The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The Video Gaming Capital Of World Is Located In Iowa


Who would have figured that the gaming capital of the world would be a small town of 25,000+ people in Iowa? The town of Ottumwa is not only known for being the birthplace of singer Owl City or one of the filming locations of the movie ‘The Woman Who Loved Elvis.’ Because of its ties to the entertainment industry, this town is rather popular in the gaming realm.

The Appeal Of Gaming To Americans

According to a report by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), video games are the favorite pastime among Americans. 65% of Americans play some type of video game – equating to 212.6 million players who log on weekly. For most of the respondents, video games are beneficial. For them, video games are nostalgic as those who played on the very early consoles can engage with their children and grandchildren.

As you can read here on gamer, developers constantly push out new games, making for an everchanging industry where there is something for everyone. Whether you enjoy first-person shooters, social simulation games, or survival horror, there is something for every taste.

The Video Game Capital Of The World

So how did the small town of more than 25.000 inhabitants become the world’s capital for video games? In the early 1980s, Ottumwa hosted a video arcade named Twin Galaxies. Prior to the opening day, the founder, Walter Day, had visited more than 100 arcades. During the four months he had researched, he recorded the high scores for every game. Therefore, the video arcade became the first arcade with a database of records for video gaming. Shortly after, Ottumwa became a video game hotspot, hosting many significant events and offering the top games. This also led to the town’s mayor declaring the town the “Video Game Capital of the World.”

The first North American Video Olympics, which featured some of the best players, was held in the arcade. The event amassed such hype that it was even featured in Life magazine. After the Olympics, Twin Galaxies organized the first video game championship, which crowned a world champion.

Unfortunately, the arcade doesn’t exist anymore. However, Ottumwa can celebrate its 42th anniversary as the Video Game Capital of the World this year. Furthermore, Iowans can visit the Old School Arcade in The Quincy Place Mall to learn about gaming history.

Twin Galaxies

The organization that kept the score of the video games is called Twin Galaxies, the exact name of the arcade. After the arcade opened, Walter Day released his database of records. In 1983, Twin Galaxies made history as it established the first national video game team in the U.S. The team toured the entire country and visited arcades of the nations in a bus, which was filled with arcade games. During that period, the Guinness Book of World Records published the records from Twin Galaxies. However, they halted publishing in 1988 due to declining interest in arcade games.

While arcade games had been popular for a long time, arcade games became less popular as video games online and other consoles began taking over. The founder, Walter Day, left the organization in 2010 to pursue a music career.

The Video Game Culture In Ottumwa

Because of the rich history of video gaming, Ottumwa citizens have made great efforts to make the town the video game capital of the world. This was done by publishing opinion pieces calling the town precisely that. Citizens of the town formed a committee in 2009 to try and increase efforts in cementing Ottumwa as the gaming capital. This also included a museum, which would have playable arcade games like ‘Donkey Kong’ and ‘Pac-Man.’

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