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How to Not Be "That Guy"

If there's any question about what I mean by "that guy" I invite you to read this before proceeding. If you already know about it from my last post then please continue on to read about the experience I had this evening...

I recently discovered that there was a place right in my own backyard that offered laser tag and various arcade amusements. I had learned that they use the Laser Runner system and, after having played that system just last week, I was curious to compare and contrast the different facilities using the same game. With all respect, the experiences I was comparing turned out to be like comparing apples and elephants, as the place I visited tonight was not a facility on the same scale of what I am accustomed to playing in any way. In fact, it was a portable structure with plastic tarp walls built inside the center of a large room, more on the scale of what you might expect of a mobile laser tag set-up at a fair. That's fine. The owner told me they cater more to kids and small birthday parties as 6-8 players is about what it would comfortably accommodate. So we are not talking about an arena. Although for kids it would be a nice introductory place to learn the game.

Because the places where I usually go have unlimited game play on the weekends I typically expect to see around 30 people on a Friday night. However, when I walked into this facility there were only two other players in the entire with me, that makes three. There was a man about my age and a young boy who I would guess was around nine or ten years old. The owner told me privately that they were part of a local charitable organization that helps to empower at-risk youth and at first glance I assumed that the relationship was that of a mentor or big brother kind of situation. When it was time to play the three of us sat down in a row of chairs outside the "arena" for briefing and the following dialogue occurred...

Man: "I've never played laser tag before."

Owner: "I think you're playing with a pro." (while nodding to me)

Boy: "I'm going to win!"

Can you picture this scenario? So obviously I realize that playing full out is not an option. Even taking it down to half would have been disproportionate to this situation. I'm not "that guy" (or that girl). As a competitive player it was a time to check my ego at the door and do what was right...which according to Paul would have been walking around the whole game loudly shouting "why won't my gun work?" I actually did walk around the arena with one hand in my pocket while shooting just enough to be "in the game" and trying not to rack up too many excessive points. I allowed myself to be more of a target because I genuinely did not want to beat the boy, but I also didn't want to appear that I was not really playing. It was an interestingly delicate balance to play the game and be an active participant without trying to over-play the game. I'm not saying that it teaches real life lessons to just let a child win every time, but I certainly can recognize that this was not the time to unleash what I know that I am capable of doing.

When the game was over we exited and looked at the monitor. Thankfully the boy had done nicely and his score was 5025...25 points above me (this 25 point margin is getting to be an epidemic, but I was thankful for it tonight) and he was very happy about his win. So was I. It worked out well.

As I was removing my vest the owner asked "what happened to you in there?" We had previously discussed my laser tag experience and I wasn't shy to let him know that I take it quite seriously. But surely he didn't really expect me to be playing aggressively in this circumstance, could he? Once the others were out of earshot I quietly said to him "I didn't want to be Jim Harbaugh in there." I hoped he understood what I meant, but regardless, I wouldn't have played it any other way. Laser tag can be a sport and in that context you certainly want to play your heart out, as I normally do, but it should also be fun for all players as a means of building confidence and self esteem. I hope that boy enjoys every moment of knowing he beat the two adults he was chasing around tonight. :) If you have questions or comments please visit my website at or email me at

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