UPDATED: Iowa City Annoints Itself Video Game Capitol of the World

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.

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  1. digital-leaf says:

    This sounds like Billy Mitchell has pushed for something that appears altruistic but continues to stroke his already sizable ego. Does it strike anyone else as an odd coincidence that a month before Steve Wiebe goes into E3 to try and set a new record on Donkey Kong, Billy Mitchell is featured prominently in the headlines helping to promote a new gaming capitol that is based at least partially around his initial Donkey Kong record and the machine he set it on? Sounds like grandstanding, either an attempt top throw Wiebe off with some a distraction, or a last desperate ploy to steal the spotlight of a record that has been broken and re-broken.

  2. hayabusa75 says:

    If the Donkey Kong thing is your claim to fame, then what about the city where the high score in Pac-Man was set?  Or Asteroids?  Defender?

    Etc, etc…

    "De minimus non curat lex"

  3. Paulrus says:

    I’ll only concede if Romero, Carmack, Miyamoto, Newell, Jaffe, and all the other legends go there and officially announce it.

    But for now, i’ll just roll my eyes at their ego and suspect that they’re running low on money.


    I’m an attention whore. So visit my DevaintArt and feed my ego. Feed the whore. http://keaton2008.deviantart.com/

  4. chadachada321 says:

    That’s what I thought when I first read it. Should change the headline to "Iowan City" or "City in Iowa" or even just "[Insert City], Iowa"

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  5. hellfire7885 says:

    This is just stupid. The only place that has this right in my mind would be Nashua, New Hampshire where Ralph Baer develpped the Brown Box in 1966, the father of all modern consoles.

    A high score hardly gives on the right to call themselves the capitol, for me the birhtplace gets that right.



  6. Bill says:

    Billy Mitchell’s hairstyle is not actually a mullet, it’s long all over.  A mullet is "business in the front party in the back".  He’d have to keep his hairstlye basically short except for the back.  While he still looks like a douche, a mullet it is not.

  7. axiomatic says:

    So Ottumwa, Iowa is going to be CITY ZERO when all the Ottumwa, Iowa residents start KILLING EVERYONE because they are the Video Game Capitol of the World? Isn’t that right Jack T.? Isn’t that right everyone else who hates games?


    (I hope you detractors against games all understand how stupid the above statement sounds? When you say it you sound stupid as well.)

  8. Austin_Lewis says:

    This is as retarded as when Cincinnati declared itself the ‘Chili Capital’ of the world just because they have skyline chili.  Oh man, you have one record, oh man, you have one chili franchise.  Big fucking deal.  I think Texas is both the gaming and chili capitol of America at very least, if no the world.  It DEFINETLY is not some shitty city in Iowa.

  9. 11zxcvb11 says:

    Does this remind anybody else of the scene in "The Last Starfighter" when Alex is about to break the record on the arcade and everybody in the trailer park flocks to him to get a glimpse of it?

    "Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada. Good luck!!"  🙂

  10. Dante says:

    They also hosted the first North American Video Olympics in the fall of 1982.


    "Science asks how, and faith asks why"

  11. Ryno says:

    Me too.


    Saying that Jack Thompson is impotent is an insult to impotent men everywhere. They’ve got a whole assortment of drugs that can cure their condition; Jack, however…

  12. Vake Xeacons says:

    Any developers, publishers, or industry leaders? Not that I know of. This towns one claim to faim is the guy that set the world record on DK. His mama must be so proud.

    Unfortunately, that was the only world record in Guiness. Sorry guys. That means everyone else who set a record can name their hometown the World Gaming Capitol.

    I’m gonna have to go with the major company headquarters. Tokyo in Japan, and San Fransisco (or Bay Area) in the US.

    "You, [subject name here], must be the pride of [subject hometown here]." -GLaDOS

  13. Pirce says:

    The video game industry has far more presence in Austin than in Dallas/Fort Worth. Plus that presence is growing significantly and projected to grow even more.

    Eggy Weggs

  14. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    Hell, most of my dad’s side of the family is from there.


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  15. Zero Beat says:

    First Slipknot, then gay marriage, now video games, yep, Iowa’s pretty much the "cool state" nowadays.  Suck it, coastal states!


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  16. Aliasalpha says:

    Who has the worlds largest ball of string? Has it improved that town?

    To be honest, I don’t see the appeal in a gamers hall of fame because I only ever worry about my own performance (or that of teammates where applicable), seems unlikely that thousands of tourists would flock to see where one bloke made a number slightly higher than anybody else did. Whats the tour going to be like? "And we come now to the limited edition green halo controller with which xSYKO-KILLAx pwned his 1 millionth n00b"

    Then again millions go to the louvre to see that painting of a woman with no eyebrows…

  17. DarkSaber says:

    Oh that’s cute!


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

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