World Video Game Walk of Fame opens in Ottumwa

First inductee: Man who started recording high scores

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By Mark Newman, Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Ottumwa, in south-central Iowa, is the self-described Video Game capital of the world, with an accompanying Video Game Hall of Fame.

But it is more about the people than about electronics, several speakers said Sunday during the opening of Ottumwa’s new Video Game Walk of Fame.

“Walter Day took the focus — and rightly so, I believe — off video games and put the attention on people,” said Kevin Bachus, who co-created the Xbox while working for Microsoft and is now a senior vice president in charge of the games at Dave & Buster’s, an entertainment business headquartered in Dallas.

When video gamers called Day in Ottumwa in the 1980s, it was their name that went on the list of a video game’s high scorers. They were the ones who were interviewed, and they were the ones who went on tour or were pictured in Life magazine.

“In the Bronx, we heard about Twin Galaxies,” Triforce Johnson, a Jamaican-born, New York-raised video gaming star, said in referring to Day’s video game arcade in Ottumwa. “It isn’t the video games that are the history of Ottumwa. It’s the people.”

Not that anyone was complaining about the first inductee into the Walk of Fame — Day, the first arcade owner to keep high scores nationally.

Day, now of Fairfield, said that with more than a dozen video game Hall of Famers to choose from, “it makes sense” to pick a Hall of Fame arcade game: Pac-Man.

“Pac-Man became a phenomenon,” said David Bishop, a vice president of Namco, the company that developed Pac-Man, the best-selling arcade game in history. “I’d like to say it was something we planned. It wasn’t — it just happened.”

The game was designed in Japan, then licensed in the United States.

But the high scores? The fame accorded to players as being the best in the world? That, Bishop said Sunday, happened in Ottumwa.

“This really is the birthplace of competitive e-sports,” Bishop said.

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