Quit While You're Ahead? Never!
I recently revisited another laser tag system that I haven't played in quite awhile. More as a matter of convenience, I was killing some time while waiting to meet a friend for dinner and the restaurant was located in the same mall that had a laser tag center using the Laser Runner system. I had played here before and deemed it ok, but all things being equal (and distance being the big equalizer) not my very favorite. I had only played in this arena once, but decided that with some time on my hands it was worth trying another round. I purchased three games and went in for the first. I must say, I like the aesthetic of the vesting room better than most. It was dark and the lights of the vests with a few fluorescent touches made for a cool atmosphere (although briefing and vesting happened in the same area and no place to sit, but it was short). I received my pack with a one handed phaser (I usually play with two hands) I went through a lighted and strobing archway into the arena.
The first game was a free for all. I was immediately pegged by a group of teenage girls as their target and, teams or not, they organized once inside and worked well to collectively come up with a strategy. In the end I had more experience on my side, but really enjoyed watching them play hard and I got a good workout myself, ending in a score of 9075. As this system was not very familiar to me I asked the game attendant a few questions before going into my next round. Of course there are so many variables that this is a skewed question to begin with, but I wanted to know what she felt was an average score range in this arena and what a high score range would be here as well. She said most people average around 3000-5000 points and she'd say anything in the 6000-9000 range was really good. So, my top score of that game would put me in that range, but their display ranking needed a bit of interpretation also. The monitors at this center show your score, but not in order of highest to lowest, so my high score of the individual game was at the bottom of the field of that group of players. Meanwhile, the high score of the entire day is always present at the top of the screen no matter what the outcome of each individual match. So I realized that my score was not too far from the top score of that day which was sitting at 9950 points. If you've read much of this blog (or know me at all) I'm sure you can guess that I could not let that silent challenge go by. I wanted the top score of the day and thought that I could do it. So I went in for a second round.
During this round the teenage girls were gone and were replaced with more older players in this game...and by that I simply mean adults (sure it's an all-ages game but when I'm in a competitive mindset I am not looking to unleash my top game against little kids...that's not particularly sporting and if you don't already understand why then you might benefit from reading about the San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh who made some press for this kind of thing here). But back to this game, it appeared a couple of guys in their mid-to-late twenties had arrived with women who were their dates and clearly one of the guys was as competitive as I am and ready to impress his lady. Little did he know that I was there with an agenda of my own. For me to get the top score of the day I was going to have to take this guy down...sorry about that, nothing personal.
We went in and I was in a completely focused and goal oriented mindset. My shots were all landing and in this arena bases could be gotten multiple times so every time I passed one I gave it a courtesy tag, almost as casually as an afterthought and I kept my eye out diligently for the one guy I knew was actively trying to take me down. If that sounds a little "battle-like"...well, we were both in it to win it, so it was. And he played very well, which did make for an interesting and very athletic game. At the end of it I was pretty sure I had won before even looking at the monitors. But was my score high enough to be the top score of the day?
Yes, it was! I came out of that round wearing pack number 15 and I had overtaken the top score pushing up and over to 10,875 points. Goal set, goal achieved. I was in a great mood as I left the arena and headed off to meet my friend for dinner.
We had a great meal and I was still feeling pretty good about having achieved my goal of that top score. However, I had purchased three games and only played two, so I returned to the arena and got a surprise. During the couple of hours I had been at dinner someone else had surpassed my high score and taken over the top spot at 11,425. Sheesh! Now I had yet another round that was more about accomplishing the goal than anything else when I had expected to just enjoy the round without pressure. Yes, it was a self-imposed goal and even though I do enjoy a challenge, for a brief moment I thought that I should have just left before I saw that and enjoy riding the high of the score I achieved earlier that night. But that's not the kind of thinking that benefits anyone because hiding your head in the sand doesn't change the fact that someone else took the victory.
As for that nonsense idea of leaving before I had played to the fullest...quit while you're ahead? Never! So, the goal was set...beat 11,425 points...and I had been playing well today so I figured the ante had been raised and I would go in and meet the challenge. I did go in...and then proceeded to play more pitifully than I have in ages! I was doing a lousy job of even holding my own, let alone beating the high score of the day. I was getting tagged left and right and I was missing easy shots. I started that game a mess. And do you know why? The space between my ears was consumed so much with "having to win" that I wasn't actually doing the things you have to do in order to win! And after a couple minutes of this I decided to get my mind right.
I ducked behind a barrier in a corner and simply took a moment. I made a conscious decision to turn this game around. It was almost as if something came over me and transformed both my mind and my game. I came out aggressively shooting everything in sight and strategically keeping two very good marksmen at bay so I could make up some ground. And it worked. I was racking up points and barely took a hit after that. I played hard and felt good at the end. I also felt like I couldn't predict for sure how I had done. Although the phasers you use with this system did show scores on the back, not all the numbers showed, so I was not sure if the game had ended high or moderately.
Upon checking the monitor I had to do a bit of math to be certain of what had happened (as I mentioned, they do not list the scores in numeric order). So I watched the other players scores flash by and realized I had in fact won this round, which always feels good. But did I have the points to be the high score of the day?
I got 11,400 points, which means I was 25 points from the high score (face palm). To put this in perspective, I missed it by ONE SHOT, which was all I needed to overtake that number. Sigh. But you know what? I left feeling great anyway. I know I played hard, I got my mojo back and I exceeded both my own score and my own expectations by getting that close after a rocky start to that game. So, at this point I called it a day. Did I quit while I was ahead...not this time, but I did leave while I was riding high. And it reminded me of a line from the movie "Bring It On"..."how does second place feel? It feels like first."
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