Recreating the charm of your old haunt isn’t as simple as cobbling together an old arcade machine and hitting play. The arcade era was its own world, and had an aesthetic that is like no other. Below is a list of items and decor you’ll want in your game room if you’re truly serious about turning your space into a blast from an 8-bit past.
Your very own Arcade Cabinet
It goes without saying that every arcade room needs its own arcade machine. These machines will be the star of your show, and what will turn a themed-room into a real time jump back to the golden era of arcades.
There are many important factors to consider when choosing your own cabinet, such as size. Another is the art splashed across the machine and the control panels (you need it to look really cool at the end of the day). Emulators have removed the need to choose only one game, letting you keep a library of thousands of titles in a single machine, but you’re still limited to only one design to wrap cabinets with, so, whether you go for Star Wars or Street Fighter, Pac Man or Mortal Kombat, choose wisely.
Time Crisis, Virtua Cop, The House of the Dead--the arcade era gave us some of the best shooters that continue to define and influence FPS games today. If you’re a fan of the genre with an itchy trigger finger, you know keyboard and mouse controls just can’t compare. For true gunslinging enthusiasts, kitting out your new machine with light guns is the way to go.
These peripherals are now more accessible than ever to the average gamer. Light guns didn’t get a lot of love coming out of the arcade age, and therefore didn’t see a lot of development over the years. Attempts at bringing them back were hampered by incompatibility with modern screens, but that’s set to change. Projects like the Sinden Gun by UK-based Sinden Technologies have brought gamers closer to pulling the trigger--and actually hitting the target.
Neon-Themed LED Signs
Flashy lights and neon signs are as much a trademark of the retro gaming era as the machines that housed the video games, forever seared into the history of gaming.
Authentic neon lights are hard to come by today, as making them has largely turned into a craft. LED substitutes are simply much cheaper to produce, and are more energy-efficient. While you can still find a handful of crafters of real neon lights, many will find that LED lights offer the same aesthetic at a fraction of a cost.
A Beer Fridge
If the popularity of barcades has taught us anything, it’s that the kids of yesteryear have turned into the beer-loving adult patrons of today. Beer is also intrinsically tied to the history of arcade gaming itself: Computer Space, considered one of the--if not the very--first arcade game, first chirruped to life in Dutch Goose, a bar. And if beer’s not your thing, then there’s nothing from stopping you putting a nice bottle of wine in there to enjoy in between gaming sessions
So raise a pint (or other appropriate receptacle) and pay homage by installing a mini fridge in your game room. You can pick up one of these appliances for as low as £30 at Argos. Or, you could keep with the retro arcade theme with a fridge that looks like Rubik’s Cube, or go the other way and get super futuristic with the ridiculous Xbox Series X mini fridge, coming out later this year (yes, this is an actual thing).
Seats--the one thing on this list you wouldn’t have found in arcades from the ‘80s. The absence of seats was probably strategic. No seating meant more machines can be crammed into arcades. Less people sitting and doing nothing also meant more people hopping around the abundance of games, keeping the flow of quarters nice and constant. And let’s face it, arcade gaming just wouldn’t be the same if you were sat down. That’s part of the beauty of it.
Your own gaming den need not be as seatless though, so a plush couch or a couple of barstools will make a great addition, especially if you’re planning on regularly hosting game nights (or if you’re decadent enough to have a bar). There are some pretty awesome ones out there, like this Pac-Man bar stool and if you already have a sofa sorted, you can really retro it up with these Pac-Man cushions.
Every blank wall in your game room is a giant canvas that lends itself naturally to the block-y, 2D graphics of arcade games. The simplicity of the art of games like Space Invaders or Centipede means you can even create stickers of your own, if you’re crafty or on a tight budget.
For those of us who like to stick and play, there’s plenty of options, too. Some sold by the majors of arcade gaming themselves, like this officially licenced Sonic the Hedgehog decal or this Pac-Man wall sticker by Namco. You can also repaint the entire room to resemble screenshots from your favourite game.
Black Light Decor
From toys to body paint, the last couple of years have been good for black light. The paint’s reactivity to low light conditions makes it a great match for dim arcade rooms, if you’re going for that hole-in-the-wall vibe. Here is a prime example of how black light can transform a rather large space into something otherworldly (and let’s take our hats off to Peter Hirschberg; this is one hell of a home arcade setup).
Black light is also perfect if you want a room inspired by intergalactic shoot ‘em ups like Space Invaders, or the character art of caped crusaders from the ‘80s. You can go as simple as adding a couple of black light posters, or go a little bigger with black light carpeting. After all, if you’re looking to recreate the real spirit of arcades, you can’t go wrong with carpet. Just this time, with a lot less grime and sticky stains from congealed fizzy drinks.
Video games may come and go, but the appeal of high scores and bragging rights is eternal. That’s why leaderboards still play a prominent role in game design today, whether you’re on mobile or console.
Inspire the same spirit of competitive play in your very own home arcade with a digital scoreboard. You don’t have to throw a lot of money on this project; you can build one on your own using an extra LCD monitor. Or failing that, you can always go old school and get a whiteboard or chalkboard.