By Grace Swanson
Bright lights illuminate the pinball machines at the Machine SHOP while music plays in the background. Players insert shiny coins into the machines, bringing the machines to life and taking the players back in time.
In another part of the shop people are transported to different worlds through virtual reality. They leave the arcade to fight zombies or create life-size artwork.
The Machine SHOP is truly where old meets new — where retro meets futuristic.
Machine SHOP Owner, Tim Leonard, has played pinball machines since childhood. He has been collecting and restoring pinball machines and classic arcade games for the last six years.
“Even when traveling today, everywhere I go, I ask, ‘Where’s the arcade,’” he said.
His arcade features pinball machines from across the state. His oldest machine, the Williams Jumpin’ Jack, dates back to 1964, while his newest machine, the Stern KISS machine, was produced in 2015.
Last summer, he opened an arcade in Langley WA that doubles as a storage space for his machines and the metal artwork he produces in his company, Heavy Metal Works.
He was approached by Ethan Worthington, owner of Holodeck Virtual Reality, about opening a virtual reality booth in the Machine SHOP. Virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation that uses 3D images to create life-like images and experiences.
“Virtual reality is a way to mimic and simulate life,” Worthington said. “You can simulate it almost perfectly.
Leonard was intrigued by virtual reality (VR) technology and thought VR would be a nice addition to the arcade.
“Having the virtual reality as part of the Machine SHOP, exposes our kids and adults to this new technology that’s going to be part of our lives really soon,” Leonard said.
At Holodeck Virtual Reality, Worthington uses VR for rapid prototyping, which he prints using a 3D printer. He runs Steam VR, which is produced by Valve, a company in Bellevue.
Holodeck VR offers a number of experiences from fighting zombies, to practicing archery, to creating artwork.
“The thing about virtual reality is the sky’s the limit,” Worthington said. “You think about it, you can do it.”
As a Whidbey Island resident for 21 years, Leonard admires the island community’s creativity. He believes advances in the island’s technology, especially Whidbey Telecom’s Gigabit Internet, provides opportunities to remote businesses.
“There are a lot of creative people out here,” he said. “There’s a lot of people doing a lot of cool stuff in all these little nooks and crannies. They’re doing it because of the internet. They can sell things anywhere in the world.”
The high-speed Gigabit internet, known as the BiG GiG, which can be 1000 times faster than before, is available in Langley and in select parts of South Whidbey Island.
Holodeck VR also benefits from the gigabit internet’s rapid speeds. Some of his games require internet, which means the speed of the connection determines the clarity of the VR experience.
Worthington says he is living his passion — creating things.
He spent his teenage years on Whidbey Island and gained foundational computer skills at a Running Start computer skills course at Edmonds Community College. Yet, his computer skills are mostly self-taught. He briefly left the island to pursue a career in the automotive industry, but returned to the island where he combined his computer and automotive skills into his dream job at Holodeck VR.
He believes that people can follow their dreams on Whidbey Island.
“If there’s something you want to be on the island, then go out and make it happen,” he said.