When life gives you Pi, make an arcade machine.
One of the many percs of working at a tech company means we get to work on a host of cool projects both for our clients and for ourselves. One little project we delved into not so long ago was to custom build our very own arcade machine, powered with a Raspberry Pi. Plumbed with all the greatest titles from a bygone era. A time when life wasn’t so serious – we get transported back to the days when digital was in its infancy. Jamming a game of Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter not only nostalgically whisks us back to the past – but it’s a great way to blow off some steam.
Now you, yes, you, can even build your very own multi-console arcade machine! Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Genesis, MAME, Atari – name your flavour – you can have it all. No time to build your own? Give us a shout – maybe we can help you out 😉
Step 1: The Container
We were lucky to find an old, slightly weathered box, still intact with original CRT, motherboard and speakers (our very own Melissa actually performed somewhat of a rescue mission on an old, abused and neglected unit!). You could use anything really though – be creative – make your own box! In the event you find something like we did, odds are you’ll want to strip it, clean it (and I mean properly scrub it – it’s amazing how strong 15 year old gum can be) and give it a nice lick of paint. Ah – a breath of fresh air. New life! Frankenstein’s monster shall live after all!
Step 2: The monitor and bezel
So if you’ve got the gall to handle tackling and converting the analogue signal from the original CRT to the digital output you’ll need for the micro-computer, best of luck to you sir! If you want to opt for the quicker, easier route – get your hands on a 22”-23” monitor! Old offices often throw these guys out, you can pick them up for close to nothing on your local online ads portal. You’ll then need to do some custom measurement for the bezel, ensuring your monitor is framed perfectly within your container. Laser cutters can cut out this custom bezel rather cheaply!
Step 3: The micro-computer
So we’ve got a sexy shell, now enter our key player – the one and only Raspberry Pi! These guys are small, but MAN do they pack a punch. The homebrew hacking community is a vast and active landscape and you can easily find yourself a system image in no time with which to run your favourite console emulators on, coupled with your favourite games (known as ROMS)! For ease of setup, look into using RetroPie, a mature project with hundreds of contributors who are actively working towards improving it. With a little SHELL knowledge, a keyboard and a wiki-tut, you’ll soon have yourself a fully loaded arcade micro-computer quicker than what you can say INSERT COIN TO PLAY.
Step 4: Wire up the original controllers
Let’s face it – there’s nothing more satisfying than destroying your colleague at a game of ice climber using an authentic, old school, analogue joystick. We’re additionally convinced that vigorous button mashing on beat-em-ups (Mortal Kombat) and action-scrollers (Battletoads) always helps burn calories. No? This task is super simple. All you will need is:
- A soldering iron with solder
- Some insulation tape, wire strippers and a multi-meter
- A hacker (much like Luke over here)
- An added sense of adventure and tenacity (highly recommended)
Essentially you’ll want to wire up the input joysticks’ cabling to the respective GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi, and once done so, map the various buttons to represent the various keys on the arcade system.
Ok so it isn’t the easiest of all the tasks – but it sure is one of the most fun!
Step 5: Peripherals
The final touches usually are the most important to add that last little bit of spice into the hotpot of awesome that is your new arcade machine! We did the following:
1. Rigged up a set of decent computer speakers into the hull of the machine. The subwoofer makes for some alarmingly legit party action. With a custom sound dial, we can easily adjust the volume on demand.
2. Connected some wireless headphones for those times where you want to decompress but don’t want to disturb others in the office (we absolutely love our AKGs)
3. Custom branded the side panel of our machine with our home-made Pac-Man decal. Retrofitting out the Arcade Box to suit your corporate identity and office decor not only gives you mad Style Points but earns you heaps of street cred every time a visitor stops on by.
4. Added some bronze-flair to add a bit of that retro, salt-of-the-earth feel to the overall piece.
Step 6: Kick some butt and challenge your clients and colleagues!
And voila! There you have it – your own personal Arcade Machine! And it couldn’t be easier nor cheaper to put together. We’d recommend it as an absolute must in every office-space. Not only does it boost team morale and overall happiness – but helps combat stress too! Best of all? It puts us back in touch with the art of original, artisanal, retro gaming – at it’s finest. Take that smartphones!
Just remember to play fair 😉