Monday, October 16, 2017

Talking Tag on the Bob and Sheri Oddcast

I had a really cool opportunity this morning. I was invited to talk about laser tag on the Bob and Sheri Oddcast, which is a podcast extension of their nationally syndicated radio show. You can listen to the program here...

Many thanks to Bob and Sheri for having me on the Oddcast which is absolutely one of my favorite podcasts to follow. 😊 You can continue to keep up with their show at

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One Brief, Fleeting Moment

I was back in Syracuse playing Laserforce the other night when something happened that momentarily had me really happily surprised...but it was short lived.

Tom and Aaron were hanging back in the vesting room signing in using the computer when I had scanned my card and started walking into the arena. From behind me I hear them call out "Tivia, you're a level seven?"

I answer that, no, I am a level six. Level six is generally regarded as the highest level (Laser Master), but those who know are aware that there is actually something above that, however it is incredibly rare to achieve the level seven. It requires maintaining a ridiculously high average (not just a few games...bear in mind the hundreds of games that go into formulating a decent average) and it also comes with an incredibly difficult must land five shots against a lower level player instead of just one in order to deactivate them. Level six has a three shot balance, but five is really taking it to another level...and that level is seven. :)

"Well, you must have just leveled up" they tell me and call me over to look at the screen. A level seven would be identified with a little purple vest icon instead of a number and as you can see by my name (Tiv-D)...

Sure enough, the computer was telling us that I was now a level seven! I went into the game and played as a level seven, experiencing the five-shot balance for the first time. It was challenging, but fun and afterwards I immediately went to check my card status in the lobby. However at the computer terminal out front it was still showing me as a level six. Now, don't get me wrong. I haven't been to this site in months and had no real expectation of having that ultra-elite level. However, I did want to check it out. Unfortunately, it was determined to be a glitch as a result of some people messing with the computer settings. Sigh...for one brief, fleeting moment I was almost a level seven. :)

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Newspaper Interview About Me Laser Tagging America

I was surprised and flattered when I found out that Jacob Mann, a reporter for the Frontiersman newspaper in Alaska had come out to the Extreme Fun Center to interview me about my laser tag goal to play in all 50 states. He wrote such a nice article and I am very appreciative that he took the time to cover my visit. Here is the article…

Tagging In Alaska

I am serious about my goal to play laser tag in all 50 states and figured I may never be closer to Alaska than I was on this west coast trip so I boarded a flight to Anchorage and then rented a car to get me to Wasilla and the Extreme Fun Center. I had called up to the center a couple of times in advance to make certain that if I could work out the logistics that I’d be able to play even though I would be getting there on a Wednesday evening. However, I never imagined what an experience I would have once I arrived.

No sooner did I get there than I was told a game was going right in and I was shown to the briefing room. To my pleasant surprise there was a good quality group of players in the game. The laser tag arena manager, Erin, had made special arrangements coordinating with members of the National Guard to come out and play on this night. That was perfect and such an honor to play tag with them!

As it turns out the Alaska National Guard is the sponsor for this laser tag arena.

I learned that they come out to play once or twice a month with civilians. I think this is a perfect pairing for recruitment as well. We played three rounds of team games with this group and included some public players, employees and a special guest…they had also invited the local press to cover my visit so there was a newspaper reporter from the Frontiersman there to interview me and he played in the games as well! It was a really fun experience and something completely unexpected.

Before one of the games an off-duty staff member commented that my name, Tivia, sounded like Activia yogurt. So I decided for fun to sign in for a game as “Yogurt”. :)

While I was at the Extreme Fun Center I met the owner and CEO, John Schweiger and was also introduced to Laura O’Neal of TrainerTainment who helps improve Family Entertainment Centers. It was such a treat to have the opportunity to chat with them both.

When the tag games were done I sat down with reporter Jacob Mann for an interview for the newspaper article he was writing.


And then before the night was over I even got to try out the race cars around the indoor track. I have never done this before!


And I purchased a few souvenirs before calling it a night after an amazing time laser tagging in Alaska.

And speaking of souvenirs, there was one more place I wanted to visit while in Wasilla. As it turns out they still have Blockbuster Video in Alaska! Had to see it for myself and take home a t-shirt. 😊

And that rounded out a really amazing trip to Alaska. Thank you Extreme Fun Center!

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Tactical Tag at Virtual Sports

When I called over to Virtual Sports in Tukwila, WA I talked with Sandra who invited me to come over and try a game of tactical with a group of some of their top tactical tag players. Who could say no to that? So I walked in and met a great group of players and staffers who gave me a briefing on the iCombat equipment and the game formats we would play in their arena tonight.

Before going in I got a chance to check out their equipment.

I was given vest 37 with an irM4 and headband sensor.

Then we went into the arena for four game rounds. The first round was Team Death Match which was basically just points for targeting members of the other team. Get shot out, go back to base to respawn. Much like with Tron there was a lot of running back and forth (at least for me…I needed to get my bearings here). I didn’t do very well out of the gate, but I did enjoy the experience and trying out some new and unfamiliar equipment. I kept looking down at my vest to see what had happened since I didn’t receive much audible information from the gear.

The next round was a different game called Domination. The object of this game was for your team to maintain control of the strategically placed tubes by targeting directly downward so they would either change to blue or to green. Initially I thought I preferred Death Match over Domination, but in hindsight I see the latter as being more equitable to a base game and I think I like that a little more now that I’ve had time to reflect.

I might be saying that because I was apparently better at Domination. Not right from the start, but after two rounds playing on one team we switched sides and played both formats again. The next time Domination came up I somehow scored second highest in the whole game, so I guess I must have caught on my then.

And after four rounds of tactical tag I felt like I was walking away with a really unique experience. Plus I had a chance to take some photos in the arena.

And I learned about some of the special equipment they use in Zombie games. Sounds like a really fun variation!

After returning home from my trip I received an email from the Vice President of Operations for iCombat who filled in some info for me and when I told him I had visited Virtual Sports he told me that he was very familiar with them and that they get a lot of good reviews. Well consider this yet another positive review because I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing here and appreciate being able to experience a little tactical tag before leaving Washington. Thank you to everyone at Virtual Sports!


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Something Different

Family Fun Center of Tukwila may have been the second Family Fun Center I had played in two days, but to the best of my memory they were the first site I have ever visited with this particular generation of the Lasertron equipment.

I must admit, I’m really sure which version of Lasertron had these tinted plastic covers. Typically I see a clear cover target on the front of the pack. But the great thing about writing a blog like this is inevitably someone out there sees it and emails to educate me when I am not certain about something with the game or the equipment, so I do invite anyone who knows to clarify for me which generation of Lasertron this is. For now we’ll just call it “generation fun”.

That may also shed light on some of the differences inside this arena. It had a slightly different look with the vapor lock lettering and the recharge station affixed higher on a side wall, not where I would have expected it.

I played a very light game of Tron at this site, which was fine with me because it was getting a little later into the evening and I was  getting as bit tired. This was after all my 24th laser tag arena of the trip at this point. And I was wanting to settle in to the hotel to prepare for my flight to Alaska the next day. However, one of the game masters asked me if I had played the laser tag site just down the road and I said no, I didn’t realize there was another site in town. She referred me to Virtual Sports and I called ahead. It turns out this would be well worth my time to push forward for one more tag experience in Washington. So with that I said goodbye to the Family Fun Center and hello tactical!


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Thou Shalt Not Be A Birthday Basher

One of the cardinal rules of laser tag (or at least it should be) is don’t ever be a birthday basher or play hard against kids if you end up in a game with little ones. Occasionally you might find yourself in a game with young players and this is NOT a place to play intensely. Rather it is an opportunity to be a role model and be helpful until you are in a more appropriate game to play for real. Teenagers and adults can give you a fair game, but when the game involves a group of children you should only encourage and help those kids to have a good time playing the game and never go full out if you are an experienced player. That being said, sometimes you can’t really pick the group you play with and when I arrived at Laser Quest of Federal Way all I was told was that they had a group arriving shortly. I took a seat across from “mission control” and waited to see who would show up. This was after all a Tuesday night.

I was momentarily pleased when a suitable group of adults walked in the door a few minutes later, but as it turned out they were only there for the escape room. A little while later I realized that the laser tag group was a kid’s birthday party and I was a little less enthused because I knew that even though I would be present in the arena I would not really be playing this game. However, I always try to go in positive and be a role model for what should happen in these situations. So I put on the pack and went in with the group.

In cases like this (especially if you’ve already bought your pass) I think the best thing for a more experienced player to do is to remember that everyone is there to have fun. There is no honor in winning against children. I try to let the little ones get an ego boost out of tagging me. I will play just enough so that it doesn’t appear like I’m not trying, but I will not take easy shots at any child if I can avoid it. So, I spent most of this game walking around the arena and helping them where I could. Sometimes the games just aren’t competitive, but if you’re already in it then just do your best to be a kind player and help everyone to have a good time playing. That’s what I did in this instance, so I can’t say that I had the “real” experience of playing Laser Quest Federal Way, but I did feel good for having helped those kids to have their own great experience and that makes me a happy tag player.


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Laser Fun Zone

The Laser Fun Zone in Lacey, WA opened a little later in the day so I had to backtrack a bit to get there to play some Helios. Although it was mid-afternoon by the time I got there it was still too early to find other players there so I asked the two guys behind the counter if one of them might go 1v1 against me. Mitchell and Leland said sure and asked which one I wanted to play against. When Leland also volunteered that he had some police training I said absolutely I wanted to play against him. So we vested up.

He knew the arena well, but I had a kind of sixth sense for which direction he was going to go and I was definitely on my game. I’m not sure, but I may have even tired him out some because in the middle of the game he called in Mitchell to vest up and take his place. Tag team tag? Sure, why not!

The arena was a basic design I’ve seen many times before. There were raised levels at either end of the arena with a giant pharoah’s head for décor.

Both of the guys played a good game and I thanked them for the chance to play their arena. Leland was kind enough to give me a card to take back for a discount if ever I make my way back to Washington again.

Thanks guys!


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An Odyssey of the Force

The first arena I visited once I arrived in Washington was Odyssey-1 in Tacoma, WA. The owner, Barry, was there at the site when I arrived and seemed very interested in my goal when I explained to him a bit about my blog and my journey. I appreciated him working things out and even joining me for a game of Laserforce while I was there. I chatted with Barry and a staff member named William about my experience with the game. They asked me what level I had achieved and both seemed pretty impressed with my level 6 status. It’s interesting how in Syracuse I take it for granted that just about everybody who plays a lot inevitably ends up becoming a level 6, but sometimes playing at other sites reminds me that this isn’t always the case. So it was nice to play just for fun, but also to receive some appreciation for what I had achieved previously.

The arena has four bases, one at each end and then two on opposite walls in the middle. We played a free for all so I was able to go for all of them. I feel like the use of space and mirrors throughout gave this smaller single level arena a much larger feel while I was playing and it also gave opportunities to take shots from unusual angles.

We had a pretty good game and Barry complimented my high score and I think I surprised him with the top score as he didn’t really expect me to pull first place with this being my first time out in this arena...I love being underestimated. :) However playing in this arena felt very much like an extension of the games I play at home and it felt very comfortable and familiar to play at this site. Being able to play this system somewhere away from home actually reminds me of how much I really do enjoy Laserforce. Thanks for a great time at Odyssey-1!


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Snake Eggs and Other Cool Things About Wunderland

here are three cool things that really stood out to me during my visit to Wunderland of Gresham, OR…the incredibly affordable price per game, the absolutely GORGEOUS western theme arena and the snake eggs. Let’s talk about this really fun Laserforce site.

First of all, when I bought my ticket for the 9:00 PM game I was ready to pay a typical tag price (usually it's around $7 or $8 dollars for a single game). However, the cost for an individual game here was only $4.25. I was surprised it was so low so I asked if I was catching some kind of weeknight special discount. The guy behind the counter told me that no, $4.25 was their regular price and if I showed up on their discount night it would be $3.25 per game. OMG, that might even be less than it cost for a round of Photon 30 years ago! Such a great value for a session of Laserforce.

I sat down to watch their custom briefing video (which was cute) and then we entered one of the most attractive arenas I have ever seen. There was a wild west theme throughout, but lots of color and beautiful design elements everywhere.

And there was one special element I was really excited about. Not too long ago Beanz told me about an arena I would soon have to visit in Las Vegas and he told me it has a dinosaur theme with dino eggs to target. I tucked that piece of info away and remembered it only when I was exploring this arena and came upon…

…a giant snake with eggs to target! Upon shooting the eggs several times the mama snake wakes up angrily and opens her mouth to reveal a base-like target that fires back at the offender who was “harming her babies”. This was very creative and the most memorable element of the arena. So I got to experience this feature sooner rather than later and it was a Laserforce first for me.

My only tiny regret is that they were unable to read my Laserforce membership card from Syracuse, so if there were an achievement to be gained from the snake eggs I wasn’t able to claim it. But I got one of their member cards to take back with me anyhow.

I had a great time playing at Wunderland in their Lost Mine Expedition laser tag arena and really wish I had more time to spend there.

I do want to take a moment to address what was going on elsewhere while I was up in Oregon at these tag sites. While I have written up my posts about this trip after the fact, I was actually traveling up the west coast on the days immediately before and after the atrocious Las Vegas concert attack. I am grateful that the people I know personally in Las Vegas escaped injury, however right after this stop to Wunderland I made contact with one of my friends who works for Laserforce and happened to be doing an equipment install for a new laser tag site in Las Vegas during exactly this same time period. He told me that he and one of our mutual friends were there to install the system for this future tag arena and they opted to take a cab back to their hotel from the strip instead of walking. Apparently that decision is the only thing that kept them from being right on the strip during the shootings and if they had walked back instead they would have been right in the middle of it too. Instead they heard the shots from their hotel across the street from the Mandalay Bay. I simply don’t have words to express my feelings for all who were there and for the individuals and families of those injured or killed during the attack. My heart is with all who were there and with our country as we all deal with the aftermath of this terrible event.

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