Hand-crank Arcade Machine

I've been musing over the concept of a hand-crank powered arcade machine.

The idea is to use low powered devices that would be powered by a rotary generator either by a person spinning the hand-crank, or by pedaling in a bicycle style power generator.



There's a few motivators for this project: portability, energy as a game design resource, and awareness.


By making the device self-contained for power generation, the arcade machine becomes somewhat portable. You could cart the machine if designed appropriately through the streets of the city, where pedestrians can casually drop in and play, perhaps part of a public game event such as run by Hovergarden.

There is a new role perhaps somewhere in between being a spectator and being a player, by contributing to the game with power generation. This can contribute to the spectacle as a public performance of power generation for gameplay and possibly foster new social interactions or relationships through social dependence.

Energy as Game Mechanic

Moving the power generation one step further, from simply powering the games at play, the next step would be to measure the power output as a design resource in games. This could manifest as simply as in a game where players compete on how much power they can generator, perhaps by filling up a water balloon. Alternatively, this could become part of a more complex game where players have to juggle power generation with coordinating normal controls. Too much power generation could also be considered.

Energy Use Awareness

The immediacy of the power generation will make the concept of energy more apparent. The source of the energy is juxtaposed with players and spectators and furthermore they are required to engage with power generation using physical exertion.  This contributes a sort of slow design aesthetic about engaging in the local production and consumption the electricity used in digital play.


An idea for implementing this arcade machine would be to cut out a screen space on a small table for a screen. The hand-crank would be added on top, along with conventional arcade controls. To keep the power profile to a minimum, an Android tablet might be a suitable all-in-one solution, along with a breakout board or Arduino chip for the controllers. The biggest concern would be the boot-up time. Alternatively for a super simple and low-powered game, simply an Arduino could suffice as a proof of concept.