When this year’s Big Bang event was postponed by the Video Game Hall of Fame committee, some people still wanted to hang out and play.

So Ottumwa couple Liz and Josh Bollinger invited friends to their house. When word got out about a video game party, requests for invites exploded.

“Within 24 hours of saying we were going to do it, we had to get a room at Bridge View [Center],” said Liz.

Even that’s changed.

“Now we’ve added an expo hall,” said Josh.

Members of the Hall of Fame board said they postponed the Big Bang because they felt it would be irresponsible to spend more money before paying off the debt they have from last year.

The Bollingers agree that’s the financially prudent thing to do.

So their grassroots effort, now called the Grassroots Gaming Expo (which takes place this weekend, Friday, from 10 a.m., to Sunday to 5 p.m.) will donate profits from the event and a charit auction to the Hall of Fame.

“We’re hoping to raise enough to pay off the debt from Big Bang,” Liz said.

For their event Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they’ve used their contacts and networking talents to recruit 18 bands to play at Bridge View Center; these are friends and friends of friends who believe in Ottumwa and the Video Game Hall of Fame — all have donated their time. Bridge View Center, Josh said, has been pre-paid for the grassroots event.

“We’ve tried to do it as cheaply as possible,” Liz said.

They still want a lot going on. They have 100 consoles set up for tournaments, arcade games and pinball machines with a “huge” free-play area, seven gamer-themed movies ready to show and a bunch of world-record holders scheduled to appear, including Liz, who holds records in “Just Dance” and “Dance Central,” and who, this year, will attend as a Guinness world record holder.

What they won’t have are things the Video Game Hall of Fame handles itself, like an induction ceremony for inventors, engineers and video game pioneers.

“This is for the gamers, by gamers,” she said. “But it’s still the biggest thing in Iowa gaming this year. This is way bigger than it started out.”

So how many people will there be?

“We don’t know,” said Josh.

He said that last year, for Big Bang, organizers were worried when they had sold 100 advance tickets by the time of the show. Then, nearly 4,000 people bought tickets at the door.


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