Don’t worry about having to waste laundry money, though. For a flat rate of $13, students can play any number of the machines for as long as the store is open.
“You come in, and you play until your arms fall off, the cops raid the place, or aliens land and everyone runs for the hills,” co-owner Charlie Martin said.
Martin and his wife Cindy opened the museum Aug. 29, 2010, after being selected to participate in StoreFront Seattle, a neighborhood support program which gives three months of rent-free store space to local artists and creative businesses.
“Three months turned into nine months … so we just decided we should run a business,” Cindy Martin said.
The Martins originally turned to pinball after getting bored of watching television after work. They bought their first machine, a 1976 model called Aztec, to play in their garage. That one machine soon spawned an obsession.
“We bought one pinball machine and it broke,” Charlie Martin said. “Got another one to play with while we fixed the first one, and next thing you know we had seven or eight and we ran out of room in the house.”
The museum features rows of different pinball machines arranged in chronological order, including a 1963 Gottlieb “Swing Along” model, a dance-themed game (the first to incorporate spinning targets,) and a 2011 Tron machine, which bathes a player’s face in the movie’s signature blue and yellow neon lights.
The progression allows participants to appreciate the differences in technology and craftsmanship from year to year while also providing a glimpse into society at the time. Many of the machines feature themes from pop-culture such as Metallica, The Lord of the Rings, and The Simpsons.
Other machines tackle more serious issues. For example, S.A.M.I. (Surface to Air Missile Interceptor), one of the few non-pinball arcade games in the museum, was built during the Cold War. The premise of the game is to defend the country from an airstrike, reflecting America’s Cold War attitude.
The artwork on the machines is nice to look at, and the history behind each is easy to appreciate. But the true point of the pinball museum is to relax and have fun, which is where the Martins truly succeed. As an added bonus for those over 21 looking to reclaim their childhood, the museum also serves craft beer for $5 a bottle.
The Seattle Pinball Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. To get there, take the 71, 72, or 73 buss to the International District Station, then walk along South Weller Street to Maynard Avenue South.