Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tagging to Make A Difference

I returned to Gameworks in Denver to tag in support of a great cause and play in the third annual laser tag tournament fundraiser for the Doreen Katz Memorial Cancer Foundation. This foundation raises money to help the children of cancer patients and it is a cause that really hits home with me not only because I lost my own brother to cancer, but also because Doreen was from a town very close to my home in New York and I want to support her husband Adam in his efforts to continue helping kids. It’s also such a fun night and as Adam says “what could be more fun than laser tag?” Of course, he’s absolutely right!

I saw a few familiar faces from last year as soon as I arrived. I teamed up with Brian and Tara, Alex from The Final Word sports radio show (because we radio types flock together!) and Dale to build our team for the night, “The Walking Dread”.


We had some practice time in the arena, a familiar space I played a year ago with a double level design and three bases plus the generator.

Towards the beginning of the event I met a few players who were new to the event, but certainly familiar with Laserforce as they are members at the Loveland Laser Tag site (aka Phil’s Vangaurd…I’m told that spelling of their team name is intentional). I had actually met Trinity (aka Goldfish) on a previous trip to Denver area when she was game master during my visit to Fort Fun…I remembered her because she’s the only game master I have ever seen walking the arena in high heels!

What’s great about this event is that the “teams” are very loosely structured (as the final results were based on individual cumulative scores) so we got to play with several four-man variations of our team all night. During the first game we welcomed Dominick to swap out for a spot and we went back into the vesting room to suit up in the Gen 7 Laserforce gear.

These games were fast, furious and fun as we played team supercharge games all night long. In between we enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner with thanks to Legends of Aurora and had a strategy session during dessert.

46 participants came out to play laser tag while others showed up to enjoy the dinner and the social time, plus there was also a silent auction in support of the foundation and free arcade cards for the all who attended which were enjoyed by all ages! Adam’s main goal for this fundraiser (and every fundraiser the foundation does) is for people to have fun. He lets this be known in everything he does including dyeing his beard pink for the month of October to show his support.

Over the course of the next few rounds we continued rotating players so that everyone had a chance to play as much as they wanted. Josiah (another Loveland player) joined us towards the end.

And at the end of the night awards were given to the top four players based on cumulative score from throughout the night. I came in second place. Congrats to Troy Meissner for first place, Ben Carney took third and Joseph Lee took fourth place.

I thank the foundation for the prize package I received with over $100 worth of gift certificates.

And a very special youth award was presented to Austin, who did such a great job in all the games he played during the event and is a wonderful young man!

This was such a fun night and it’s a very worthwhile cause. This event was the main reason I decided to travel west on this particular weekend and the whole trip afforded me so many great experiences. I can’t wait to return to Denver again next year!

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Friday Frenzy Tournament

Occasionally I am asked how I got started traveling to laser tag arenas all across the country and the short version of the answer is that it began with my interest in tournaments and seeking out more competitive opportunities because there weren’t all that many happening close to my home. So, on this particular weekend I planned my trip around two events happening on back to back nights, the first being the Friday Frenzy Tournament going on at EZ Air in Reno, NV.

This was a nice, casual kind of event for the players who came out for their AYCP night. Throughout the course of the evening the top five individual high scores were continuously tracked and updated on a white dry erase board and anytime someone beat an existing score their name would be added and bump the scores on the list accordingly.

This is really a very smart way to turn a typical weekend night into something more. The evening started out slowly with only a handful of players competing in the beginning, but by the later hours groups ranging from 16-20 players participated. This meant not only the variety of participants changing throughout the event, but also an increased chance for a higher score as the night went on due to larger numbers of players in the arena.

I have played at EZ Air in the past. They use Cyber Blast equipment and have a good number of additional targets scattered throughout the single level, space-themed arena.

I have learned in the past that those targets mean BIG extra points so I try to never circle through an area without aiming for them and of course taking the base three times is a priority too.

Between rounds game master Braden showed me the variety of game formats they have available at EZ Air. Some of these I am familiar with from previous Cyber Blast sites, however others appear to have been customized (or at least re-named) for this site, such as Rare Air named for their Saturday night AYCP…or maybe it’s the other way around!

I enjoyed revisiting a few of these formats, particularly Domination. Even though I’ve played it on just about every other laser tag system at this point, I really enjoy how uniquely different the game plays with Cyber Blast. In fact, I am told one of their regular players, Steven, comes in during quiet hours just to play it by himself for good exercise in the arena!

But as for this night’s event, when it came down to it the highest scores understandably came out of the most populated games, so those who played in the final few rounds bounced a few of the early scores off the board and made a difference. Those were also the games where the margin between the top and bottom scores seemed to be the widest. For the majority of the event my scores bounced around the 14-15,000 range but by the final hour I was able to bump that up to 19,200 which secured my first place position for the night.

I appreciated the bag of tag swag I was awarded for winning…you know that tag swag goodies are always my favorite souvenirs to bring back! Congratulations also to the others who made it onto the top five leaderboard.

The timing of this event could not have been more perfect because as soon as everything was done I changed my clothes and headed right back to the airport to catch a flight just after midnight to take me off to Denver for another unique laser tag event. I’m so glad that EZ Air hosted this contest on a weekend where it worked out for me to return to Reno. Many thanks for another great experience and a lot of fun!

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Next Stop...Nevada!

I spent Thursday in Spokane, Washington, but by early Friday morning I had boarded a flight headed for Reno and I could hardly wait to get back to that part of Northern Nevada to check out a new arena I had heard was installed in Sparks, NV.

However, I was going to have to wait because there was a delay in my flight that pushed my schedule back by about three hours. However, traveling in this part of the country was worth the wait, if for no other reason than the spectacular views as we flew into Reno!

Because of the delay I had not eaten anything except for plane snacks, so my first stop was not to a laser tag arena, but instead to Ohana Sushi in Reno. Anyone who knows me understands that I always seek out sushi on my tag trips, but very rarely to I mention the restaurants by name, but this one was different. If you are in Reno this restaurant is a MUST!!! I went in during the all you can eat lunch hours (which was a great value for the price as well) and sat down at the sushi bar in front of Chef Edson. At first I ordered a small plate, but then I asked the chef what he recommended and had a wonderful experience as he created a customized sampling for me as we went along. He asked me about my tastes and whether I was allergic to any foods and then proceeded to create one plate after another of delicious samplings of dishes that I LOVED, but would probably never have thought to order. Talk about personalized service!

This was the best experience I’ve ever had at a sushi restaurant in any of my tag travels and I wanted to mention it here, not just because they totally earned an excellent review, but I want to be able to remember this place for whenever I next return to Reno. So, if you’re out that way please treat yourself. It’s worth it!

After all that I was finally ready to play some tag, so I drove to the neighboring town of Sparks, NV and the recently installed Laserforce Gen 8 arena inside of Coconut Bowl at Wild Island Family Adventure Park.

I arrived and asked if I could play against the most competitive person in the building and immediately it was suggested I play against Matt. This sounded promising! Matt helped round up a couple of other guys so we’d have a better game and we split up into two teams, Matt and Brandon on red against Mark and me playing on blue…forgive me, I’m still getting used to referring to the colors as “fire” and “ice”.

We suited up in the vesting room.

Then we entered a really nice two-level CW arena with what appears to be a newer motif. That’s probably the case considering laser tag is a new attraction as of around December. I really like this arena! It’s a reasonable size for smaller groups and plays well because of the open area in the center. The inner part of the upper level is fenced in with metal bars so you can target from above or below.

This makes for more playable space and a good balance because the upper level does not automatically have a greater advantage (which I find is sometimes the case with a closed floorplan). In fact, this feature resulted in some very unexpected tags by both teams as we were constantly trying to figure out where the beams were coming from!

The upper level is accessible from two corners by wraparound ramps.

This site had three base targets. The red and blue were each housed inside the mouth of a giant snake structure on opposite sides of the lower level.

Meanwhile there was one green base on an upper level wall. There were also two tablet beacons rotating additional points or power-ups, which I utilized frequently during this game. This was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed both the arena and game as well as the competitive nature of my teammate and our opponents. Thanks for a great game guys!

Time to grab a bottle of water…

…and after a good warm-up I was ready for even more competitive tag that night!

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Spectacular Spokane Laser Quest

Wow! I FINALLY made it to the Laser Quest in Spokane (travel logistics to get there from NY made that more challenging than you might think) and it was well worth the trip. This has got to be one of the most impressive LQs I have ever seen. Built inside an old Washington State Armory, this location utilizes the unique space within this building to enhance a distinctive castle theme done better than I’ve ever seen the castle theme done before.

I had spoken with staff member Courtney earlier in the day and when I arrived Chase was the first to greet me and Courtney was kind enough to give me a tour of the facility. There are artistically decorated party rooms…

…and even a karaoke machine for special event nights.

But of course the main attraction is the arena and the game itself. To get to the arena you begin by taking that long staircase up to the second level to the briefing room. As near as I can remember I’ve only seen one other LQ with a staircase like this (that was in London, ON Canada…although Nashville did have a staircase leading from the street up to the center itself).

Inside the floor is vibrantly detailed with neon paint spatters which catch your eye...

...until you notice…

Og! Don’t they know that nobody puts baby in a corner, lol. This was a very cool room and when it was time to play the game Cleb gave the most enthusiastic and entertaining briefing ever. He infused his spiel with a little comedy and really interacted well with the group. I think this is worth noting because at a lot of other places the briefing is just something that gets rushed through, but Cleb really did an excellent job that had me laughing and having fun even before the game began.

After briefing we headed down another staircase…

And the vesting room was pretty impressive also. First of all, it was much brighter than most.

And there were more Og-like creatures painted all along the walls.

Then it was time to enter the arena and let me tell you, this one really took my breath away. It is huge and completely unlike any other LQ I can remember.

There are two towers that each go up three levels. The maze is intricate and elaborate, but one part really stood out. Earlier when Courtney was showing me around she pointed out a catwalk that runs all throughout the building.

This is what it looks like from the lobby, but this catwalk extends all the way through the upper level along the left side of the arena as well and that makes for a really unique corridor to play on that side.

The first game was played with a larger group, but as the night went on I stuck around to play a bit more with a family group that wanted to divide up into teams. We went into the next game with Mr. T and Be Wild playing as Team T.B. and Terminator and Skateday teaming up as Team Ambush, leaving me to defend the honor of Team Game of Groans.

We all had such a great time! For this game we had all been through briefing so we were allowed in through the downstairs entrance (which is good to know that do have accessible options for those who can’t climb stairs) so we went in again and had a fantastic time. Kudos to them all for a great game, especially to Mr. T who was lead his team and gave me a really close competition with our personal scores being within a super tight margin. Nicely done! And big thanks to the staff at LQ Spokane for a great experience. They sent me home with great memories…and of course the magnet!

I’m so glad that at last I can say “LQ Spokane…check!”

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