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Game On Mega Drive-In Brings Video Game Action to WestWorld in August

A screenshot of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which will be played at next month's Game On Mega Drive In.
A screenshot of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which will be played at next month's Game On Mega Drive In. Nintendo of America
Hardcore gamers of the Valley, better start honing your skills on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You’ll have a place to show them off in public next month, thanks to the organizers of the annual Game On Expo.

They’re launching a new spin-off event in early August called the Game On Mega Drive In, which will offer two nights of button-smashing action at WestWorld of Scottsdale.

Game On Expo co-founder John Lester says the event, which is scheduled to take place on Friday, August 7, and Saturday, August 8, will feature a drive-in format and a mix of geek-friendly activities, including a cosplay contest, movie screenings, live music, video games, and esports. Like other drive-in events these days, there will be safety and social distancing rules because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s similar to what we’ve done every year at Game On Expo, but on a much smaller scale,” he says. “It’s being organized as a socially distanced gaming experience and we're really taking steps to make sure everyone will be safe.”

According to Lester, the Mega Drive In came about when organizers wanted to help fill the gap after canceling this year’s Game On Expo in May. A number of local cons have been called off since the pandemic began in March, and Lester says their event is aimed at giving local geeks something to attend.

“Our goals are to bring something cool that's related to geek culture to help everyone get through this experience,” Lester says. “We've been seeing a lot of [geek] events being canceled this year because of COVID, which is understandable, but we wanted to do something that’s safe where people can play games, get their geek on, and have a good time.”

They modeled the even off similar drive-in events that have popped up around the Valley in recent months.

“We've seen how they’ve pulled off events with safety in mind, so we started thinking, ‘What's something we could do under the current restrictions?’” Lester says. “So our event will be similar to a drive-in movie, but with other elements of geek culture.”

That includes having attendees remain in their vehicles, which will be spaced out for social distancing, during most of the event. People will also be required to wear masks when outside their cars and a contact-free ticketing system will also be used.

According to Lester, Game On Mega Drive In, which plays off the name of the Japanese version of the Sega Genesis console, will start off with a movie being shown each night on a 32-by-16-foot LED screen. Lester says they’re planning to play 1989’s The Wizard on Friday, August 7, followed by a screening of Max Reload and the Nether Blasters – the locally produced video game action-adventure starring Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg – on Saturday, August 8.

After each screening, Lester says they’ll have live music from local bands and a “virtual cosplay contest” for prizes where participants will submit videos of their costumes beforehand, which will be shown on the big screen. 

A Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament will also take place throughout each evening and feature a number of safety restrictions. Competitors will pre-register and be texted prior to their rounds and summoned to a special area where they’ll stand at least 12 feet away from their opponent during head-to-head battles.

"We'll have smaller screens off to the side [of the main stage] for the tournament, and between activities on the big screen, we'll link up the tournament," Lester says. "We'll have dedicated time on the [main stage] for the finals."

They’re also encouraging people to bring their own controllers to the event, Lester says. Consoles and screens will also be wiped down between battles.

“We're really trying to avoid having as many touching points as possible because everyone's safety will be our highest priority," he says.

Game On Mega Drive In. 6 p.m. to midnight, Friday, August 7, and Saturday, August 8; $40 per vehicle, per night, WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 North Pima Road, Scottsdale, 480-312-6802,
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.