Students Build Retro Arcade machine

Cape Breton students build retro arcade machine Students at Breton Education Centre in New Waterford built gaming cabinet with guidance from their teacher. 

The old arcades of the 80s and 90s may almost be extinct, but the soul of retro gaming lives on with a group of students at Breton Education Centre in New Waterford.

With a little guidance from their teacher, 10 teenagers built their own full-size arcade machine – even though they weren't even alive in the heyday of the dimly-lit arcade.

Still, they've spent hours constructing and playing on a piece of arcade history. 

"Well, I mean, it's the origin of all the games we have today," said student builder Craig Caudle. "You want to play with the ancestors of what we have, so I mean go back to the history, you know. I love 8-bit quality, it looks gorgeous to me."

It took three months to build the machine, with students working on it during their lunch break. They cut the wood for the machine's cabinet, wired the joysticks and buttons, painted it and even designed the machine's light up billboard. 

Any retro game that can be put on a computer can be played on the machine. 

A sense of pride

Student Ayric McKinnon feels a strong connection to the group's creation. 

"I think it looks amazing … It's fun to get away and do something like this sometimes, and it is a way for people to get together and, you know, bond."

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Students play the arcade machine they constructed. It took ten students three months to build the machine, mostly during their lunch break at school. (David Burke/CBC)

McKinnon thinks any gamer should get a chance to experience what video games were like as they rose to popularity.

"I love video games and, I mean, we were born in a time where arcades are kind of extinct, We never really got to experience that. So, you know, as a gamer you kind of want to get into it," said McKinnon.

Learning as they went

Teacher Darnell Young started the project, even though the students "didn't have a lot of technical skills with wood working."

Young said the students learned something new.

"Plus, I think just the technical part of it in setting up the games and the computer part [is what] sparked an interest in some students."

The student's work has received a lot of attention and has even attracted a few potential buyers. 

"Word got out," Young said. "So, I had a couple of phone calls people wanting to buy it. Students love it … So, a couple of students are starting to make them on their own there. Another person approached us about making one and maybe auctioning maybe raise money for safe graduation.  

The idea of selling the machine doesn't sit well with McKinnon. 

"It's kind of flattering that they want to buy it, but … we all kind of got together and bonded around this one machine. So, I mean, if we built another one I could kind of see us selling that, but that one sort of has a connection to it." 

Students don't have to worry though, Young said the arcade machine will stay in the school. He's even considering making a few more and building a small arcade that students can use during lunch.


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