Arcade Cabinet

August 10, 2014

I was a teenager in the 1980s, so of course I have fond memories of playing early video games like Pac-Man. I've wanted an arcade cabinet at my house for a long time, but we didn't have the space. I was starting to warm up to the idea of a cocktail cabinet (the horizontal type where players sit across from one another) when my wife pointed out that we have two IKEA coffee tables in our living room. One of them could be modified to be a video game machine.

This is the result:

The original tables had a glass top. I had replaced them with sheets of thin steel, but had kept the glass. For this project I built a wood bezel to frame an old LCD and mounted that horizontally under the glass. My dad recommended a shelf beneath that to house the electronics and controls. The shelf is half-inch plywood. The control panel and sides are quarter-inch MDF cut on a laser cutter at TechShop and painted black with primer and spray paint. The sides swing down using kitchen cabinet hinges to provide access to the internals:

The core software is called MAME. It emulates old arcade cabinet hardware. I may later add other emulators, such as for the Atari 2600, but games on home consoles aren't nearly as good.

The overwhelming thing about making a cabinet is the number of choices you have to make:

Some other notes:

My final cost was probably around $500, not including the table. Feel free to contact me if you have specific questions. Building one of these is completely overwhelming. I spent hours per night for several weeks just reading blogs and forums, trying to gather all the information I needed to make informed decisions.

At dinner parties the adults all play their favorite games. What I didn't expect is that the kids all love these games too. Great game play is forever.

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