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Level Six Education

Last night was probably one of the best educations in laser tag I've gotten yet. But before I get into that, let me share something funny...

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I'm obviously not the first to see the irony in this (in fact I saw basically this same image posted online not too long ago), but when I randomly grabbed this pack and realized this was on my chest I just had to take a pic for myself.

Now, ironic pack names aside, last night was different in a lot of ways, all of which I found beneficial to experience on the small scale before they come up again in more serious game play.

I've had several members at the Laserforce arena comment to me about being impressed that I got to level six so quickly. In my mind I've sort of been treating those comments ala Elle Woods, "What, like it's hard?" (which I write here with absolutely no disrespect intended...I just did what I did to arrive at this point and didn't realize that this was not necessarily an easy accomplishment for everyone). However, I've largely found myself in games where I was playing in the same level of water. On the way up I was either a lower level playing up or, eventually when I achieved the level six, playing with others of a similar ability and/or for one reason or another playing without signing in. Mind you this has only been in the span of the last two weeks. In fact, I believe I became a level six two Fridays back without even realizing it. It didn't kick in for the tournament and last night was my first experience using my new "powers". What this means in short is that I had to learn what it really means to have achieved this level and I got my education in the oddest way I never a flock of little kids.

Usually I love kids, but at laser tag I feel like Miss Hannigan singing about how she hates little girls (or boys) because playing against kids is not the experience I go there for. Teens, twenty-somethings, other adults...great, but kids are not my demo in this game. I don't think it's particularly sporting and the inner "mom" in me (no, I don't have kids of my own, but I do have that voice that says "don't run in the arena" or "tie your shoes") comes out. However, tonight a family showed up to play for the first time with probably ten little kids...and, embarrassingly enough, they showed me up big time because they are the first newbies (level one equivalent) that I had ever gone up against as a level six. Think of it this way...if I'm a level six playing against a level six, pretty much everything in the game is normal (except nukes, which I'll get to later). But throw a bunch of little ones into the mix and the level six status handicaps me to have to shoot them three times before their packs disarm. And even though I had heard about this before it applied to me, as a new six I hadn't yet internalized it, and I also just hadn't had the experience of playing so many players below my level to feel the effects of what that meant. But I did tonight. First thought I had was "what's up with this pack?" Second thought was "did I suddenly become really bad at this?" And third was "ok, I get what's going on...what else don't I know about this rank?" I suppose if I hadn't gotten there fast I would have caught on more to the nuances at each level, but really this was an eye opener. I do think it's good that Force has this built-in process for leveling the playing field. And once I figured it out all was cool...except any way you slice it, playing against little kids still always feels unsporting.

Then Mitch spoke up and asked me if I knew how to use my nuke ability. God bless this guy for being someone who wanted to "teach" me rather than "school" me as he could have being a fellow six. It was my first opportunity to play around with some of the cool features I was now privy to and between nukes (go hide and hold the button for three seconds to activate it), missiles (lock on through the beeps than shoot) and getting a handle on three shots for the low level players I regained my confidence that I was still a perfectly capable player after all (just not before I let my obliviousness with the kids bring my average down, but next game my score was high enough to basically restore it).

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(It's not like I wasn't aware to a degree, but the practical use just had not come up until this point)

Then, those kids all left and it became obvious how quiet this place was on this particular evening. It was out of the ordinary, but I attribute it to the fact that they were hosting an all-nighter the following evening (no, I won't be there, I'm sticking to my Force on Fridays, Zone on Saturdays plan) so I think most people were waiting until the next night to come out. So, there was only a small group left at this point (teens are cool to play against...I view them as fair game). So, we played some experiential games with those who remained.

Lenny, the game master, played along and pulled no punches...he was more about "schooling" me I think. It's cool. When we got into the specialty games the rank thing went by the wayside anyway. We played a round of Z-game (based on old school Zone...this is my game), Highlander (where if you are missiled you are out) and Death Match (like capture the flag minus the flags...but more confusing) and then PHOTON!

I don't know why I get as excited as I do about playing a Photon emulation game because if you've read this blog you know my history with the game...great in concept, less so in practicality. But I fought for it...Lenny was, oh, let's say "curmudgeonly reluctant" at first. But by the end he was a Photon convert. When played against more modern technology the strain of compensating for lag times when firing can be a little...irritating. But, seriously, how often do I ever get to play it? The chance really only comes up when you're in a place where, first, they have a system that can be programmed to do it and, secondly, when there are so few players that you can push for it (even when the game master doesn't think he wants to). So, yay to getting to play some Photon emulation!

Final game of the night was a one on one with Mitch. He's good. I enjoyed a good challenge...and I think we put on a show for the two staffers who sat on the perch above to watch us. He won and I give him total props for being a worthy opponent and good fun to play against all night. In some ways it's a shame the evening was as quiet as it was (in terms of number of players), but it was very useful for me to be able to get my bearings on some of the facets of the game I had apparently speed rolled right over getting to where I am in the level hierarchy. This is another reason why I look forward to forcing myself to switch gears between the two systems over the weekend. Maybe I had become a little complacent with focusing on Zone. I'm ready to let this be my catalyst to shake it up. I'm also going to try to work out my schedule to get involved with league play in the next month or so. Top it all off with a slush puppie and you've got a pretty good Friday night.

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