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What We Lost Because 2020 Sucked March 7, 2021

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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I know it’s Sunday and we typically have a Gaming History You Should Know today but 2020 sucked, and I wanted to say that to the world. But the most ironic thing about 2020 was for nearly the entire year the human population had to endure what it was like to live as a gamer. Staying home, limiting all inter-person communication to phone and online, having meals be by take out and delivery was completely intolerable for some people, but for people like me that would be considered was any random Tuesday. Sadly, there are consequences for a society that needs to stay home for an extended period of time, and one of those consequences is a lack of income for businesses. Leisure activities and venues were closed for extended periods, either by government order or plain common sense, and without government assistance to keep them afloat while being shuttered many businesses we’ve known and loved forever did not survive the year 2020.

Let’s talk about some of the major businesses that didn’t survive 2020 that I’m really going to miss. We are going to include companies that we believe will never be coming back, and while it is possible these companies could be revived (either through restructuring or buyouts) as far as we know as of the time this is being written the companies we talk about in this article are no longer in active operation.

The VOID was a Virtual Reality (VR) experience which allowed free movement through a mixture of motion tracking and rudimentary sets to produce what has been reported to be a pretty seamless 3D VR experience. The company even did a deal with Disney and ILMxLabs to create exclusive VR experiences based on Avengers, Wreck it Ralph, and even Star Wars. However, when a global pandemic is happening, it is not a good idea to go somewhere and use the same equipment that had recently come in contact with the eyes, nose and mouth of people unknown to you. In September, the company was no longer able to pay its bills, and Disney broke their agreements with them shortly afterwards.

Leading up to 2020, VR centers were actually gaining popularity. When you’re looking at images displayed on decent HD headsets rendered high-end computers, VR is a thrilling experience. While other VR locations ran stock programs people with the money could play in their own homes, the VOID provided an environment people could actually move around in, touch, and feel. I never got to experience one of their games, and I really regret it. It will be interesting to see how the world adjusts to VR cafes post-pandemic, and I have my own theories about how I think they could move on in some way but that’s an article for a different time.

Laser Quest was laser tag, but it was really FUN Laser Tag. Imagine an experience where you’re playing in a real-life multiplayer DeathMatch arena. You fire at your opponents with a special laser weapon that has the ability to ricochet off mirrors. If you make a hit, depending on where in your opponent you struck, you get some points and temporarily disable your opponent for a few seconds. You could try to gain a high ground but that leaves you visible to the entire arena. You could try to stay hidden on a ground floor maze but you have less opportunity to score points that way. You have to decide how best to position yourself for the high score. Before I played my first game at Laser Quest, I would be forced to play Laser Tag at awful venues which never maintained their equipment. At Laser Quest, they told me that each player was marked by a GamerTag of their choice, proving to me these guys knew how to run a real-life DeathMatch. When I was handed my first ever fully working piece of game equipment, I was unstoppable, and I still have the score cards to prove it. Seriously these guys did Laser Tag better than ANYONE else. They even had an online service that kept track of your stats in a National leaderboard.

I last went to Laser Quest last February as a Valentine’s Day trip with my fiancée and we both had a blast. Sadly, an enclosed arena is expensive to maintain when nobody is paying to use it. I should’ve noticed something was wrong after the official Laser Quest app was pulled from Apple’s App Store, preventing me from installing it on my new phone. If the world hadn’t gone to hell, we were talking about doing more trips with more friends.

Fry’s Electronics was a brick and mortar PC part retailer I remember fondly. I visited it one time back in 2003 after I discovered my GPU was damaged and needed to be replaced quickly. In a time when Newegg and Tiger Direct were making waves for themselves for competitively pricing their parts, Fry’s seemed willing to compete, something CompUSA never was willing to do. I was able to find not only a new GPU there, but one that was faster than my previous one at a decent price. Heck, they would even sell plushes of Tux the Linux Penguin, and anyone willing to sell those are awesome in my book.

Unfortunately, after I moved away from California, I never saw Fry’s stores again. As far as I know they never expanded into the East Coast and because of that most Americans probably aren’t even aware of the store. Over the past few years I’ve been hearing horror stories about Fry’s operating with completely bare shelves, giving some credibility to the theory the company had been on the ropes for a while, and the pandemic merely was their knock out blow.

Who knows what else could go next? Was there a business or venue I missed? Post a comment below and we might feature it next time.