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Empowerment Through Laser Tag

I've had a couple of conversations this week where laser tag has come up in unexpected contexts. In one discussion I was talking with someone about a few of my various side projects and it was pointed out to me that considering how many things I do that tie back to women's empowerment (mostly in the competition scene) that it was interesting to this person that I equally love laser tag so much. The implication being that because tag is predominantly played by a different group (mostly younger guys) that it somehow wasn't on par as an empowering activity for me as a woman. I considered this...then realized later on while dominating the arena that this is exactly why this is one of the most empowering things I do, and possibly because I am a woman. There is no better feeling than conquering a game of laser tag and then getting appreciation (and sometimes the agitation) returned from the other players, most of whom underestimate me when they first look at me and at face value don't figure me to be much competition. Shattering that misconception is the most empowering feeling, just short of having someone put a crown on your head. :)

I definitely felt empowered during the games last night. I had an undefeated streak that began with the first game played against a smaller group. Initially all the players including two formidable looking teenagers clustered to one team leaving me alone on the red team. The game master tried to get them to balance the teams (although I said I really didn't mind) and those guys went to the green team while I stayed red playing solo against everyone else. Those teen guys were actually very good players and they worked well as a team, but I didn't let them get over on me. At the end of the game as we walked out one of them loudly announced "next game I'm on her team." By this time a lot more people had arrived to fill out a much larger game next round and that same kid said to one of his buddies "she just kicked our asses in there." The buddy sized me up and said "really?" with skepticism in his voice. I said "yes, really" and did it all over again. Making someone re-evaluate their initial assessment of what I can do is one of the most vindicating and satisfying results of a well played game.

Although I had been the top scorer all night, by the end of the evening a new group had joined and they came to play. They were all strategizing by the map on the far wall and they looked at me with no knowledge of how the night had gone up to this point. They said "Did you come to play hard tonight? Join our team." I smiled to myself thinking "Did I come to play hard? Get ready for it." And I was ready to really show them. Until...

I sensed during the course of the night that the Legend pack was running out of juice and needed to be recharged. Unfortunately this was the game when it really started to give out. I could tell...the shots were slower if they shot at all. I was only getting half the shots I triggered to actually fire. I had to play twice as hard to compensate for a pack that was half as effective without a charge. Damn, this was not the game where I wanted to see this happen. I really felt compelled to play harder and just hoped it would be enough. When we exited to check the scores I was (thankfully) still on top, but by an incredibly narrow margin that did not properly reflect what I thought would have happened if I had a fully charged pack. Please realize that I never blame the pack for my shortcomings in a game, but this time was different and the fact that I came out in first place in spite of this pack is what I was proudest about in this round. While my score was disappointing compared to my other games it was apparently still impressive to this group who "recruited" me again for the final game. They asked my advice on strategy, they followed my lead and they kept calling me their "ringer". Cool. We switched to the blue team (since my pack was dead anyway there was no real reason to stay on red) and with the Jinx pack (ironic, right) I had full power again and went at this game hard. I could feel that game was on point and our team came out on top. After the announcement over the speakers that the blue team won the opposing team was shouting "don't kid yourself, it's only because you had that lady on your team." Well...haters gonna hate. :) But this whole night felt incredible and incredibly empowering. Now I'm off to support some other women participating in a completely different kind of empowering competition...and when it's over I think I'll go back to the arena and do it all over again.

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