Why Buy Your Children A Game Console When You Can Build Them One?

[buildxyz] had no opposition to his kids playing video games, but wanted something that offered a bit more parental control, a larger game selection, and was maybe a little more contained than a modern game console.

So, in his multi-part build log, he goes through all the steps of making a Raspberry Pi into a kid friendly wall-mounted game console. The frame is made from Baltic Birch plywood, and the edges look cool when stained. The display is an old HP monitor, and the speakers are simple beige bricks from the thrift store. The controllers hook into a USB hub on the front. It’s not a complicated build, but it’s very well done.

The coolest feature, from the parent’s point of view, is the combination lock on the front. A rotary encoder surrounded by NeoPixels provides the input and feedback. Depending on the code [buildxyz] inputs his children can receive different periods of dopamine hits, and if he enters a special code for occasions like birthdays, unlimited play time becomes available.

We hope he’s prepared to have the only four year olds who can crack safes on the block. The build looks awesome, and there’s not really a commercial product out there to match it. Watch the video.

45 thoughts on “Why Buy Your Children A Game Console When You Can Build Them One?

  1. Well, here’s one reason why: I don’t know if anyone remembers growing up as a nerdy but poor kid who didn’t have the popular game consoles, but 20 years ago it was the source of much taunting in school, and I can only imagine it’s gotten worse.

    So, if you want your kid to be made fun of, sure, make him or her your own bespoke emulation machine, so that way every time a classmate asks for his or her Steam ID, Xbox Live ID, PSN ID, or whatever ID Nintendo uses. Somehow I think this was done more for the parent as a nostalgia trip.

      1. I was that kid with an Atari 2600 when everyone else had an SNES or N64. I lived. I got taunted for plenty of other stuff too, like having glasses, being skinny, being interested in science and reading and programming computers. You know, the usual stuff. I came out just fine.

      2. I have yet to find a kid that hasn’t loved coming over and playing the original Super Mario Bros. on an original NES.

        Games don’t stop being great because they get older.

      3. Take the time to raise your child(ren) with a strong inner compass, and they’ll be much better equipped to both resist the urges triggered by rampant consumerism and to ignore the bullying of their uneducated peers. Sure, some folks might consider such children as “different”, but if those children know that most external opinions are worthless (and how to differentiate them successfully) they’ll have a better chance of staying true and coming into adulthood far ahead of their peers.

        The ability to think critically is the most valuable tool you can equip them with. When they know how to appreciate things for their utility, beauty, and worth, they will possess an outlook unequalled in most all circumstances.

        Worth and value are not accurately measured by cost or branding or marketing.

    1. Damn. Super Mario must trudge up some painful memories for you. No way the’d get picked on for this. So what if all your kid’s classmates are off playing Call of Dude Bros without him/her? Having a retro-futuristic classic game machine in your home that also plays movies is the kind of thing that would help make friends pretty quick.

      (Also, who’s to say they’re poor and couldn’t also own a console that plays Call of Dude Bros?)

      1. I feel like if all your friends are playing a big multiplayer game, and you’re left out if it, you would care. Especially at that age, when what your friends are doing is a huge part of your life. It might lead you to become a bit anti-social

          1. It’s a cheap imitation, at best. We’re doing them a tremendous disservice that will not be able to be completely undone. “Here, kid… learn how to settle for crap… the marketers of the world of your future thank you for your compliance!”

        1. Multiplayer gaming is rarely social, in most cases it’s decidedly singular in a pseudo-grouped environment. Knowing how to actually socialize and how to be social is not a skill derived from video games.

      2. Super Mario does trudge up some memories for me. Like the kludged-together Giana Sisters-based version for the Commodore 64.

        I still remember the day when the principal of my elementary school (3rd grade, late ’90s) called Mom a few days into the start of Summer break. “We’re getting rid of a bunch of equipment and I think Paul might be interested.”

        Still have most of it. The Commodore 1702 monitors see daily use.

      1. I was going to chime in with a ‘depends on the age of the children comment’ (kinda just did) and also ‘retro gaming is now a thing’. If we are talking parental control, though I’ve yet to read the whole article, I’m guessing we’re talking young children and this has got to be better than some of the awful things marketed at that age group.

    2. 25 years ago I was the kid that had all consoles, Sega Genesis, Sega CD, Super Nintendo and Turbo Grafix 16, computer etc. My friends didn’t have anything, so they all hung out at my house playing video games with me and that was the best part. Gave me friends to hang out with more. Course I spent most of my time skateboarding and we mostly played video games when it was raining, snowing or waiting for other dude’s in the crew to show up to go skate.

      Anyhow, what I think I’m alluding to in an era where you don’t see kids roaming the streets in packs as much as I remember we did. Maybe it’s best if they don’t have all the latest and greatest as most kids do these days, maybe it’ll give them excuse to go out and hang out at a friends house to play this stuff. Rather than isolate themselves behind Xbox live as their only outlet to socialize? Sometimes all our connectivity is a savior for those kids who don’t feel they have an outlet, sometimes I think it’s a convenient barrier to hide behind.

      Dunno, I’m thankful to have had the childhood I had. To have had all the gizmos I loved but most thankful to have had the liberty to go play in the street.

      1. The reason you don’t see packs of children roaming the streets (at any age now!) is thanks to the Internet and cell phones. Singularity is already eating our future.

          1. Nah, they’re stuck on their hyper-consoles. You can’t peel the little fucks off. I remember a friend bribing her kid, threatening him (not with violence!), just to make him go outside! “How long do I have to play outside? An hour? Half an hour?”.

          2. Strangely enough there was a girl in our neighborhood that was nearly kidnapped right off the street by a pair of creeps in a car. Nothing changed for any of us kids in the neighborhood, not even the girl that was nearly a victim. Everyone just said “Be careful and don’t talk to strangers, just run away” and we were all outside playing the next day as if nothing happened. Nothing changed, no supervision, no hyper worried Mom patrols, no curfews and we all lived happily ever after.

            The f’ed up part is now someone will call DHR if they see your kid playing unsupervised. That’s the ridiculous part. Your grandparents worked in a steel factory without shoes when they were 12 and a kid today could end up in a foster home for rolling a ball in their driveway alone.

    3. That’s a hell of a statement considering you don’t even know the kids’ age, upbringing, the financial status of their parents, and whether it will be the only gaming system they will ever receive.

    4. When the other kids had Atari, I had a Magnavox Odyssey^2. Mom entered some second chance contest drawing and won two of the consoles so we sold one to buy more game cartridges.

      A neat thing about the O^2 cartridges is if you set them on edge in a circle, with the handle ends pointed to the middle, the tapers and offsets in the handles nest perfectly together. IIRC it takes 12 cartridges for a full ring.

    5. play with your children. be it computer games or whatever. maintain contact with them, true contact. pass on what you learned about how to handle school.
      if your kids have a healthy level of self esteem and social skills, they (you) don’t need to buy what all the other cool kids have.
      we just have old hacked stuff at home (albeit our retro station is not as slick looking as this one here), yet the kids hang out in our place.

      if you don’t have time for your kids though, just buy them the newest, greatest stuff.

    6. I know this is old but I wanted to reply anyway. Kids should be given access to old games as well as new. They still have a nintendo switch or PS4 but they should play old games and it teaches kids to preserve and teaches your kids that failure happens often and regularly. You have to try harder and practice more in retro games (bar souls series). I find my kids try a lot harder and long on retro games than they do on modern games as modern games give them an easy ride. Kids will adapt to whatever you give them but I like them to try doing things that are difficult to get them ready for life as it is the hardest game of all.

  2. What if the kids reprogram the main controller/RPi/ , the limited play time is hacked and I’ll love reading it on hackaday like “[someone ] hacked game console made by their dad for infinite play time”

    1. No need. The Arduino switches the Pi’s power – all the kids have to figure out is a) how to read their dad’s blog b) what a relay looks like c) which are its contact terminals, so they can bridge them…

    2. Kids hacking consoles to get unlimited playtime? Ugh! The world is going to Hell! When I was a kid the thing to do was hack my friend’s parent’s Satellite and Cable receivers so as to reset the parental password back to zeros thus opening up the porn channels.

    1. I don’t get the whole timer thing.
      your kids don’t respect you enough to stop playing when you ask them to, so you have to force them or you are too busy doing something else to keep an eye on them?
      you want them to learn respect for the timer instead of you?
      if you need the timer then there’s no real point in having it because your kids are already ruined?

    1. my SNES game save batteries all died long ago.
      If you want to be completely legit you would follow Nintendo’s advice and not open your cart or replace the battery.
      They would much rather you bought the game again on the wii retro store.

      1. If you haven’t opened it yet the battery might have leaked and corroded your PCB by now anyway. If you do still have your old cartridges you might want to go pull the batteries just in case.

    2. Having all your games on carts really spoils the wallet though.

      Retro-gaming has really started to suck over the past few years because its become ‘hip’. I refuse to pay the prices many retailers are selling games/systems for.

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