Forget Tokyo, Seattle and Austin.
The real video game capital of the world can be found in America’s heartland: Ottumwa, Iowa. At least, that’s what Ottumwa officials believe. The Des Moines Register reports that the small city also hopes to build a video game hall of fame.
Ottumwa’s claim to video game notoriety dates back to 1982 when Billy Mitchell registered a world record on Donkey Kong at a local arcade. Mitchell, who appeared in the 2007 documentary The King of Kong, told the Register that a hall of fame could do wonders for Ottumwa:
It had to seem like a silly idea to most anybody who heard about it, but [the Baseball Hall of Fame] was something that absolutely memorialized Cooperstown. Ottumwa is on the edge of that.
Walter Day, who owned the arcade in which Mitchell set the record and who owns Twin Galaxies, which the Register desribes as "the official scorekeeper of video games," added:
You would be able to go for world records. This will become a very, very big vacation destination.
In the pic at left, Mitchell is sporting the mullet while Day is wearing the referee jersey.
UPDATE: I’ve re-worked this story (now with 40% less snarkiness) after hearing from some readers as well as one exceedingly irate editor at game scorekeeping site Twin Galaxies, who writes:
The reason that Ottumwa started this movement has NOTHING to do with Billy Mitchell’s former Donkey Kong record… the arcade [in Ottumwa] was the original Twin Galaxies and was the birthplace of all World Record Video Gaming, where hundreds of World Record scores were once set by hundreds of gamers.
Your article gets this part of the story terribly wrong. Billy was just one of countless gamers who set World Records there, and one of the countless reasons why Ottumwa began this movement.
GP: Objection noted. However, the Des Moines Register – upon whose reporting this article was originally based – gave the Mitchell record prominent placement in regard to Ottumwa’s movement to build a video game hall of fame.
The DVD version of King of Kong has been sitting in my Amazon shopping cart for some time. I will have to pull the trigger and order it. A friend advises that the film offers a lot of context to Ottumwa’s bid to become video game capital of the world.
Let me say in closing: Ottumwa, if you build it, I will come.