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!
Please explain the origin of Twin Galaxies?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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."
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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
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?
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
How many referees does Twin Galaxies utilize and how do you scout
out new potential Scoreboard Editors?
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
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?
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.