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Zone Nats 2023

Playing in the Zone Nats at Ultrazone Bensalem was a wonderful experience. I loved getting to play in the company of some of the top Zone players in the United States and I am very glad I had the opportunity to compete. This was a well-run tournament with incredibly high caliber competition played at one of my favorite arenas. Nine teams participated and I was glad to have the chance to play again in a national championship

It is also a bit of a surreal experience for me. My perspective has a lot less to do with the actual competition analytics and more to do with stepping through the looking glass to have found myself there for a second time.

I had not planned on going to Nats until receiving an invite from my California friend Josef (Nawala) to join the team he was captaining. He said we’d be playing with Noah (Nemesis) and Ricky (Rickroll) who I also knew from my past laser tag visits to Cali along with his cousin Gabby (Zarkangel) who lives closer to Philadelphia.

If you are thinking it is unusual that as a New Yorker I would be connected to a team from the opposite side of the country, ordinarily I would agree. But something I don’t think everyone realizes is this…I am a laser tag orphan. What I mean by that is I have no Zone home site. I love the game and literally have nowhere to play it regularly unless I am traveling, so I take every opportunity I get, but that means I’m never in any one location for very long. As crazy as this sounds, it seems quite likely that I have probably played more games with these guys in Cali than at any other individual Zone site since the pandemic (not counting last year’s Nats), so I guess I’m a Chino Hills player now, lol! And that’s how I found myself becoming part of Team Dumpster Fire!

Since Nats was taking place all in the same month as my next Tag 4 A Cause night and Armageddon, I felt like I should conserve the days I took off from my work, so I opted to forgo the solos competition and just show up at midnight for the start of the team comp.

I arrived to find my team sitting in the lobby as the final rounds of solos were being played. We gathered around the map I brought in preparation to go into the first game of team comp. This was interesting for the last reason you would expect. We were scheduled to compete against Monstro (heavy hitters) and Last Resort. We sat in the briefing room waiting to be called in.

To nobody’s surprise we took a wallop from Monstro that game. To everyone’s surprise, we still took second place…because Last Resort never actually made it into the arena! They missed the call! I have never actually seen a tournament where one team just didn’t get to play an assigned game. I barely even see the late penalty enforced, but it was here. So, quite an unusual beginning for this tournament!

I took photos of the rank on the scoreboard. I took photos of my team just sitting around.

I took photos of my can of water (Zone Nats beverages were once again sponsored by Liquid Death).

If you follow my blog you already know this about me…I take lots of photos. Well, here’s the one that cost me in our next game.

I’m sure I must have read the rule about no phones in the arena, but honestly never thought twice about it because this is simply what I always do. I document the experience through photos. Warren Beatty once said of Madonna “she doesn’t want to live off camera” and I thought his judgement was almost as ridiculous as this one against us. But yeah, I took a team selfie before the game started, it happened on camera and I got a tick. Oops!

I’m genuinely pleased with our performance in round robin. We were the underdogs coming into this and had no delusions about anything, but we all love to play and I felt we held our own at this stage.

The first two rounds of cascades were a mixed bag, but we appreciated our successes where we could.

Everyone was pretty pleased with this result, especially considering we were up against the Philly home team in this game.

By the end of that night I was exhausted…and yet I got up early enough to visit another arena and play more tag during the off hours. The afternoon included a really nice lunch gathering at Iron Abbey and I enjoyed the chance to visit with some other players outside of the tournament setting.

Later that night we returned to the arena and I needed a caffeine boost to keep me going. As mentioned, Zone Nats had beverages sponsored by Liquid Death…a key ingredient in my go-go juice (which, to clarify, is just a highly caffeinated herbal tea blend).

This is my mega-lit Herbalife tea mixture that really kicked in. Considering team comp cascades went on all night, my shirt is completely accurate…”radio never sleeps and neither do we!”

Night two was elim (NOT my favorite format) and continuing in with team comp cascades. Toward the end of night, tournament coordinator Json Elias was kind enough to give me my nationals coin in advance because I do not have a home site where he could send it, as he will be doing for the other teams. This is a really nice souvenir of the event that he customizes every year.

Tired again, (but not too tired to detour during the day for a tag trip to Delaware!) I started night three with more of my caffeine mix blended with Liquid Death. Cascades continued and we played on.

Whenever we were on deck to game master for other games, I would adopt the corner of the blue base as my GM position every time. Inside this space is a sign of remembrance for a friend who our community lost two days before last year’s Armageddon. Maybe this is why I gravitated to this spot.

Before long ascensions got underway and we waited to be called as the first rounds went in.

When we were called up for our series of three back to back games I felt fine with game one, but something rather stressful occurred during game two that I don’t need to rehash, but if I looked a bit distraught on the monitors and was playing quite differently from my norm, it’s because I was. However, my thanks to the game master who gave me a word of assurance following that game and I’m just going to leave that moment in the rear view mirror because on the whole it was an amazing tournament, very well organized and an honor to play with this level of competition.

I had to return to New York as soon as we were done, so we snapped one more team photo to commemorate our positions on Dumpster Fire…

Nemesis = Raging Dumpster Fire

Nawala = Exploding Dumpster Fire

Tivia = Searing Dumpster Fire

Rickroll = Cold Dumpster Fire

Zarkangel = Trainwrecked Dumpster Fire

(New code names courtesy of Nawala!)

On my way back home I stopped for rest breaks mostly just so I could check online to see how the results were shaping up. My congratulations to the top players and teams!

3rd place - Identity Crisis

2nd place - Asshats Incorporated

1st place - Monstro

And finally, a shout out of thanks to Json and everyone who had a hand in the organization of this tournament. This was an excellent event. Congratulations to all the teams who came out and played hard during the 2023 Zone Nats!

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