Nerd Culture

ZapCon 2015: A Field Guide to This Weekend's Event in Mesa

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Age Limits: None. ZapCon is open to all ages, and bringing your kids along is not only permitted, it's encouraged. After all, gaming is an experience best shared and it will give you the chance to show those youngsters what pixelated thrills were like back in your heyday.

Food and Drink: Given that some of the games are vintage or expertly restored, neither food nor beverages are allowed inside ZapCon. If you'd like to eat or drink, there are a wealth of restaurants, cafes, bars, and bistros within walking distance of the convention center in downtown Mesa.

What to Bring: A wrist brace if you're susceptible to sprains or suffer from carpal-tunnel syndrome, a video game-inspired T-shirt (vintage or otherwise) or even a costume, and a camera to record your high score for posterity.

What Not to Bring: Quarters, since every machine will be set to free play.

What to Do: Go a few rounds with some of the more landmark arcade titles in gaming history. Relive your childhood. Challenge some friends to a one-on-one battle. Get a case of Pac-Man Fever. Make like Billy Mitchell and attempt to nab the world record on Donkey Kong. Defeat Shao Kahn and his evil minions in Mortal Kombat. Find Akuma in Super Street Fighter 2. Rack up a huge a high score on any of the games. Most of all, have fun.

What Not to Do: Abuse or damage the games by wrenching the controls, pounding the buttons too hard, or hitting the cabinets or screens in frustration after your last life is exhausted. Keep in mind that the collectors who contributed their games probably poured a lot of money into these gems.

And try not to get frustrated if some of the more popular titles always seem to be occupied. Be patient. You'll get your turn eventually. Besides, there's plenty of other games to check out. Speaking of which...

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.