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Seattle Pinball Museum is accessible, affordable fun for Central’s students

Each guest at the Seattle Pinball Museum is greeted by retro arcade noises, colorful machines to explore, a small team of employees, and a fantastically friendly golden retriever.

Charlie and Cindy Martin started the museum in 2010, aided by a grant from the Storefronts program, which aimed to fill empty storefronts in Pioneer Square and the International District with ventures from local artists. 

“We’re putting machines in here to showcase how cool they are, from the mechanical, electrical, and artistic aspects,” Charlie Martin said. 

They had been collecting pinball machines before then, though. 

“We found out about this program because we started collecting pinball machines in 2008. By 2010, we had way too many,” Charlie Martin said. “My idea was that we would set up a gallery, interactive works of kinetic engineering.”

By 2011, the museum was able to independently sustain itself without the help of Storefronts. The person who sold Charlie Martin his first machine told him, “I know I’ve infected you with an incurable disease.” The museum’s collection has steadily grown since, and today, it houses 50 pinball machines and serves a wide array of pinball enthusiasts and beginners. 

“Kids like playing the games, teens like playing the games, young adults like playing the games,” Charlie Martin said. “It’s a pretty wide demographic spread.”

There’s been a lot of care put into the organization of the machines. All the games are set up by year of creation, with the oldest made in 1960. It’s easy to see each era of art because of that organization, and a small blurb above each machine explains pop-culture references, lists the artist’s name, and shares the amount of each game in existence. More importantly, the blurbs list IPDB ratings, a site that rates pinball machines based on audio, art, fun, and playfield. 

Kali Herbstminino | The Seattle Collegian

Each of the games has a story, Cindy Martin says. One of their older machines, for example, has been in a fire three separate times. “Haunted House” is one of her favorites, which occasionally plays a spooky tune and has two different playfields that switch when the player hits a specific part with the ball. 

Kali Herbstminino | The Seattle Collegian

Cindy Martin says she’s fallen in love with pinball and the community behind it. 

“I was here all the time for the first five years, and I worked by myself most of the time. We were still working full-time jobs. I think for me it was meeting a lot of people from all over the world and connecting that way,” Cindy Martin said. 

Kali Herbstminino | The Seattle Collegian

From Central’s campus, the pinball museum is a short streetcar ride away, located at 508 Maynard Ave S. It’s open Monday through Thursday from 12 to 6 p.m., and entry for adults is $23. After paying the initial fee, all pinball machines are free to play. The mix of affordable entry and close location makes it a perfect spot for Central’s students looking for a study break. 

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