Mesa, AZ

Classic arcade-game festival Zapcon will light up Mesa at its eighth annual event

Tom Reardon

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Family fun at ZapconCourtesy of Cale Hernandez

By Tom Reardon / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

(Mesa, AZ) Once again, East Valley city, Mesa, hosts Zapcon 8, Arizona’s Classic Arcade and Pinball Convention, on April 30 and May 1 at the Mesa Convention Center.

Visitors to the event have the opportunity to play over 300 different classic arcade games and pinball machines. There is no charge to play video games as the price of admission covers the cost.

In addition to the gameplay, visitors can participate in various daily tournaments and enjoy live music on Saturday from the Phoenix-area video game-themed band, Minibosses. Many of the arcade games and pinball machines will be available for sale to interested parties.

Due to the pandemic, Zapcon has taken a two-year break. Co-founder Rachel Bess stated, “This is our third attempt at Zapcon 8, but there will be some new tournaments and events and games, specifically. There is a collector that has a bunch of ‘Bronze Age’ video games that are video games but also electromechanical. They are very cool and very rare."

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Courtesy of Cale Hernandez

According to Bess, video games' “Bronze Age” refers to games from the late 1960s and early-to-mid 1970s. “Imagine something that looks like a Robotron (officially Robotron 2084 from Midway Games, 1982) but obviously much, much older and larger. Some of them are submarine games, which is an entire genre (from this era of games), and you have goggles that you’re sticking your head into as you look at the monitor. (We’ll have) some of the more rare ones that only a handful of copies were ever produced,” says Bess.

The collector donating the Bronze Age machines to Zapcon, Kent Ponterio, stated that head-to-head and high score tournaments will take place on the machines. “Some of the games he is bringing are the only copies (of the games) in America,” shared Bess.

Zapcon 8 will also have a one-of-a-kind Dukes of Hazzard pinball machine for attendees to try their luck on. All of the game components are brand new, and it was created especially for a collector who has chosen to share it with Zapcon this year. All of the video games and pinball machines available to those going to Zapcon 8 are from private collections of people from around Arizona and neighboring states.

“All of the people running Zapcon are pretty involved in (the various) pinball and arcade communities (around the region). Early on (in Zapcon history), it was fewer people bringing many more games per person when we were just trying to bet the ball rolling, no pun intended. In ten years now, we have a pretty long list of contributors that we are very grateful for. It is primarily people from Arizona, but we do have (exhibitors) from California, some from Nevada, bringing games. We have people that travel to the show from all over, but it’s hard to fit a pinball machine on an airplane,” says Bess.

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Courtesy of Cale Hernandez

Doors will open to the public at 10 a.m. on both days, with Saturday concluding at 11:30 p.m. and Sunday ending at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door each day, and a discounted weekend pass is also available.

Tickets are $50 for both days or $35 for Saturday and $25 for Sunday. Children under three years of age are free. Check out the Zapcon site or Facebook for more information. @Zapcon_AZ is the event's Instagram handle.

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Tom Reardon is a Phoenix native and has been writing about events in and around Arizona for the last decade.

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