Pocket Pixels: Talking With The Creator Of The World’s Smallest Arcade Cabinet

by Ben Reeves on Oct 17, 2013 at 08:45 AM

Mark Slevinsky didn’t set out to create the world’s smallest arcade cabinet. But after tinkering with microcontrollers, a weekend hack quickly turned into a gaming novelty. Slevinsky now holds the Guinness world record for creating the smallest fully functional arcade cabinet. (But they’ll pretty much give world records to any idiots these days.) We chatted with Slevinsky about the creation of the Markade and how it ended up in the record books.

Do you do a lot of hacking? I saw the mini-Markade, but what do you do most of the time?
I do a lot of retro gaming hacks. I restored a Tron cabinet about six or seven years ago. I built an arcade machine in a box, so like a PC with emulators that plugs into a TV. The joystick box has all of the hardware components in it. I've designed a joystick adapter to let me use my wireless PS2 joysticks on my old NES. So I do a lot of gadgety, hardware hacks mostly related to classic gaming.

Do you have one that’s been your favorite?
The Markade was definitely the favorite. It was something that was the most unique and something that people obviously hadn’t seen before, something that small. It was one that definitely impressed my friends the most. Definitely was the “conversation piece.”

Where did you get the idea for it?
I got the idea after I had written this little operating system for this 8-bit microcontroller. And I just wanted to have a project that I could use that operating system with. So I came up with the idea to write some games and port it to that little microcontroller. Then I thought, “might as well get a little display.” Once I saw it working, I thought I’d build a little cabinet for it. So it just came together. I didn’t really have the goal in mind to build the world’s smallest arcade machine when I did it. It just evolved that way as I was taking a look at the pieces.

What does it play?
I wrote three games: clones of Tetris, Space Invaders, and Breakout.

And the system made it into the Guinness World Records?
Yeah. I actually submitted the record in 2009. There’s this online form that you can register with on their site, and you can fill in details about your record. I’d gotten an automated response – or I thought it was an automated response – a couple weeks later saying that they had received it and thanks, but nothing else. Then just this last summer – so a full three years after submitting it – I actually got a response from somebody with Guinness saying that they were looking for new record categories for their 2013 Gamer’s Edition book. A couple weeks later they sent a photo crew out, and the record made it into the book, which came out in January.

Do you have any other dream projects – any other world records you want to break?
At the moment I don’t really have any kind of aspirations for further record breaking, but you never know. I’m always looking for the next project, put it that way.

For more about professional hackers, check out our interview with Ben Heck.