About a week ago, burglars completely wiped out the stock of I Got Game, an independent game store in Ogdensburg, N.Y., a town of about 10,000 on the St. Lawrence River. The store hadn't even been open a month. Nothing was insured. The owner was in a daze.
Then Brenda and John Romero walked in the door. They make video games. They know a lot of people who make video games, too. They figured they could help.
"Here are these people who have taken the initiative to open a game store in a place where, let me tell you, kids need something to do, and then they just get flattened" said Brenda Romero, who grew up in Ogdensburg and worked for former publisher Sir-Tech for 18 years in a building next door to I Got Game. John, one of id Software's original designers, worked on titles such as Doom, Wolfenstein 3D and Quake.
"It was just this feeling of powerlessness," she said. The owner, Chris Pray, said he would stay open but he didn't sound too confident about how he would recover. So, on impulse Brenda Romero posted the picture you see above and a quick plea on her Facebook page.: "Game Devs—HELP? Donate a signed copy of your game?"
"I had no idea if it would make a difference, but it was better than nothing," she said. It was a lot better than nothing. When Brenda Romero left the store and checked her Facebook page on her mobile, she saw Epic Games had already reached out to donate games to help the store re-stock. Others whom the Romeros know offered to autograph their work and send it along to I Got Game, too.
"If Epic could have been there, right then, I would have hugged them all," she said. "Being able to walk back in and say, Epic Games—they're pretty well known, they make hit games—was sending him some games, I just felt so good about it. It was probably the first smile I saw on their face that day."
It was a hell of a coincidence that the Romeros were in town to help, barely hours after the break-in. The family hadn't visited Ogdensburg in about three years and was stopping by to see friends in between speaking engagements. They had planned to visit I Got Game well before the break-in happened. "The first place we wanted to go to was the game store," Brenda Romero said. "When I was a kid, we never had a games store, we never got to play any games unless they got brought in by Sir-Tech."
John Romero gave the store a signed copy of Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows and said he would send along a signed copy of the book "Masters of Doom," a book about Romero and John Carmack working together at id in the 1990s. Brenda Romero said she knew of other developers who would be sending along autographed work, and others who were sending used games up to the store, to go along with Epic's donations. "Getting signed copies of games helps the store out even more," John Romero said, "because even if they don't charge more for those games, they will get sold at least."
Pray told the Watertown Daily Times that he'd push ahead and keep the store open, thanking everyone for their donations. I Got Game held a Magic: The Gathering tournament over the weekend.
"We would really like to thank everyone for being so kind and generous," the store said on its Facebook page. "We appreciate all the cash, items and time that have been donated to the shop in the past two days. When this incident happened we really had no idea how we were going to be able to stay open but with everyone's support it looks like we will be okay."
"It's a small town, a startup business, and we both love helping people who love games," John Romero said. "We make the things the store sells, so it was a natural way to help out."