Fairfield man honored in Guinness
Walter Day remembers the day, more than 30 years ago, when a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter knocked on the door of his video arcade in Ottumwa.
The reporter told Day that his editor had sent him to Iowa in hopes of discovering something.
“Why this small town in Iowa had the world’s most famous arcade, and why were people coming from all over the world, sometimes even just to say they had been there?” Walter recalled.
He flipped through a 2.5- to 3-inch book filled with major magazine and newspaper clippings about Twin Galaxies, which is still today recognized by many as the official video game scorekeeper.
“I loved playing video games so much that I opened up an arcade in Ottumwa to be able to play more video games,” Day said. “Somehow, along the way, I discovered that no one was keeping track of the world records on video games. We started keeping track of the records, and the industry accepted us as their official scorekeeper.”
Although the physical arcade no longer exists, the name Twin Galaxies is still synonymous with the promotion of competitive eSports.
Day sold the organization to Hollywood producer and owner of HDFilms, Jace Hall.
“He built it and it’s moved on from there,” said video gaming great, Billy Mitchel, adding that scores are still channeled through the Twin Galaxies of today.
Although today, there are many other competitions out there, Mitchel said Twin Galaxies would honor those scores, as long as they can be authenticated.
“If you do something on a local level, it would not be in vain, and it would certainly gain its place,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell met Day in the early 1980s when he searched for an authentic video game scorekeeper. He said he wanted to know the world record highest score.
“I wanted to know who logs this, who keeps track of it?” he said. “I didn’t know who to call.”
After calling video game manufacuterers, such as Nintendo and distributors, someone clued him in to the back of a popular video gaming magazine called Joystick.
It was there that he discovered Day and Twin Galaxies.
Mitchell spoke to Day on the phone, who told him that he was gathering together 19 of the world’s best video game players, and that Life Magazine would be there.
A 17-year-old Mitchell traveled from Florida to Ottumwa and in front of the best video game players and the cameras of LIFE Magazine, he scored more than 800,000 in the Donkey Kong game.
“It could not have been a better more perfect storm; it was that moment that forever put me in the tempest of wanting to acheivive what nobody else could achieve,”’ he said, adding that he saw Day as the father of competitive gaming and that Day’s belief and vision was the start of it.
“Nobody had an interest, nobody did anything like he did — nobody,” Mitchell said.
Triforce Johnson, who holds the most Guinness video game world records, agrees.
“Many people don’t understand Walter’s contribution toward the foundation. To me, he’s the founding father of eSports, [which] today is this billion dollar industry. I want to make sure that he gets the deserved recognition. How can we not credit James Naismith for basketball? How can we not pay homage to the founder of eSports? Walter is the father of that.”
For Day, it’s all a whirlwind.
“It was just too fast and too strange,” Day said. “Now, 35 years later, Twin Galaxies is history’s most famous arcade and is recognized by many as the birthplace of organized eSports.”
Triforce will present Day into the Guinness World Records 2017 Gamer’s Edition Nov. 19 in Ottumwa. Day said he planned to present the award to the city of Ottumwa.