It took me over an hour and a half to get to the laser tag arena last night because the snow was coming down hard and the slippery roads did not make for easy driving. So upon arrival I really hoped that I would not be the only one who had braved the weather. Fortunately, there was a packed house and an interesting mix of players and situations that took place in the arena throughout the evening.
I had decided before I got there that if the first game didn't feel like one where I had "something to prove" that I would take it as an opportunity to experiment and try out something that I read about on the internet. Most people hold their phaser from the bottom (I'm right handed, so right hand on the trigger, left hand on the bottom touching the heat sensor). Pros often play with a thumb on the heat sensor and the rest of the fingers wrapped around the top for more protection of the phaser as a target. But what I was interested in trying was a little different...I had read about playing with the phaser upside down and I had never done that, so I thought, why not try it out in a game that doesn't matter and just see how it goes? So I played the entire first game of the night holding my phaser like this...
...and occasionally repositioning my hand to play like this...
To be honest, I found this to be a bit burdensome. I'm not sure how accepted a practice it is to play this way, but it's not a position I felt had tremendous value for me anyway. I did notice that, at least when playing Darklight, that this practice is not permitted, though so far I have not been able to find anything definitively addressing it as endorsed or not for other laser tag systems.
Side note...I found this very interesting breakdown of laser tag rules by system that is worth reading:
I have played most of these systems including Zone, Laserforce, Darklight, Laser Quest, Lazer Runner and Laser Blast (and of course Photon, which for obvious reasons is not on this list), but honestly I learned a few things by reviewing these rules and want to thank whomever put this page together for doing a great job!
I didn't find a whole lot of value in flipping the phaser anyhow, but I did relish the fact that I seemed to be a trendsetter this game. Several players made comments about "check out how she's holding the gun" or the like and I had a very quick moment of eye contact with one player who checked me out, paused for a split second, flipped his phaser over like mine and continued on his way in the game. Kinda made me feel like one of the cool kids leading the pack with a trend...but that was purely my experiment for one game just to see how it would work.
My score that first game was not great...I believe I ended in fifth place...but I cannot attribute that to playing with a flipped phaser. No, I have a REALLY good excuse for why my focus was off that game and it had nothing to do with the equipment. It had to do with something sharp that I ran into in the arena.
In the middle of that first game I brushed up against a wall of the arena and I got caught on a sharp edge and it ripped a really big hole in the side of my jeans at my upper thigh. It was all I could do not to curse out loud when that happened. I took a split second to assess the damage. I couldn't keep playing with this rip in my jeans all night, but I was in the middle of the game and didn't want to forfeit and walk out, so I un-tucked my t-shirt to cover the hole and kept playing. You know I am not one to make excuses, but in this case I think I have a pretty legit reason for why I couldn't get my head back into this game!
When I left that game I was appreciative that the arena was located in a mall. I heard a voice call my name as I was walking away and I turned around and said "I'll be back for the next game" then I high-tailed it to JCPenney's to do the fastest clothes shopping I've ever done, returning in a new pair of jeans and completely out of breath just in time to get into the next game of the night.
From here on in my night was not quite right. I can't recall a single night previously where I haven't taken the top score at least once...but this was the night. I was actually playing pretty well and the arena was packed, but I kept getting second place (and occasionally even third place) for the entire course of the evening. I know full well which player was beating me too. And I congratulate him for doing a good job (one of his buddies told me "he really wanted to beat you")...well, successfully done as he managed to do so several times. To that guy, if you are reading this now, my highest kudos to you is that I will give you the nickname of Bhodi Li and that's how I will refer to you in this blog from now on...I will also pause to feel old as I recognize that you were not even born when that reference had mild relevance, so moving on with my story...
Sometimes I feel like I am a trophy to be hunted when we go in to the arena. Whether or not this was the case with this one player is irrelevant, but I know it occasionally happens each time a player reacts with a little extra excitement if they tag me. A few of the younger players saw me getting second place several times in a row and they were impressed by that. This is a bit of an ego boost that helps me to not grouse in my own mind about not getting the number one spot, because they think number two is equally cool. Some of them asked me if I play Call of Duty. When I said no they asked "oh, then what do you play to get so good?" and I have a simple answer... "I play laser tag."
Someone else was really good last night too...and apparently it was inadvertent! Midway through the night there was a really intense game going on with the arena at nearly a full capacity. I played hard on the green team that game and I came out of it quite certain that I was going to be the top score. In fact, my score was over 11,000, so I was shocked to see that I actually came in third...WHAT? My player name that round was Kestrel. Since "Bhodi" was playing on the red team I figured he had to be playing as Cyclone. But someone on my team hit 16,000 points that game...and I had no idea who!
I don't mean this arrogantly, but I thought I knew who all the really good players on our team were and I hadn't the foggiest idea who was playing as Shadow. Even though I don't like to lose, I have to give respect to a player who can do that. Now, I don't have empirical numbers of how high the scores typically go for Zone players. I have stumbled upon videos and entry information for the Zone Laser Tag Nationals and World events (unbelievably it appears that in 2011 the Zone World Championships were held in the local area where I play often, so I wonder if it happened to be held in our home arena? I'm really going to have to do some more research on this!) and I don't have enough stats to say what is common in other places using this system, but I will say that in all the time I have been playing Zone with Rift Blaster in this particular arena I have never seen someone get a score that high, so I was impressed. So I had to find this player and congratulate him.
I asked around to see if anyone knew who played as Shadow and someone said "I think that was my buddy over there in the white shirt". So I went over to the guy and complemented him on his achievement. I told him I write a laser tag blog and asked if I could include him on it and was very surprised by his answer. He quite modestly declined because he didn't feel like he really did anything. He said "I just stayed in one spot the entire game and shot at people when they came by". Whew...now that goes against all my traditional laser tag logic. The basic thing that was drilled into my head from the very first time I ever played laser tag was that to get high scores you must keep moving...but, how can I argue with a result like that? Now, Paul thinks that he plays better when he does this same thing. Sometimes it can work (obviously). However, I am a more aggressive player and I don't like the idea of waiting for players to happen by. I prefer to believe that you make your own fate, both in laser tag and in life, and the only way to do this is to go after what you want (i.e. points by finding other players to tag) instead of waiting for them to come to you. However, I will not diminish the fact that this player managed a score that I have not achieved in this particular arena (those words are key, because a number is only impressive in context and in another arena there may be an entirely different scale to measure by), so I offer my sincere congratulations on that.
Fast forward to the final game of the night. Also in all the time I've played in this arena I have never been offered the chance to play anything other than standard team games. Of course I know that the system is capable of other types of games, but the game masters here have never (in my experience) given players the choice of any other format. So I was a bit surprised when the game master offered the choice of playing free for all for the last game. However, I'm sure I was less surprised than most of the other players who had no idea what free for all is. Mind you, I just returned from playing several arenas in Canada where all I experienced up there was free for all (and when I've played Laserforce I've experienced other game formats as well), and even though I'm not generally a fan of this format, I did think it could be fun to play this way against others who had never experienced it before. It was a good final round (interesting how people seem to forget the basics...like positioning on the bridge...when they don't have the security of a team to back them up) and I enjoyed it. However, since we were playing as individuals, top player names were announced over the loudspeaker as we left rather than announcing the team positions. When my name was announced third place that game I resigned myself to the fact that this was simply not my night. But you know what? Like Arnold Schwarzenegger...I'll be back :)
If you have comments or questions please visit my website at www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.