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Saturday Night at Stratum

To reiterate an important timeline, the Saturday night I’m talking about here actually took place about a month ago, which I think needs to be noted at this point in time.

Saturday night at Stratum was something that I really looked forward to. Since the last time I was here they have installed the new Helios 2 equipment and this would be an opportunity to spend the evening experiencing the system in an amazing arena. Stratum is the world’s largest technotainment laser tag arena and is quite an experience! Although they do not permit photos inside the arena, you get the sense you are entering something special from the moment you “leave reality” and enter the vesting room via this sense-distorting rotating vortex walkway.

Once inside the arena the place is huge and I’ve written about it a couple of times before. Although this is only the third time I’ve been able to visit this site just outside of Phoenix in Mesa, AZ I was pleased to be greeted as a familiar face as the manager remembered me and introduced me as “a regular here” while allowing me to join the briefing in progress so I wouldn’t miss any games.

I signed up for the AYCP wristband pass with plans to hunker down at this site and play for the full course of the night. Apparently so did quite a few others because this was a packed house! I was told that sixty vests are the maximum capacity for the arena, although they may hold back a couple. Well, at least one game I played had 54 players in the arena at once and barely a vest left on the rack, so for this site to be able to accommodate groups of that size really puts the size of the arena into perspective.

I have been fortunate enough to get to play Helios 2 in several arenas at this point. In fact, I was at one such location the day that I heard that the installation was happening at Stratum last year, making it the fourth site in the nation to add the new system. None of the other sites where I’ve played it are anywhere near the size of Stratum, so getting to play multiple games here was really the most thorough experience I’ve had with the gear and it feels very natural and intuitive to me. I topped the scoreboard for most of the night and had a really great time getting to play with a group this large. I easily could have kept on going until closing time. However, I decided to call it a night a bit earlier than I would have liked. Why? Well, remember I mentioned in my last post that call to confirm an unexpected detour thanks to having an extra day in Arizona? I had to get some rest that night because first thing in the morning I would be headed for an adventure in Tucson that would speak as deeply to memories from my childhood as Photon itself…and probably even more so.

So, I got my fill of games at Stratum, but then left early enough to get a good night’s rest before heading off the next day in search of those man-eating jackrabbits and that killer cacti!

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