Ottumwa, Iowa may be small in population, but it’s video game aspirations are off the charts.
In a movement started by Ottumwa resident Chris Hoeksema, city officials met on April 29th and dubbed their city "Video Game Capital of the World". Plans were also launched for a new Video Game Hall of Fame featuring over 35-years of gaming nostalgia and world-record gaming competitions.
Ottumwa is renowned as the home of the Twin Galaxies Arcade, where in 1982, Billy Mitchell set a world-record high score on Donkey Kong during the Video Game World Championship.
The council meeting featured former Twin Galaxies owner Walter Day as well as famed gamers Billy Mitchell and Steve Sanders. Mitchell offered to donate his personal Donkey Kong arcade game as the first piece for the museum, the same machine he used to set the current Donkey Kong World Record in 2007. Mitchell and Sanders were featured along with Steve Wiebe in the documentary, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
Billy Mitchell was confident the Video Game Hall of Fame idea could do for Ottumwa, IA what the Baseball Hall of Fame did for Cooperstown, NY.
"It had to seem like a silly idea to most anybody who heard about it, but it was something that absolutely memorialized Cooperstown," said Mitchell. "Ottumwa is on the edge of that."
Terry McNitt, who heads the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce, commented that the hall of fame would be run by a nonprofit group. A plan for financing and a site location had yet to be discussed.
"This isn’t going to happen overnight, but I do think it’s important to get it started," McNitt said.
[Photo by Rodney White, Des Moines Register, originally published April 30, 2009]