Tuesday, June 14, 2005

MAME cabinet: making the decision

Playing MAME is ultimately unsatisfying. That sounds a little odd, but bear with me.

I love playing MAME, fooling around with a lot of these old games from my childhood. There are many games in MAME I remember vividly. Some, I played in places like Chuck E Cheese in southern Ontario, pumping in token after token during my friend Ben's birthday party. His dad even supplied all the tokens--how great is that? But there were other games I rarely got to play.

There was a laundromat near school when I was about 12. They had Choplifter and a couple of other games. I remember going there over the lunch hour to watch: the same guy always seemed to be playing Choplifter, and I remember aching to play. I wanted nothing more than a chance to play, but the machine was always occupied. I had played Choplifter on my Apple ][ at home, but this looked so much more exciting, so much more interesting. I even fantasized about this guy getting past the first stage and then handing the controls to me to let me play. It never happened, and the couple of times that I got a turn on the machine, I died very, very quickly.

With the advent of MAME, I could play arcade Choplifter all I wanted. I could possibly even play enough to get good at it. But sitting using a keyboard to play was nowhere near the same as the original arcade experience. I hemmed and hawed and started looking around on the net at what other people had done--creating control panels or full cabinets.

With two small boys already, and another child on the way, how neat would it be to have a MAME cabinet down in the basement rec room (once it's finished) ? The rec room, currently only framed in, is 28x16. The left side will be the entertainment area, with the TV and some couches. The opposite side is going to be a playroom area.

But that leaves an area about 10x16 in the middle that's going to be largely empty. Sounds like a perfect place to set up an arcade cabinet. It will be a really neat thing for the kids, and being able to charge tokens for playing means a lot better control of their gameplay than if they just had a game console.

So a few months ago, I took the plunge, and started slowly saving towards a MAME cabinet. The kids are so young, and the basement so unfinished, I've got a lot of time to create this thing. I'm going to create the control panel first--that part's a little easier than the rest, and it's something I can use right away on the PC upstairs too. I also have a lot of plywood left over from creating the subfloor in the basement, so I can make the panel out of nice, strong 5/8" plywood.

After a lot of looking around the net, I've decided to create something similar to Jeff's ultimate MAME machine. He has pretty comprehensive plans on his site, and while they aren't perfect, they'll certainly give me a good basis, and I can change a few things as I went along.

I told Michelle all about my plans, and she was supportive, though not necessarily too enthusiastic. I ended up finding another cabinet site with pictures of the creator's kids playing away, and said "That's what it's all about." She took a look at the kids playing, and became a lot more interested. When I talked about the token idea, and being able to impose limits on the amount of gameplay, and all the two player cooperative games that were out there, she agreed it would be a really neat thing to have.

So with official permission, I'm off to the races. All I need is a little bit of funding built up, and I can start.

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