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Video arcades are back, with virtual reality

Teen playing virtual reality game
Max Tomlinson, a 13-year-old from Puyallup, Wash., brandishes controllers as he walks a virtual plank, seemingly suspended 50 stories above street level, at the Portal VR arcade in Ballard. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Remember the days when arcades were the places where kids could play the coolest video games? No? Well, now you can get in on that experience, this time with immersive virtual reality adventures instead of Frogger and Pac-Man.

Portal, at 2601 NW Market St. in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, is the latest local addition to the genre – joining other hangouts such as Odyssey VR in Redmond and Virtual Sports in Tukwila.

“Our primary target was twentysomethings, tech workers,” said Tim Harader, a technology evangelist who founded Portal in league with his wife, Page. “But what we found is that the target market is just all over the place. Whether they’re 8 years old or 80, they’re all just blown away.”

Portal’s vibe is different from the arcade environment of the ’80s. “You won’t hear a cacophony of blaring arcade sounds here,” the establishment says on its website. “Instead, you’ll enter an atmosphere of comfortable coolness.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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