I love to hit the open road, so I was really looking forward to the drive to Phocon 2015 being held at XP Lasersport in Laurel, Maryland. When I left the arena in Syracuse on Friday night I just drove until I could drive no longer (putting me somewhere in Pennsylvania when I decided to find a hotel for the evening) and then I continued on my way to Maryland the next morning. And when I arrived there was a wonderful feeling of enthusiasm in the air as people were enjoying playing Photon, the game from 1984 that had brought us from all over to enjoy some authentic laser tag nostalgia. Fundraising had taken place over the last month to be able to restore the vintage equipment and take over this center for the weekend (perhaps the only place still in active operation with the actual original equipment and a modified Photon alpha field for play). Upon arrival I was handed my passport and a bag with this year's official t-shirts and my game passes.
Excellent! Then I headed up to the observation deck to check out what was going on with the game in progress. I love taking in the whole atmosphere. It makes me feel like I am/was a part of this cool era in laser tag's history...even though I've pointed out many times that I was only five years old when Photon was launched and I only get to live the nostalgia vicariously through these special events. Photon truly is my first laser tag love (even though I was not a first generation player) because it planted the notion of laser tag in my head when I was young and is the basis upon which all the laser tag I love today was built. I love to be a part of this and Phocon is my opportunity to get in the game...so after a few moments of watching from above it was time to get out there and play some Photon!
Let me walk you through the experience of getting ready to play. First, all players must put on a hair net style disposable protector before putting their head into a helmet. There is certainly a grunge factor to playing with 30 year old equipment (especially considering how hot people get while running around in the arena). Next you put the strap around your neck and attach the belt to secure your chest pack before putting the helmet on your head.
I found it easier to put on the battery belt and plug in the power cord before removing the phaser from its base.
Once you are wearing all the equipment properly you hand your ID passport to the attendant who will scan you in and make sure your phaser syncs up and you are then ready to play.
Now this gear is intended for playing the game, but I couldn't let an opportunity pass to take a few photos...
And one of the first people I recognized upon arrival was Photon Chris, so he jumped into some photos too...
Now, let me fess up. I discovered something surprising last year that continues to hold true and evidenced itself rather quickly. In spite of the fact that I am generally good at laser tag...well, I am STILL absolutely lousy at Photon! I don't know why this is the case, especially considering my affinity for it, but this will give you an idea of just how badly I played (and don't worry, I redeemed myself later in the weekend)...
But you know the most wonderful thing...I genuinely don't care! I had a blast just getting the chance to be part of it and it was refreshing to play without any hang-ups about winning because I knew before I even arrived that it was a completely moot point. Instead I just enjoyed the experience for what it was and that was refreshing and absolutely needed.
In between games I chatted with some of the other players. I enjoyed talking with Ed, a former Kenilworth, NJ Photon player as we sat in front of a display case with some memorabilia items.
Then he looked at the case and asked "is that you?" What do you know, someone must have pulled some photos from my website (which was flattering...what a nice surprise!) and sure enough, there's the photo of me standing next to George Carter at last year's event on the front of the display...
Very nice! In fact, the whole day had been wonderful. Well, there was one unfortunate thing. A friend who is connected with all this and had planned to pay a visit to the event inadvertently got the dates wrong and rather than be in Maryland hanging out with us all he was in his office in California thinking it was happening two weeks later. Ah...sigh. However, I had made plans with my local friend Jessica for that evening (more on that in another post). When she picked me up at the Phocon event I wanted to introduce her to what Photon was all about. So we got her suited up and we had a chance to play a match together.
I'll momentarily skip ahead past how I spent Saturday night (playing Darklight at another laser tag facility) and jump to Sunday morning. I went back for a bit more Photon before I hit the road, however I arrived early enough that the games for the day had not yet started. Instead Marc (the owner of XP Lasersport who made this event possible) let me go in and take some great photos of the arena...
And when I left I was filled with such appreciation for the fact that I got to enjoy such a wonderful escape from reality and hang out with some great people who share my love for the granddaddy of all laser tag, the original laser sport, Photon.
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Websites: www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com and www.photonforever.com