In the early ’80s, my stepdad worked in the stock room of the local department store. One of his responsibilities was to dispose of damaged goods. The manufacturers wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle of large items being returned, so the workers were supposed to render the item unusable and toss it in the dumpster. As you can imagine might happen when you put minimum wage stockroom employees in charge of such a task, many, many items found their way into the back of his Chevy Vega and, ultimately, under my Christmas tree. One such item, which I’m sure required assistance from someone with a larger vehicle, was an Atari demo cabinet. It had about 50 games, and you could add more by opening the cartridge and plugging the chip into this big board. The greatest gift an 8-year-old ’80s kid could possibly imagine, and the catalyst to my love of video games. Many an asteroid was destroyed and a Yar revenged (whatever that meant) on this behemoth.
Fast forward 20 years. It was the new millennium, I had two little boys of my own, and I wanted them to share that home arcade experience. MAME had been around for a few years, and I had already introduced them to Pitfall, Frogger, and Space Invaders, as well as some of my favorite NES games like Ninja Gaiden and the various versions of Super Mario Bros. We even bought a few of those joystick games that plug directly into the TV and come with a half dozen games. It was fun, but it just wasn’t the same as standing at that big old arcade, smashing buttons. I researched arcade cabinets online, sourced parts, and browsed plans. I visited all of the forums and was constantly sketching out cabinet shapes. For months, I was committed to the idea of owning my own arcade. Unfortunately, there was simply not enough spare time or money, and other projects always found their way to the top of the list. I looked into buying a finished one, but if the cost of individual parts was out of my reach, buying a complete cabinet was simply laughable. With many regrets, I gave it up as a lost cause.
When Tyler Bushnell contacted me about his Kickstarter for a home arcade cabinet, all those plans and dreams came surfacing back. If anyone could understand my obsession, it was Tyler. His dad is Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, and Tyler grew up surrounded by video games and arcade cabinets. It was his dreams of reliving the arcade days of his youth that led to the Polycade, the elegant, minimalistic arcade that mounts on the wall. Perfect for small spaces or for environments such as living rooms or offices where a full-size arcade cabinet would appear out of place.
The first ten early backers can get a Polycade, in their choice of six colors and with shipping included, for $1,250. After the first ten are gone, the Kickstarter price goes to $1,600 (post-Kickstarter retail price will be $1,950). They are also offering a Woodworker’s Kit for $600 that includes everything but the cabinet, and if you’re a fan of video game nostalgia, Tyler has shamelessly co-opted his dad to help by offering fifty Atari 2600 cartridges signed by Nolan himself for $50 each.