MyPi, a custom-built Raspberry Pi-controlled retro games pad, takes its cue from iconic 1980s and 1990s gaming devices and now comes as a kit, as Rosie Hattersley discovers
The MyPi handheld games console
A life-long love of games, electronics, and programming, plus some time freed up after completing a degree in IT, led retired electronics specialist Jesse Lewis to begin experimenting with mobile gaming possibilities for his Raspberry Pi. As a teenager, he had written his own games for the Commodore VIC-20.
The introduction by his son to retro gaming using RetroPie, along with a chance encounter with a Raspberry Pi in a charity shop, sparked Jesse’s imagination about how to create a non-wired, handheld games console with a screen large enough to play comfortably. “The clarity wasn’t bad, but everything was so tiny. I wanted a gaming unit that would not require me to wear my reading glasses to play games,” explains Jesse.
At first, Jesse tried a 7-inch Android tablet screen, but this proved too large and unwieldy for his preferred mode of gaming: in a recliner or relaxing on the sofa. Instead, he chose a 5-inch screen as the basis of what would become the MyPi handheld gaming console.
He decided he wanted stereo sound, to have as few wires as possible, and to emulate a gamepad shape and experience. Given his electronics background, Jesse initially used Autodesk EAGLE to design and print several designs of circuit board.
Components such as an amplifier were bought off the shelf, at which point Jesse realised it made more sense to use inexpensive modules and components with large, easier-to-solder battery management packs, rather than continuing to experiment with his own circuit boards.
Power-wise, the obvious choice was a Pimoroni LiPo SHIM, since this is specifically designed for compact mobile devices. It offers 1.5 amps of power, along with a low battery warning so the MyPi can be safely switched off and any potential damage to the microSD card avoided. However, Jesse found the LiPo SHIM was only effective when the MyPi was being powered via USB. On battery power alone it lasted just ten minutes – not long enough for a lengthy mobile gaming session. Instead he had to substitute a 2 amp load-sharing module and add a switch to power off the MyPi when its battery began to run low.
The final stages of the build were to add ventilation and covers for the speakers, after which the MyPi was all set for games.
MyPi is available as a self-assembly kit for Raspberry Pi, with the drivers and software for RetroPie supplied on the accompanying microSD card. RetroPie can be used alongside an existing Raspberry Pi install, as well as being available as a discrete install. The Steelseries Stratus XL Bluetooth controller and drivers for the touchscreen are also preconfigured on the card.
If you want to 3D-print it, the MyPi case design is available on YouMagine, while the schematic file and stickers can be found on GitHub.
For those who prefer to source and assemble everything for themselves, Jesse warns that configuring RetroPie can be challenging. The zip file for MyPi isn’t on GitHub due to the whopping file size. However, says Jesse, “All of the software used can be installed and configured by anyone if they chose to spend the time learning about RetroPie and the LCD driver software.”