FREMONT, SEATTLE, WA ::
An arcade machine. Every boy dreams of having one. I guess I never stopped dreaming. I built one!
The idea for the project started when I was reminiscing about old video games, like Donkey Kong, Robotron, Joust, Ms. Pac Man and Street Fighter II. I thought it'd be great to play them again. I knew about emulators and roms for old console systems, like the Atari 2600 and NES. But I was surprised to find out several groups were also working to preserve old arcade games!
, the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, is a program you can install on your PC to play over 2800 arcade games. More are being added to the list every month. I obtained the roms for some old favorites, and had a blast seeing the colorful, blocky shapes and hearing the great sound effects again. But it just doesn't feel right when you're sitting at a desk, controlling an Italian plumber with a keyboard. I began to wonder, if people were playing old games again, could they be playing them with arcade controls?
Yes, they were! And some of the crazy bastards were even building their own arcade machines! Wow... I knew I had to be a part of this madness.
So I began my research. I read every message in the Build Your Own Arcade Controls
message board. I learned an arcade machine is basically a computer in a big plywood box, with a large monitor and some arcade controls. Oh, and a coin door. Gotta have the glowing red coin slots on the front, or else it'll be lame.
Before I began, I needed to come out of the closet and confess my new obsession to my family and friends. I told Kristie I was building an arcade machine, and surprisingly, she supported me. I told my parents I was going to make a mess in their garage during the next four weekends, and surprisingly, they supported me. My dad even volunteered to help! I told my friends I was building an arcade machine, and surprisingly, they thought it was a cool idea. Maybe building an arcade machine isn't so geeky after all?
It is hard work, however. It requires weeks of planning, preparation and construction. I visualized every square inch of my new arcade. I built a model in 3D Studio Max, and drew a full-scale set of working drawings. I tried my best to find the best deals for parts and tools on eBay: an old coin door to refurbish for $50, a 22" NEC monitor for $200, and a plunge router for $50. I also visited the Home Depot over a dozen times.
Building an arcade machine might even involve a trip to the emergency room. On the day I was installing the t-molding, my utility knife slipped and nearly sliced off my thumb. Kristie drove me to Virginia Mason as I bled. It was a pretty impressive gash, and I have a nice scar now to show for it.
But three months and over $1500 later, I finally have my arcade machine, built with my own sweat and blood. It's worth it. I'm happy with the way it turned out. It looks like the real deal. Plays every game I ever played as a kid and teenager. And although it has the fancy slots for them, no quarters needed!
UPDATE: For more photos of The Centipede MAME Arcade Machine
during construction, check out the following link:
If you're looking for the marquee graphic, here it is:
Centipede Marquee (large, hi-res file! 12MB)
Finally, if you plan on building something like this, here is an itemization of the costs:
Centipede Arcade Expenses
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