Local gaming fiends are going to have plenty of reasons to head to downtown Phoenix over the next few months.
Not only is the much-anticipated Artcade Show taking place tomorrow at Parazol Studios (stay tuned for a sneak peek), its organizers are also aiming to open a hybrid old school arcade/bar sometime in the near future. And come this April, a gigantic classic arcade and pinball convention entitled ZapCon will go down at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown. Better keep your fingers nimble, gamers.
As the two-day event's Zaxxon-inspired logo portends, ZapCon will focus on the old school arcade era. Valley video game aficionados Wesley Cleveland and Zack Johnson, both of whom spent many an hour in their youth at local joints feeding tokens and quarters into pinball machines or arcade units, are organizing the two-day joystick jamboree to help fellow fiends take a warp zone into gaming's past.
According to a statement by Cleveland posted on the ZapCon site, the event is meant to recapture those halcyon days of pounding the buttons on some old school title, claiming the next game by placing quarters on the edge of the screen, or just watching other players defeat pixelated villains with killer techniques.
This electrified milieu of the old neighborhood arcade has been lost in recent years thanks to more of an emphasis on high-end or redemption attractions found at places like Gypsy Bar or Dave & Busters, which is why the pair wanted to have an event focusing on classic gaming.
All of it was pure bliss, and none of it exists today as it did back then. The modern arcade has shifted focus to redemption games (ticket spitters), as they can no longer compete with the home console market. All but one of the old guard pinball manufacturers have disappeared. There are precious few places to play the classics and even fewer where one can get the "classic arcade" experience.
That is why we have created Zapcon. We want to relive the joy of going to the arcade, and to share that joy with younger generations who couldn't experience it first hand. We want to give collectors and restorationists a chance to show off their wares and to buy, sell, or trade with other like minded enthusiasts. Most of all we want Zapcon to become an annual event that will promote and preserve classic arcade and pinball culture for years to come.
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The event - which takes place on Saturday, April 6, and Sunday, April 7 - will offer attendees the chance to play hundreds of arcade and pinball games for free (provided you pay admission), as well as a variety of tournaments and competitions. That includes the "Pinball Rodeo," a massive battle those eager to test their silver ball skills on a "special selection of highly customized pinball machines."
We recommend heading for Castles & Coasters and brushing up on your bumper abilities on any of the North Phoenix joint's numerous pinball games in the months leading up to ZapCon, because you might just wind up facing off against some Tommy-esque wunderkind.
ZapCon takes place on Saturday, April 6, and Sunday, April 7, at Renaissance Phoenix Downtown. Admission is $15-$20 for a one-day pass, $25-$30 for the entire weekend. See www.zapcon.com for more info.