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This Was a BIG Surprise!

I had a BIG surprise with an impromptu game of laser tag in between system stops on Armageddon Day 2. We had finished our Blast games and had a better than three-hour drive plus a lunch stop before arriving at the Storm site, but since my team finished our scheduled games early, I drove on ahead to do my own thing, not expecting that another laser tag stop would present itself along the route.

I was hungry, so when I saw a sign for an Applebee’s in Ann Arbor area, I decided it was a good time for me to take a break. While waiting for my food I was Google searching (out of curiosity) if there were any laser tag locations nearby. Zap Zone (which I had played in four locations on this trip so far) came up and the address was only four minutes from where I was sitting. Of course, I couldn’t pass that up! So, I drove over, passing a huge (or BIG) fun center a couple of doors down. My heart sank when I saw the empty parking lot until I read the sign that said Zap Zone had relocated as part of BIG Entertainment, the place I had just passed. Ok, let’s make an impromptu stop at BIG in Ypsilanti, MI!

At five minutes to noon, I pulled into the parking lot and walked up to the doors just as Jim was unlocking the doors. I told him I was a blogger on break from a tournament and that I fully understood I was the first person here today, but that I’d like to play a game with my limited window of time, so he recruited staff member Adam to play against me. We walked up the stairs to their upper-level laser tag arena that overlooks the entire facility with a huge window wall so you can see what’s going on below and other guests can see what’s happening in the game.

Props to Adam for giving me a great game. Even after I was already exhausted from a full morning of playing Blast, I’m always up for more laser tag! In fact, I looked over the map of Zap Zone locations just to see if there were any more that I could visit before the day was done!

Our game was a 1v1 with the classic Laser Blast equipment that had been moved over from the previous arena two doors down. That part I was absolutely expecting.

What I was not expecting was the unique combination of playing the Laser Blast equipment in a brand new Tron maze.

It’s an unusual pairing, so I asked about it and was referred to Gaz, the dynamic director of operations, who came over with Dana to answer my questions about the facility.

These gentlemen were wonderful to their guests, coming up to everyone they encountered with a fist bump and an enthusiastic welcome and making you feel like fast friends right from the start.

Gaz gave me some background about BIG. This is the first BIG Entertainment location and it just opened about a month ago. While BIG stands for Best In Games, it is also a nod to the appeal it has for BIG customers, meaning it is not designed as a kids play place, but was created with adults as their target demographic. It’s no surprise that this was an ideal location for some of the other Armageddon players to visit at the end of the tournament too! :)

I asked Gaz about the reasons for choosing that particular arena style and his logic made very good sense. He said it was because of the bright lights built into the maze pieces being visible from below and attracting people’s attention to look at what is going on up in the arena because you can see them shining brightly through the big glass window. Absolutely, this design accomplishes that goal very well. You can see the lit up laser tag arena from just about anywhere in the building and the aesthetic fits well with the fun, flashy vibe of the whole place.

Gaz was kind enough to take a few minutes to give me a personal tour, starting with a visit to their Fremont Street themed go-kart track upstairs.

Colorful lights change the colors of the trees, which are lit up with rainbow color transitions as you maneuver up and down the levels of the track.

Then there is the selfie mini golf. So many fun things to take photos, from the Candy Club…

…to the Game of Thrones golf club chair.

My favorite photo op with riding a bike with E.T.

The bar and lounge areas are impressive! Chic, glitzy and glam from the top to the bottom of the glittery painted staircase.

Finally, Gaz walked me over to an attraction that really makes a BIG impression…the VR Grave Digger Monster Truck Motion Simulator.

I am told this is currently the first and only one of its kind in the world. Gaz gave instructions for me to be given a seat alongside the staff members who were apparently getting their first experience with this attraction. You take a seat inside the giant monster truck, buckle up and then put on a VR headset. Your eyes see a dirt and rock Monster Jam course with cliffs and you really feel like you are falling over and dropping down. The truck moves the seat you are in perfectly to create the most realistic VR experience I have had to date. I even had to momentarily close my eyes because it felt so much like a real roller coaster!

I’ve sampled a variety of VR, both at FECs and at industry trade shows, but this is genuinely the first one that has been so exceptional that I would want to go back and do it again. They got this absolutely right!

At the end of my ride I had to hit the road to get back on route to the next tournament site. My thanks to Gaz, Dana, Jim and the whole team at BIG Entertainment for the BIG surprises they showed me during this completely impromptu tag visit!

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