CLAREMONT — The Golden Age of video arcades may be over, but at Doghouse Arcades, a fledgling business in Claremont, pinball and home arcade enthusiasts James St. Martin and Bryan Phaneuf are helping to resurrect the experience of “coin-up” games in the convenience of one’s own home.
Doghouse Arcades, which officially launched last November following months of planning, is a small business specializing in home arcade and virtual pinball cabinets and machines, part of a growing hobby to recreate the experience of stand-up arcade gaming through a fusion of retro and modern technologies.
Virtual pinball is a computer-generated version in which the playing field and action is contained to a computer monitor. The machine utilizes a combination of computer simulation, stereo sound and electrical contactors to imitate the full sensory experience of playing pinball, even for the touch-sensitivity of the flipper buttons.
St. Martin, 36, said he started the business as an homage to preserve and share the enjoyment of pinball with others.
“There are generations now who have maybe heard the word but have never gotten their hands on a pinball machine,” St. Martin told The Eagle Times. “This is a good, safe system they would be able to experience that with.”
Doghouse Arcades is also an homage to St. Martin’s father, a passionate pinball aficionado who passed away from cancer, according to St. Martin. The business’s name is a nod to his father and a tendency to undertake ambitious projects and end up “in the doghouse.”
Home arcade machines are similar in concept to a gaming console or computer, only the console, monitor, sound and sensory system are wired into a stand-up cabinet. Their hard drive can store hundreds of games and modern built-in emulators can simulate virtually any video or pinball game ever made.
“It’s a more economical way to play several [pinball] tables without having a huge dedicated room,” St. Martin said. “On one system you could have a thousand-plus tables to choose from.”
Many of the hobbyists are, like St. Martin and Phaneuf, similarly drawn to the DIY culture of building and customizing one’s own systems.
Doghouse Arcades aims to serve a range of needs, from the sale of Thunderclaps, home-assembly cabinet kits, custom orders to fully-wired and assembled units.
St. Martin and Phaneuf are seeing “a tidal wave” of business in just a few months of operation.
“We’ve been getting booked very quickly with a lot of client orders,” St. Martin said. “But the more we get the more we get to be in production.”
The team has received orders for five virtual pinball builds, one arcade build and a number of the home-assembly kits. The store has also sold at least 150-200 of the Thunderclaps, contactor solenoids responsible for "kthunk" sounds that St. Martin helped to bring back to the market.
Additionally, St. Martin and Phaneuf were recently announced as the Artists in Residence for March and April at the Claremont MakerSpace, located at 46 Main St., which will allow them to showcase their talent and versatility in the MakerSpace through a live project build.
“James and Bryan bring a fun and entertaining project to The Claremont MakerSpace through
their home arcade business,” said Brendan Dangelo, director of education and workforce development at the MakerSpace. “As many of us have been spending so much more time at home over the past year, we can attest to the need for new ways to keep occupied. What better way than having your very own pinball or arcade set up?”
During their residency St. Martin and Phaneuf plan to build a collapsible and customizable skee ball table that can be disassembled when not in use and accommodate a variety of game modes, interfaces and options. The project will be documented with video and provide step-by-step instructions for people to build their own skee ball table.
“Since we got this opportunity through the Artist in Residence program, our goal is to pay it forward,” St. Martin said. “We are going to have all the schematics and instructions so that people can build it on their own. We will offer them right online.”
Each Artist In Residence receives $800 towards the creation of new work at the
MakerSpace, two months of Unlimited CMS Membership, a dedicated studio space and training to use new tools. Once completed, the project will be on display at The Claremont MakerSpace and will be available to be viewed by the public, by appointment.
The MakerSpace and its Artist In Residence Program are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts with the aim to empower New Hampshire and Vermont based artists with tools, training and space to create compelling new work, according to Dangelo.
For more information about the Claremont MakerSpace, including application information for the next Artist In Residence Program and their upcoming open house schedule, please visit claremontmakerspace.org.
To contact or learn more about Doghouse Arcades visit their Facebook page or their website at www.doghousearcades.com.