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"Collateral Damage" Gets and Education That Goes Right Over His Head (Literally)

I may not have mentioned it yet (in the mix of so many other things that have happened recently), but I will be playing on a laser tag team participating in the Philadelphia Invitationals in a couple of months, which I am really looking forward to as it is a tournament playing Zone. We will be using the most unusual looking Helios Pro phasers, so I will want to check these out in advance on my next trip to the Philly area, but I am really looking forward to it. I'm also happy to report that our final teammate joining us is Joe (aka Bhodi) from my local Zone center, so it's very cool that I will have someone to practice with locally as the entire rest of our team is all out of state. This news came together the next day following our average Saturday night of Zone where we were both there battling it out in the arena until right before the last hour. At that point the majority of the players who had been part of the evening decided to leave. However, I stayed and the arena took on a very different dynamic.

In the final hour I played the last two games with an unusual mix. Two young adults showed up with a VERY young child. These were not the young boy's parents (the parents were waiting out front...I'm thinking they might have been relatives or older siblings). In any case, the boy was much younger than I would expect to see in the arena that late (it was most certainly past a reasonable bedtime for this child), but he was excited to follow around the young guy while the girl was fiercely independent and ready to win this game on her own. We all went in and took different color vests (although the little one picked the same color as his older mentor) and we went into the arena and this is where I faced an unusual new challenge...consciously trying NOT to hit a moving target.

To be honest, sometimes slightly older kids in the arena are aggressive enough players that you just roll with it and play out the game. Hey, in some cases they may even get in more time in the arena than me! This was not the case here. This child was too tiny and just enjoying being with his "big bro" (or whatever the relationship was) and I did NOT want to zap him. However, throughout those two games it became increasingly difficult for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is he stuck like glue to the older guy and since there were only two bigger targets, occasionally I would aim for the adult and the kid would jump right in the way. And in the dark from a distance it was not always easy to tell how high up those lights were. So I joked that whatever the young boy's pack name was, we should just change his codename to be "Collateral Damage" because if I tagged him it was generally not deliberate...just in the wrong place while I was trying to get the other guy. So...oops for the times that happened.

The other reason not tagging him was a challenge was because there were times he and his buddy would come up towards me together. When that happened I would only aim for the older one, but the little one had an irritating tendency all through the game. He would aim his phaser at me and yell "DIE!" Now most of the time I'd let him at least get a shot off (because it really doesn't matter in a game like this and why not let the kid have fun...and he didn't get the shot every time anyway). However, something really bugged me about a person of any age wishing me to "die". Of course I know that's just how little boys play, but he said it so frequently during these games that I felt compelled to impart some words of wisdom (that went totally over his head and unheard) as I made a half-hearted effort to let him know we aren't actually killing people, so "die" is not the best thing to shout at an opponent of any size. Maybe "I got you" or "zapped" would be more appropriate.

I pondered why "die" struck a chord tonight (as I'm certain this is not the first time kids have been like that around me in the arena and I probably didn't think much of it before). I think after having recently interviewed George Carter and hearing firsthand about how even thirty years ago they took steps with terminology, etc. to diffuse the "war-like" perception of laser tag and be clear with people that it is NOT a violent sport, that this night I just had a need to keep that education going. Now, as I say, I know that my words did not register with this child. He was just having fun getting into the game as he saw it. But thirty years ago this message was being reinforced by the laser tag players of the day, so for anyone who has any misconceptions about laser tag being in any way "violent" (which it is not) I would encourage you to watch this feature from around the very least check it out starting at around the 8:00 minute mark...

Let's keep it positive...and no matter what John Stossel says, laser tag beats volleyball hands down! :)

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