The Internet Arcade

What is the Internet Arcade?
The Internet Arcade is a collection of emulated arcade games from the 1970s-1990s that can be played in your browser. It is located here. There are similar collections of playable console games (the Console Living Room) and general computer software (the Software Library).

How is it Playing Arcade Games in my Browser?
The Internet Arcade uses a program called JSMESS, which is a Javascript port of the MESS and MAME emulator projects. MESS/MAME have been developed over nearly 20 years and are able to emulate hundreds of computer systems and thousands of console and arcade games. A volunteer group has been able to convert MESS/MAME into pure Javascript and make it run in most modern browsers.

What Plugins are Needed?
There are no plugins needed to run the Internet Arcade. It uses 100% Javascript (not to be confused with Java), which is a scripting module inside all modern browsers that has great flexibility for running code, playing sound and video, and doing everything necessary to provide an arcade game in a window. Ironically, if the system is not working for you, a plugin may be preventing it: there are a number of plugins, such as NoScript, which automatically turn off Javascript processing for a site and require you to turn it back to run. If that is the case, the Arcade will not function – please enable Javascript on to run the Arcade.

How do I Play a Game on the Arcade?
In each entry for a game on the Arcade, you are taken to a page with a description of the game, and a screenshot in the right-hand corner of the gameplay. A line underneath the screenshot says “Run an in-browser emulation of the program”. You can click on the screenshot or the word “Run” to go to the Player page. On the Player page, you are shown a box and underneath it controls for Fullscreen, Mute/Unmute, Dark Background, and possibly others. Inside the box, there should be a MAME or MESS logo. Clicking inside this box, or hitting the spacebar, should start a disk icon spinning and the program will load. When the program is finished loading, the disk icon will stop spinning and the box will expand out to the resolution of the given program. At this point, the arcade machine will begin running. If you do not see the MESS/MAME logo, the program will not start. See other FAQ questions for possible solutions to this problem.

I Don’t See Anything in the Box.
If you do not see a MAME/MESS logo in the box above the “Fullscreen, Dark Background, Mute” buttons on the player page, then JSMESS is not running in your browser for some reason. Some possible reasons to investigate:

Are you running a script blocker like NoScript, that blocks Javascript?
Does your browser have Javascript disabled?
JSMESS can take a few seconds to load – wait 30 seconds to see if the logo appears.
JSMESS generally runs in Firefox, Chrome, Opera, IE and Safari. Are you running a different browser than these?
Is your browser a recent version? JSMESS prefers browsers from the last few months (although it should run, albeit poorly, in earlier versions).
Are you low on memory? Disk space?
If none of these seem to apply, contact us with your setup and situation as you see it.
I Don’t Hear Any Sound.

For reasons that we will explain, sound is muted by default on JSMESS. To enable sound, you (currently) need to start a program (i.e., click on the logo), wait for the arcade machine to start, and then hit the “Unmute” button at the bottom of the running game. This will set a cookie for “Unmute” and after you hit Refresh (F5) on your browser, all later games will have sound. We are aware this is clunky, and intend to rewrite our Player to more intuitively work in the future.

The Sound Sounds Horrible/Scratchy/Distorted!
The JSMESS program uses a standard called “Web Audio” that is still in its early stages – as a result, the JSMESS program is extremely burdensome to this standard, and unless your machine is very fast and the arcade game being run a simpler one, the sound can easily distort, even when doing something like switching between tabs or moving the mouse! This is why the program is, by default, muted. As of November, 2014, a new Web Audio specification has been proposed that allows Javascript programs like JSMESS to run audio more dependably, as we expect for sound and video, and the committees in charge of this specification are very aware of JSMESS as a real-world example of how to improve their specification. We currently can only wait, at which point newer versions of browsers will have much better sound. Sometimes, a refresh/restart of the arcade player page will bring the sound back into shape, for at least a while.

Why did the Arcade Game start with All Sorts of Weird Graphics?
The JSMESS system provides an as-accurate-as-possible presentation of an arcade machine when it is powered on. A large amount of arcade machines had “boot-up” or “checksum” sequences, where they would show a variety of messages and graphics to indicate the state and quality of the machine. If a ROM chip failed, or a circuit had burned out, various error messages would show and the arcade machine owner or operator would have to do hardware repairs. This situation continues in the emulations, although the machines are generally not going to blow a fuse or lose hardware. That said, there are a very small number of machines that will start up, and then sit at a cryptic operations message, or be awaiting a key. Where possible, the instructions underneath the game’s video window will give information on what key or keys to press to have the game continue to boot up properly.

At the bottom it mentions a Gamepad. Do I need a Gamepad?
Every arcade game can be played using your keyboard; no gamepad or joysticks are needed. That said, it is possible under some circumstances to hook a USB Gamepad to your computer and have it recognized.