in Technology

Endless tinkering

I’m too busy messing around with my $30 mini computer to actually enjoy it

It started with an old-school arcade game about some military dudes battling Nazis, called Metal Slug. I was running it on a tiny computer called a Raspberry Pi, through some software called RetroPie, which emulates (or mimics) video game hardware. Essentially, you can play Nintendo games without having a Nintendo, Genesis games without owning a Sega Genesis, and, most relevant to this story, coin-operated arcade games without having giant wooden game cabinets taking up space in your garage.

Naturally, software doesn’t do a perfect job of emulating original game systems. There are a lot of variables – like the fact that the CRT TVs of old have been replaced by HDTVs with HDMI cables. Everything’s more advanced. And TVs are just, well, bigger these days, meaning  you can’t perfectly mimic some arcade games without stretching the image, or losing some of it off the edges of the screen.

In the case of Metal Slug, the top and bottom of the screen were cut off, so I couldn’t see how many lives I had left. This didn’t impede my ability to enjoy the game in any way. But, me being incredibly OCD about the dumbest things, I had to fix it. Cut to me spending nearly two hours Googling the issue, reading message boards, and fiddling with computer configuration files until finally, I emerged victorious.

It was Pyrrhic victory, however, because I was too tired to go back and play the game. This isn’t the first this has happened, either. Last weekend, Kathleen went to a movie by herself because we couldn’t get a sitter at that hour of the night. I spent the entire night cataloging over 800 arcade games and bookmarking the ones I wanted to play. By the time I was finished, Kathleen had arrived back home.

That’s one of the weird ironies of building my own retro gaming console: so much of my time is spent tinkering, tweaking and optimizing that I rarely get a moment to enjoy the games themselves. But I’m loving every minute of it.