Newfoundland arcade guy levels up

Local software developer is bringing gamers back to their glory days.

Adam Pike

Kicker

Matthew Drover has built a reputation for the workmanship of his custom arcade machines.  Drover builds and restores iconic arcade games in his CBS workshop. Submitted photo.

The golden years of the arcade have come and gone, but local arcade game enthusiast Matthew Drover is helping gamers connect with their past.
Better known by his alias, “The Newfoundland Arcade Guy,” Drover builds and repairs custom arcade games from scratch. Using a variety of skills like programming and woodworking, he creates modern technology with an old school look.

Drover is no amateur. He first started restoring arcade machines 10 years ago when he came across a run-down Killer Instinct arcade cabinet.

“It didn’t work, everything was broken,” said Drover. “I had to gut it out and put in a small computer, but it was great. It all started from there.”
Designing a custom cabinet is very time consuming, limiting Drover to work on a maximum of three orders at once. The average game costs $1,500.

“It takes a couple of months. Generally, it starts with a deposit and then I’ll order a bunch of parts,” he said. “Then it’s a month of back and forth with my designer who makes the graphics, as well as keeping in touch with the client.”

Drover hits his stride after the design phase.

“When it comes time to build, I can physically assemble a cabinet in an hour,” he said. “It used to take weeks, but as time went on I started using templates. Now I use a CNC machine, so I get a flawless design every time.”

Matthew Drover is a software developer at Memorial University where he writes applications and websites used for teaching. In his spare time, he makes arcade games. Adam Pike/Kicker

For as long as Drover can remember, video games have always been a part of his life.

“I grew up in the 80’s,” he said. “You either played Atari at home or went to the arcade.”

It was a different era for video gaming.

The cost of a play was cheap – only 25 cents – and lines were non-existent. New players would call dibs on the next game by laying their quarter on the screen.

Drover says that many of his clients are age 30 plus, looking to recapture nostalgic childhood memories from the arcade. He believes the games of the past offer a different playstyle than what’s available today.

“It’s a more simplistic style of gaming,” he said. “Any modern game now is highly complicated. There is so many options, so many buttons. There is too much to do.”

Even some millennials agree with Drover.

Colin Westcott is your average gamer. Playing modern video games on consoles and computer, he has high expectations for both gameplay and graphics.

“It just screams being a kid again,” said Westcott. “There are some games that people can’t beat. It’s a challenge, and a lot of fun.”

Westcott shares Drover’s thoughts about modern games being overcomplicated.
“My favourite thing has to be how simple the design of old games can be,” he said. “Most games now look too realistic.”

As for Drover, he’ll leave the gaming to the hardcore players.

“I really just like the building,” he said. “I’m a terrible gamer. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a game.”

2 Comments

  1. Awesome read. I’ve built a few games for my personal use, but not at this level of precision. I know some people who liked playing games in the arcade years ago, but there are few people around who has this ingrained in them as a passion. Obviously, you’re one of them. It would be a dream if arcades could make a comeback. Good stuff. Maybe I can make a visit when I travel to St. John’s!! :o)

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