Better Homes & Consoles

The Retro Games Room – that final bastion of hope, light and pixelated gaming.  James Matson runs you through some tips and tricks to make sure your games room has all the spit and polish of a Psygnosis game release.

From the 9th to the 16th century, castles were the “in” thing. If you were a noble, then building a castle and filling it with ornaments, trinkets and pointy sticks was an ultimate statement of status (not to mention a ripper offensive and defensive structure). For the retro gaming guy or gal with something to prove, the ‘games room’ is the 21st century equivalent.

Stacked with old world goodies and proving to be an excellent defensive structure when in-laws visit (“Quick! Dive behind the Megadrive carts before they see you! Dive man, dive!”) the games room is a retro fortification for those most noble of gamers:

Us.

A haven such as this – with its boxed games, consoles and should be constructed with care, consideration and expert craftsmanship. As such, it’s our duty here at Retro Domination to impart some tips and tricks we feel will lead to an optimal games room. The kind that people want to visit and that you want to spend time in. These aren’t arcane secrets or carefully constructed science, but rather a dash of good healthy common sense.

Planning!

It might seem like you can just throw a bunch of NES cartridges, Vectrex boxes and CRT tellies into a space and it’ll become a games room, but it only seems that way. A good games room – like any worthy endeavor – benefits from planning.  Start with the furniture you’ve got. Do you have shelves already? Have you worked out how they’ll best fit along the walls? Do you know what’s going to go where? Important questions to be asked, but questions better asked before you kick your child out to sleep on the front lawn while you convert his or her bedroom into a games room.

A games room typically serves two purposes; to play games in, and to display games in. It’s important that you plan around both these concepts. If you’re wanting to play games in your room then make sure you’ve set out a dedicated area for a TV and somewhere to sit (and remember folks, when it comes to retro gaming, TVs are often CRT so set out a fair chunk of dedicated area). The other factor – the displaying of games – is no less important than the playing itself. If you’re super clever and own your own home, you may have built custom shelves for your stuff but most of us will make do with all manner of makeshift bookshelves, stands and all kinds of oddly shaped furniture. If that’s where you’re at, then make sure you can adequately display the types of games and consoles you want to display, where you want to display them.  Play around with stacking things from boxed stuff to the rather more challenging loose cartridges before you commit to filling the whole room. Trust us, it’s easier to re-arrange a few things here or there first, than the dump everything out on the floor and start over.

If you need lessons on organisation and fitting things together we heartily recommend a good bash of Tetris.

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Think inside the box

If Retro games rooms had fashion seasons, then we’d be inclined to say that  cubes – like black – are in, and they’ll always be in.  Finding a good set of cubed shelves can become a centerpiece and focal point of a games room. You can shell out the cash and get a 3 x 3 (or larger) cubed shelf from somewhere like IKEA, or get creative and simply stack up 3 cube mini shelves to form larger cubed structures.  Set up one console per cube, and you’re mixing a recipe for success. If you’re a bit of a handy type, you can even paint the interior of each cube black, drill a few holes, and wire up some individual down-lights – one per cube – for that awesome museum look.  Even if you’re not handy, you’ll often find 2-dollar shops will have packs of battery operated spot lights that simply stick to surfaces. Grab a few of these, stick them to the roof of each cube and you’ll get a great spot light on each of your beloved machines.  The downside there, is the constant battery changing if you’re inclined to leave them on often.

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Go forth, and locate oddities

You’re probably used to hunting for vintage games by hitting up the same markets, car boot sales and trash n’ treasure places you always do. Why? Because those are the places that yield results. It’s a logical plan, but sometimes it pays to visit markets and other places where there are no games as such, but you may find some bits and pieces that enhance your games room. Take this little gem for instance:

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This was picked up at a trash n’ treasure market that yielded not a single vintage game. The contraption appears to be a sunglasses or jewelry display case, but it just so happens to be a perfect fit for Nintendo Game & Watches! As you can see it serves the purpose of showing off these highly collectible retro handhelds admirably. Another pick up located at a Garage Sale that advertised nothing in the way of games, was this fantastic Sonic the Hedgehog sign which was likely a remnant from a games store at some point in the past.

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The point is, expand your horizons. Don’t just focus on the places that are sure fire winners for retro games, branch out and do a little hunting around the place. You just might turn up the perfect thing to compliment your games room.

Conserve space. You’re going to need it. 

You might think you have a lot of space now, but as your compulsion grows and you acquire more retro stuff you may find yourself a little pressed for space. Rather than cramming stuff poorly together, or not displaying things altogether, force yourself to re-assess the situation. Do you have a boxed version of a game on display as well as a loose cartridge? Then store the loose one away! Running out of room to show off all your Megadrive games? Stack them two deep and ensure that your killer titles are in the row that people can see.

Arcade machines are a double-edged sword. 

Having one or more arcade machines in your games room seems like the pinnacle of vintage gaming. They’re gorgeous, fun to play and a status symbol in their own right. Who is destined more for popularity than the gamer who happens to have Tron the arcade machine resting casually against the wall in their games room? The problem is that for all their awesomeness, arcade machines – upright and even more so cocktail – are massive space hogs. Take it from us, once you’ve put one or two machines into an ordinary sized room you may find yourself having to store half your consoles and games under the bed (Noooooo! – Ed). That’s okay if you’re prepared to do it, but before you go purchasing an arcade cab for your room, consider what it’s going to do to the current set up. You have been warned!

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Show off!

Last thing – but surely not least – show your damn games room off! Don’t listen to the cretins and whingers who say that it’s grandstanding to show your games room off. You’re proud of it, it’s your haven (your castle – remember?) so get it out there and show people your pride and joy! No one is saying you should take snaps of yourself rolling up a Terranigma box and smoking it just because you own three copies and you can. That’s just nasty. We’re saying be proud of your collection, and the space you’ve provided for it. Take some pictures, share them with the Retro Domination Facebook group. We want to see!