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The Six Minute “Tournament”

Well, I suppose technically my winning tournament streak came to an end last night.

Let me qualify that…I had taken first place in several small tournaments in a row between February and mid-March and then of course COVID put a halt to my participating in any tournaments that I might have wanted to do later in the year, so that’s the only reason that my winning streak had held for so long. However, I was surprised by the series of events that resulted in my playing in (and…spoiler alert… ultimately losing) a tournament that only lasted six minutes in total.

I should preface the rest of this by saying two things. First, I had no real skin in this game in as much as I was called to fill-in on a squad with all of about three hours notice. I am appreciative that I was offered a chance to play and was just lucky to be in a place where I could drop what I was doing and drive to Rochester area to participate. My team had won their way into the finals before I even stepped foot inside the building, so this was nothing that I had earned personally. Second, this is in no way meant to criticize the efforts of the host facility (LASERTRON Rochester), as I believe they were doing their best walking through a new endeavor and trying to pull off an event as best they could considering the unusual circumstances that took place. I appreciate that an event happened at all and I hope they continue to host tournaments in the future.

OK, all that said…this may have been the weirdest “tournament” that I have done yet (and that even includes the one where I received an award covered in plastic insects). I was aware of this event going on because my friend Emily was competing with a team right on the heels of winning a similar competition in Buffalo. All I knew about it was what she had told me a couple of weeks ago. So when I heard that a team that had made it into the finals might need a replacement player I let it be known that I was available and interested in trying out the new Battle Royale squad format, which I had not experienced playing yet. I actually didn’t expect to be playing in this event at all, so I was out and about just doing my normal Sunday activities (driving from the craft store and meeting my mother for lunch), when I saw a message from one of the players had hit my phone around 1:00 in the afternoon saying that a player had backed out and inviting me to fill in. Well, that is all I needed to hear to turn on a dime and head out to Rochester to join the squad called “3Strikes” and meet up with Terry (TD), Nardo and our squad captain Layla, all of whom I was delighted to meet and glad to play alongside.

TD and Layla both had kids playing in the youth tournament that was scheduled to take place first, so they were both there a little early and that gave me a chance to chat with them and learn a bit more about the Battle Royale format.

Battle Royale is an elimination game and the object is to have at least one player on your team survive longer than all the opposing teams. You have virtually unlimited shots and lives are limited (I was told normally you start with 60 energy units, but they changed it to 100 for this event) and you MUST tag an opponent at least once every 30 seconds. If you fail to do that or lose all your energy (lives) then your pack will turn purple (aka becoming the Purple Storm) and you must re-energize. When you are Purple Storm you are in a strange in-between state of being both tagged out and yet somehow still in the game, so you want to continue tagging opponents to support your still-active “green” teammates.

The youth tournament had only four teams and they let the kids go through the process of the preliminary games, although when it got down to it the finals in the youth division consisted of the two youth teams that had earned their way there in advance based on points. I think that was just fine and they passed around a QR code to vote for which of the two teams you thought would win. My teammates had kids on both teams, so either way would have been a victory, but I selected the correct team and was rewarded with $9 added to my card. That was nice.

Then it was time for the adult tournament. Sigh…I am using the word “tournament” a little loosely now because the entire thing from start to finish was over in six minutes and one second. Here’s how that happened…EVERYBODY who showed up just jumped directly into one round for finals.

As I mentioned, I had joined a squad that had already won their bye into the finals. Over the course of the preceding thirty days each squad could earn points by participating in qualifiers and my teammates had the second highest amount of points accumulated out of nearly 400 participants on the leaderboard. That is based on the list of standings that was posted online prior to the tournament. My teammates had earned over 1400 cumulative points to get into that spot, which should have afforded them the leisure of watching quarter-finals and semi-finals play out (and other teams exhausting themselves in the process) and then have the victors from those preliminary heats ascend to an earned place in finals. However, out of 28 qualified squads only four actually showed up. And they seemed to be a bit pieced together from other teams (although considering I was a replacement player as well, who am I to talk).

Although the youth tournament had exactly the same number of teams show up, the adult group was not required to go through the same formalities and they did not bother with either a quarter-final round (where one team qualified based on 475 points upon arrival) or a semi-final round (where the other team qualified) and instead just sent all four teams directly into finals. One game, the end. Now, even if the result would have ultimately turned out the same (which with only four teams would have inevitably been the case), it just feels like something was missing in the process.

I’m hard pressed to call what transpired last night a tournament, as by definition a tournament is “a series of contests between a number of competitors who compete for an overall prize” and in this case there was no actual series of contests, unless you are counting the earning of points prior to the event itself. However, in this circumstance the earned points really did not matter at all because everyone who showed up with a team ended up going right into finals anyway. Also, if the rest of the 28 top point earners did not even bother to show up it makes me wonder how many were really consciously participating in a tournament versus simply playing the game because Battle Royale is the only game format that was offered at this site in the last 30 days.

Now, this was clearly an unexpected level of participation and I think that the staff handled things as well as they could have without being able to anticipate the turnout in advance. I’m sure they were planning for more. I don’t attribute this to the pandemic (as everyone had qualified within the last month), but it is what it is. And our team played hard, but ultimately got taken out first from that one and only game (which is just the way the cookie crumbles some days), but I think that from an organizational standpoint it would have been wise for the host facility to have a back-up plan for the handling of this scenario.

I am not an advocate for “participation trophies”, but I also don’t think it makes sense or breeds good vibes to give medals to three teams while leaving one team (particularly one that had actually qualified for the finals on merit) standing unacknowledged. I fear some of my teammates may have felt that sting because I could not even find half of them to say good-bye at the end of it all. Now again, I myself was a fill-in player and recognize that I did not earn anything personally to be here, so I don’t have any real stake in this other than watching the events unfold and thinking there had to be a better way to handle this to make everyone feel that they had gotten a complete tournament experience. Even a warm-up round would have at least made things last a little longer. As it stands, I felt like this one was over a bit too soon and that seems like a shame since the overall concept seems like it was designed to open up more opportunities to compete, not less. Still, I want to offer congratulations to the other teams who placed as follows:

1st Place - AM I TOO SLOW

2nd Place - The House

3rd Place - God Save The Queen

And I must say that all in all I am still glad that I got to be part of this. In addition to meeting some great people and also being able to visit with my ‘geddon teammates Wil and Emily, it was the first time I’ve been back to this site in well over a year. Because I live two and a half hours away from this arena it would be difficult for me to qualify for future events like this in any way other than by joining a pre-existing squad, so I do want to thank Team 3Strikes for inviting me to join them.

Also, I have spent a lot of time collecting unique laser tag experiences as I have traveled and competed all across the country and I can say one thing about last night…I’m pretty sure it will stand uncontested as the shortest tournament that I have ever or will ever play, so for that reason alone I will chalk this up as a new and interesting experience being worth taking the time out of what would have otherwise been a pretty ordinary day.

Comments or Questions?


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