ZapCon: Vintage Pinball and Arcade Games for Phoenix Residents
Miss the days of racking up high pinball scores and dominating trackball arcade games? If you live the greater Phoenix area, maybe you revisited your arcade glory days at ZapCon on April 18 and 19. Founded by two fun-loving arcade enthusiasts, the event attracted many pinball and arcade lovers from towns all around the Mesa Convention Center in Arizona.
Addictive Pinball Fun and Vintage Arcade Nostalgia
Two vintage arcade collectors, Wes Cleveland and Zack Johnson, started the ZapCon event after gaining inspiration from similar conventions in California. They founded the Classic Game Preservation Society, dedicated to preserving the history of classic coin-operated arcade games. This past ZapCon was the third annual event, drawing on success from each previous year.
The event showcased over 200 different arcade machines with a wide variety of titles. Old favorites like After Burner and Street Fighter 2 were on the menu, but also titles of a rare nature. In addition to the selection of arcade and pinball cabinets, ZapCon also featured lounges dedicated to older console play. While the event charged admission fees by the day, old-school gamers didn’t have to bring a sock full of quarters – all games were free.
While ZapCon may be inspired by conventions on neighboring states, it put a unique spin on arcade nostalgia by emphasizing pinball’s role in the arcade fun of yesteryear. Believe it or not, pinball wasn’t only a popular pastime in arcades from a few decades ago – early versions of pinball were played as long ago as the 1700s. During the reign of Louis XIV of France, a hybrid of bowling and billiards, afterwards known as bagatelle, was a popular game. The participants would shoot a ball from one end to the other using a cue stick, but the pool table was narrowed and holes added. Pins were permanently placed at one end so the ball could ricochet off them to land in the high-scoring holes.
After the spring launcher was introduced in 1869 by a British inventor, the first coin-operated bagatelle game was manufactured and sold in the 1930s. 1947 saw the development of user-controlled flippers that extended the round and added another dimension to the game. In the 1970s, pinball machine electrification spurred the resulting solid state cabinets familiar to pinball enthusiasts of today.
If you live in the Phoenix area, stay alert for notice on next year’s ZapCon and get in touch with your inner arcade-loving kid once more.