How to make your own console!

The phone in your pocket and tablet in your bag are more talented than you think.
How to make your own console!
How to make your own console! © Red Bull
By Damien McFerran

Apple's newly released "Made for iPhone" gamepads don't just let you play games on your iPhone or iPad with a physical controller - they turn your Apple TV into a games console via the magic of AirPlay, so you can play games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on your HDTV once more.

It's not the only clever setup for creating a fully-functional games console using kit you already own though - we look at other tricks, from turning your Android phone into a handheld arcade to upgrading your humble Roku for gaming goodness - as well as some more complicated 'Ben Heck' style mods to create your own custom consoles.

iPhone gaming gets physical

AirPlay © Apple

iOS 7's new look may have displeased some of the more devoted Apple fans out there, but it's one of the most important updates yet when it comes to gaming because it introduces support for physical controllers. This means you can easily turn your iPhone or iPad into a portable gaming system by purchasing one of the many "iOS ready" bolt-on gaming pads, like the Moga Ace Power and Logitech PowerShell.

Support for these pads is thin on the ground at present, but it's still early days yet. The likes of Limbo, Oceanhorn and Call of Duty: Strike Team all take advantage of physical controls, and are enriched dramatically as a result. If you've already invested heavily in iOS gaming then one of these controllers is a sound purchase, as they will make some of the titles you already own even better. As a bonus, Moga and Logitech's offerings also have their internal batteries, allowing you to keep your iPhone sweet during those long gaming sessions on the way to and from work.

That's not all, either - if you're sick of being confined to the small screen, then you can use Apple's AirPlay feature to fling the action to the big screen in the den - but you'll need an Apple TV box in order to do so. Fused with a proper gaming controller, this arrangement effectively creates the iOS gaming system you've always dreamed of.

Turn your Android device into a take-anywhere gaming festival

Moga © Moga

While iOS is only just starting to wake up to the possibilities afforded by physical gamepads, Android has offered support for both wired and Bluetooth pads for quite some time now. Many tablets and phones can be quickly and effortlessly transformed into a capable gaming system by simply grabbing a HDMI cable, Micro USB to USB converter and a wired Xbox 360 controller. You'll also find a wide selection of Bluetooth pads which fuse with your phone to produce a handheld more than capable of giving the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS a run for their money.

The other option - assuming you have deep pockets - is to shell out for the Nvidia Shield, a portable Android games console with gamepad controls and the ability to connect to your television for a faithful home console experience. It's not cheap, but the Tegra 4 chipset packed inside can produce graphics that will make your current-gen console blush - plus, if you have a compatible graphics cards, you can stream PC games directly to the Shield for on-the-couch gaming comfort.

Your Roku is much more than just a video player

Roku © Roku

The rise of video-on-demand has resulted in plenty of Roku boxes appearing beneath TVs all over the world, and while most people are perfectly content to keep their units grounded in the realm of passive entertainment, recent Roku models have embraced interactive pursuits by including a D-pad on the remote control and introducing support for games including Angry Birds, Fieldrunners and Muffin Knight.

The Roku 3 (and some models of the Roku 2) support downloadable games, but you may need to invest in a special gaming remote if you own the older versions. Make sure you check which model you own before getting too excited about that potential treasure trove of gaming goodness sitting below your flatscreen TV.

Create a coin-op from a PC


MAME - otherwise known as Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator - has been around for quite some time, and offers access to decades of coin-op brilliance all from your PC desktop. Given the raw power in most modern PCs - and the way in which MAME has matured in the past few years - it's actually easier than you might think to use the platform to create the ultimate arcade cabinet.

While old-fashioned stand-up cabs could only house a single arcade board, with a MAME-ready PC inside you can potentially have thousands of different games all loaded into the same machine. It's not a venture to be taken lightly; you'll need to invest in the raw materials to construct the cabinet, as well the sticks, buttons and other mechanics. You can actually get away with quite a modest PC inside, and it's a good idea to pick one which doesn't generate too much heat when running.

Transform your Xbox 360 into the ultimate laptop

Xbox 360
Xbox 360 © Ben Heckendorn

Possibly the most famous modification ever performed by the legendary Ben "Ben Heck" Heckendorn, this portable Xbox 360 is so crazy that it really needs to be seen to be believed. Somehow, Heckendorn was able to cram all of console's power-hungry (and often very hot) internals into a slim and mobile chassis, and has since produced other versions which improve on the concept.

Needless to say, this is the very pinnacle of console creation, and shouldn't be attempted unless you're extremely confident in your abilities with a soldering iron. Nevertheless, it's arguably the most impressive creation listed here, and will gain you many admiring - and possibly confused - glances when you use it in public.

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