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The Animal Called Tron

Over the weekend I had the chance to play at a really impressive well you might expect it to be considering it is the longest running laser tag facility in the United States and boasts an enormous 9200 square foot multi-level playing arena. Yes, I played at Lasertron in Amherst, NY just outside of Buffalo and it was quite an experience. Even driving up to the building was something memorable. When I saw the building it was massive! I was too young to play original Photon, but this is what I have imagined the Photon centers might have been like.



Upon entering I found lots of activity and a professionally presented atmosphere with food, seating and video games in the next room over. There were some kids, but this was predominantly an adult crowd.


When I went up to the counter to purchase my games I was given a card and instructed to head over to a row of computers to fill in some information and take a photo for my profile.


There was a little bit of time to wait before my first game so I went to check things out in the observation area. The game going in was packed and from the moment I saw the inner space I was convinced this has to be the coolest looking arena I've ever been in.


I was definitely looking forward to learning the game. When my game was called we went into the vesting room which was lit up like a Christmas tree with glowing red and green packs and stands.



The briefing video was cool...although a bit short on details. Until I got into the game I really didn't have a handle on how different an animal this was from the other forms of laser tag I have experienced. First, it was more intense just by virtue of playing a solid half hour. It was broken up into four back to back rounds, but it was a full half hour in the arena which is more than most of the games I've played that cap at about 15 minutes. The phaser was a bit more complex with modes that you could change on a view screen on the back.


The only mode I really played around with was spy mode. It changed the color of your pack so that you blended in with the opposing team. It might make it easier to get to their base, but much harder to avoid friendly fire. And since friendly fire deducts points this was a real challenge because I was playing with people I didn't know anyway, so I had difficulty discerning who was actually on my team. You also had a limited amount of shots before having to reload. I had never before played a game where reloads were needed. Running out of shots frequently was not great since I am a trigger happy player. I found this really annoying and running out of ammo was the main reason I never actually took a base. At some point I resigned myself to guarding and picking off players on the higher level. Scoring was different. I hated racking up points one minute only to have them lost in the next. However, the main thing that was different was that tagging a player did not deactivate them. They had to be hit 20 times before they were deactivated and sent back to their own reload station. During the first game I didn't really absorb that and I thought you had to keep shooting at them to get the points for deactivation. In actuality you could get points with every shot...but it wouldn't slow your opponent down. It was like the shots were just an annoying fly buzzing around, but not doing any real harm. That was strange to adjust to. My first game I didn't do very well...certainly not in comparison to most of the rest of my team. To be honest, that game was not fun...but it was educational.

There were things I really liked about this experience and one of them was the random allocation of players to teams and pack assignments. That meant no playing favorites or stacking the teams. In each game I played there was a nice mix of players with varying levels of experience. By the second game I had a better handle on what was going on in the game and hoped I could be more useful to my team. I was not great at Lasertron...there was just too much that was different about it for this creature of habit. But I did what I knew I could well, which was largely guarding and shooting players even though I never took a base. That freed up some of my teammates to do what they did well and (even though I have no frame of reference for what scores are typically like) I was proud to be on a winning team as I left the second game.


Two games were an ample amount of Tron for me on this particular day. I'd definitely love to play in this arena again. I took home some cool souvenirs along with great memories of a totally different laser tag experience.


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