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Sometimes a little perspective goes a very long way. Last night I had an interesting evening playing in Albany. I went in primed to play a perfect night and aim for the top score each game. Sure, you could say that's usually my goal, but after last week's streak of success here I felt pretty confident I could pull it off. However, for a very good reason which you will understand shortly I did NOT go after the win every game...and yet I really enjoyed what actually happened.

I chatted with two people and besides them I couldn't even tell you who was in that game. These two were a father and son team (the son is headed into the army so I want to take a moment to say thank you Austin for your service in advance) and they apparently play at this arena all the time and yet somehow this was the first time we had crossed paths. I went in fully expecting to win...and so did they.

That first game I came in second to the son by a small margin. I was surprised (and truth be told, agitated I wasn't going to get my perfect night). I set my resolve to not let that happen twice and the next game I went in phasers blazing...except that I got a bad pack and my phaser wasn't blazing or doing much of anything else. A quick switch to a new pack and phasers were blazing again. I made up for lost time and pulled out the win in spite of it. Afterwards those guys came up to me and they said "we're very used to winning here, so when you beat us that last game it kind of shook things up". Thank you guys. I told them I was also used to winning so it would be an interesting night as we collectively realized who the main competition was going to be. However, moments later it really did become an interesting night in a whole different way and suddenly winning didn't matter anymore.

A group of close to twenty players arrived. They were special needs adults, I assumed coming from a local ARC group or the like. The guys disappeared from this game, but I decided to go in...let me be clear, NOT to play against this group, but instead to help lend some support if I could. I showed a couple of them how to put on the pack and buckle the sides. This was a brand new experience for these players and upon walking into the arena it was clear that most did not quite know what to do from there and there. The side wearing red clumped together on one side of the bridge while the side wearing blue clumped together on the ground level on the other side until a game master encouraged them to spread out. So I decided to help as many of them as possible to get bases. I walked up to one man and asked if he wanted to get a base and he excitedly said yes so I led him to where the base was and gave him directions on how to shoot at the green lights three times. He was so happy! So I repeated this and found a young woman drifting on her own and offered her the same guidance. Teaching laser tag to these individuals was a really special experience that gave me a much needed dose of perspective. I am glad I got to be there and got to help a few of them have a little extra success.

From somewhere in this group emerged a real talent. I have a feeling I know which player it was. At the end of this unique game I helped some of them to put their packs back in the vesting room and when we exited most of the scores were on the low side, but one player got over 20,000 points. The father and son from earlier walked up afterward and asked if that score was mine. I said "no, of course not." Did they not see the group I went in with? I told them I am not a monster and was not about to do something like that to those people. All I did was I shot a base and that was it, but clearly one of them was very skillful with the shots. The guys said they did see the group and they sat it out because they didn't want to play hard against them either. So I repeat for the benefit of any of the guys at Zero Gravity who might be reading this...I swear it was not me!

A couple of games later this same group played again, I went in again to help (I shot a base and NOTHING else) and came out having only been a bystander in the arena lending a hand if I could. That game I took the Venom pack. Look at the photo and you'll see it is true that I took only the 2000 points from the base and nothing else. However, look closer at those scores...

One of those players had it all over the rest of the group and hit a score of 45,000 points! So again, I must clarify for anyone who saw me walking out of the arena and then saw that score...I did NOT do that...but a big "wow" to whichever of those players it was. I quietly said to the guys "I've never hit 45,000 when I play" and they nodded and the son said he didn't even know that was possible. I mean, when nobody is shooting back, sure it's possible. But in this scenario...well, someone in there found a new talent while this group was enjoying their night out.

These games with the special needs adults alternated against more serious games where I could play hard. From that game on any game I played against the serious players I won the top score, so if you disregard the ones where I really didn't play I almost ended up with a perfect streak with winning all the remaining games. However, that dose of perspective stayed with me and in a weird way by the end of the night I almost felt badly for winning too many times. I enjoyed playing with these guys with lots of experience in this arena and I hope I didn't play it too hard because I sensed the enthusiasm dropping by the last game (which was stealth "Midnight Madness" free for all...I kill it at stealth). I have a really competitive nature and sometimes I think I need to keep it better in check. So while I felt great about being successful for the rest of the night I also want to give credit to the very worthy competitors who gave me a wickedly good run in there. And I also want to give a shout to the other group for whom I really enjoyed being able to see spending a night enjoying learning laser tag.

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