Glued to the couch, controller in hand, the average teen morphs into an extra from The Walking Dead for about six hours each week. But that’s okay; there are worse ways to kill time than playing PUBG. Besides, gaming has some positives too: it’s been shown to improve hand-eye coordination, ward off the onset of dementia, and enhance memory and concentration.
It’s not helping anyones waistline, but I digress.
Long story short, there’s nothing wrong with plugging in and tuning out the rest of the world by blasting baddies in Destiny 2. But, as parents, we’re always on the lookout for ways to squeeze in a learning opportunity by utilizing our kids’ hobbies against them — we suck, we really do.
Makerbuino checks all the boxes. This tiny $50 hand-held console is a DIY dream. It features a custom Arduino board and a couple dozen parts — all you need to assemble a sort of Atari-esque gaming experience you can wear around your neck and play on the go.
All told, I spend around six hours putting it together. Once done, you can button mash to your heart’s content with arcade classics like Pong, Tetris, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders. Or, you can connect two Makerbuino’s and game with a friend on certain titles.
Graphics are a bit like classic Atari games, but it’s about the journey, not the destination.
In fact, I had fun building my Makerbuino, perhaps even more than actually playing it. That said, there’s a certain retro appeal that slaps you in the face the second you turn it on — although you’ll be waiting a while on loading screens; get used to it.
The build isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s not overly complicated either. Instructions are clear and concise, and I didn’t really run into any issues, even as someone whose Arduino experience is essentially making a stop light by plugging a few LEDs into a breadboard. That’s a thing, I promise. Don’t @ me.
You will, however, have to fire up a soldering iron, which pushes this firmly into “seek adult help” territory for younger kids.
Once done, you can play any of the included titles, or download more from the Makerbuino website. Not happy with what’s offered? Great, more learning… you can build your own and share it with the community. Or, you can grab a game someone else created play it, modify it, and re-upload it as something entirely different.
For $50, this thing was a lot of fun. It’s not going to be your child’s go-to handheld, but it is what it is: a fun project that engages the mind while learning some new skills.
You can grab yours here.