Monday, May 29, 2017

Baltigeddon 2017

Playing in this year's Baltigeddon as part of Team Syracuse-ish was really a great time. Originally I had planned to be a free agent for this tournament, but no sooner did I mention it to Razz than we ended up with a full team. He picked the guys up in Syracuse, I left from my half day of work out towards Albany and we all met up Saturday morning at XP Lasersport in Owings Mills, MD.

Upon arrival at the center it was great to see some friendly faces even before meeting up with my team. I'm really glad that I've gotten to know tag players from all over the country, but I see some familiar faces each time there's an event in the mid-Atlantic region, which is cool. I chatted a bit with Marc and then joined up with my teammates who were already there including Razz, Ass, Zac, Zammy, Lenny and RNT.

We went over the schedule which would alternate Q-Zar and Storm games for the first half of the day and Tron and Tactical for the second half. Now, none of us have a great deal of experience with any of these formats (except RNT...I think we were all really glad to have him playing with us and coaching along the way) so we didn't necessarily have any real expectations other than to go in and give it our best.

First up was Q-Zar. We played red first and put on those packs that resemble football gear and headed for the Tron arena to face off with the Tron team, aka "Meat Sweats".

We playerd two back to back Q-Zar games against them and won both. What a great boost to have that happen right out of the gate. Meanwhile Teams Storm Drain and Free Points were playing their Storm rounds over in the tactical arena. When it was time to switch systems we lost the first Storm game, but won the next, so we were still feeling pretty good. More success when it was time to go back to Q-Zar (in spite of the fact we had no break in between and the first eight games were played entirely back to back) and we took our beating in Storm from the Storm team.

However after that we won our last two Q-Zar games and our last two Storm games!

At the halfway mark we had won 9 out of 12 games before lunch. It was a great feeling to have success like that early on in the tournament and I think everyone was feeling pretty good.

We got our dose of reality in the second half when we were thoroughly getting beaten down in Tron and Tactical. We lost a few of both before we gained any ground. Tron was the most physically demanding system and two of our players did sustain leg injuries. I believe Lenny may have dropped during one of the Tron games and still pushed onward and at some point Zammy had to ice his knee after a run in with one of the Storm players, but both powered through. We ended up winning the last two Tron games and I think this picture following our Tron victories speaks for itself.

And tactical was not my strong suit, but I did definitely appreciate it more by the end. We played a Captains format using Laser Tag Pro which is new equipment since the last time I played tactical here. I really kind of enjoyed it by the end when I started to do better. Laser Tag Pro uses a headband sensor system that feels way more sturdy and comfortable than the previous tactical equipment I had played.

You can look at the phaser and see it's sturdy, but it was also more lightweight than I would have expected.

The phasers were pre-programmed earlier in the day with our code names so we had to turn in before we started. At the time I was sitting down talking with Marc Mueller and Randall Meding when Zammy passed by. I asked Zammy to sign me up and he asked what name I wanted to use. I said Tivia and he said the registration might not be for just here, what would I like if that was taken. I smiled and said "It won't be. I'm sitting with Bhodi Li and if he's in there then there's no way 'Tivia' will be taken." I enjoyed the fact that I was with possibly the only two people in the place who could really appreciate the fact that Bhodi Li and Tivia were playing in this tournament together. :)

So, yeah, my code name was available and was programmed onto the phaser.

Fast forward to tactical outcome, we lost most of the games, but did pick up one win by the end. And maybe of equal significance was that I picked up an interest in doing that again. Tactical may not be my favorite, but I'd certainly welcome the chance to play again using Laser Tag Pro equipment.

After 24 nearly consecutive games the tournament was over an RNT asked me into the captains meeting. We confirmed the results and then everyone went upstairs for a little ceremony of sorts. Congratulations to Team Storm Drain for placing in first with 19 points/wins. Team Syracuse-ish was announced in third place. However, that doesn't really paint the whole picture. I'm really proud of us because we had wone 12 games...and the Meat Sweats in second place had won 13. That means we were one game away from tying for or possibly taking second and even though that didn't happen, I am ridiculously pleased with how close we came and how many successes we had.

For a team that came in without a lot of experience on these systems I think we all played hard, learned a lot and left stronger and better for having done this tournament. This was one of the most positive tournament experiences I've had and I know I personally felt like I gained a lot. I want to thank all of our team for playing with such heart and good attitudes. I was genuinely proud to be part of Team Syracuse-ish for Baltigeddon 2017.

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Before and After

I visited a couple of tag centers both before arriving and after leaving Baltigeddon. On the heels of my Actual Reality experience I headed off to Jay Lanes Bowl TNT Laser Tag in Douglassville, PA. I've got to say, these were some of the NICEST people I have met. When I arrived there was nobody around for tag (which happens sometimes on a holiday weekend in the summer), but the friendly guy at the counter upon hearing about my travels let an employee do a one on one game with me and it was a great time. Thanks for playing John!

Played a little Zone with Helios in a bright and colorful arena with a medieval theme.

It was a good wind-down to a full day of driving. Then I headed to my hotel for the night before playing Baltigeddon the next day. For now let me skip over the main event and get to where I went after the tournament. On my way to my next destination I drove through Feasterville, PA to Brunswick Bowl XL.

Let me preface by saying they are transitioning and will soon be known as Bolero. They were kind enough to invite me to come back and blog about them at that point, so I may have to head back that way soon.

I walked in to see a counter under a wall mural declaring Urban Mission Laser Tag.

A group of young women were headed in so I bought my game and joined them. Even after a full day of tournament play I somehow got a second wind and went in with way more energy than I expected since this was literally the 25th game of laser tag I had played that day. I just ran the arena and had a good time. But first we had to watch a briefing video...let me say, while nothing I've seen tops the briefing video at Adrenaline Zone in Missouri, this one has to take the prize for this year. It was the best briefing video I've seen in awhile. It seemed specific to this center and was original, campy and very funny all while hitting the points it needed to. Once we went into the arena the game was on. They were using Rift equipment and it played very smoothly like butter. It's always interesting for me to play with newer Rift phasers because frankly the ones I use every weekend are pretty beat up and it's a big difference when you compare with another center. I really liked this arena. It was bright and artistic...genuinely a "pretty" arena with a colorful mix of grotto meets industrial. I was especially impressed with the structures housing the bases.

When the game was done I collected my scoresheet (I was playing for accuracy this time) and then asked if they had any t-shirts or logo merch for sale. Since they are changing their name soon I was told they didn't, but that there were some hacki-sack type prizes in the arcade that I could try to win. So I bought an arcade card, played a couple of rounds of Go Fish just to try for quick points and with exactly the amount of games I had on the card I earned exactly the number of points I needed to take home my souvenir.

That worked out well! Then I was off to New Jersey.

Bonkerz Fun Center in Princeton, NJ was not far from my hotel, so I finished off the day with a game of Blast.

It appeared to be an older arena. The base towers were a little sparce...

...but that didn't matter to the game. I took my base points, then explored the rest of the space.

I honestly wasn't playing full out, but I had the advantage of being the only one who seemed to know what to do (although everyone still seemed to have a good time)...but I enjoyed realizing at the end that I had a pack called Power House.

And after this I realized I was thoroughly exhausted from the full day of tag (more in my next post about the tournament experience) so I just headed for the hotel and was ready to crash.

The next day I woke up tired, but with nothing particular to do until later in the day. I had to be in Staten Island by 3:00, but in the morning I had no plans. So I decided spur of the moment to (you guessed it) some more laser tag! I went to Funtime America in Eatonville, NJ where I have played before. However, I had not brought another change of tag clothes. Instead I had to be a little dressier for the show I was going to later in the day, so...

I wore a long skirt and dressy top and ballet flats into the arena!

Bear in mind that this is at about 10:00 in the morning and I am just killing time, so there was nobody there yet. I played against the game master, Brittany.

I just considered this a warm-up to jump start my day, but I sure don't get pics that look like this most of the time.

So it was a good side detour before making my way over to Red Bank (can't go to New Jersey without stopping into Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash) and then continuing on to Staten Island. What an awesome and incredibly full weekend!

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Actually Playing Actual Reality

On my way to Baltigeddon I planned my route to include stops at a couple of laser tag centers along the way. The first of these stops was to Planet Trog in Whitehall, PA.

This place was particularly intriguing to me because they still run the Actual Reality laser tag system. In fact I am told they are the very last center in the world to still operate with these packs because the company behind this equipment ceased operating 15 years ago. Some history about this can be found on the Laser Tag Museum's website.

Did you check out those pics of the equipment? Good...because that's all I have to show you. Unfortunately, for reasons that are a mystery to me, the owners of this center would not permit me to take a photo wearing one of the Actual Reality packs that I used while playing at their center. I am confounded as to why, especially as we spent a great amount of time pleasantly chatting beforehand and they did allow me to take pictures in the arena and the lobby. They shared a wealth of information with me about their center and this game and I explained this blog and my love of all things related to laser tag history...but I was still denied the chance to take the one photo I really hoped for which would have been great to share here. So, let me register my disappointment about this, but then move on to share the rest of my experience playing here.

Although there are at least two other places that I know claim to be the world's largest laser tag arena (Stratum in Mesa, AZ cites a 13,000 square foot laser tag arena - and Laser Rock at The Edge in Belleville, IL sells a t-shirt that says "World's Largest Laser Tag Arena" - this place in PA also claims to be the Largest in the U.S. - at 12,000 square feet. I'm posting all three websites with their respective claims as I honestly don't know which one is correct. Regardless, this one was a pretty big and impressive arena on a single level and it was incredibly artistic. There were some very unique touches, most notably a large papier mache cactus and some colorful neon rock type structures as well as large tripod-ish structures on each side to house the base.

Roper got me set up with the pack and briefed me on shooting with the Actual Reality phaser. He told me to touch the two metal circles on the bottom front of the phaser using my thumb and index finger and then pull the trigger. This phaser was a little different in that it appears speed triggering is the key to success. You could shoot in a machine gun option, but this would deplete your shields. Another option was to unleash a "grenade" by pulling the trigger first and then touching the metal circles. There were no lights on the shoulders, only on the front and it shot with a red beam. In the free for all game I played with employees Matt and Roper I was instructed to recharge by either shooting directly up onto the base or by shooting at a green box next to one of the spotlight points throughout the arena. The three of us played a round and I enjoyed exploring the space and getting the feel for this game.

I can imagine this is all the more enjoyable when there are more players. I was told they have quite a few packs and can accommodate large groups with all that space. I give them props for keeping this running with DOS and Windows 98 technology and appreciate the education I got from Kevin and Ron about their game and their facility.

After the game we were given our scorecards...

Thanks to Matt and Roper for giving me the chance to play against some skilled competitors, but also explaining things as the game progressed. I had a great time and was glad we could take a selfie in the lobby...

And I also appreciate the sticker for my tag swag collection. Thanks!

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Laser Tag On Location

I'm a member of a local chamber of commerce thast recently held an outdoor festival and when we were brainstorming ideas for the event I suggested hiring the mobile laser tag unit from the guys out in Syracuse. Everyone in the group thought this was a great idea and on the morning of our event a giant inflatable laser tag arena was set up on the church lawn offering short games for $5.

Until they got to our event I had never actually seen the mobile unit set-up...only folded up in a pile by E-door. :) I've got to say, I was impressed with it. Sanch, Lenny and Zac did a great job running things smoothly in spite of the fact that it rained all day long. I'm really glad they were able to make it work in spite of the weather.

Everyone who came out to play really seemed to enjoy it. This was the first laser tag some of them had ever experienced.

And although it was tough to get a photo to accurately represent the inside, the inflatable arena was more impressive than I expected. Lights and music added a lot to create the atmosphere.

It definitely was a cool enhancement to the festival and I know it garnered quite a bit of positive attention. Hopefully the next time we invite the mobile laser tag unit out to an event the weather cooperates better. But it was still a great way to bring laser tag to a new audience and add something really cool to our Springfest. Thanks guys!

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Laser Tag is the Anti-Prom

If this idea had occurred to me in high school I might have done it myself! A group of teens who didn't want to go to their prom showed up at tag wearing formal gowns and Burger King crowns and told us "this is our prom". AWESOME!

I admire the independence of these teens to pass on the prom in favor of choosing their own path. Although I went to four proms myself it was more because I love any excuse to wear glitz and a gown...the event itself never lived up to the hype. So I just want to say it's just as cool to pave your own way and do something outside of the norm. Glad they opted to tag instead...and I suspect that worked out better for at least one of them in more ways than one.

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Wednesday War Room

When you can't play actual laser tag it's cool to be able to play virtual tag! I am part of the Beta test for the latest innovation from the inventor of laser tag, George Carter. It's called TZUUM and it's a tag game played using an iPhone. In this phase we're getting to play against other players up to 2500 miles away!

This is a really fun game that involves targeting missiles of different power levels and distances to strike against an opponent that could be anywhere within the range of the scan.

So this past week they announced Wednesday War Room with prizes to incentivize playing during a scheduled window of game time. I was ready to go. Strategizing and targeting through 16 games (I played every game of the night) I won nine of them and topped my previous best score by reaching 182 points. It is an adrenaline pumping game when other competitive players get in the mix. Even my little Leon wanted to be part of the action.

And if you want to be part of this as well there are still some opportunities available. Check out and get into the game!

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