The Arizona Hobbyists Paradise is currently a large organization dedicated to gaming and community events within Arizona. The founder of the AZHP, Frank (or more commonly known as FrankCastleAZ), talked with The Pause Button about the humble beginnings of the organization, its current standings, and what is in store for its future.
Below is a quick cut of the audio interview between Pause Button writer IncreaseBlue and FrankCastleAZ. In-depth article after the jump.
About the founder:
Frank himself is a passionate gamer who grew up tinkering with an old Atari-2600 and endlessly dumping quarters into Street Fighter arcade machines. The more he played, the more interested and dedicated to gaming he became. This eventually led him to creating more ways to pursue his passion for video games such as customizing arcade sticks, gaming competitively, and ultimately, creating the AZHP.
The AZHP began in mid-2005 with only a small group of people and the intent to bring together a community of hobbyists, spanning from gamers to cosplayers to comic book enthusiasts.
“I didn‘t see anything out there for people,” Frank said in the interview. “I wanted some social aspect for the Arizona geeks.”
Frank then created a website forum which he dubbed the “Hobbyists Forum” for this community to meet. When this gained steam with over 300 users, Frank upgraded the forum to a full-on website and renamed it “Hobbyists Paradise.” The “AZ” was added to the name a few years later in order to hone in on the group’s dedication to the Arizona hobbyist community, Frank said.
In 2006 the AZHP began to participate in events with a gaming room at Phoenix Comicon. The idea came from an AZHP member who was also working for the convention at the time, Frank commented.
The group ran a small gaming room utilizing all of their own personal video game equipment for the con-goers to play on throughout the convention.
“It was definitely a learning experience, our first event,” Frank said in reference to how the AZHP ran their first event in comparison to today. “What we did then is the same thing we do now. We go in, we set up a crapload of televisions, video game systems, whatever type of experiences that we can that can make the community and the attendees for the convention happy.”
Better with practice:
Although the formula may be the same, the AZHP has come a long way as far as what types of systems and setups they provide at events. While at Phoenix Comicon 2006 the groups’ setups were limited to what they owned, the AZHP today has bolstered their equipment supplies and have become significantly more involved in their gaming room structures.
The groups’ equipment supply now touts over 20 game system setups, 15-20 LCD screens, eight PC setups, an arcade machine loaded with over 200 games, half a dozen tournament edition arcade fight sticks, and much more. In their gaming rooms, they run multiple tournaments in games such as Street Fighter 4, Tekken 6, Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, DJ Hero, Rock Band 2, Blazblue: Continuum Shift, Dance Dance Revolution, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Modern Warfare 2, and Halo: Reach, and are always updating and expanding their game libraries.
The future outlook for the AZHP:
The growth of the AZHP isn’t limited to their gaming supplies either. Frank commented in the interview that the group had expanded their calendar of events and are even participating in conventions outside the state of Arizona.
The AZHP will run gaming rooms at upcoming events such as the Animeland Otaku Mex convention in New Mexico on Sept. 24-26, the Saboten-con anime convention in Phoenix, Ariz. on Oct. 1-3, and at the RinCon gaming convention in Tucson, Ariz. on Oct. 8-10.
Frank commented that the current state of the AZHP was “close to its peak” and that there was a lot of potential for the group to move into endeavors such as a sole AZHP gaming event or a gaming center (akin to Arcade-in-a-Box). However, the state of the current economy can put a damper on any changes or moves the organization could do. Whatever happens in the future though, Frank stressed that the AZHP will remain an organization that runs gaming at events.
“Even if we do something else, we’ll still continue,” said Frank. “Because there’s a lot of people that appreciate what we do when we’re in those gaming rooms for them. So we’ll keep it up.”
For more information about the AZHP please visit their website at ArizonaHP.org.