The fourth annual pinball and classic arcade convention, ZapCon, was held this past weekend at the Mesa Convention Center. This is the second year that it has been held at that location, the first years being at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. The advantage of having it at the Mesa Convention Center is way more space and free parking. The disadvantage? Lack of food options however, ZapCon battled this with have several food trucks on site. I only mention this because a major complaint from attendees of other cons held at the Mesa Convention Center is food options, so it was nice to see ZapCon do something to remedy that.
This was my third year attending an going into it and when it comes to a convention like this, it can kind of lose its appeal after awhile. However, that was NOT the case. ZapCon has continued to add fresh pinball machines to its lineup as well as classics such as one of a few Elvira machines. I am not a pinball elitist by any means, I enjoy older pinball machines and the newer, state of the art machines as well. That being said, it made my so happy inside to see two machines that spoke to my childhood that I never knew even existed. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Goonies were two pinball machines I noticed and had to play. The arcade side of things were just as impressive, with a ton of games to select from, even the popular Konami 8-player X-Men Arcade. ZapCon announced earlier in the week that they had broken the 300 game mark, the most games they have had at their convention. All the machines are brought in from private owners who bring them in for others to enjoy but to also sell to any one potentially looking to own an arcade or pinball machine. The main floor that housed all of the machines also was home to various vendors who sold arcade parts and graphics, video games, and other arcade/pinball/video game related merch. If you were looking for more, various tournaments and high score competitions were held throughout the weekend if you wanted to get your competitive juices flowing. The second area of ZapCon was the gaming lounge which housed sofas and bean bag chairs all in front of old televisions with various console hooked up to them. You could find Atari, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Sega Genesis, and more in the lounge and try out different games. The room also had many chairs and tables which made it a popular spot to enjoy your lunch or just to take a break. The real draw of the room however was the super sized Nintendo Entertainment System which was hooked up to Contra for a high score challenge. My son and I gave it a whirl and it was pretty cool to see it action. One of the cooler aspects of the convention that flies under the radar a little bit is just all the awesome art that can be found on these machines. You can walk the room full of arcade and pinball machines, not touch a single one, but still appreciate the art on each and every one of the older machines.
ZapCon is a really entertaining convention that isn’t overpriced so you really get your moneys worth. My only take away is that it seems large enough to start holding a panel or two each day about pinball and arcades. A pinball refurbishment panel or a history of type panel would make for interesting panels that I think attendees would be interested but maybe they have their own reasons for not doing it. Overall, I really enjoy ZapCon, it’s one of more unique cons Arizona has to offer and I can’t wait to attend again.