Last night I played in my first laser tag tournament. It was not one of the big ones like I hope to get involved with in the future...more like a gathering for the players at this one particular center...but none the less, there were brackets, eliminations and a battle right to the end, so it was a place to get my feet wet with tournament style playing. It was a great time and here's how things went.
It was a three man team event, so I had assembled my team and practiced with them last week. Our team included Paul, Ben and me. I play every week, but mostly Zone and I had only been back to this center a couple of times recently. Meanwhile, they have experience with paintball (and Paul plays laser tag with me occasionally), but they had only played laser tag with me here 1-2 times previously (which includes our day of practice on Wednesday) so compared to the team with two level six regulars we were probably viewed as the underdogs with heart...but who brought it. :)
This was a new experience for me. Not just the tournament format, but the idea of playing with a team and caring more about the team outcome than personal score. Most of the time those two goals overlap and if I do well racking up points it simply helps the team along to do well, but here it was equally about being supportive of other players (both my own team and others...I may be hyper-competitive, but I don't like to let it show. I think sportsmanship matters and wanted to commend other players on other teams throughout the tournament too) and also to not dwell on where there were shortcomings because we were all putting in effort and everyone did their best towards a common goal.
I arrived before my teammates and got in a couple practice rounds and started the night with a couple of wins...good for confidence to start like that. Then the tournament began. We were team six and didn't play immediately. Once we did I took the lead as our team captain and chose to play green after every coin toss (which we seemed to win every time). Which color we played wasn't a huge deal, but I explained my strategy to my team that generally people seem to like to play red (I know I ordinarily do) and I didn't care which one we were, so I started out picking green. However, I continued picking green so that we would always be starting from the same base (get a flow going from one direction of the arena) and also so there would be no chance of getting confused mid-stream by alternating colors. By the end it seemed that this strategy started to irritate the teams who lost the coin toss, but...whatever.
First game, pretty easy win. We moved ahead in the tournament. Second game we faced...let's call them Team Goliath. Although I hate to give them that much credit, the truth is that here was where our main competition would lie all night long. This team was made up of all clearly experienced players, two level six tournament players and one guy who may not have had that level, but certainly had the demeanor and they came ready to win. So...everyone really seemed to be rooting for us when we went in and gave them a real fight. My team played hard and I don't think they expected that (even though I had played with at least a couple of them on Friday and they may have had some idea about me). That round was truly a skin-of-the teeth match where we lost...but only by only a tag and a half. For perspective, that is practically negligible. It was about as close as it could have been and with two more well placed shots perhaps the night would have taken a different course, but they bested us that round and I give them props and congratulations for a well played game. And we were not out of it...we just had to fight a little harder as there was no margin for error from that point forward.
Having just barely lost (but lost, nonetheless) we moved into the single loss bracket and played another team...and another. I get fuzzy on how many games so I'll just post the chart if you really care to follow, but the bottom line is we kept winning and it got us back to playing against Team Goliath. Here's where things started to get interesting. Everyone plays with a code name. I haven't the foggiest idea what names these guys actually use, but if I had to make up code names for them I would call them "Tall", "Hyper" and "Crankypants". I believe Cranky and Hyper were two different guys...although to be honest I can't be certain...maybe Hyper was the cranky one. Regardless, here's what happened. We went into our next match facing the powerhouse competition and again were holding our own just fine. Unbeknownst to me at the time, apparently one of them got huffy mid-round and left the arena. Paul in hindsight thinks it's funny that we somehow inadvertently got a teenager to rage quit, but at the time I didn't even realize anything had happened. The match was being watched by a referee and I have no idea what this guy thinks happened, but he apparently left because he believed our team was following him and using blind shots. Honestly, my guys wouldn't know the difference as they are not experienced enough to know if or how a blind shot might have happened. The ref explained that we were using U.S. rules and that nobody did anything wrong there. I can't actually speak to the matter of following as the rules are a bit complex and my team was a bit green. All I can say is I wasn't aware of it myself, but again, there was a referee there and that's exactly the reason why. He sided with our team as having done nothing wrong. However, Cranky walked out mid-game in a huffy tantrum. If I were on his team I would have been royally ticked off about that behavior, not just because it's unreasonable, but also because his walking out resulted in us winning essentially by forfeit because at the exact moment he walked out we were up by a couple of thousand. Now, this is tournament nuance I did not expect to encounter or have to thoroughly comprehend, so I just listened as I was called in with the other team captain for an explanation of what took place. Side note...I don't know what standard protocol is, but if it were my call I would say that kind of behavior should get a player disqualified from re-entering, but it was not my call and he returned to play again later in the tournament...no doubt all the more aggressive towards us.
The way the tournament was shaping up, by the next game we played we were pitted against Team Goliath again. I honestly don't remember much other than being aware of an additional ref perched above to get a bird's eye view and confirm that everything was being played properly. I think we were beaten then and that dropped us to the second elimination bracket. That's what I think I remember and what the chart seems to confirm, but things were a little foggy for me because...remember my sprained ankle?...well, it went out on me that round. Not all the way, but just enough that I was more focused on playing through the pain (I know, not smart....probably wouldn't do that again, but I was determined it would not be the thing to take me out of this tournament) and that's what I remember from leaving that game and not much else. That is not an excuse for the loss. That is just when it happened to kick in. I was wearing my air cast under my jeans and I was not going to let on about my literal Achilles heel.
Did we play another team again? Maybe, I don't remember. We probably did in order to get into the final elimination and I'm pretty sure this was the point where that happened. Ultimately it got down to the final two teams...Team Tivia and Team Goliath (I should note that isn't actually what they used for a team name, but who remembers. Everyone else came in with bizarre team names, but all I know is these guys were team seven). It was explained that because they had only one elimination thus far that if they lost we would have to play one more game against them. If we lost, that would be the end of the tournament. Anyone who knows me knows I don't like to lose, but at that point in my head I was kind of hoping I didn't actually have to stick it out for a second game against them. But that doesn't mean we didn't give it our all. In the end, they won the final round and we went home with second place honors. Hey, I'll take that. They did well...compliments to them on the whole in spite of that little display of (fill in the blank). The tournament was fun and well run. I give props to this facility for putting together a nice event that made for a really cool evening of laser tag.
If you have questions or comments please visit my websites at www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com and www.photonforever.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.