Sunday, April 22, 2018

Seriously Syracuse? (aka A Few Suggestions)

Yep, I fell for it...again.

I am frustrated...again. There was supposed to be a local tag tournament going on in Syracuse tonight, but with only a couple of hours notice the tournament was cancelled...again. A rescheduled date has not yet been announced. To which I have to say "Seriously Syracuse?"


Several of us were tagging last night, recruiting players and preparing for the event. And a couple of us were comparing our stamp cards too. Please tell me, how does someone actually complete this card if the site does not host a local tournament and has not since long before the cards became available?


I really try to keep this blog positive, so rather than lament that this seems to be a trend (so much so that in my office we refer to it as "pulling a Syracuse") I am going to offer some constructive criticism to this and other sites that may be having trouble with tournaments and event follow through.

1. If you announce it, you must then actively promote it. It is not enough to put a single post on FB or to just hang a poster on the wall. If employees aren't chatting about your event with every customer who walks in the door during the weeks prior, that is a lost opportunity. If you are announcing games on a P.A. system you should definitely make an occasional announcement about your tournament too. And game masters should be encouraging membership and involvement with all activities. This is how you start to turn a casual player into someone who takes interest in your site and your events.

2. Commitment is the key. This is a two-parter. I assume once an event is announced that most sites would commit to scheduling staff to be there...but if not, consider that part one. The second part is getting customer commitments in advance. Until someone plunks their money down you do not have a confirmed player. If you require a certain number of people in order to make the event run then let that be known and put a hard deadline to when that number must be reached. Secure it with a deposit. Once you have your minimum number of players you can grow the event if needed. But if by chance you don't meet your number by the deadline, cancel with enough notice that you don't waste everyone's time. Don't let walk-ins determine whether or not it's a go. (Personal note - This is especially important if you've gotten any indication that a player may be traveling to attend your event.)  

3. Make it matter. I've heard that sometimes tournaments get less attention because they are not as lucrative as overnights or birthday parties. I agree, of course they are not! Tournaments play to a specific segment of your important segment, but a smaller piece of the pie nonetheless. One that might have room to grow. But do you know what is less lucrative than a tournament? A tournament that doesn't actually happen. So (I say this cautiously) if you really don't want to build competition at your site then don't bother running a tournament. BUT if you DO want to foster a competitive scene (whether to generate new members, keep members coming back or prepare for the possibility of building a team to travel to other tournaments) then you must make these things matter. You have to encourage people, reward them for even the small achievements and show them that they too can be part of something awesome. This means follow through and making the event a priority too. Adjust the format if necessary, but do NOT cancel unless there is absolutely no other option. Also, I suggest offering small prizes to keep people interested and feeling appreciated so they don't feel like only the top players walk away with something. I'm not advocating for "participation trophies" (accomplishments are earned, not automatic), but I do think that there are little things that can make players feel like the event and what they accomplished at the event was worth their effort. Even cheap plastic trophies or a free slushee are the kind of thing that make people feel like they achieved something. (Side note...I actually saw someone showing off a Negative 24K award from a recent event...proves that ANYTHING can be acknowledged). You must make your event matter, regardless of the size or scope of it, in order for it to matter to your customers and players. 

Ok, I've said a lot there. And at the end of this post I feel slightly less frustrated than I did at the beginning because I hope this helps someone out there. I love playing laser tag, I love to compete and I want nothing more than for there to be more opportunities taking place for everyone to enjoy. 

Sigh...this all makes me feel like I need another tag getaway soon. FYI, a tournament in California already has my registration and deposit for an event a couple of months from now. I may have to cross the country to do it, but I WILL get to play in another local tournament soon!  :)



Comments or Questions?


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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Two Weeks Later: Fun Junction Memories

It has been two weeks since I heard the news that Fun Junction, my first laser tag home, had unexpectedly closed. This was not easy for me to accept. This past weekend I actually went back to the mall to see for myself and it brought out a lot of emotions. I walked into the mall and walked down this familiar hallway that I have so many times.

I entered right behind a family with a young daughter. I watched as she ran up to where the center had been, put her hands on the window and pressed her nose up against the glass and I saw her process her own sadness as she discovered that it was gone. Wow...that hit home. I took a moment to sit on the bench out front and just reflect on all the time I have spent here...and especially all of the good times. So that's what this post is about. Here are photos of some wonderful memories I have of Fun Junction.

Remembering all the good times we had there is a much better way to say goodbye.

Goodbye Fun Junction.
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Two Laser Quests in One Oklahoma Afternoon

While in Tulsa you absolutely MUST stop by the Laser Quest. I’m so glad that I did! First of all, at 10,000 square feet this is the second largest Laser Quest right behind the one in Mississauga, ON, Canada (which would make it the largest in the United States). Second, there is a really phenomenal staff here. In fact, I got the chance to play with two of them, which was a great time and an unusual game.

I called ahead and talked with manager Kadrian who hooked me up with an awesome souvenir that is apparently normally reserved for the staff (but they ordered a few too many, which worked to my benefit).

We chatted a bit about where I had been traveling and how my end goal is hopefully going to land me at a Laser Quest in Texas, for which she gave me some great feedback and a contact person’s name while simultaneously making sure I was properly registered for LQ Arena. I’m very appreciative of her interest and support. I’m also really glad that she gave a couple of her staff members permission to do something they aren’t usually able to do…play hard against a customer. :)

Rather than go in with the kids party that was already at the site (I’m no birthday basher) I instead got to play a smaller, but way better game against marshalls Caffyqueen asnd Drumstyk. While vesting up Caffy asked me if I was an employee of Quest. That was the only thing she could figure because they would normally not be allowed to play full out, yet had been given the go ahead to do so with me. I said no, that I just play a lot of laser tag and we went in for a game that was quite good considering the small group. I give kudos to them both. I was holding the lead until the final couple of minutes where Drumstyk and I flip-flopped shots a couple of times. The final score was really close and came down to just one shot (in his favor), but let me tell you I didn’t mind at all because that was what made it a lot of fun! Thank you for giving me a good game!

This was a memorable experience at Laser Quest Tulsa.

I had decided a short time later that I was going to head to Oklahoma City (see my last blog entry for more on that) and there was really only one shot for me to get in a game at the OKC Laser Quest between my other tag visits in the area. I had called ahead and been told there was a group of people confirmed for a game at 5:40, but no other reservations for the rest of the evening (as this was a Sunday and they would be closing shortly after that). Well, I drove into the parking lot at 5:42 and ran into the center asking if I could still get into the 5:40 game. The game masters sent me right in as the game had only just begun and I took as few people by surprise as this was a team game and I seemingly appeared out of nowhere. :)

This location was very cool and a little different from some of the other Laser Quests I have been to. This arena had a space crater theme and a distinctive look. Where I expected to find towers I instead discovered unusual nooks and crannies as a meandered through the fog. It was a smaller game with only eight players divided into two teams. When we exited the arena the green team noted that my score was higher than the total of their team, so I guess I didn’t lose much by entering the game late. I am appreciative that I got to play with this group and check out this arena before the afternoon was over. I am also glad that I got to take home a slightly more vintage magnet from this site. Boy, I wish I had been collecting these sooner!

So two Laser Quests in Oklahoma made for one really great afternoon in the sooner state. Lots of fun for sure!

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Incredible Pizza in Tulsa and Oklahoma City

I wanted to check out the Incredible Pizza Company in Tulsa in part because I knew that Sanch and Beanz had done the installation of their new Laserforce system and lighting.

To get into their laser tag arena on the weekend they require the purchase of their buffet as well, so I did so even though I was really only interested in playing some tag, so I made a beeline for their arena and swiped my game card.

I had seen one of Beanz’s videos of this site, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. I enjoyed a light game in their single level arena with a space theme. Lots of neon and lots of black light effects against the walls and the paint-splatter designed flooring.

And even though they were still using the briefing video from their previous system I enjoyed playing using brand new gen 7 Laserforce packs. It’s such a treat whenever I get to play with new equipment because so often the packs get beaten up from so much use. This system is clearly still in its honeymoon stage of operation. :)

When the game was done I chatted with the game master a bit about my journey, while simultaneously getting a message back from Beanz letting me know that they also did the installation for the Oklahoma City Incredible Pizza location. This tipped the scales for me as I was contemplating making an additional drive to OKC anyhow, so now the decision was made. The Tulsa location manager Seth came over to talk with me and he was so helpful when I explained what I was doing in Oklahoma. I still had some money left on my card and, although I learned the credit would not transfer between locations, Seth was kind enough to call ahead to the Oklahoma City location and work it out with OKC manager Michael for me to be able to get in a game of tag at a second Incredible Pizza too. So I hopped into my car and drove an hour and a half to Oklahoma City to check out the laser tag there.

Incredible Pizza of Oklahoma City has a particularly cool arena and I’m so glad that I made the trip! Michael met me at the entrance when I arrived and escorted me into the tag area.

The outside promoted tag with an aquatic theme. This is something I have never seen before!

We watched a briefing video that was specifically tailored for this arena, then suited up and went in. I am thoroughly impressed! Although I can tell that this is a Creative Works design, remarkably it is one I am seeing for the very first time. The arena is a double level design with “rock walls” on the lower level and the upper level overlooking a “sea” of decorative touches that truly make you feel like you are looking down on the inside of an aquarium.

This aquatic theme carried all the way through even to the names of the vests. Take a look at the scoreboard and you do not see the typical Laserforce vest names. Instead they have given thought and attention to even this small detail.

Yes, I played as Coral. As this is not a member site I was unable to use my Laserforce card at either Incredible Pizza location so I had to go in as a Level 1. When the game was over I told Michael that whenever I’m not playing as a Level 6 I feel like I’m shooting fish in a barrel…but with the aquatic theme this time that was an especially accurate description! I had a great time and on my way out I was handed a sticker for being on the winning team.

Very nice touch! I had a wonderful time playing at Incredible Pizza, checking out a memorable arena and also seeing the installation and lighting work that my friends had done. This was definitely worth making the extra trip!

Comments or Questions?