It's game on this weekend at ZapCon in Mesa.
It's game on this weekend at ZapCon in Mesa.
Benjamin Leatherman

Everything You Need to Know About ZapCon 2018

There's going to be a major outbreak of Pac-Man fever in Mesa this weekend — and plenty of aching wrists.

ZapCon, the annual classic arcade and pinball game convention, will be taking place at the Mesa Convention Center on Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22, and offer local gamers a warp zone back to the glory days of Super Mario and Donkey Kong.

The event will feature more than 200 retro arcade and pinball games available for play in the convention center's main room, including numerous rarities, gems, and old-school classics.

Various tournaments and competitions will also happen throughout the weekend and several retro gaming consoles will be showcased.

If you used to kick it at local arcades back in the day or just dig playing old-school video and pinball games, it's definitely an event worth checking out.

And, best of all, you can leave the quarters at home, since everything will be set to “free play” mode.

So if you're ready player one, check out the following guide to ZapCon 2018, which features everything you need to know.

This is what ZapCon looks like.EXPAND
This is what ZapCon looks like.
Benjamin Leatherman

When and Where: ZapCon 2018 takes over the Mesa Convention Center, 263 North Center Street, on Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22.

The main hall will contain all of the arcade and pinball games, tournaments, and demos while the Mesa Room will hosts the Retro Lounge and late-night activities on Saturday.

Hours: The event runs from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Those who bought early-bird admission online will have access to the main hall starting at 9 a.m. both days.

Prices: It's $30 for Saturday, $20 for Sunday, and $40 for the entire weekend. But forget about paying with quarters and stick with either cash or plastic.

Age Limits: Gamers of all ages are welcome at ZapCon and families are big things at the event. Children younger than 12 can get in for $15 for Saturday, $10 for Sunday, or $20 for both days. Kids 3 and older get in free.

Getting There: As always, the light rail is the easiest and most convenient option. A station is located three blocks south of the Convention Center, and it's $2 for a one-way trip, $4 for an all-day pass.

If you'd like to make like the characters in Outrun and take your ride, the best way to get there is to take U.S. Highway 60 or Loop 202 East freeways to the Country Club Drive exit. From there, drive either north or south, respectively, to Second Street in downtown Mesa and then head east.

Having fun at last year's ZapCon in Mesa.EXPAND
Having fun at last year's ZapCon in Mesa.
Benjamin Leatherman

Parking: There's a lot at the convention center, and it's completely free. That said, the earlier you arrive, the closer you can park to the building.

Food and Drink: A number of local food trucks will be parked outside the main building throughout the weekend. And a variety of cafes, restaurants, and other eateries are located a short distance from the convention center.

The gaming lounge will have a full-service bar available for those 21 and older in the lounge area on Saturday night starting at 5 p.m.

But don't even think about bringing either food or drink into the main room during the event. No joke. Most of the games at ZapCon are either vintage or expertly restored. And their owners would prefer if you kept any greasy eats or liquids far, far away.

Classic Nintendo Entertainment System games at last year's ZapCon.EXPAND
Classic Nintendo Entertainment System games at last year's ZapCon.
Benjamin Leatherman

Games: As we mentioned, around 200 arcade titles and 130 pinball machines can be played at the event. (The full game lineup, which includes everything from A.P.B. to Zaxxon, is available on the ZapCon website.)

As always, the Mesa Room will serve as a lounge equipped with a slew of home-gaming consoles of the console variety. This year, the folks from Retro Living Room will also set up and showcase a number of classic systems from gaming history, ranging from the Magnavox Odyssey 2 and GCE Vectrex to the Sega Dreamcast and 3DO.

Competitions and Tournaments: If there’s one thing that gamers are big on (other than gaming, of course) it’s showing off their skills and owning the competition. They’re likely to do both at ZapCon via the various contests, battles, and tournament that will transpire at the event.

Pinball competitions are a big part of the weekend. As such, there will be tournaments for men, women, and kids, as well as the annual Pinball Rodeo.

Meanwhile, local game bar Bonus Round and the Killer Queen Mercury Squad PHX will host a Killer Queen tournament on Saturday at 6 p.m. (A separate kids tournament will take place on Sunday at 2 p.m.).

Local YouTube show This Old Arcade will also offer a Tetris competition on Saturday at its booth, followed by tournaments for Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Street Fighter III on Sunday.

Virtual On competitions are also planned for Saturday and Sunday.

Pinball wizards have fun at last year's ZapCon.EXPAND
Pinball wizards have fun at last year's ZapCon.
Benjamin Leatherman

Schedule and Events: It's going to be a busy weekend at ZapCon 2018. Here's a look at what's happening and when on each day of the event.

Saturday, April 21

9 a.m.: Doors open for ZapCon contributors and pre-registrants.

10 a.m.: Doors open to the public. The kids' pinball competition also kicks off, registration for the women's pinball tournament starts, and qualifying rounds of the IFPA pinball tournament begins. The Magnavox Odyssey will be available for play in the Retro Living Room area.

Noon: Sid Seattle's “Obscurities Challenge” takes place. The Retro Living Room will feature the Magnavox Odyssey 2.

1 p.m: The women's pinball tournament begins (participants are asked to arrive 15 minutes prior).

2 p.m.: Cyberball tournament and This Old Arcade's Tetris competition both begin while the Bally Astrocade will be showcased in the Retro Living Room.

4 p.m.: Patrons can play the GCE Vectrex in Retro Living Room.

5 p.m.: The bar inside the Retro Lounge will open for business and the Random Fighters Tournament kicks off in the main room.

6 p.m.: Sid Seattle's Mr. Driller world record attempt, the Virtual On tournament and Killer Queen competition all begin. Meanwhile, the Retro Living Room will showcase the Sega SG-1000.

8 p.m.: Minibosses perform a “Loungeybosses” set in the Retro Lounge and the Bentley Compu-Vision will be available in the Retro Living Room.

9 p.m.: DJ Rad Dude performs in the Retro Lounge.

11:30 p.m.: IFPA tournament qualifying ends and ZapCon wraps up for the day.

Going to a high score at last year's ZapCon.EXPAND
Going to a high score at last year's ZapCon.
Benjamin Leatherman

Sunday, April 22

9 a.m.: Doors open for ZapCon contributors and pre-registrants. The finals for the IFPA 'B' and Classics competitors take place.

10 a.m.: Doors open to the public. The Neo Geo AES will be available for play in the Retro Lounge.

10:30 a.m.: The finals for IFPA 'A' competitors take place.

11 a.m.: Street Fighter Alpha 3 tournament in the This Old Arcade booth starts.

Noon: The Virtual On tournament begins and the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer will be featured in the Retro Living Room.

2 p.m.: A kids-oriented Killer Queen tournament and This Old Arcade's Street Fighter 3 competition both get going. The Retro Living Room will feature the Sega Saturn.

4 p.m.: The Sega Dreamcast will be showcased in the Retro Living Room.

4:30 p.m.: Firebird Pinball's “Best of Show” awards and contributor drawing take place.

6 p.m.: ZapCon 2018 ends.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story listed the incorrect hosts for the Killer Queen tournament. It has since been corrected.

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