Arcade Cabinet Maintenance

Hey guys. I am going to be applying for a job at my local arcade, it is at a nearby mall where they are seeking Game Floor Technicians and the one there already is bad enough. Half of the machines do not respond correctly, buttons are delayed and need replacement, guns and steering wheels are not calibrated while other cabinets overheat due to dust build up.

Me and my girlfriend were playing Tekken 6 on a cabinet and one of the balls on the stick were missing, so this “Technician” roams around the top floor with a yellow replacement ball while looking for a red one to match the cabinet. Only to then super glue the threads so when he screws in the yellow ball to the stick when there was clearly a red one down stairs at the 4 way Pacman game where he could of easily exchanged it… -.-…

My only experience with an arcade cabinet is changing the buttons on my Street Fighter IV Fight Stick to Sanwa. :stuck_out_tongue:

I have a technical background in electronics and would love to have some pointers on how to get a job as a Technician on where I should seek practice or even tutorials?

I think that, given an electronic background, knowing how an Arcade stick works, and doing some mods on them would never hurt, but given the time that may take versus applying for a job… yeah. I’d try reading through the info thread, and try to brush up on how to work with arcade sticks. One of the biggest things would be troubleshooting. If a direction or button goes dead, what do you try to do to fix it? Try disconnecting the button, touching the signals together of the quick disconnects. Does that work reliably? No? Move onto the JAMMA harness and see if you can get a ground to connect to the signal and get it working, etc. etc.

I guess if cabinets are involved, try to familarize yourself with JAMMA harnesses. Also, how buttons/joystick directions work, as the coin operated part works as a “button” triggered by a coin. The newer electronic ones work the same way, by connecting a ground to a signal wire, but they’re connected to a server to track the amount of money a person has, and to deduct that amount in turn for a token. Not to toot my own horn, but perhaps chapter 1 of Dual modding 101 will help you out.

I do agree that it probably was a bad call to super glue the balltop on, but he might not have taken the red one because it may have been an older joystick, and classic 4-way leaf switch balltops are just… different. Not the standard size, and usually can’t really take them off.

Though, you will often have to do much more than arcade work, which is where having a good background in electronics helps. If you can solder, that’s always a huge plus. Sometimes components need replaced (such as the notorious “suicide battery” in CPS cabinets, as well as capacitors and whatnot). Actually, to me, personally, that should be a skill required by all arcade techs. Not just because it’s a good skill to have, but it also signifies some knowledge in electronics, to say the least.

Pretty much, you just gotta know a little bit of everything, and there will be times to work with motors and chains and stuff (e.g. Coin Pushers), and that mechanical failure causes as many problems as electrical failure, and you’ve gotta know how to troubleshoot and fix problems. When you consider the majority of things breaking down into buttons, and knowing how a button works, again, can be helpful. But, electronic experience is always a big plus.

Oh my how helpful. Thank you very much. I will consider the guide. :slight_smile:

And I will go to Japan Arcade in a couple of weeks, even to some of my local ones and poke around to see what is up with JAMMA harnesses. Having a background in electronics is fine. Also all the machines in the arcade I am applying for is a swipe and play (Credit Based on a Card) are maintained by poorly, so I highly doubt I would have to replace any major part or solder. Sadly it is all buttons and calibration issues.

So I will try to get a general knowledge on maintenance on how to troubleshoot basic issues and replacement of all part.

Oh yeah and the ball top, they were all the same, identical and bought in bulk. Dx

Thank you again. ^~^

You say you have a technical background in electronics; how much practical does this include? I know plenty of people in their fourth year of EE that haven’t got a clue how to read a multimeter, and they’d be horrible tech’s. Familiarity with parts, cabinet types, etc. would likely be useful and impressive during an interview, potentially, but beyond that just some common sense RE: electronics. Also, a lot of the lingo and terminology (know what a restrictor plate does, how to differentiate a 2/4/8 way stick, what terms like “throw” and “engage” refer to when talking about a stick, what different gates are appropriate for different games, etc.)

As for the current one… firstly, it’s not a great idea to pre-judge potential future co-workers; secondly, there’s a number of reasons that he could have justifiably been taking that action. Could be that the Pac-Man machine doesn’t have the appropriate size of balltop, or the wrong thread size, etc. It’s possible that the guy’s working under-funded; especially with lightgun games, etc., replacement hardware can get expensive… and we’re not exactly living in the Arcade Age. If a machine isn’t pulling in enough money to justify sprucing it up, it’s not worth it for the operator to make that investment (unless they want to position themselves as an operator who really cares about the games).

Also, make a list of things you’ve noticed. Specific things, in detail, with the symptoms you recognized. Do the research on exactly what could be the case (“Is that wheel out of calibration, is it loose hardware, or is it a bad encoder that needs to be replaced entirely?”) with each one (if a button’s response is latent, but consistent, then it’s probably not the button at fault – a switch is unlikely to cause latency, but maybe it’s a fault control interface?), and have that in your mind when you go in for your interview. Don’t try to show off, and don’t even bring it up (you might just look like you’re complaining) – but if the interviewer asks “What would you do to improve the arcade?”, suddenly you get to say “I noticed X needs to be diagnosed (and here’s how I would do so); also, the Y machine gets a lot of play but the coin receptacle seems flaky and spits out valid currency a lot…” and look good. Don’t go on for too long; keep it succinct, try to stay away from “I’d replace all these parts because they’re broken” outright (because that’s basically saying “I want to spend a lot of money”), but be ready with legit comments that showcase your knowledge and attentiveness. That’ll impress, and hopefully show that you know your shit, and almost more importantly, the arcade itself.

I dunno, those are just my 2c.

Take note I am just typing of the top of my head and it is 3 am. Gummy worms are yummy.
But thank you for the advice, I am just trying to sum it up. Alsooo I know the arcade itself I have been going there once a month for the past… hum… like 8 year or so? I have seen games been newly installed and now are just mehhh… in the dust.

For the record… The ball tops come unscrewed so easily, which can be fixed by (???), but the first player ball top for the Tekken 6 cabinet was loose so we took it off, went downstairs and fitted it on the Pacman, vice versa… it worked. Dx

I understand your message, get to know your shit in depth. :3


This sounds like a cool as hell job. I’d love the experience. Would you earn anything decent?

Classically, securing balltops is done by tightening from the bottom and top simultaneously – this means getting inside the machine, and the bottom of the shaft will be slotted for a flathead screwdriver (or some other tool). In some cabinets it can be a real pain to get on either side (you have to hold one in place while you tighten the other, obviously), to the point that it’s almost a two-person job, or you have to take off the control panel entirely. Usually you can get it pretty tight so the balltops don’t come off, though; do you know what kind of sticks they are?

Jamma harness knowledge isn’t that difficult to learn. I feel that for you to even be considered a true arcade tech would be to be able to diagnose issues with monitors and fixing them. Once you learn that then the rest comes naturally.

I worked at an arcade for a while not as a tech but alongside some techs, and I think it’s a crap-shoot regarding what sort of technical skill they’re looking for. The guy who interviewed me saw that I’d built superguns, fixed up cabs, and modded sticks on my resume (lol it was a weird resume) but said they couldn’t hire me outright as a tech since it’s not an entry-level job.

The techs there were not too bright. That or they just didn’t care (too much job security?). They spent 90% of the time in their little office texting people. Half of our stuff was broken and I told them either how to fix them or what would likely fix them, they didn’t want to do it, and said I wasn’t allowed to fix them since I wasn’t a tech. Stuff like, a SVC Chaos in a Showcase cabinet with Happ Super 8-ways in them, with the restrictor set to 4 way mode, with neither side’s buttons being in sensible order (neither AB/CD nor AC/BD, and both were in different orders), I told them it would take removing the e-clip and flipping the restrictors to get the sticks into 8-way mode, and for the buttons you could either rearrange the QDs or the switches themselves if they were soldered, but they didn’t want me to do it, nor did they want to themselves. We also had a side by side Initial D v3 machine (one with a monitor with a missing green channel, probably a loose wire, bad cap, or bad transistor in the path), with the network cable missing between the NAOMIs (so no 2P mode at all), they wouldn’t let me run a cable between them.

The one time I saw one of the techs fixing a cab he was on the phone with some higher-up tech asking extremely basic wiring questions, it made me wonder how he got that job.

Anyway, the electrical side of arcade wiring is really simple til you get to monitor stuff (then you deal with fun analog and high voltage issues!). You have a JAMMA harness which carries the wiring from the switches (either all of them or most of them) into the PCB, carries the video signal from the PCB into the monitor, carries the sound signal from the PCB into an amp or directly into speakers, and carries power from the power supply into the PCB. It’s just a nifty way to handle most I/O stuff for a PCB. Wiring depends on your cabinet’s origin. It could be horrible hacky messy wiring from some underpaid tech 20 years ago cramming the latest 90s shovelware arcade title into a non-JAMMA machine, or it could have super-clean factory wiring (Sega is godlike at this). When you can’t figure out what’s what just get out your multimeter and start probing til you have continuity (never assume that wire colors are the same from point A to point B).

Basic skills you’d want are soldering, crimping (QDs and possibly molex connectors), ability to use a multimeter (basically just continuity checking and voltage (maybe amperage) reading), possibly the ability to follow a simple circuit diagram or general block diagram, and create your own (they help in troubleshooting). Oh, and being able to clean things. The techs were responsible for wiping every surface of every cab down every time we closed.

This is all pretty general stuff, I’d be glad to elaborate later if this raises any questions.