Arduino Project 7: Build a Retro Gamebox

The games market may well dwarf the music and movie industries combined in global revenue and new-release games offer lighting effects and texture detail that make you forget you’re in a game and not a movie. But there’s always something that tugs us back to retro gaming – the blocky graphics corny 8-bit sound and those golden memories.

Our Arduino microcontroller doesn’t come with a video output although we showed you in the TV Weather Channel Station Project how you could hook it up to the composite video input of your TV and display your own TV weather channel.

So for this project we’re combining all this knowledge and putting together our very own retro arcade games console we’re calling the Retro Gamebox.

Build a Retro Gamebox

What you need

Apart from the Arduino Uno board the main components you’ll need are the arcade-grade joystick and fire pushbutton. They look impressive but they’re not expensive. We picked up ours from eBay – the joystick for $8.79 and the pushbutton just $3.50 both including shipping.

How the single-fire pushbutton works is pretty straightforward: the button plunger operates a normally open (NO) microswitch which closes when the button is pressed. A nice extra is that many also have an LED inside the button top.

The joystick is a little more complex – it has four NO microswitches one for each compass direction which operate as you pull the central control around. Some arcade joysticks have a mechanical locking mechanism that will lock off one axis (X or Y) so you can use it more easily; for example locking off the Y axis so the controller becomes a side-to-side type for playing Space Invaders.

Whether you’re building a full-on replica arcade gaming machine or just our little Gamebox the joystick switches do the same job: they connect to the circuit board and when activated cause the software to change operation based on the switch(es) pressed.

So that you can see the insides of our design more easily we’ve gone for a basic see-through food container. If you’re really keen you could put the whole thing together into your own full-scale retro arcade machine.


For more detail: Build a Retro Gamebox

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