Looking for advice on a kid/tamper proof retro gaming experience
from hactar42@lemmy.world to retrogaming@lemmy.world on 08 Jan 2024 13:13

I’m looking for some advice on setting up a retro gaming system for my son. He absolutely loves the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and some Atari classics like Frogger. The problem I have is he is autistic, which leads to two very different issues to solve. First is he loves to tinker with things. Which I don’t mind, and actively encourage in kids because that’s how you learn. However, when he breaks something, it can cause full blown meltdowns. Like you would think the end of the world is coming level meltdowns. Therefore, things like the Nintendo Switch are great because there is not much he can do in the settings. Especially, with the built-in parent controls. However, when I’ve tried setting him up with a laptop with Retro Arch, he will jack with the settings and break it in a matter of minutes.

I’d like to figure out something I can plug into a TV that will allow him to play retro games, preferably with a wireless controller (because I’ll be damned if I can get him to sit still why playing Sonic). The best solution I’ve used in the past was a Nvidia Shield TV running Arch Browser. He still managed to factory reset once, but outside of that it worked well. However, the fact that it is a full streaming/media system is overkill for what I’m looking for. Plus, I really don’t like the direction it has been heading with the built-in ads and other Google crap.

I looked into the Sega Genesis mini, but they are selling for more than a Shield TV and have wired controllers. I have an Atari flashback, but it is crap with it’s IR controllers. Whoever though of that obviously has never tried to get a child to maintain line of sight while playing a game.

So, I’m wondering if anyone has any suggestion for hardware/software that will allow for the playing of retro games on a TV, but also have a way of either preventing tampering with settings, making it more difficult to get to the settings, or even something that can be reset and configured with a few clicks. I’d love to be able to tell him, look if you mess it up just reboot and it will reset.


friend_of_satan@lemmy.world on 08 Jan 2024 13:29 next collapse

Maybe instead of preventing him from tinkering and breaking it, set up a safety net so he can tinker without fear. For instance you could configure the device with config management that will reset the system back to a usable state, or put it all on a filesystem like zfs that has snapshots, or create an image of the system and reimage it when it breaks.

Open Emu might be another good option. Also, there must be a wasm emulator system around somewhere that runs entirely in-browser.

GustavoM@lemmy.world on 08 Jan 2024 14:21 next collapse

Thats a smart take. “There ain’t no better teacher than experience.”

pastermil@sh.itjust.works on 08 Jan 2024 14:39 next collapse

This! Absolutely!

I was a kid at some point, and I know what its like to be restricted by my parents, only for me to improve on defying those restrictions instead of complying.

hactar42@lemmy.world on 08 Jan 2024 17:38 collapse

I’m all for letting him tinker. With Retro Arc I was able to export the configuration and import it back in when had messed it up. However, it has other issues many around the controller, that would cause issues on reimport. He would get too frustrated with it. I’ll definitely check out Open Emu and see if that has a better experience. Thanks!

friend_of_satan@lemmy.world on 08 Jan 2024 18:36 collapse

Maybe a dedicated handheld like an Anbernic would be good? You could keep an sd image, and the hardware can’t change. Also JELOS has backup features built in so he wouldn’t lose his save games when reimaging.

Dran_Arcana@lemmy.world on 08 Jan 2024 13:31 next collapse

In most modern Linux distributions, you could preconfigure retroarch and whatever else first, then set the filesystem to read-only, while mounting an overlay filesystem on top that is discarded at reboot.

The idea would be no matter how hard he breaks it, he shouldn’t have Root’s password and therefore cannot disable overlayfs

Look for the overlayroot package in whatever Linux distro you’re most comfortable with.

MajorHavoc@programming.dev on 08 Jan 2024 14:48 next collapse

That’s a great point.

Tos possibly save OP a few steps, batocera.org is a RetroPie fork that mounts the OS read-only by default. So the kid could still tinker with some lighter settings that save back to a different file system share, but any unrecoverable settings changes are prevented.

hactar42@lemmy.world on 08 Jan 2024 17:49 collapse

I wasn’t aware you could do that. I obviously, didn’t give him root access, but I also didn’t lock it down enough to prevent him from still breaking it. This sounds like a good quick solution.

tacosanonymous@lemm.ee on 08 Jan 2024 13:47 next collapse

Get one of those locked boxes like Target or video game rental places had.

Omegabossman@lemmy.world on 08 Jan 2024 13:51 next collapse

Maybe look into setting up a retro pi. If you get the correct hardware you can use a wireless controller. I’m not sure about the settings that could be messed with, so you’ll have to look into that, but otherwise it might be a good solution.

simple@lemm.ee on 08 Jan 2024 14:09 next collapse

Hmm, that’s tough. Usually I’d recommend Ludo which is a minimalist version of retroarch that doesn’t let you mess around much, but even then it’s not hard to ruin the visuals or turn off sound from the app settings.

Maybe a combination of Ludo and locking the settings file like someone else suggested might work. This page and this page in the documentation tell you where settings files are stored.

MajorHavoc@programming.dev on 08 Jan 2024 14:44 next collapse

There’s setting(s) in EmulationStation (in RetroPie) that can make it kid friendly.


That said, batocera.org is a fork of RetroPie with a lot of sensible presets to make it quite a bit harder to break.

If you don’t mind jailbreaking, the Playstation Classic appears to be going for about $100.00, and I understand it can run Genesis and SNES emulator a as well once jailbroken.

Another great option to consider is the Evercade VS: theverge.com/…/evercade-vs-retro-console-review

And the HyperMegaTech Pocket - which does a terrible job advertising that - it plays the same cartridges as the Evercade VS. www.hypermegatech.com

Evercade has a simple interface, and is easy to factory reset: evercade.co.uk/support-vs/

Evercade has a good mix of recognized retro (and new retro-style Indie) games available from Taito, Data East, Atari, Epyx, Team 17, and some real hidden gems from Gaelco, Jaleco, MegaCat, Toaplan, IREM, Piko, etc.

Evercade carts are about $20+shipping, and come with anywhere from 1 (new Indie game) to 20 games (Atari 2600) on each cart. More typically around 7 games per cart. About 14 news carts were released last year, and there’s a bit more than 500 supported games so far. evercade.co.uk/cartridges/

Source: I’m a minor contributor to the RetroPie ecosystem and a huge Evercade fan.

hactar42@lemmy.world on 08 Jan 2024 17:47 collapse

The Evercade look really cool, and his birthday is coming up, so it is tempting. Does it allow you to add custom roms or create your own carts?

MajorHavoc@programming.dev on 08 Jan 2024 22:35 collapse

An adapter cart exists for playing games off an SD card. I don’t have any personal experience with it. I think I read somewhere that it requires a jailbreak?


guyrocket@kbin.social on 08 Jan 2024 15:04 next collapse

A few ideas:



I have a few of the Flashbacks and an Atari gamestation pro. These might meet your needs.

ETA: Sorry, I'm kind of rushing this morning and didn't read your entire post. Some Flashbacks do use wired controllers. I picked up a couple at a thrift store for cheap. I've only used my gamestation pro on a table which makes the line of sight thing pretty easy (for me).

WhoDestroysTheGond@lemmy.ca on 08 Jan 2024 19:27 next collapse

This doesn’t answer your question, but thank you for the love and patience you have for your son.

hactar42@lemmy.world on 09 Jan 2024 01:15 collapse

Thanks for that, I sincerely appreciate it. It can get frustrating at times, but I try to think of it as more of a challenge.

the_d0c_is_in@lemmy.ml on 08 Jan 2024 19:56 next collapse

what about a docker image to spin everything up? that way you could just restart (which would load up the default configs)

blusterydayve26@midwest.social on 09 Jan 2024 01:08 next collapse

The Pyra Handheld - Just buy a few extra SD cards and swap out the SD card with a working one after he breaks it.

Edit: Never mind, it’s still under development, I thought it had been released.

nemanin@lemmy.world on 09 Jan 2024 05:03 next collapse

I just got an R36S for ~$36 shipped from Alibaba. It’s awesome out of the box, but you can tweak. It’s incredible what it can do at that price.

To son proof it, just grab an image of the SD card before he starts mucking with it. Easy to flash back to a known-good starting point.

You can even back up his customized version when he has it mostly working before he mucks it up again.

verycoolusername@lemm.ee on 09 Jan 2024 14:46 collapse

If I may add a different suggestion: have you considered hacking one of the old consoles that you have/can buy used to enable retro gaming? A used Wii or Wii U for instance have great wireless controllers available, especially used Wiis without the games and accessories are dirt cheap. The process is very simple, just do a quick google. Basically, hack an old console, load the ROMs you have, get an appropriate wireless controller (8bitdo makes A LOT of compatible wireless gamepads), and you’re good to go.

Here is an example, for the Wii U, though the Wii is probably even easier (but SD)


You could also get the games using the virtual console offerings for the Switch if you don’t want to mess with ROMs. I know the switch has that adapter thing that holds the nunchucks in a ‘classic controller’ gamepad form. Even very old consoles sometimes have great retro gaming or homebrew options, the classic Xbox to name one example.

All in all I think this would be the fastest and maybe even cheapest option.

Also, kudos for nurturing the love of video games in your son.