The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 3, 2010

Video gamers to be honored at gaming festival

Legendary figures to be inducted in International Video game Hall of Fame at huge gaming festival in Ottumwa

OTTUMWA — OTTUMWA — Some big names in video gaming will be the first inductees into the International Video Game Hall of Fame.

One of the ceremony organizers, Dan Canny, said the Ottumwa event will feature “up to 30 legendary figures in gaming.”

Names video game enthusiasts may only have read about will be available for questions, autographs or seminars.

“This first ‘class’ will include the man who invented Pong; the player  featured in two video game movies after he had the first perfect score on Pac Man and,” said Canny, “the guy who’s referred to as the Michael Jordan of gaming, Johnathan ‘Fatal1ty’ Wendel.”

The IVGHOF committee said the induction is just part of Big Bang 2010: Making Gaming Matter, a four-day video game festival planned for August, with Bridge View Center as the main location. Canny said they expect thousands of players to show up for the tournaments.

“We’ve hired Dave Derington of the Warfactory in St. Louis to be our tournament coordinator. He has run some of the largest video game tournaments in the country,” Canny said.

“We call this a live event, or ‘LAN party,’” said Derington, whose “day job” is at Webster University teaching video game theory and design. “You have the whole online gaming community, [and you have] live events, which we run just like a real sports event. But instead of painting lines on a baseball field, we come in and set up computer networks.” 

“We’re going to have 30,000 square feet of video game tournaments,” said Canny. “In this part of Iowa, if you’re a video game enthusiast, it’s a no brainer: It’ll be the largest tournament you can [attend] without having to drive for hours.”

“I’m really excited about the spirit of Ottumwa; there’s a feel to this that makes me think of Woodstock,” said Derington.

And there will be live music as well as a food festival planned for that weekend. Between activities, participants get a chance to meet each other in person.

“A lot of gaming today is virtual, or just done over the ’net. At this type of event, they meet their opponents [in person], and I think that’s part of the draw,” Canny said. “Gamers look forward to getting out and meeting other gamers.”

While there will be modern games for face-to-face play, like Halo 3 or Modern Warfare, some nostalgic, older games will be spread through Ottumwa.

“We’re going to try to get those classic games in locations around town. We want the local community involved,” Canny said. “We’re planning a kind of scavenger hunt, where [participants] go to different businesses and play the game there; we don’t want to just keep the gamers [in seclusion] at Bridge View.”

Getting the community involved means the committee needs volunteers and businesses to help with various aspects of the tournament. Canny also wants out-of-town visitors to get out and meet the people of Ottumwa.

“Most major tournament play takes place in big cities. An event like this kind of adds a human element to an otherwise ‘virtual’ experience. And there’s nothing more human than small-town Iowa.”

It’s that contrast between Iowa life and modern computer technology that Canny thinks is an advantage in drawing a crowd.

“We’ve capped initial sales at 10,000; after that, we’ll have to expand,” he said.

Canny feels 10,000 shouldn’t be too hard to bring in over the course of four days. Last year, he claims, opening day for the IVG Hall of Fame brought in 3,000 people. 

No one should look down on these players, Derington said.

“Some of the events that I’ve thrown over the years were in partnership with the St. Louis Science Center,” he said. “There’s a real academic part to this.”

While teaching and in his side job organizing events, showing the public that the high-tech world of gaming isn’t “an idle waste of time” is one of his goals.  

Canny said the ultimate goal of the committee is to build a brick-and-morter structure for the hall of fame.

“More people play video games than any other sport,” Canny said, “and it has no permanent home.”

Tickets for the entire Aug. 5-8 Big Bang 2010 are $52.50, and are available through Ticketmaster or via the Web site: www.ivghof.com.

Mark Newman can be reached at 683-5358 or by e-mail at mnewman@ottumwacourier.com.

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