WASILLA — Thirty-one states down, 19 more to go.
Laurie Britton is shooting her way across the country in laser tag arenas, blogging her experiences as she goes. Starting in her hometown of Ilion, New York, Britton has zapped her way through well over half of the United States over a three-year time period, photographing and chronicling her journey along the way. After a stint around the west coast, she flew up to Alaska, marking one more state off her “bucket list.” During her time up here, feelings of “honor” came from many sides of the arena.
“I love travel; I love the new experiences. I love having something kind of unique that people have taken an interest in. I think it’s really cool that people like what I’m doing,” Britton said.
She called the Extreme Fun Center in Wasilla two months ahead of time. This gave them time to prepare. The United States National Guard sponsors the laser tag arena. About once or twice a month, a group of active members make a trip to the arena and play laser tag with civilians and eat pizza. Laser Tag Arena Manager, Erin Hogan figured the best way for Britton to have a worthy set of opponents would be to coordinate with the Guard, especially since she came on a Wednesday. When Hogan found out he was having an expert laser tagger playing in his customized games, he was thrilled.
“It’s such an honor having a player at her level playing games I created,” Hogan said.
The Extreme Fun Center uses the Laser-Tron arenas. Hogan said that each arena around the country has its own customized games, along with standard sets like team battles and free-for-alls. He said he creates games based on information gathered from customers and rolls out new game modes every month or so. When Britton was done blasting service members, she gave Hogan some feedback on some ideas he could try out in the future.
“I was excited because she’s played at so many arenas. She knows this game inside and out,” Hogan said.
SGT Tessa McKittrick said she and the other Guards had a good time. She also noted that community events like these are important times for her recruitment. Places like the Fun Center are ideal for reaching her target audience (17 to 25 year olds). Britton, some Guards, and a few locals mixed in all split into two teams and battled in three matches.
“It’s pretty fun,” McKittrick said.
Back home, Britton works at the Bug Country Radio Station. She said to visit each state’s laser tag arenas she plans out her trips according to her vacation time or by taking long weekends. She then ventures out for a few weeks at a time racking up the states, getting whatever she can get to “sensibly.”
“This is my vacation. Rather than going off to Hawaii or something; I’m going off playing laser tag,” Britton said.
Britton played laser tag for the first time about 10 years ago. She drifted away from it for a while and she got more serious about it three or four years ago. She said the catalyst for her laser tag quest was a 2014 event in Maryland called Focon. It was a convention celebrating the 30th anniversary of Photon, the very first commercialized laser tag arenas. Inventor, George Carter III created Photon in 1985 after being inspired by the Star Wars films. Britton said that people accumulated enough vintage materials to get everything working again. Carter himself attended the event to speak. After the event, she began training and played every weekend at her local arenas in New York.
“Once I had a few, I wanted a few more and a few more,” she said.
Her love for laser tag grew and she started crossing state lines to play in various tournaments. After racking a few states under her belt, she began to wonder how far she could go with this.
“Wouldn’t be cool if I could maybe get to all 50?” she asked herself.
Britton started her blog back in December of 2014, leading into the New Year. She began chronicling her laser tag adventures. She said the blog is mostly written for herself but she hopes if people discover it, they enjoy reading it and are inspired to go on a similar adventure, following their own areas of interest. By the end of March, she covered all the states on the East Coast ahead of a westward march, “going deep as Missouri.”
“It’s like a diary of my experiences,” Britton said.
“As a nod to the TV series Photon, (a science fiction / fantasy show loosely based on the arenas) that sparked my interest so many years earlier, I adopted the player alias of Tivia2, naming myself after the lead female character (she rocked as a role model for girls on a show that seemed predominantly geared towards young boys). For a while the name Tivia was one that I used exclusively for laser tag. Then in time it spilled over into other areas of my life and became my online handle. And as I was the ‘chick’ who played as "Tivia", the variation evolved...so now you know the origins of the name Tiviachick,” Britton wrote in one of her first blog entries.
According to Britton, this is a much more intense spurt than normal. Since she is all the way on the other side of the country, she doesn’t know when the next time she will visit the west coast again. She said she felt the need to do as much and see as much as she could while over here. She played in 26 arenas in less than a week.
Britton said she has always been a competitive person. Growing up, she never played team sports. She instead competed in solo competitions, including beauty pageants. When she first got into laser tag — even though she would end up on teams — she always sought to beat herself by reaching for a new personal high score. She said that over time, she got better and met more avid players. She connected with pro laser tag players and played more tournaments. She said that she wasn’t at the level of pro players, stating she in a more “intermediate realm.” She said that tournament laser tag is another animal entirely than public laser tag. She said it’s like little league vs. professional.
“The more you love it, the better you get at it,” Britton said.
After a few years of meeting people across the country and making more connections with those who shared her love for laser tag, Britton said she felt like she was becoming more team minded than ever before.
“It kind of satisfied my competitive nature and my need to challenge myself and it also eventually put me into a position to really for the first time be involved with a team sport; which is something I didn’t have when I was growing up. So, I feel now that I’m an adult I’m finally finding that team sport element and I loved that as well,” Britton said.
She said that hitting all 50 states isn’t something that isn’t going to “happen overnight.”
She plans to hit the middle of the country next year. She doesn’t have a concrete time frame of when she will complete her journey but she said that it would realistic to think she could get it done within a couple of years.
Extreme Fun Center Chairman and CEO, John Schweiger said he was elated to have Britton up Wasilla way and hearing her positive reviews of his center.
“It’s an honor that we’re in her top 10 arenas west of the Mississippi,” Schweiger said.
After three rounds with the National Guard, Britton said she honored to play with them.
“And I want to thank them for what they’re doing,” she added.