Introduction: Cardboard Bar Top Arcade Game Console - Lithium Rain Recycled Entertainment Machine of Righteousness

What to do with an old analog TV and VHS video tape player? Can't bear to get rid of them just like those old cassette and 8-track players you've got lying around? Well, round up some retro electronic junk and save it from the landfill. Go GREEN and rescue some cardboard while you are at it.

No one can resist the appeal of real arcade games. And who can live without Pac-Man or Galaxian?   Well, I'm not sure if Instructables member Lithium Rain was even born when these classics existed.  So if you yearn for 8-bit gamey goodness from yesteryear, build this bar top sized arcade gaming console with some obsolete junk around the house.   No MAME emulator or PC needed because this one is based on a standalone-video-game device that you plug into the TV (yeah, you might have to buy that).

Best thing is you don't need a bunch of change in your pocket in order to play the game. But then again, if you are the champ, you only need a quarter to start you off.

Make the arcade cabinet out of cardboard. Yes, CARDBOARD. I'll show you how it's done.

Step 1: Stuff

I found these standalone-video-game devices on my stroll through the toy aisle at my favorite discount retailer for about $20 US. It contains the game buttons/joystick and has an output cable for audio and composite video. There are many different versions but this one was one has 10 different games onboard and it included PAC-Man. This would be perfect to use to set up an arcade game console without needing a computer system to run an emulator.

This is the JAKKS game device.  I'm sure you can spam search the details if you want to purchase it.

 There was also other gaming devices with a Spongebob theme, Star Wars, and a Deer Hunter rifle emulator, cool.... Go pick one and build a console with the theme you like.

You can of course, build the console out of wood or other materials, but it wouldn't be as cool - and it wouldn't work for the cardboard contest.   You can even make a full-size video cabinet too but it would be kinda hard to fit in small places, like if you need to drag it up to the dorm room or down to your basement bedroom ( you still living with your parents? it's alright...but do your own fn laundry...).

You need:

The game controller device
Get one that you want to turn into an arcade console.

Recycle an old one that won't do HD.  I am using an old 13" CRT-type color TV.

And you might need an RF Modulator:
The game device outputs composite video and sound (yellow and white RCA plugs).
I had tried to use this with an even older RF modulator which converts those "newer" composite signals to regular TV antenna signals and  you can pick it up on channel 3 or 4.
Something with the way the output was being sensed caused it to burp the output on the RF modulator and quit displaying the signal.
It may work on newer RF modulator units but I was not going to spend another 20 bucks on a new one
So what has an RF modulator built in?  My old VCR has composite line-in and RF out.  

Did I mention my TV was so old it does not have composite line-in jacks, hence the need for an RF modulator.

So now I can also put to use an "obsolete" video cassette recorder/player unit.

Bonus: Now we can also make a dual-purpose video gaming console - kinda like xbox/blue-ray player - not really.

You will also need cardboard and about 2 quarts of glue:
Recycle box cardboard - uncoated, unwaxed, boxes work best, IKEA-like cardboard is pretty minimalistic 
I like to use carpenter's wood glue - better tack and set up for construction.  Get a big bottle of regular white glue for the papier mache part.

Papier mache
Rough exposed cardboard edges will be covered in paipier mache.  In addition to making the joints stronger, it will give a nice smooth finished look.  Go recycle all of those envelopes from bills and reuse any uncoated typing paper.

Marker, scissors, utility knife, and straightedge

CAUTION:  Know how to connect and use electric and electronic devices.  Paper cuts are an occupational hazard.  And whatever you do, don't get talked into buying an expensive HDMI cable which works exactly the same as a reasonably price one, even if you listen to part time know it all salesman rep in a big blue electronics retailer chain instructables member KentsOkay.

Step 2: Base of Operations

Hook up everything so you know that is works.  Make sure you have all the necessary cables to connect the components together.

Mock up your game console.  I wanted the screen tilted so I used the old RF modulator to just prop up the TV to get the right height.

Start with a piece of cardboard - it doesn't really matter how big.  We will be laminating a lot of pieces of cardboard together to get the right size and build up layers with alternating grain/direction of corrugations to give it strength.

Look at my other cardboard ibles like the Giant-Fn-Computer-Key-StoolChair or The-Robolocity-Roaming-Instructables-Robot-Gnome for more cardboard building techniques and tips.

No need for accurate measurement with a ruler.  Just mark and go.  You can always adjust with adding more cardboard or cutting and forming a bit.

Cut a front piece and have a base ramp platform the size of the TV base.   We need to fortify it so it can take the weight of the TV.

Cut out several triangular shaped pieces that fit the profile of the ramp base.

These will form the engineered ribs for the structure.  Glue edges and reinforce any seams by gluing a piece of paper to cover.  Use glue on the entire surface of the applique piece.

Once you have the basic structure, start doubling or tripling the thickness of the ribs with another layer of cardboard that is glued entirely to the first piece.

Add additional diagonal ribs .  You can feel if you have enough reinforcement if you start trying to flex and bend the structure.

Get a feeling for adding trusswork to your structure.  No need to overdesign this with AutoCAD.  Just use the Force.

Cover all open edges and joint intersections with papier mache.

After it dries - preferably overnight - you will have a rigid structure.

Step 3: Gaming Platform

We want to make the game device a little nicer and more ergonomic to use.

Give it a wider base to rest in and it becomes the front of your arcade console.

I need to keep the front exposed because that "coinslot" is a button to switch between the onboard games, and the on/off switch is next to it.

I am creating a wrap-around type shell for the game device.

Mark it out on a piece of cardboard as wide as the TV.

Cut out the slot for the game device.  You can just glue the excess piece of cardboard back on itself so it will become another layer to reinforce the cardboard platform.

Mock up on the TV base and bend the lip that rests on the ramp base.

Figure out the final slope of the device holder and cut a front piece to that height.

Build it up just like the ramp.

Add reinforcing ribs, double/triple the cardboard thickness.

Papier mache the exposed edges and intersecting joints.

Step 4: Sidekicks and Panels

Mock up how you want the sides.

There will be no back panel.  You want to leave it open to vent out the TV and VCR.  There was a speaker grille on the side of the TV but sound came out of it fine when covered with the side.

I had the VCR on top of the TV  for easy access to use/control, I had lost the remotes.

Console cabinets have a glare control portion when the CRT screen is set back in the cabinet so  fit that in your design.

Cut out the sides to match the profile of your game pad.

Build up several laminations.

Papier mache the edges all around and any imperfections in the surfaces.

Step 5: Top Shelf Goods

Make a shelf to fit the VCR.

You need the top shelf that will be the top of the console cabinet.

You need the supporting shelf on the inside to hold the VCR.

Cut out pieces wider than the width of the VCR.

Bend over at the ends to act as glue tabs for the shelf.

Laminate a few more layers of cardboard to add strength.

Mock up with the VCR to find where the support shelf should be placed.

Mark in place.  Attach the support shelf.

Papier mache all edges and intersecting joints.

Make a final piece that is the L shaped front top cover.

This piece can be secured later with a glued on cloth fabric hinge or just velcro.

It allows access to the VCR.

Step 6: Bottom Rack

With the top shelf attached in place, position the bottom ramp base.

Attach to the sides with the necessary ribs or cardboard extention pieces.

You could just place a big piece of cardboard down and glue everything in place but that would not be fun.  If you made the ramp base the same width as the VCR, you would just have to glue it to the side pieces - didn't think of that in the first place.

Add some gussets or little triangular pieces to the back corners of the cabinet.  This will help the cabinet from racking or folding when it is flexed or pushed on the side.  Once it is loaded with a tight fitting VCR and TV, you really don't have to worry as much.

This completes the cabinet structure all around.

Step 7: Oh, the Vapours

Painting is not good on the hottest and most humid day of the year...and indoors.

You should obey the prime directive.  Prime and then paint.

I had some leftover latex house paint...okay about a gallon of it, so I used it here.

I also got some orange spaypaint. I guess the base colours of an ibles-theme. 

Do any spray painting outside.  Cover anything that may be exposed to overspray and paint drift with a dropcloth.

Decorate the cabinet any way you want, even if you want it to be faithful to the original PAC-MAN arcade cabinet.  Fan sites exist where you can get authentic graphics for your build.

So I guess this turned out to have a '58 Les Paul sunburst vibe to it.

Get some awesome ibles graphics from the net and print them out.   Cut out and glue to the cabinet.

Draw them yourself if you have to....wait....

Apply a real Instructables Robot sticker if you got em.

Step 8: Game On!

Atomic batteries to power.

This design allows the removeable gamepad to be played out of the console.

You can lean back in your chair or play in close sitting or standing up.

And Oh, by the way, does anyone know how to set the clock on the VCR to make it stop blinking?

So go forth and make one.  Maybe you can build and donate one to your community center, VA hospital or nursing home.   You may be getting rid of some junk but it's another's treasure as a new activity.


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