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How Did I End Up In Jersey?

Yes, I ended up in New Jersey. And that part of my weekend was AWESOME!!! Here's what happened on my weekend excursion to Staten Island.

I went down to Staten Island to support Tracee and Lauren who both did an AMAZING job in their big competition. However, that only took place in the evenings, so I had all of Saturday free. So I decided to explore some laser tag in the vicinity. Now, I explained a couple of days ago that just because I felt like playing during the day did NOT mean that I would be able to just anywhere. Out of nine laser tag facilities I called there were only two that told me I could just walk up during the day and play. So I began by going to the one I found just a few blocks from my hotel on Staten Island.

I drove to this location that was one of several businesses in a plaza. When I parked my car I looked around and realized that I was equidistant between a kids arcade (where the laser tag was located) and a...oh, let's go with "gentleman's club". The landlord has clearly used some excellent (read the sarcasm) judgment. Now, it's early in the day at this point and although they were open, there was NOBODY there. They said things start to get busy later on and that was that, so I decided to just move on and maybe stop back later if time allowed...even though I had a gut feeling about the place already. Sigh. Next...

So, how'd I end up in Jersey? That's where the next closest center that I could get into was located, in Eatontown. As I plugged it into my GPS I wondered how close Eatontown might be to Red Bank. As it turns out, they were VERY close. So Before heading to laser tag I made a slight detour and visited Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash comic book store (which some people may recognize as the location where the tv show Comic Book Men is filmed). This was not my first time here. I am a HUGE Kevin Smith fan. Actually, the last time I was here was about three years ago and when I walked into the store my jaw dropped because the man himself was standing right there (in town for the Q and A I had tickets for later that night).

I had the very slightest glimmer of hope that lightning might strike twice when I walked in. Well, no second time meeting Kevin Smith, however Walt from the show was there just doing his thing. He was very cool to take a photo with me and I had another fantastic visit to this store. If you're ever in Red Bank it is well worth stopping in.

Then I proceeded onward to my laser tag destination. I went to Funtime America in Eatontown and want to thank them for an excellent experience.

They use Laser Blast for their tag system and I was eager to play some Blast again since I hadn't had the opportunity since my Canada trip earlier this year. Now, they too were a bit quiet for laser tag that early in the day, however they had a much better attitude about customer service. When I said I wanted to play tag even though there was nobody else there to play they immediately offered to find a staff member to go one on one with me. I was introduced to the game master named Paul and immediately knew I liked this guy. When I walked into the briefing room he said "I should probably tell you I'm the best laser tag player in the building" to which I replied "Until I walked in". It was good spirited banter, but we put it on front street right away that we were both good and this game should be played out hard.

The arena was rather small and there were no bases or gems as I expected to see. Instead it was just about tagging each other in a one on one "Death Match" (his words, not mine). I put on my pack and played as "Ranger" while Paul played as "Super Fang".

The first game I played incredibly hard. Paul was an excellent player, however I really wanted to prove my worth here and I was gunning for the win (shocker, right?). When we came out of that first match he said to me "you weren't kidding when you said you were the best player in the building!" Thank you for the compliment. I won that first game 7480 to 4100.

We both came out of that feeling like we'd engaged in a really intense match. He also told me he hadn't had a good challenge like that in a long time. We took a few moments to catch our breath before going into the second match. Knowing better what he was up against this time the gap was a bit closer, although I still took the round. We thanked each other for a couple of good games and I left thanking the girl at the counter for facilitating the one on one. I would definitely return to Eatontown to play here again. It was well worth the trip to New Jersey!

Once I left I ran another search for laser tag facilities nearby where I was at that point. I called another Zone location within 10 miles, but once again I was told they were booked solid that day with parties and wouldn't take walk ups...sigh...back to Staten Island.

So once I was back in New York I went back to the first location from earlier in the day. Here they play Lazer Runner. I purchased two games and was sent up a stairway to join in the next available game.

I could tell before I started that this would be a tame experience. They had a full group going in as I arrived (no packs were left, so I would have to wait for the next round) and the game master said I could walk around and check it out. I did was a small, simple arena, quite typical of what I would expect for Lazer Runner. However, I walked it once and noticed that there were no bases. That surprised me. So points are for tags only here I guess. I asked about the bases and were told they are installed, but they just don't work. Also that the system was really old. And although it wasn't said until the end of the game, they had no individual ranking scoreboard or even a way to identify individual scores short of everyone comparing the number on the back of their phaser before handing back the vests. For real?

The party that had filled up the arena was leaving. I went in with the next game which was absolutely ridiculous. I played with a big guy and his two nephews. With four players I knew going in that this would not be any real challenge, but it could still have the potential to be fun...I was mistaken about that.

I could tell immediately that something wasn't right. I took several solidly placed shots against the big guy's vest and nothing happened...but he was able to get shots off against me. Clearly my shots weren't registering, so I asked to swap out my pack. However, once I returned to the game it was more of the same. Turns out that the problem wasn't my phaser not working. It was his vest sensors that weren't working. So what am I to do with that? I just avoided him in the arena as best I could from that point on since he could shoot me, but I couldn't do anything to him. That left only the younger ones to really play with. I was not originally trying all that hard to tag them. I was walking this game. It was already proving to not even be worth the time. Although I tried to play it out to be a sport. However, my desire for that was short lived. One of the kids would periodically be on the floor crawling around on his stomach in an effort to get a surprise shot from below. I suggested to him that he may want to get up before he got stepped on. And twice that same kid came up on me trying to cover the beam from my phaser or physically push it down. Needless to say the only thing I had left to combat the ridiculousness of this game was to just go at it. Yes, I an enormous margin. Do I feel great about that? No, not in this scenario. Do I think that game mattered in any way? Not at all. Was I irritated about the failure to offer a decent arena with equipment that worked? Um...yeah.

There was nobody left after that round and I asked the game master for a one on one. He said he was not allowed to do that. He also said if I didn't play my second game and went downstairs for a refund he'd vouch for the fact I only played one game and there was nobody else around. So I inquired about a refund and was told they wouldn't do that, but would either give me tokens or...I could play with the game master one on one. Didn't he just say that was not allowed? But with the permission of his boss it was suddenly like he'd just been granted a free pass to take a break. The guy behind the counter gave me a warning...He told me "You're playing against a pro. Don't let him hurt you in there." To which I rolled my eyes and said I wasn't really worried about it. In truth I was less concerned with whether the guy was good competition and more concerned with getting a vest that actually worked. We tested all the sensors before going in. Then we played hard. This guy clearly had as much of a point to make as I did. I must give him his due, he was very good and this was possibly the most interesting game of Lazer Runner I had ever played. He gave me a good run, but I can give it back as good as I get and when all was said and done we did NOT compare scores on a scoreboard (since there wasn't one) and instead we simultaneously turned our phasers around to see the results. Smile...I won.

Now, I would be unlikely to return unless this place gets their act together with the following...

Fixing the vests and ensuring the sensors all work

Fixing the bases so that the game can be played as intended

Fixing the scoreboard and/or getting one that shows all the individual results

However, the one on one game went a long way towards making me feel I had at least gotten my money's worth out of this visit. Thanks to the game master for a good run.

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