Tiny town wants to become video game Mecca

For a brief shining moment in the 1980s, Ottumwa was the unlikely hot spot of the fledgling video game industry as gamers around the globe flocked to this sleepy Iowa city and its video game arcade for a series of landmark tournaments.

Gamers set world records, the TV show That's Incredible broadcast a tournament to a national audience, and then-mayor Jerry Parker dubbed Ottumwa The Video Game Capital of the World."



The glory days didn't last long. The Twin Galaxies arcade closed within a couple of years, and memories of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong dimmed for everyone - except arcade owner Walter Day, who dreamed of making Ottumwa into a permanent game destination.



"You know how your average person fantasises, when they daydream about having a new car or having a beautiful wife or inheriting from their uncle $2 million or something like that? I'm a little bit different," he said. "I fantasise about owning downtown Ottumwa and turning it into the first video game-themed amusement attraction."

It's a calling that's been heard by town officials. In April, they announced plans for an International Video Game Hall of Fame.



"Every town needs a place to be recognised for," said Terry McNitt, head of Ottumwa's Chamber of Commerce.



Day said he envisioned making Ottumwa a "cultural home base" for the lucrative worldwide gaming industry. The Entertainment Software Association, a game publishers trade group, said computer and video game industry sales climbed to US$22 billion in 2008.



Ottumwa's bid to reclaim its past also was inspired by a pair of 2007 video-game documentaries, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Chasing Ghosts, both of which featured the Twin Galaxies' heyday when Day was known as the king of video game stats.



Although his arcade closed, Day's scorekeeper status remains. Twin Galaxies, his Fairfield-based company, tracks rankings, high scores and championship tournaments for video games around the world.



City officials are passionate about Day's plans, but the idea is mostly a vision backed by a Facebook group with about 800 members. Officials said they hoped to buy a building near the original Twin Galaxies site and want to secure naming rights and a designation as a non-profit and build up a website.



Day said he's also reached out to his contacts in the gaming industry for donations. The hall of fame would likely include donated classic games, exhibits about the industry and an area with modern games for visitors to play.



Dale Uehling, the city's mayor, noted there was "a lot of interest, a lot of enthusiasm" for the project.



"The thing is, it's real and it has potential, and I think that's what excites everybody," McNitt said. "Why Ottumwa, Iowa? We're a population of 26,000. Well, we're a great little town."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
tech
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Web Developer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web design and digital age...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor