Three Arenas in One Night
For several weeks I have been wanting to check out an arena to the south of me that runs Lasertron and I had never been to before. My hope after learning about this place was that it would be a good spot for me to get some Tron practice closer to home. But after playing there...well, let's just say I don't think this is going to replace any of my other go to spots. The one thing I'll say I did like was the aesthetic. The arena had a cool industrial theme.
But as for the rest of it...here's what happened. I showed up at the arena for what was supposed to be unlimited tag 7-11. They also offer roller skating here and one wristband would get you access to both for what sounded like a pretty good price. Well, shortly after 7:00 I bought my pass and was told to add my name to the list for tag. There were already a decent number of names on the paper so I asked when the next game was going in. I was told they would play when they had enough people (the group on this list wasn't enough to start after 7:00?) and that I might just want to get my skates now until tag is announced. So I did. I got quarters, rented a locker for my shoes and hat (no hats permitted in the skating area) and laced up my skates.
No sooner were the skates on then they called "cheerleaders, laser tag". Damn. OK, so I forfeited the locker rental, put my sneakers back on and got in the line...with a REALLY rowdy group of cheerleaders. I actually had the thought that I'd rather play against the football team!
Well, it didn't matter because the game master curtly stopped me from going in and said this wasn't part of unlimited laser tag. I'd have to wait and unlimited would be announced. Sigh, but ok. Back to rent the locker a second time and put my skates back on and figured I'd get out there and skating would be like riding a bike...it's not! I used to be pretty good (thank you Sandy for that lie about skating resulting in skinny thighs...that got me to a decent level of ability back in the day)...but as soon as I stepped out onto the rink I realized this was a MISTAKE! Fortunately by the time I got to the opposite end of the rink there as an announcement to change direction and I just made my way back to my locker, put my sneakers on yet again and returned the skates. That's not why I came here anyway. I wanted to play some tag, so I just waited by the arena entrance. Some time later I hear unlimited tag called and "first 24 people come to the entrance!" First 24 people? Was this about to be a free for all just to get a spot in line? Apparently, because I was already right there when several young (but old enough to know better) players just shoved ahead to make sure they got in. They counted heads as the first 24 people went in...weird way to do it, but ok.
I looked at my watch and as of 7:45 I had not played any tag, but I was at least now standing in a briefing room (no benches or seats)...a very TINY briefing room with 24 people about to watch the Lasertron instructional video on a monitor on the wall. I've seen this video several times in the past, so instead I focused on how claustrophobic this space was making me feel. Very uncomfortable.
Then we went into the vesting area. Code names were pre-assigned to the vests, so you would just grab whatever number you wanted. Mine was green 16 - Hawkeye. The game master instructed the green team to follow him as he walked us over to our recharge station (no bases in this arena). Then as he was shouting additional instructions (shouldn't this all have been covered in the briefing room?) he realized that the settings were wrong on the equipment, so he left our group there while he went to make adjustments. This at least afforded me time for a photo op in the arena.
It actually afforded us PLENTY of time as we are just standing there, waiting. It's about 8:00 now...still haven't played any tag. Eventually the game begins and, well...it's sort of Tron with no bases. Essentially just tagging the other players. But since it's Tron that feels very unsatisfying because nobody is immediately tagged out (this is where my Zone bias comes into play...I'm not really a big Tron fan in the first place). Now, I know how to do this and I go take care of business with the red team, periodically returning for a recharge. However, this arena feel very tight. There is no running, but there is plenty of close quarters because (in my opinion) the arena does not comfortably handle this many people. So I'm feeling like I'm playing like a sardine. Normally my first move would be to get to the higher level, but somehow keeping a sight line to the recharge station feels more advantageous than fighting the crowd of my own team to go up and down the ramp.
When the first round (out of two consecutive rounds) ended and we were called back to the recharge station my pack informed me that I was the high score player. In fairness, it was only the high score for my particular team. The other team cannibalized this team pretty well, but such is Tron and the overall outcome of that round was about what I expected based on what I saw happening.
The game master warned a couple of people on my team that they were coming too close to running and if it continued they would be thrown out. I'm surprised that was actually possible in this space. Then we played through the second round and I just didn't feel like anything was comfortable in this arena. I don't think my team did either. Many of them clustered at the recharge station (which the game master loudly suggested made them easy marks...gee, thanks for alerting the other team to that). This made actually using the recharge station a bit more challenging. I went through the motions, but this was not the experience I hoped for. This was not likely to improve my Tron playing since the elements I might want to practice were missing (like the bases) and the atmosphere didn't have the right vibe to make me want to stay. So I didn't.
It was ten minutes after 8:00. I left after one game (or two rounds if you want to look at it like that). In the parking lot someone did shout "good game" to me as I was getting into my car. Props for some courteous clientele, yet both of us were leaving one game into the night, so...there you go. I checked my GPS and realized I was equidistant between going home or going to Albany. Let's make something out of this night...Albany, here I come!
I got to Zero Gravity and the evening was quiet. A game was in progress, so I just chatted for awhile about my experience earlier in the night. Since the players in the arena were not signed up for additional games I was treated to a one on one with a staff member on the house. What a nice surprise! So I went in for a solo round with Josh. He played quite well and I deliberately spent more time on the floor than on the bridge, so it made for a more evenly played game. I must say, I was impressed. We came out of there with scores quite close. The edge was in my favor, but it was a pretty well balanced round and I appreciated that. Good game Josh!
Then a group showed up and I bought a two game package to go into the next couple of rounds with them. No high pressure, but it was a decent couple of rounds and coming out to this arena definitely redeemed my night. I ended things there around 11:15, but I had a second wind (and a Dunkin' Donuts in sight) so I figured it was worth the short drive to go visit Spare Time while I was in the area (knowing they are open later into the night) so I got my caffeine fix and headed to the third arena of the night. Well, it was quiet here too. Sometimes I think that's just what Friday nights are becoming. But there was a game master here who was willing to go one on one, so I said let's do it!
Alli got the ok to break away for a solo round and we headed in. I commented to her about how much I really do like the look of this arena. Playing one on one gave me a much better appreciation for the playing space also. It's small, so a small game is appropriate here (I'd almost hate to see this place with too large a crowd). Going one on one really in a way feels like hunting...like you have to "stalk your prey" so to speak. Alli played well, but I was getting into the game and got into my strategy space. She commented after the game that I had killed it and every time she turned around, there I was...and could I show her how I did that. Thanks Alli, I appreciated the good game!
Considering how far I have to travel, even when I arrive at an arena during a slow time I still want to feel like making the drive was worth it. I definitely felt like both these arenas at the end of the night made it worth it, and that's a credit to the employees. Half my issue with the first stop of the night was that I didn't feel like it was a great "customer" experience even despite my gripes with the playing experience. But I give big props to both Zero Gravity and Spare Time for being enjoyable places to play with staff members who take good care of their players. Three arenas in one night...turned out to be a great evening after all!
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