Don't hate the players -- hate the game. Back in the day, all we needed was Mountain Dew, a few Snickers bars, Super Nintendo, and for our parents to leave us undisturbed for 72 hours. Nowadays, we need a full-blown gaming conference. And for what? So we can puss out before nightfall? "Yeah, I just don't get it. We don't have those diehards anymore," says Ivan Erickson, official gaming coordinator of HexaCon 14, which takes command of the Tempe Mission Palms, 60 East Fifth Street, from Friday, July 30, through Sunday, August 1.

Then again, maybe we're being a little hard on the Beaver, considering the Beaver is all grown up and wasted by the time the 40-hour workweek winds down. (Erickson himself is in his late 20s, as are most of your average HexaConventioneers.)

Or maybe it's HexaCon's sensory overload of gaming options: From role-playing (your typical D&D fare) to board games (yes, like Monopoly) and electronic gaming (PlayStation, GameCube and Xbox), HexaCon 14 offers otherworlds of nonstop make-believe. But aside from a few LARPs (live action role-plays) on Friday and Saturday, Erickson doesn't expect many gamers to pull all-nighters.

"When we grow up into adults," he sighs, "we tend not to be so diehard anymore."

Admission is $25 for the whole weekend. Call 602-973-2341 or see www.hexacon.org for details. - Joe Watson

Toast and roast at zoo

Is that a monkey hair in your martini? Could be, if you're sipping spirits under the sun at the Phoenix Zoo's "Heat Island Happy Hour." Better to stay in the zoo's Garden Cafe, socializing over refreshments and a cash bar, than to have a few too many and wander into the cages. Besides, when Artie and Al are pumpin' out Brazilian favorites, who wants to risk stumbling (or mambo-ing) into the elephant pile? The zoo, 455 North Galvin Parkway, has hosted happy hours every Friday this month, but July 30, from 4 to 7 p.m., is your last chance to see lions and tigers and beers all in one place. Admission is $5. See www.phoenixzoo.org. - Niki D' Andrea

Punch Lines

Art and humor do the nasty

Fri 7/30
Whether we end up ducking one or spiking it, we're sure to see some action at "The Punch Show," Modest Proposal magazine's "mix of live comedy, live music and humorous art" shaking down Final Friday at Wet Paint, 203 East Seventh Street in Tempe. Comedy duo Ron & Ryan -- Babcock and McKee, respectively -- stir sketch, standup and video into the Punch, likened to "humor and art having sex" (which, duh, would never work: One would always be joking; the other would want to talk about feelings . . . ). Final Friday Artwalk action starts at 7 p.m. this Friday, July 30. At 9:30, solo artist Brodie Hubbard shares his "dark comic tales of love gone wrong." R & R get punchy at 10, followed by Page the Village Idiot "rocking out on his electric ukulele." Admission is free for all ages. Call 480-967-2002 for details. - Jill Koch

Flesh and Blood

"Vampire Night"

Sat 7/31
The religious right has slapped the label of immorality on gays and lesbians for decades now. But when's the last time they accused the swishy set of immortality? They'll get their chance on Saturday, July 31, when the undead come out for "Vampire Night" at Pumphouse II, 4132 East McDowell. Bring along a cross and some holy water, as the gay bar goes gothic for this one-night masquerade. Mike Ebert, the event's conceptual artist, says it's more than just an excuse to let loose like Lestat. "It's living out a fantasy," says Ebert. "With vampirism, you're this dark god on Earth who can basically have whatever you want . . . you're sexy and powerful forever. What's not to like?" The evil events include male strippers in Dracula duds, female impersonators decked out like Vampirella, and themed drinks such as Vein-Poppers and Bloody Marys. Be it booze, blood or bodily fluids, something's gonna get sucked down before dawn breaks. Prey time starts at 9 p.m. Call 602-275-3509 or see www.pumphouseii.com. - Benjamin Leatherman

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea
Jill Koch
Contact: Jill Koch
Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.
Joe Watson