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Watch: Gamers Flock to Ottumwa to Celebrate Storied History of Professional Gaming

By Ellis Codjoe, November 14, 2017

Gamers from across the country, both professionals and amateurs alike flocked to Ottumwa’s Quincy Place Mall this weekend for the Galaxies of Gaming event hosted at the Ottumwa Old School Pinball and Arcade.

The event celebrated the 35th anniversary of the famed Time Magazine photo featuring games on Main Street in front of Walter Day’s Twin Galaxies Arcade. The weekend featured tournaments, the induction ceremony for the 2016 class of International Video Game Hall of Fame, and a recreation of the time photo.

However, event co-organizer Bill Hoffman Jr. says this weekend’s festivities were just as much about the future as the past.

“This is a celebration. Going forward, it’s no surprise that we’ll be a permanent fixture in Ottumwa,” Hoffman told Ottumwa Radio News. “It’s fascinating that if you think about this. There is no other town, Las Vegas, New York, San Diego, St. Louis. Nobody else can claim to be the Video Game Capital of the World and the birthplace of esports and professional gaming and we can.”

Then Ottumwa Mayor Jerry Parker decreed that Ottumwa was the Video Game Capital of the World in 1982.

The designation went widely unused and unrecognized until the late 2000’s when a group began pushing the concept of an International Video Game Hall of Fame and Museum. Hoffman says those efforts are now becoming a reality.

“We’ll have a permanent place to go. We’ll have a place for tourism to come in,” Hoffman added. “We really want to help other small businesses in Ottumwa. If anyone is watching and had that idea, take it from us. Do it. Jump in there. Lets all make this community better together.”

Isiah Triforce Johnson, who was inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame over the weekend, says Ottumwa needs to repackage itself to embrace the decades old designation.

“The future of Ottumwa’s Esports scene has never changed. It’s always been what it was when Walter put the infrastructure in, in 1981,” Triforce said. “It’s really about Ottumwa grabbing its roots and its history and repackaging it to fit the more modern, industrial revolution of Esports.”

Johnson says he brought members of his competitive gaming team, Empire Arcadia, to Ottumwa in order to visit the birthplace of competitive gaming.

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