An Interview with ZapCon Founder Wes Cleveland

There were arcades everywhere in Pittsburgh, PA and Chicago, IL while I was growing up and the original Star Wars and Discs of Tron were my immediate destinations when I entered.  I specifically remember a spot called Aladdin’s Arcade and I still have a token from it!

Well, if you’re a fan of the arcade, then ZapCon is the convention you’ve been waiting for!

Taking place April 16-17, 2016 at their new venue, The Mesa Convention Center, it will be the temporary home of over 200 cabinet arcade games, pinball machines, and old school console systems, and is as close to the atmosphere of those old arcades of your youth as you can probably get these days.  Or if you’re just discovering this culture this is a great place to start!

The Geekian Report was able to grab a few moments with one of ZapCon’s creators, Wes Cleveland, to talk about his love of arcade games and ZapCon.

When did you first discover you loved arcade games?
The first time I played one, of course!  I can’t really remember when that was, as arcade games were everywhere when I was a kid… grocery stores, convenience marts, restaurants, laundromats, roller rinks, you name it.  I definitely remember my first trip to a proper arcade, though. It was Golf ‘n’ Stuff in Tucson, and it was mind-blowing!  I was probably in 1st or 2nd grade.

Do you have a favorite?
That’s always a tough question, and the answer changes from time to time.  Ikari Warriors is kind of my go-to answer, but today I’m going to say Atari Badlands.


atari badlands

Why did you decide to create a convention around arcade and pinball games?
My friend Zack and I went to a similar event a few years back in Santa Clara called California Extreme so he could buy some games to start his home arcade.  It was so impressive that we couldn’t help but wonder why there wasn’t one in AZ.  So we took it upon ourselves to make that a reality.

What has been the greatest challenge in running ZapCon and what is the greatest reward?
The challenge every year is wrangling the games.  They primarily come from private collectors like Zack and myself, so it involves a ridiculous amount of networking and coordination.  The reward is watching everyone at the show having a great time.  Especially seeing young kids experiencing an arcade for the first time like I did when I was that age.

The number of games you have in one place is awesome! How did you find and get in contact with all of the collectors? Are they all local to Arizona?
I guess I kinda answered this already… I just stay really active in the local arcade and pinball communities, and try to be as supportive as possible.  We only have one collector that brings games from outside of AZ so far.  A really great guy from the LA area.  We are, however, starting to get a fair amount of national, and even international, attendees.

If you could say anything to our readers about ZapCon what would it be?
ZapCon is a labor of love, and hopefully it shows.  Also it’s not just arcade games.  About half of the game floor is pinball machines, and there’s also the console lounge that has hundreds of games to play on a variety of old-school home game systems.  If you enjoy classic gaming, come down for the weekend and have some fun!


For tickets and info visit:


Zap Con photo by: Jeremiah Toller.



News Reporter

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