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Walter Day

Walter Day, founder of the Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard, is the single authority in the world of competitive videogame playing, and is known as the official scorekeeper for the world of video game & pinball playing. Formed in 1981 as a humble Fairfield, Iowa game-room during the golden age of videogames, Walter Day has maintained the scoreboard for over two decades!

MT> Please explain the origin of Twin Galaxies?

WD> Twin Galaxies was originally just an arcade in Ottumwa, with an additional location in Kirksville, MO. The name Twin Galaxies popped out of my head one day while driving in my car. There was no explanation for its origination, but we liked it. Interestingly, I immediately doubted the right to use the expression because it sounded so familiar to me that I believed for some time that I was merely remembering the name of some other company that was already publicly known. But that was not the case.

Twin Galaxies became the scorekeeper when we tried to verify a local score and discovered that no one was keeping score for the industry. So, Twin Galaxies volunteered and the manufacturers and magazines accepted our offer.

MT> Prior to entering into the games industry, you had been an oil broker. Please describe the change in lifestyle and reflect upon the differences between one career and the other including commentary such as the types of people that you encountered, establishments visited, and other demographics.

WD> I was an oil broker, living in Houston, immersed in the redneck, good-old-boy culture of Texas. We wined and dined executives from Conoco, Tenneco, Tesoro and Tosco. It was a weird environment and I was delighted to put my attention on video games instead of the oil industry. When I left the oil industry, I traveled around the nation, visiting hundreds of arcades, writing down scores that I had encountered. I was fascinated by the prospect of "excellence in gaming" and searched out players who embodied the highest level of skill.

MT> In 1981, you opened the Twin Galaxies arcade simply as an excuse to play more games. Did you ever anticipate that it would launch so much more than an arcade?

WD> Yes, I loved video games so much that I opened an arcade as excuse to play more games. I had no idea that it would lead to a 25-year career as the "Patron saint of the Video Game Age." Actually, numerous books and articles have referred to me as the "Patron Saint." I think it is very funny.

MT> Nothing states the acceptance into pop-culture than being published in Life Magazine! What was your reaction when you first became aware of the Life coverage?

WD> The LIFE Magazine editors were calling me regularly in 1982 because they wanted to recognize the impact of video games in their 1982 Year-in-Review edition. After numerous calls, I finally convinced them to come to Ottumwa and do a feature on the top players of the era at Twin Galaxies, "the world's most famous arcade."

On the weekend of November 8-9, 1982, the players gathered in front of the LIFE cameras and the immortal photo was shot. The actual published issue arrived in my hands on December 23, 1982, while I was standing at the Twin Galaxies concession counter with Todd Simon, the producer for "That's Incredible." It may have been the advent of the LIFE Magazine coverage that finally convinced "That's Incredible" that they definitely should do the show at Twin Galaxies in Ottumwa.

MT> Governor Terry Branstad named Ottumwa, Iowa as the "Video Game Capital of the World" in March of '83 as a result of the town being the home of Twin Galaxies. What locale would you consider giving this title to in the year 2005?

WD> I could see such a promotion being attempted in a city of about 200-300,000 people, in a nice climate with natural resources around (like Boise, Idaho, for instance). The Ottumwa incarnation was doomed because it was not a dynamic city and lacked a large enough population. Other than that, the Ottumwa people were wonderful group of intelligent people to work with.

MT> Have you kept in contact with any of the 19 videogame superstars that were showcased on the January '83 episode of "That¹s Incredible" for the premiere video game world championship?

WD > Even today, many of these superstars are getting interviewed for their role in video game history. I know that Ben Gold is being filmed on May 13th by a documentary film crew, exploring his past adventures as a member of the U.S. National Video Game Team, touring the USA as one of history's first professional video game players. The U.S. National Video Game Team was the first official video game team in history.

Among the 19 stars of the "That's Incredible" event, only Ben Gold still plays a little while Eric Ginner is a programmer at a game developing company. I am still in contact with Steve Sanders.

MT> There have been two Twin Galaxy Arcades. With less than a single percent of the the golden age arcades still operating, do you anticipate another revival in the future?

WD> Arcades can only survive when they are in a larger marketplace and have additional attractions incorporated - like miniature golf and batting cages. The age of the neighborhood arcade is definitely over. The modern PC gaming centers have taken over and are the equivalent of the arcade of the 80s. However, even still, many have been going out of business, especially ones in smaller areas.

MT> How many referees does Twin Galaxies utilize and how do you scout out new potential Scoreboard Editors?

WD> Twin Galaxies has about one dozen referees. We are all volunteers working for no money, including myself. Our services have always been free because we are all devoted to the hobby. We are very understaffed. We always need volunteers to participate as additional referees. Ideally, we need specialists who are experts on different games, able to discern true records from false records. We need more people to monitor the newest games and console platforms and invite players to apply for positions with us. We need writers, in particular, who can do stories on contest results, winners, top score accomplishments and anything else about organized game playing.

MT> You currently hold some of the world records in your own book. Which prestigious titles do you hold? Are there any coveted positions that you have tried to acquire and failed?

WD> The games that I had dedicated the most time to playing back in the 80s were Centipede, Make Trax, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. I was 32 years old when I became the "scorekeeper to the world" and it may be true that I was the best 32-year-old video game player in the world at that time, simply because I spent all my time with the top players in North America who taught me their tricks day in and day out. I was good at Gorf (145,000), Berzerk (45,000), Make Trax (1,580,000), Galaxian (145,000), Tutankham (180,000), Ms. Pac-Man (330,000), Centipede (700,000) and Millipede (850,000). I think I would have liked to have been better at Tutankham.

Good Deal Games thanks Walter Day for maintaining the high-score database,
and promoting classic videogame tournament play! Game On!

Visit the official TWIN GALAXIES Website to learn more about
professional gaming or to enter your all-time high-score!

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