Popcade: Real Arcade Fun

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A kid experiences Popcade’s real arcade fun. Photo: Amy Kraft

I saw a ton of cool stuff at this year’s World Maker Faire New York, but the thing I most wanted to bring home with me was made by a maker friend of mine. Joshua Axelrod is the creator of Popcade, a half-scale arcade cabinet that doubles as a time machine to your childhood.

On the outside, Popcade is a reproduction of a Williams Electronics Joust cabinet, at a scale of 50%. On the inside is a Dell Pentium 4 PC running Windows XP. The computer runs MAME, an arcade game emulator. While MAME is capable of running thousands of games, Joshua has curated about 100 of exactly the ones you’d want.

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Joshua Axelrod, creator of Popcade. Photo: Amy Kraft

There are some lovely details, like the fact that all games include accompanying artwork. There’s a second marquee screen that shows the name of the game when it’s loaded, a truly immersive feature.

It was funny watching some little kids play, who have no frame of reference for this style of play. The coin slot was totally lost on them. As I sat down to play, the experience took me right back to the early 80s. That’s the era of my perpetual joystick blisters. It plays beautifully, and I felt victorious as I took the Maker Faire high score in Ms. Pac-Man.

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Check out that high score! Photo: Amy Kraft

I find the size of it delightful, especially as an urban dweller with limited space. Joshua will build you your own Popcade for $2,500. Are you listening, Santa?

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