ArcadeNow: Connecting Commuters Through Retro Gaming

What happens when you mix one beloved retro game, a team of talented developers, and an office view of Portland, Oregon’s busiest bridge?

We wanted to know too.

That’s why we built ArcadeNow, an interactive gaming system that allows anyone to play on their smartphone. ArcadeNow is a social experiment to understand how nostalgia and gaming can bring joy to mundane daily tasks like walking by our office window during a daily commute.

Using Technology to Build a Bridge, Not a Wall

From our floor-to-ceiling office windows overlooking Portland’s iconic Burnside Bridge, we’ve seen thousands of ecofriendly commuters walk, cycle, and skate by. One day, as we waved to yet another friendly window tapper from our desks, we realized that people loved interacting with us while we were hard at work. We decided to build a fun experience for folks who want to stop by our window on their way across the river.

ArcadeNow encourages people to step outside of their daily routine to experience a few minutes of joy by playing a retro game like Pokémon. By sharing this experience via our office windows, we get to see people enjoying our work. It’s like real-time user experience research.

Pokemon character with controller

Real-Time Open Source Interaction Framework

All you have to do is navigate to on your mobile device and voilà! Your phone now becomes the game controller. Arcade utilizes Python, websockets, a python server, and an emulator that turns screen taps on a mobile web game controller into button presses that power your character as they travel through the world of Pokémon.

Here’s How It Works:


We use Flask-SocketIO, a python library for websockets, to transfer the high-speed button presses into the system.


A python server hosts the game controller mobile site. When a user taps a controller button on their phone, the controller site sends a websocket event to the server.


xdotool for Linux allows python to pass these button-press events to Linux, which we use to simulate a key press.


The game emulator accepts key-presses and moves the player’s character around within the game.

How to Play

We wanted a way to connect with the people that walk by everyday. It didn’t take long for us to mash up some new tech and retro gaming that would provide an engaging interaction.

− James Rich, Lead Developer

ArcadeNow will be featured in our window for the rest of summer 2015. We’ll be releasing the results of our experiment this fall.

Special Thanks

Controller design and code based from work by Adam Campbell and Max Koehler.


All Pokémon content including articles, artwork, screenshots, graphics, logos, digital downloads and other files, is the property of Nintendo of America Inc. and is protected by United States and international copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws.

ArcadeNow, a product of DevelopmentNow, was inspired by Twitch Plays Pokémon, and is not affiliated with Nintendo of America Inc. or any of its subsidiaries.