I work in a pretty fun office where we regularly have team outings to go do something fun and connect as a group. I like that a lot about our office, and I particularly think that when you work in or around education, it’s pretty important to find ways to have fun and take time to recharge.
We put our latest team outing to a vote, and the vote was pretty unanimously Blazer Tag–a place that has a few video games and what not, but mostly is known for a three story laser tag arena. We picked some time on a Friday afternoon, and made a reservation for 13. But a 3 story arena is a large space, so they can easily fit more than 13 people in for a 20 minute game. So, another group booked a game for the same time and date, and as we arrived, we went into the “briefing room” to meet our opponents.
They were about 20 elementary school aged children.
As we walked in and saw them, we all started exchanging silent glances as we processed a lot of feelings very quickly. “Guys, we are a bunch of adults playing a game for children.” “I feel very awkward and lame.” “I feel very, very tall.” “Uh, are we going to really try to take down a bunch of little kids?”
I have been accused more than once of being a bit too competitive, especially with small children. Also, when we arrived a little late and in a bit of a hurry for our game time, I politely tried to avoid the little kids running around oblivious to other people around them, but after dodging about a dozen kids, one collided into me, and all I did was put out a hand to stop him and maybe give him a dirty look. I get it. He’s young and playing and having a good time, but a little more spatial awareness of the people and things surrounding him might be in order.
Meanwhile, as we are working through the realization that we were competing against little kids, we were watching a short video about how the laser tag game worked. Afterwards, the people working the game asked if there were any questions. One kid raised his hand, “What if I lay down in the game?”
After the slightest bit of hesitation, the guy in charge said, “That’s not allowed.” I suspect he was used to getting some pretty weird questions working there, and he handled it like a pro.
Another girl raised her hand not so much to ask a question but to share that “The gems sometimes scare me.”
The employees fielded a few more questions, and quickly decided these questions weren’t the most pertinent. They said they would take one more question, and a boy on the front row raised his hand to say, “How long has this place been here? Like, 25 years?”
At that point the adult chaperones put the kibosh on Question time, though I would have been perfectly happy to sit and listen to at least 15 more minutes worth. But hilarious questions were not the point. It was time to start shooting one another.
The game itself was pretty fun, though running around in the dark for 20 minutes made me very aware that I had taken the week off from any and all physical activity. A minute or two in, I ran into a clump of kids, and I would like to point out for the record that I did pause to contemplate my actions before I took aim at their lit up vests. It felt a little strange, but they outnumbered us almost 2:1, and it is a game, so if we didn’t play them, we had very little to do.
Their reactions were wildly varied. Some took it and returned fire. Some were indignant or upset–not that we were adults picking on kids but at the entire concept of a game where people would try to win. One girl ran around with a slightly older boy from a rival team, and every time I tried to tag the boy, she would tell me, “He’s okay. He’s my brother.” But she was on my team and her brother was not. Maybe I should appreciate the sibling loyalty, but I was raised in a family where games were an exercise in every person for themselves, so I mostly thought she should cut ties for the next 20 minutes and help out Team Green instead of being a Team Blue apologist.
A handful of the kids were a little older, and those tended to be the ones that would shoot you and then gloat directly in your face. One of them went by the code name “Anne Frank,” which further supports that he is the kind of young adult who revels in being inappropriate. After the game, one of my coaches looked at the scoreboard where Anne Frank was in first place and said, “Anne Frank is a dick!” Out of context, that sounds really bad, but in the moment we all nodded in agreement, myself included.
In the end, it was a pretty fun team outing. We gathered together as a team and compared scores. The score sheets reveal who shot who and how many times. One of my co-workers whose code name was “No Mercy” showed exactly that and got me repeatedly. We swapped stories about our time in the arena and how it felt to go up against a bunch of little kids. One of my team actually paired up with one of the little kids and helped guide her through the arena, which was totally sweet.
It wasn’t what I envisioned. And despite what some of my friends might say, I didn’t feel great about beating people with the code names “Puppy Girl” and “Kitty.” But it’s also a game, and an experience that we got to share as a group. In that sense, it was a total success.