Thousands Attend Iowa Hall of Fame LaunchS

More than 3,500 people, including U.S. Rep David Loebsack and Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, attended a kickoff event today for the International Video Games Hall of Fame, which Ottumwa, Iowa leaders plan to build in their community.

Chris Hoeksema, a member of the Hall's exploratory committee, said the 3,500 figure represented those who donated cash to the cause, or video games and consoles that were set up in the Bridge View Center, Ottumwa's 95,000 square-foot events hall, to be played during the daylong celebration of gaming and Ottumwa's ties to it. The actual attendance figure is likely much larger, Hoeksema said.

"It's really been amazing," Hoeksema said. "We were not expecting this much outpouring of support from the community and the state. And the entire world, really. We've had donations from overseas and some people flew in from the United Kingdom to attend. It's been an amazing amount of support."

Ottumwa's claim as video gaming's ancestral home is rooted in the arcade days of the early 1980s. Kotaku profiled it extensively in April. The International Video Game Hall of Fame is modeling itself loosely on Cooperstown, N.Y. as a small-town representative of a much larger phenomenon. The Video Game Hall's steering committee now has more than 35 members and five subcommittees, with the full support of Ottumwa's city council and chamber of commerce. The committee envisions a Hall of Fame eventually costing between $30 million and $50 million.

Thursday's daylong launch event was scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m.; gaming fans began lining up at the events hall at 10 a.m., Hoeksema said. Donors of hardware and games brought consoles and cabinets spanning the 35-year history of modern video gaming. The setups lined the halls at the events center, the cabinets set to continuous freeplay mode. Halo 3 and Guitar Hero tournaments were also held.

The donations of equipment were for the day only, and not for an actual museum down the line. Hoeksema could not yet enumerate the cash the event brought in to the committee.

Judge, the lieutenant governor, attended also on behalf of Iowa Gov. Tom VilsackChet Culver, and read Culver's unilateral proclamation that Ottumwa is, again, the "Video Game Capital of the World." This repeats a similar declaration 26 years ago by then Gov. Terry Branstad. Signs on highways leading into the city (depicted at top) have also popped up, repeating the claim.

And while elite arcade and tournament FPS players made up the VIP list, Hoeksema said the strong support of the general public was a godsend for the movement, with so many elected officials in attendance.