Big Ass Fans and Free Video Games

I had occasion to be out and about last night at one of Durham, NC’s fine local breweries, Fullsteam. While there, I was impressed by 3 things. First, how oppressively hot it was for late evening. This led to the next thing that impressed me, the big-ass fan they had set up to try and cool the place. I’m serious, it was a Big Ass Fan. It was huge (8′ diameter). Cranked to the max, I’m sure it could have easily blown down all three of the Little Pig’s houses. But these things were ancillary to the thing that most impressed me while there: The Bullitron.

The Bullitron is a Winitron arcade cabinet constructed by members of the local Durham hackerspace Splat Space. The Winitron arcade network is made up of what amount to MAME cabinets running a custom launcher that connects players to a network of free Indie arcade games. The founders of the Winitron network have mandated that in order to receive access to the software and the network, you are required to build your own cabinet and set it up in a place where as many people as possible can play (for free, of course). Obviously, next to a handful of pinball machines at a bar would be a perfect place for such a device. After a few minutes of playing Nidhogg, a two-player “fencing” game, and another Galaga-esque title, I was hooked on the idea.

There are a number of things that are really cool about this, but two in particular capture the experience pretty well. First, MAME cabinets are cool. I want one. I will build one at some point. Arcade machines are a huge nostalgia trip for me. I used to love going to arcades when I was a kid, and being able to build your own multi-function arcade machine is, to me, a pretty neat concept. The DIY nature of this is the second bit of awesome. And the Winitron concept is very much in keeping with the Maker spirit of “make cool stuff and share it.” The mechanics are pretty simple, just a few buttons and a joystick interfaced to a PC running some custom software. But throw it together in a stylish package and with very little effort, you can be whuppin’ on your friends in any one of a number of classic and modern arcade icons.

There’s a popular saying among the three of us: “When Maniacal Labs has an office…” Part optimism, part wishful thinking, and often met with a chuckle (for now at least). We’ll see. Who knows what’s in the cards for our little operation. But when Maniacal Labs has an office, there will be some manner of arcade machine therein.

-dan

*Maniacal Labs is not associated with, nor shills for, any of the above-mentioned entities. But hackerspaces are cool, so ‘what up’ to Splat Space!

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