practice time in on weeknights. I really hope they develop a member base and consider starting a member night...maybe with some antic-free SM5. :)

Considering the relatively recent loss of two other tag sites in upstate New York I am really enthused to support this new tag arena and the rest of their business moving to a new site in our local mall. Rest assured there will be a follow up post as soon as this facility is up and running as I will plan to pay a visit and play there on their opening day. I wish them the best of luck!

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tag Apparel

I recently designed some original laser tag themed fabric which I had custom printed and then using my seamstress skills I turned it into some fun tag apparel. Look closely and you'll see silhouettes of tag players glowing red and green and the square repeat points are actually bases. :) My first projects using this fabric (printed on poly spun spandex jersey) were leggings done with a larger version of the print and a tunic with the design reduced to a smaller scale and I wore the shirt while out at tag this weekend.

My gears started turning on this idea when I received a note with the excellent suggestion that "now we just need laser tag leggings." 

I couldn't have agreed more! This fabric design was inspired in part by the Photon "first artifact" concept painting coupled with some homage to my home arena. 

Had another night with games filled at or very close to full capacity (love that!) however, with nice weather on the way I know summer will slow things down locally, so it is time to start planning some more tag adventures on the road. Until last night I was hedging about this one, but I have decided to play Baltigeddon again this year. So I guess one of the things I should put on my agenda is to get down to PA and brush up on Storm...but maybe head to the Boston area first! :)

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Friday, April 7, 2017

I Can't Adult Today

Last weekend I was playing out in Syracuse and I wore this shirt. 

It just seemed very appropriate to the vibe of the night. And I wrote a bit (that I never actually posted) about the evening including the return of the godchildren (when out of the blue I hear someone yell "hey, godfather" at me I knew I had a  team of teenage minions following my lead again and I must say I do think that's kind of cool). Last week there was a packed house of 41 players every available vest was accounted for. However, this week I headed out to Albany and it was a little quieter, but the sentiment of the shirt might have been equally appropriate. There were only a handful of players and it was difficult to find a reasonable balance, although I swear I tried in the beginning. When I showed up and there was nobody except this guy with his young nephew I didn't want to scare anyone off so I played quite mildly, teaming up with the kid and helping to point out where he could get the extra base and gem points while putting only moderate attention on aiming at our opponent. Later on a couple more people joined so I felt at liberty to take it up a notch, but still "playing nicely".

Now, here is where I throw some kudos to the game master, Dominick. While I interpreted it as "playing nicely" and can't account for how my teammates played (the young boy and another girl who showed up with a guy who played on the other team) apparently from the outside it still looked like a slaughter on those two guys. Dominick donned a vest and joined the game to try to even the match a bit and I really respect and appreciate that...and not just because it gave me someone to target harder without feeling badly about it.

Awhile back I wrote a post here about how I encourage staff stepping up when there is nobody around to play a proper game. Actually, at the time it was more a criticism of a situation where no staff were willing to step up at all. But in this case I want to acknowledge what a help it was to the opposite team and make the game significantly more interesting to play (at least from my vantage point) when he did enter the game. I also appreciated it because sometimes I feel like in spite of my genuine efforts, I literally am not capable of adulting to fully take it down far enough to really be right...the first game I could handle just being a coach, but by the last game I needed to play! Sure, I will keep from going total try-hard on a situation and I do always try to help players get their bases if I can. However, I also want to enjoy the best possible game too and I appreciate that this was made possible by the end...even though I clearly can't adult today either!

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