Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Games People Play

It was a whim. That's all it was. I was looking at pinball listings on Craigslist, and I spotted an original arcade cabinet retrofitted with 60 vintage arcade games. It was cheap, and that is always a plus.

I didn't do any research, but I knew these things usually sell between $800 - $1200. This listing was well below that. I emailed the seller about the size of the cabinet, and within three hours the thing was actually sitting in my garage. I was excited, and Char giggled like no other as she tried to avoid the ghosts in Mrs. Pac-Man.

That was on Saturday night. By Sunday afternoon the air began to leak out of my balloon. I started noticing how rough this thing was. It wasn't rough in just one place; problems were everywhere. From a distance it looked okay, but when you got close you could see that the previous owner had no pride in his work. Bare wires were hanging loose and screws were missing. This cabinet had lived a tough life in an arcade, and its rebirth was not much better.

I thought about posting it on Craigslist for a bit less than I paid and selling it quickly. That would solve my problem, and I could say that I learned my lesson. But I would have been too embarrassed to sell this to someone else. It did work; you could play the games, but it was was filthy and it looked terrible.

I sent the seller some questions about adjusting the 60-in-One Jamma Board, but he didn't return the email. "Dangit!" I complained to Daphne as I was pointing out problems with the games, "I didn't want to learn how this thing works. For once, I just wanted to plug something in and just play it."

"Well," Daphne said as she walked out of the garage, "you do like your projects, and I think you bought another one."

She was right. Heavy sigh. It was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

My Process

1. Get out the vacuum and the shop brush. I found a very clean quarter in the bottom of the cab while vacuuming, so that will go on the cabinet's key chain. I'm a bit surprised that the coin is from 1995, that seems pretty new, but then again, that was 22 years ago. Geeze, am I that old?

Yes I am.

2. Someone had removed the coin mechanisms from the coin door panel. That's not a big deal, this machine is free to play, but that left two gaping the holes in the wood. Someone had crudely cut a piece of plastic and a piece of metal to make two covers, but the pair were worse than the holes. Horrible.

I covered the coin door panel and the kick panel with wood-grained shelf paper. This is a short-term solution. I'll replace the coin door panel when I find a suitable piece of wood, and I'll paint the kick panel to match.

3. Install new cabinet locks. The previous owner was using a drywall screw to hold the coin door panel in place. Two locks cost less than ten bucks at Home Depot, and they look a lot better than that stupid screw.

4. Remove the old side art decal. Clowns with X's for eyes are not welcome anywhere near our home.

5. Sand the sides of the cabinet and wait for the weather to warm up for paint. 

6. Learn how to put the computer board into test mode. This allowed me to adjust the game's volume and adjust the individual games. Playing Pac-Man w/o getting a free guy at 10,000 points feels empty.

7. Relax. Review the games. Realize this cabinet is pretty fun. Remember how hard Pac-Man Jr. is.

8. Order new "Multicade" side art decal and marquee decal from eBay. Also buy 20 feet of T molding.

9. Spray paint the sides black. I used silver paint for a splatter effect.

10. Install the T molding. This was simple once I figured how to cut the plastic so it could be bent around corners.

11. Listen to Charlotte's compliments, "This is looking sharp, Dad. The sides look like stars in the night sky."

12. Reward her with copious amounts of nachos at Fuzzy's Taco Shop.

12. Enlist Daphne to help to apply the side art. I suppose there is a way for one person to apply these large decals without getting them crooked, creased, and bubbled, but I could not have done it without Daph.

13. Replace screws that secure the joystick. The previous owner had installed a new joystick, but instead of using four new screws, he used two rusty ones. That, my friend, is the very definition of half-ass.

14. Cut some wood trim pieces, paint them, and install them. 

15. Touch up the paint where it had been chipped off.

16. Repaint an old, thrift store bar stool so you have a retro place to sit.

It's coming along. Soon I'll have a plastic sheet cut to size, and I'll ask Daphne to help me apply the "Multicade" marquee to it. That will scrape all of the "Do" off of this project.

It will look like this, but brighter.

I'm not embarrassed anymore. There is still some work to do, but the Multicade can go into the basement. In reality, I didn't save as much money as I wanted to by buying a basket case. Maybe next time I'll remind myself how much my whims actually cost me, and that maybe I should wait for a better deal to come along.

Orrrrrr, maybe I'll just buy another project...

Some people never learn.

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