Rugdoctors personal arcade

[widgets_on_pages]Do you miss the days of the video arcade? I know I do. For many of us who grew up in the seventies, eighties or nineties, the arcades were a cherished part of our childhood. So what do you do if your local arcades are closed, or only offer gambling games and toy-grabbing cranes? Simple, create your own personal arcade of course! One such enthusiast who has done this is Kelvin from Wellington, New Zealand, who goes by the online handle of Rugdoctor. Tired of trying to game in a crampt old shed, this ambitious gamer decided to create his own gaming room from the ground up. You can see the building of his custom games room by visiting his blog here.

We caught up with Rugdoctor on the popular shmups forum and he kindly agreed to answer some of our questions about his amazing project.

Most of us have to make do with a room in our house at best as our gaming room, but you actually went the whole hog and had an extension built specifically to use as a games room. What was your main motivation to do this? Does it simply come down to the need for more space or were there other reasons?

Rugdoctor's room features a variety of classic arcade games.
Rugdoctor’s room features a variety of classic arcade games.

The main motivation for the build is that my old basement/game room was renovated and was better as a rental than a hobby room. This led to at least two location moves before settling in the new place. The first was my work apartment, it was pretty lavish but not permanent as I changed jobs and the second was in a shed behind my shop. It was pretty dingy, the roof and floor leaks and electricity was provided by an extension cord from the main shop.

Space has never been an issue for me because I only get what I need and flick off what I don’t. I think it acts as a reminder of how much stuff I should take on and be content with it. However, storage conditions for the arcade pcbs is another story…I am still using the old shed to store my arcade pcbs quite simply because it has a lot of shelving and I can choose the board at a glance. Luckily the game room and the shed is only 2 minutes drive or 15 minutes walk.

Now your room is finished and built, is there any advice you’d give to anyone else fortunate enough to be thinking about building their own games room from the ground up?

Budget, budget, budget! It is easy to go overboard on the project and it can get out of hand. There are always things beyond your control (like the weather) that can affect the project so always stash a couple of thousand dollars for those rainy days. Ideally, if you already have an existing structure like a basement or garage, then the project will be easier to manage. There are a lot of details like lighting and power plugs etc that might crop up during the planning stage and it is important to not get too caught up with that and do the planning step by step.
Also, should you need to seek local council approval (check local planning laws before you start), make sure you seek consent to build a “storage room” instead of a dwelling, because you will have less bureaucratic hurdles to jump through.

Can you give us an overview of all the systems in your room? I notice a lot of cabinets but not so many home consoles, for instance? Do you have any modern or retro consoles or a gaming PC in there too or are those things that don’t personally interest you?

I have been collecting games and systems from 1989 onwards, I pretty much have all the mainstream systems that were launched in Japan and am satisfied I played the majority of the titles out for the machines. I think one of the prime recipes for a good console game is to captivate the player and encourage them to replay the game as much as possible, that is one luxury I cannot afford at the moment as I work full time and am also almost a full time house husband. This is where arcade PCBs/games come in as they are design to take your credit as fast as possible while giving you a good time (well…good games will) which fits with my daily schedule. I used to have a MAME Xbox providing the games on the cabinets but I find myself spending too much time selecting games so collecting PCBs is the way to go. On occasion, I will flick the 360/Wii on the Naomi/Blast City to try out the later reincarnation of classic arcade games but often I find myself going back to the original.

So you have both JAMMA boards and games consoles all hooked up to your cabs? That’s pretty cool.

The room has a fantastic old-school arcade feel to it.
The room has a fantastic old-school arcade feel to it.

Usually I just run the JAMMA boards in the arcade machines because there is a certain charm playing the console conversions on a monitor/TV; it also can benefit from rearranged soundtracks played in stereo on a monitor setup with the proper speaker placement of course. I will run a console in a cabinet as a short term solution until I get a board for the machine. Usually the console ports of arcade games have a “console version” or rearranged modes which might not suit the arcade setup. Plus it seems like a cardinal sin to play consoles on arcade machines (but I wont tell, if you don’t ).

For people wanting to play consoles on arcade machine cabinets I advise an adapter like Viletims SCART to JAMMA or a JPAC. These solutions preserve the JAMMA wiring so you can still play JAMMA boards on the cabinet.

Your games room does have that great oldschool arcade atmosphere to it.

Thanks for the compliment! The game rooms design was to maximise the space as much as possible and the icing on the cake is to choose the correct lighting solution, paint colours and also tiled reflective flooring. That was the theme I gathered from researching different Asian game centres, however, the western game centres are polar opposites to this.

How is the arcade scene in New Zealand? Is it like here in the UK, where few operators bother to maintain cabs and the whole thing just feels like it’s slowly dying?

Yifan in Auckland NZ is one of the last remaining old school arcades in the country
Yifan in Auckland NZ is one of the last remaining old school arcades in the country

Arcades in New Zealand are scarce and uninspired. Apart from Yifan in Auckland, other places treat arcade machines as a side business to say a ten pin bowling alley or laser tag (laser quest). Operators lack passion and will only replace machines with other machines rather than doing maintenance, it is quite sad.

I do not think arcades will become extinct in NZ. Rather, machines will be spread out everywhere and will have multiboards or a NeoGeo MVS system (typically with Puzzle Bobble) just a reminder of the time from yesteryear.

The arcade scene was a big part of my childhood, growing up I used to look forward to going to the coast every year, not so much for things like sun and sand but to play in the arcades, was it a similar experience that first got you into arcade collecting?

I think nostalgia played a big part in motivating me to collect games, but I have to admit, I only started collecting ever since I joined shmups/arcadeotaku forum sites. I only really started collecting arcade boards from 2012 onward because in the back of my mind I always worried about hardware failure resulting in a waste of money. I learned to accept this possibility and came to the conclusion that I would enjoy the games while they last and let them rest in peace if they bite the dust. Like most people who were at their gaming prime in the 90’s, CAPCOM boards (like the CPS 1,2 and 3) and MVS are the first boards/carts I got, before starting to branch out to other boards like System16, Toaplan, Taito, Konami etc when the opportunity presented itself.

Given almost unlimited time and money, is there anything you’d add or change to your room?

Time is never unlimited, usually I head into the game room around 8pm to at most 10:30pm on a daily basis and either play a side-scroller or a vertical shooter and try to get as far as possible on 3 credits. Other times people from the local fighting game or retro forum groups come by for a gaming session, which is a chance for me to showcase some older games that they haven’t played before or just run competitive play on fighting or sports games. Money on the other hand is relative, I will only buy what I need for my setup and what I am ready to take risk on, say for example bulk buying of unknown condition arcade boards.

I will probably add a beer fridge or a mini drinks vending machine in the game room or a Japanese claw machine if they are available locally. I also intend to design some shelving solutions for the room to keep stuff hidden because the last thing you want is junk spread all over the place in a electricity charged room.

You obviously see the value in preserving and running original hardware. Do you feel that emulation has any place in a high-end gaming setup?

I don’t know about preservation that well because I am not an electrical engineer by any stretch of imagination but I will do my best to keep the boards alive. However, I love the “snap” response in both control and game animation associated with pure unadulterated hardware. That is the most alluring part of owning the original hardware. The main gripe I have with emulation is the amount of work needed to get the game playing right. So many factors can diminish the game play experience compared to the original hardware. The aesthetics of retro gaming also changes when you run retro games on modern setups. However a modern setup is easier to calibrate and you wont have issues with the monitor display which often plagues retro setup like the geometry or convergence.

Thank you very much for your time, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Do not be afraid picking up arcade boards when you feel like it and do not rush to buy an arcade cabinet. And like always, ask your parents (or wife) first before getting more cabinets. After all, hobbies are supposed to relieve instead of causing stress.

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