Gaming provides an escape, a challenge, a feeling of being intimately connected to a fantasy world that often provides a diversion from a gamer's true life reality. This could be why many gaming fans spend every available free moment playing their favorite games, reading up on and chatting online about updates, advancements and the never ending rumor mill that swirls around the industry. It's for this very reason that the owners and creators of Arcade Zone Hard Punch (AZHP) are doing everything they can to help meet new demands to expand and grow their own local video game community.
In a recent interview founder and co-owner of AZHP, Frank Castle said of AZHP's start, “We originated as a small social networking community of Arizona people who were into anime, comic books, video games, and cosplay.”
Castle, along with co-owner Steven Davis have spent the majority of their time experimenting with new ideas, getting feedback and trying to build up their specialized community since the conception of AZHP in 2005.
Today, Arcade Zone Hard Punch is a common name among convention organizers and directors as they regularly host game rooms found at events like Phoenix Comic Con, Anime Kaigi, Con-Nichiwa, and others.
Castle elaborates on why he started AZHP and what his hopes for the organization are, “When you walk into a place and it’s filled with games and people you can socialize and compete with, it gives you that goose bumpy feeling. I’ve basically just been trying to replicate that feeling for others.”
To further their goal of growing the video game community at large, AZHP takes on many volunteers giving them real world work experience and great references for job opportunities. Davis explains, “Normally the staff will help us get the equipment ready, get the systems updated for upcoming conventions, load up the vehicles with equipment to and from cons, and running tournaments at the cons," Castle adds, “We are giving people a huge education, there are so many people on staff who have gotten jobs because of experience they gained while being on our staff.”
Castle takes pride in his organization's ability to run their events, “Anybody can run a game room. Not everybody can do it with the level of quality that we have, and not just in quality of equipment, but appealing to the senses. When you walk in it smells good, and when you see it it’s a visual experience as well, you walk in and you’re like ‘wow this is really nice.’”
Castle is always looking for eager gamers to show up and simply get involved and suggests, “I want more people to come out and be more vocal towards some of these conventions so that the organizers of these events know we are bringing people in,” and adds, “Post on our Facebook wall and tag our stuff, and invite your friends. A lot of people don’t realize the importance of being vocal.”