I am very competitive and I find that most often I feel like I'm in the greatest competition against myself and the standards of what I hope to achieve. So every time I go into the laser tag arena I do so with the desire for coming out in first place. However, that doesn't always happen. Sometimes there are factors you can control (like how intensely you are focused, how strategic you are in getting the bases, how many shots you take....Wayne Gretzky said "you miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take"), but often times there are factors over which you have no control (how many players are in the game, how skilled - or aggressive - they are, whether they are using team strategy or playing to achieve their own individual goals). And there is one factor from which I can almost always tell right away whether it will make or break my game...the functionality of the equipment. Now, I am certain that most places work hard to maintain their laser tag equipment and try to keep everything working smoothly...but, every now and then something may go wrong with a pack. What about those times when you just get a dud phaser?
I recently began a game where right out of the gate I knew there was a problem. It wasn't that my phaser wouldn't shoot at all. However, I play Zone with the Rift packs that have a targeting light on the phaser that allows you to see where you are aiming and that light had gone out on my pack. That is so frustrating! I spent half the game trying to convince myself that this would only raise the bar for me to just go ahead and play it through with the hindrance of a gun that only gave me half the functions I was accustomed to. But I soon realized that by rationalizing while playing it was eating away at me and taking a mental toll which was causing me far more problems than the pack itself. This was mentally blocking me from doing the things that were within my control. I had lost my focus. I was probably taking more shots, but aiming them more randomly since I could not see where I was aiming, but it wasn't because the phaser couldn't do it's job...I wasn't doing mine. I knew that many of my shots were not landing and I was just opening myself up as a target. Again, this was less about the pack not working, and more about my own head space...but still, it was a factor impacting my game negatively regardless. So with only about five minutes left in the game (the time remaining is periodically announced in the arena where I play) I decided that it was time to either make a real effort to play it out or simply resign myself to blaming the pack for my failure that round...and that's not what I ever want to do.
Even when there is something wrong I don't think a player should blame the pack (even if it is occasionally justifiable, it just sets up an easy excuse...and as a sporting player you are better than that). Either do something about it or suck it up. Well the latter had already been tried, so at this point I decided it was time to do something about it...so I switched packs. What this means is that I was in essence forfeiting any points I had achieved for the first half of the game and starting from zero again with a new player identity and only five minutes on the clock. Knowing this was the case I decided to play my heart out and let the chips fall where they may. If I did well I would have saved what was otherwise a lost game. If I didn't, I would think "well, I only played for five minutes, what could I expect?" But either way I would not have resigned myself to defeat when there was in fact something I could do to take back my sense of control. So I went back around to the bases I had taken earlier and I shot at them again, racking up those points on my new pack. Then I made my way through the arena targeting any sensor that came within my sight knowing that I had to make up points quickly. This round was less about strategy and more about just score as many points as possible as fast as you can. Then, all too quickly, the game was over. We went back to the vesting room and I looked down at my pack to find out what name I was playing under (as I switched packs so quickly I didn't even look during the game). My new pack carried the name "Chaos" (appropriate for this round) and I left the room to check out where I ranked at the end of this game.
The display monitor with all the scores showed Chaos in fourth place. OK, I didn't win, but I accepted that this was still pretty good considering it only represented half a round of game play. Then I analyzed a bit closer and realized that even with only playing a partial round on that pack my fourth place position was only within 600 points of first place! That's essentially the difference of 3-6 well placed shots. There was no question I could have easily made that up in the first half and probably had at least that many points even while using my broken phaser. So to be that close to first place with the obstacles and loss of time that I experienced means to me that this loss was not defeat at all. After getting my head back in the game, even for five minutes, this loss felt exactly like a win. And I left the arena with my head held high knowing I had played hard, done my best and been successful. I do not place blame on the pack...instead I give it credit for helping me to achieve that outcome.
FYI, if you have questions or comments for me I invite you to visit my website at www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com or e-mail me at email@example.com.