Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New look for old-school games

Players can go back in time with arcade-style consoles

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It must only be a matter of time until the movie comes out -- Arcade Time Machine.

Not the kind you'd expect to see in a sci-fi movie, but the kind that can transport people in their 30s, 40s and 50s back to the downtown Saratoga arcade or their local 7-Eleven in the 1980s, when all you'd need for a few hours of fun was a pocket full of quarters. (And an insatiable hunger for blue ghosts, the ability to leap rolling barrels hurled at you by a gorilla, and the skill to dodge traffic and hop onto logs and turtles while crossing a fast-moving river.)

Richard Naherny can take you back in time. The 47-year-old has a moonlighting gig building updated versions of old-school arcade terminals.

He was first exposed to video games in the late 1970s when Atari launched its home systems, complete with iconic games such as Pong and Space Invaders.

But he started gravitating toward the arcades and convenience stores because the graphics on the likes of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Frogger on the upright consoles were far superior.

After a prolonged boom, he saw the arcade-game market dry up as the popularity of home video game systems went to the moon and those looking for electronic entertainment increasingly plugged their quarters into video lottery terminals (VLTs).

Then, about 15 years ago, he went in search of one of his favourite games, Kung-Fu Master, and bought the arcade version from the former owners of the Playland arcade at Grand Beach. When he went looking for more, it was suggested to him he could simply buy the parts instead and build them himself.

Thus, Tim and Rick's Custom Arcades & Pinball Sales & Service was born. (His day job is running RIJO & Company Enterprises, a provider of candy machines in Winnipeg and surrounding communities such as Selkirk, Steinbach and Morris.) He builds the video games in a basement workshop along with his stepson, Tim Schaubroeck.

He used to cut the wood for the game's cabinet himself until one of his customers offered to do it for him as part of their own woodwork production runs. Now he builds the internal frames, attaches the cabinetry and installs the games electronics -- which he buys from China, naturally -- and games such as Galaga and 1942 are ready to take new owners back in time.

But to appease many of his customers -- not to mention their wives -- he doesn't recreate the large cabinets the old-school games came in. With a smaller but higher definition screen, he builds pieces of furniture that blend into a room -- they just happen to light up and make all kinds of weird noises and beeps the ottoman doesn't.

So, what do they cost? Naherny charges $1,299 for a standard upright console, including a 17-inch screen, 60 old-school games, one central joystick and buttons for both left-handed and right-handed players. If you want the 138-game version where two players can duel at the same time, you're looking at $1,799. You can also have your game customized with fire buttons and joy sticks that light up.

By comparison, you can buy the full-size upright video game console -- which is heavier and harder to take up or down stairs -- with 130 games from a variety of online providers for $4,000 or so plus delivery.

(Naherny also offers lifetime tech support over the phone but you'll have to pay for a service call.)

He said while young gamers love to play primarily violent games on their home systems, their parents are increasingly interested in nostalgia.

"If they played a game when they were 14 years old at the arcade, now they're looking to get that game (in their home)," he said.

"Most of these games are very simple. You can play them with your four or five-year-old kid. Older kids enjoy them, too. The fascination never wears off. Pac-Man is one of the games that people look for the most."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2013 B5

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