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Syzygy1

I want to own an arcade

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I'm 16 (going to be 17) and I want to own an arcade when I move out of my parents' house. Thing is, I don't know a lot about money so it's going to be hard. I also need to know about space, what games I want, and how to make it like a real 80s arcade. I intend it to be similar to John's Arcade and have it in my basement. And I don't know how to repair any games.

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Well, I can't answer all your questions but I can tell you about the experiences I've had with the arcade games I own and friends of mine who have had their own personal arcades etc.

 

First, the money is a big part of this. I've gotten lucky in that my first arcade game was a Frogger I found at the local flea market for only $50. It wasn't working but for another $50 it was. So that Frogger was an initial $100 investment. Since then, it has required well over $300 to keep it running for the past 13 years. Most of my other arcade games I've spent between $175 - $400 for them. I've spent about as much on each in maintaining them over the years in actual parts and my time. 

 

Space is another huge part of it. You don't just need the physical space, you need space that isn't too exposed to the elements. I happen to keep mine along the back wall of my garage and while it isn't climate controlled, they aren't getting a bunch of moisture or critters all over them either. The other part of the space, is the electrical power requirements. Most home outlets in your house are only rated for a total of 15amps on any single circuit. On average an older arcade game uses about 2amps give or take when powered on. Meaning, you don't want to run more than about 4 arcade cabs on a single circuit. Yes...4 x 2 only equals 8, but that circuit is likely to be shared by other devices in the home plugged off it as well. Most of my buddies with actual full arcades in their basements, garages, or separate storage buildings all had professional electrical ran for the specifics of running all of their machines. As for the physical space, most uprights I estimate to take up about 3 square feet of space. That gives space for ventilation around the cabinet plus you standing in front of it. Naturally some cabs are larger/wider and require even more.

 

On the subject of repair, this is the big one. You see, original cabs are 30+ years old in many cases. Lots of stuff needs to be replaced if it hasn't already and will continue to need replacing. When these cabs were built they were done so with the intention that they last a specific cycle of use. So...really only designed to be work horses for 12 hour daily use for about 6months to a year. That is because new games were always coming out and often, games that didn't perform as well as others were sold off or converted to other games in arcades. If one died out after that first year of operation, most arcade operators didn't care and just got rid of them in favor of something new. That isn't to say they aren't designed to be repaired because they are. But it requires some good skills and basics with electronics to keep them alive. The biggest concern we face with our original arcade cabinets today is the CRT tubes themselves. We can't really get any new ones. So when a tube or monitor chassis dies, we have to get them from other donor arcade cabs that require other parts but have good CRTs etc in them. There are conversions for many where you can put an LCD in them instead but that is a whole other school of thought with lots of people okay with it and most...not.

 

Again, nothing concrete detail wise, just some basic info so you know what you are in for. 

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Nice way to shoot down a kid's dreams.

 

I would start with a PC running MAME and then maybe build a cabinet around it. You could even use an X-Arcade tank stick as a base and put a Raspberry PI in it running whatever games you want. 

 

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Edited by Master Phruby
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Step 1) Become a dentist (or SQL or Oracle database admin) or some other high-paying profession.

 

Step 2) Put money aside for your arcade dream.

 

Step 3) Get to know as many 'arcade repair techs' as you can.

 

Step 4) Build a massive heated garage to store and maintain the machines in the meantime.

 

Step 5) Be constantly on the lookout for good deals on arcade machines.

 

Step 6) Get a good deal on rental space in a good location for your arcade (i.e. close to lots of food vendors and retail space).

 

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I don't want to be a dentist, or SQL/Oracle database admin. I work at a summer camp and make money that way. I'd rather work at a GameStop so I can live the dream both ways.

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I wasn't trying to shoot down anyone's dreams here. I'm just being realistic and want it known that getting into arcade cab collecting and eventually into an Arcade is a different thing from collecting old consoles and games to hook up and play. A friend of mine used to have like 40+ arcade cabs he kept in his garage. He quickly found out that he had to get all new wiring put in just to power many of them at once to prevent tripping breakers. Later you find out that these old cabs are not as durable as they might appear. The $300 I mentioned to keep my Frogger running was all spent on monitor chassis, cap kits for them and eventually a generous trade deal for a complete CRT tube and chassis that so far it has been running happily with. My Galaga cocktail I bought working but to keep it bullet proof more, I installed a switcher power supply and replaced all the coin door and control panel lamps with LEDs to reduce the heat inside that cab..etc. Eveything was golden, and then I ended up having to send the entire board set for a complete rebuild the next state over. That ran me $150 and I thought it was a bargain considering all the work that was done to rebuild the game board set on it. 

 

Also, they are very heavy. My buddy I mentioned that had 40+, well he ended up pretty much selling off all of his old classics and now only keeps Candy cabs since they are MUCH lighter and easier to move with more universal wire harnesses and the like. Because he hasn't enough space for all of them, he has like 3 storage units he constantly rents to house them all. So storage is another issue hence why I mentioned the space needed for them. 

 

But ultimately to do this, it does require a lot of capital to realize what you are wanting to do and especially passion and patience.

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10 hours ago, Syzygy1 said:

I'm 16 (going to be 17) and I want to own an arcade when I move out of my parents' house. Thing is, I don't know a lot about money so it's going to be hard. I also need to know about space, what games I want, and how to make it like a real 80s arcade. I intend it to be similar to John's Arcade and have it in my basement. And I don't know how to repair any games.

I'm three years younger than you so I don't have a basement arcade, but I would suggest getting two multicades (1 vertical screen and 1 horizontal screen) and see which games you like on them (most have 60-100 games on them). After that try to find said games you like on the multicade. Don't take me 100% seriously, I'm suggesting what I would do when/if I get make a basement arcade.

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21 hours ago, Syzygy1 said:

I'm 16 (going to be 17) and I want to own an arcade when I move out of my parents' house. Thing is, I don't know a lot about money so it's going to be hard. I also need to know about space, what games I want, and how to make it like a real 80s arcade. I intend it to be similar to John's Arcade and have it in my basement. And I don't know how to repair any games.

The first time I read this I thought you meant you wanted to open an arcade.

 

I had a mix of dedicated cabs and MAME cabinets. After a few years I got bored with them and sold them all for pinball machines.

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On 7/23/2019 at 2:00 PM, Syzygy1 said:

I'm 16 (going to be 17) and I want to own an arcade when I move out of my parents' house. Thing is, I don't know a lot about money so it's going to be hard. I also need to know about space, what games I want, and how to make it like a real 80s arcade. I intend it to be similar to John's Arcade and have it in my basement. And I don't know how to repair any games.

1. Wait til you're older

2. Get a house of your own

3. Learn about money

4. Learn about space

5. Choose games you want

6. Learn about how to make it like a real 80s arcade (presumably how they were then, not how they are now)

7. Get a house with a basement

8. Learn how to repair games

22 hours ago, Syzygy1 said:

I'm confused. And also scared. I don't think I can do this.

9. Gain clarity

10. And courage

11. Work on self-confidence

22 hours ago, Syzygy1 said:

I don't want to be a dentist, or SQL/Oracle database admin. I work at a summer camp and make money that way. I'd rather work at a GameStop so I can live the dream both ways.

12. Get a job

13. Summer camp won't pay enough of a house of your own

14. Gamestop won't either

 

Adult tip: unless you're a whiz developer, or have a really good head for business, video games are best left as a hobby, not a job. Arcade games are a means to an end, not a goal, and one can play all those games on machines that don't require space, money, repairs, or even standing up. 

 

Cheers for not bringing Cyborg into this. Teeny Titans Go! is a fine game to study for game and art design. 

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7 minutes ago, Flojomojo said:

Cheers for not bringing Cyborg into this. Teeny Titans Go! is a fine game to study for game and art design. 

But I don't even like Teen Titans Go

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I'll burst a few more bubbles. :)

The games need to be repaired and maintained, for most, it's half the fun of owning them.  It's unlikely you'll find a local arcade repair man to stop by and fix your 1980s games...and if you do, it'll be hundreds of dollars each time they show up.  You'll really need to learn basic repair and troubleshooting.

Games also vary in reliability.  Most Atari games are like Toyotas, they just work forever.  A sophisticated game such as a Williams Defender is like a temperamental Ferrari, you cringe every time you turn it on and hope for the best.  Some games will even burn your house down; research Sega vector games with a G08 monitor.

 

The days of cheap games are over.  20 to 25 years ago was a good time to get into them.  I have 5 games with about $550 total invested (each requiring minor repairs when bought).  I also had 3 other games that I quickly tired of and sold; the profits I made more than paid for the 5 I still have, so basically I have nothing in them.

If you want nice originals without some crap emulation board, figure on $500 to $1,000 each these days.

 

Your arcade isn't going to be some forever utopia that you'll escape to every day.  Like everything in life, you WILL get bored with them.  They'll become functional art (really cool art) that you'll hopefully enjoy occasionally.  They will also be a ton of fun when you have friends and family over for parties.  You'll also want games that you like AND kick your ass every time you play them.  Get something easy to master or has continues, and you'll be sick of it within one week.

 

You don't need to pack a basement full of them.  When I was on RGVAC back in the 90s, there were some truly sick individuals that had their houses filled with arcade games...living rooms, all bedrooms and the kitchen.  Then you had those who looked at those guys as heroes and aspired to do the same, while feeling ashamed of their meager collection of "only" 10 or 12 games.

Many of my favorite arcades back in the day were in back rooms of places like Wards, Sears, bowling alleys and the roller rink containing 10 to 12 good games.  Not everything had to be an Aladdin's Castle with 100+ games.

 

Personally I have one spare room dedicated to games and you won't find anything game related in my house outside of that room.  My house has 12 gauge wiring 20 amp circuits, but even a 15 amp circuit will easily do 5 games, lighting, music, mini frig etc.

Make the room your personal creation.  Work on color schemes, ambient lighting and any cool items from the time period you're most interested in.  When family and friends see what you're into, you'll be getting plenty of retro stuff for Christmas and birthdays...it just happens.

 

Lastly, you need to aim much higher than Gamestop.  For what you'll earn, the closest you'll get to a basement arcade is a dumpy one room basement apartment. :sad:

 

Older video of my room, but still close to the same.

 

 

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On 7/23/2019 at 2:37 PM, Syzygy1 said:

I'm confused. And also scared. I don't think I can do this.

 

Maybe not right away. But in time.

 

As already mentioned, working with and acquiring classic arcade cabinets will take patience, some spare spending money, and most importantly electronic and some mechanical skills. Some of these cabinets are 30-40 years old and need refurbishing. Cosmetic, electrical, electronic, mechanical, and more. You will either learn to do it, or pay someone about $100 per hour to do it for you.

 

I would suggest perhaps getting a ready-made bartop unit or a mini-cabinet with multiple games. These can be had brand new for around $500 more or less.

 

As mentioned before there's Emulation - which is my gig. There's tons you can do right away with only a couple $200 - $300 for starters. A new faster R-Pi4 is out. $35. And there's plenty of complete quad-core i3 and i5 computers that are coming off business lease - for $100 to $200 - really great deals.

 

One thing I found out in my 30's when I wanted to make a home arcade, too, was simply the amount of time and material involved with it. And the space. I had accumulated all sorts of stuff and filled a tiny storage warehouse. But I couldn't bring myself to dedicate a proper 5" X 5" space for each game in my basement. I would quickly get bored and want a completely different game.

 

Emulation will solve that problem and give you the ultimate variety. Sure it's not 100% arcade exact and precise but it will get you 95% of the way there while at the same time bringing a whole truckload of benefits not possible with single game cabinets. You will get reliability, convenience, and versatility.

 

An emulated arcade game will always work every single time you start it. And if there are any hardware issues, well, it's just a cheap-o PC which can be fixed or replaced for pennies on the dollar. Not so with real arcade cabinets. Cabinets were not designed for years of usage. Not without refurbishing them again and again.

 

You get convenience and versatility in the form of a menu to select different games instantly. You can add/remove games as you see fit. You can play them for less than 50 watts power consumption. And any friends that have physical disabilities which limit their ability to stand can use custom controllers. And so can seniors - by making use of more comfortable joysticks and auto-fire to prevent repetitive stress injuries.

 

To me the quintessential arcade cabinet is a relic of the 1980's and best left there. We can have so many nicer form factors and better controls via emulation and modern-day hardware. Standing in the basement corner playing 1 game over and over is going to get really old really fast. But with emulation you can game anywhere like even the back deck or veranda.

 

Keep in mind the typical arcade cabinet is a vehicle designed to make money for an operator, for an industry, a business, and it provides little in the way of personal satisfaction to the player. All the while taking your money. The size of a full-size arcade cabinet really belongs in an arcade setting or themepark setting of a sorts. A commercial setting. Not a home basement. Today's tech lets us have many other superior form factors for home use. And emulation fits right in there. Emu was/is built around a completely different philosophy. And you can tear into the hardware and code and customize to your heart's content if that's your gig.

 

So perhaps get into a cheap new mini-cab from like ATgames or do emulation. See what it's all about. And go from there!

Edited by Keatah
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On 7/23/2019 at 4:09 PM, Syzygy1 said:

I don't want to be a dentist, or SQL/Oracle database admin. I work at a summer camp and make money that way. I'd rather work at a GameStop so I can live the dream both ways.

Well, if you don't want to get a good job, then you better marry someone who has money.   I thought the same way when I was younger, I got jobs based on things I love.  If I got really rich where I didn't have to work, I think I would get a job working at gamestop so I can talk about games all day. After I travel the world and do the best roller coasters in the world.... dream over...

 

In the real world, I'm not rich, and  I do have 5 arcade games(including a Star Wars cockpit) and I have had most of them for over 15 years and I have moved 5 times with them.  Moving sucks, no question, they are heavy and can get damaged easy.  I don't use them as much as I would like but, when I do, there is always something wrong with one or another.  Some is minor things, other things are big deals. 

 

They do take up a lot of room, so plan accordingly.  As others have said, FIND what your going to do in life, get a fairly good job, buy a home, THEN think about Arcade games.  Create your man cave with games.  Give yourself time, deals will be out there if you hunt hard enough. Try to learn what you can. YOUTUBE IS YOUR FRIEND.   A lot of minor repairs, and even recapping a Monitor can be found on YouTube.  Then there are arcade forums (look up KLOV), spend time reading, a LOT of reading.

 

Trust me, don't make the same mistake I did, PLAN accordingly, you will enjoy them more...

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2 hours ago, TheCoolDave said:

.. they are heavy and can get damaged easy.  I don't use them as much as I would like but, when I do, there is always something wrong with one or another.  Some is minor things, other things are big deals.

 

Them being big and heavy, the constant need for repair.. Combined together were enough to put the smack-dab on building a home arcade. They just took up so much space to house 1 PCB (which was large in and of itself to begin with) and played only 1 game.

 

I prefer high integration and versatility. That's what miniaturized electronics are for. Not the sprawling expanse of a 400 pound cabinet.

 

So be prepared to do repairs and have money for parts and materials. These things have a design life of about a year or two at best. Then time for the scrap heap.

 

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Someone posted a status update about a new flat-rate-to-play arcade in NC, which I assumed to be this place. It looks awesome.

 

https://www.ashevilleretrocade.com/products

 

And even they say

Quote

We have over 5000 games under one roof! That's a lot of cabinets! Not really. We use modern technology to combine multiple games in one cabinet. Also, we change out the old screens from the past for new LED screens, giving our games a picture like they've never had before! Some of the older screens were kept and rebuilt for nostalgic purposes, after all, we're the Retrocade!  

 

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I really think the best advice in this thread is from @Master Phruby.  Start by configuring MAME.  Get it working and buy or build a control panel (or just a USB Joystick).  Play the games and get opinions about them.  Then you will be more prepared for how you would want a room in your house to function as an arcade.

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Once the OP discovers the convenience and reliability of MAME he may not want to put money into the endless sinkhole that is full-size arcade cabs.

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Aside from the cost of purchasing and maintaining the arcade games, there is the cost of having someplace to put them. People underestimate the cost of a owning house; I know that I certainly did. 

 

I inherited my Parents' house some years ago. There was no mortgage, but I still have to pay for property taxes, utilities, general maintenance and upkeep, etc. I was very happy to finally sell the place -- and the final selling price was some 20% less than they originally paid for the house a decade before. 

 

I could not have afforded to fill the basement with arcade games and still keep the lights turned on. 

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I always dreamed of having all the arcade and home machines in one computer back around 1980.  With MAME and other emulators that dream is a reality.  I just have one full size 4 player cabinet that can play pretty much anything.  Much cheaper than having the real things and less space.

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On 7/25/2019 at 1:22 AM, Keatah said:

As already mentioned, working with and acquiring classic arcade cabinets will take patience, some spare spending money, and most importantly electronic and some mechanical skills.

 

I agree.  For someone like you who has none of that, emulation is the perfect alternative. 👍

 

On 7/25/2019 at 1:22 AM, Keatah said:

And any friends that have physical disabilities which limit their ability to stand can use custom controllers. And so can seniors - by making use of more comfortable joysticks and auto-fire to prevent repetitive stress injuries.

 

You can also emulate friends by placing your stuffed animals around your Pi and pretending you're in an arcade back in the 80s.  Good times! 🕹️🐶🐴🦄🦝🐻

 

A retired coworker (who has a family and friends he likes to entertain) made an authentic 1950s malt shop in his incredible basement.  Real authentic bar top, stools, tables/booths, mixers, dispensers, signs, lighting jukebox, etc.  Amazing place to visit and allows me to experience a cool social gathering place from a time before I was born.

 

I wonder how it would have turned out if he chose to emulate the 50s experience by purchasing the fake plastic nostalgia garbage that Walmart sells?  Yeah baby...a Crosley MP3 jukebox vs his Wurlitzer Bubbler HAHAHA!  Thankfully, he's intelligent enough to maintain what he has, wealthy enough to purchase it and loves to share it since he's not a demented shut in with no friends.

 

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That's awesome. My dream arcade doesn't have any other people stinking it up, which makes the upkeep, storage, and cost kinda moot. Having it all virtually makes the most sense for me.

 

"Demented shut in with no friends" almost sounds like a bad thing. Unlike these lonely millenials, I crave solitude these days. 

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7 minutes ago, Flojomojo said:

My dream arcade doesn't have any other people stinking it up

Just don't invite your stinky friends! :)

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On 8/2/2019 at 7:43 AM, Atari_Warlord said:

I always dreamed of having all the arcade and home machines in one computer back around 1980.  With MAME and other emulators that dream is a reality.  I just have one full size 4 player cabinet that can play pretty much anything.  Much cheaper than having the real things and less space.

 

And more practical and reliable too. Design life for arcade cabs was typically 2 years, maybe less. Most cabs lasted much longer with minor tweaks and fixes. Today those small fixes are now bigger ones. Instead of cleaning contacts you need to replace the brittle and yellowing connector altogether. Or recap the entire power supply, including replacing weak deflection transistors and leaky diodes. More fun, sitting there for 2 hours trying to get convergence and other geometrical distortions associated with CRTs tuned out. Fun times! CMOS battery mods were another gig. And half the owners were stupid enough use alkaline cells. And the voltages weren't quite right - then wondering why batteries didn't make it past a year. Do you really wanna dick with those details? Not only that you may need to undo other mods done by previous owners. Tedium at best if you're into such things.

 

Vintage videogames create virtual worlds. And thus are perfect for being virtualized themselves. Compressed sawdust particleboard, hot & heavy power supplies and CRT tubes is something best left in the 80's.

 

Overall it is good to see many people going the emulation route.

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