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November 26, 2013

Retro-Taku rallies gamers to support the troops

24-hour game-a-thon raises funds for Operation Supply Drop

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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Retro-Taku rallies gamers to support the troops
Dan White, military veteran and owner of Retro-Taku Videogames, 507 W. 11 Mile, shows off the selection of new and vintage controllers carried by his store. Retro-Taku specializes in rare items and import titles.

MADISON HEIGHTS — With seven years of military service under his belt, including one tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan, Dan White is an Air Force veteran and staff sergeant who knows what it’s like to be separated from friends and family for long stretches of time, serving one’s country in a faraway land. 

He’s also an avid videogame player and collector, someone who appreciates what a difference interactive art can make for servicemen and women who are deployed in combat zones or recuperating from the perils of battle in military hospitals.

He notes how videogames build camaraderie among troops, providing a safe outlet for competitive and cooperative play. Games can also be immersive like a good novel, with their own narratives in fully realized worlds, and the extra element of reading a situation onscreen and responding with a combination of strategy and skill.

“Videogames are a good break from the stress of grinding out 12-hour days, seven days a week, for months on end,” White said. “I’ve been collecting them for years.”

Some of White’s favorite titles are the role-playing classics of the 16-bit era (early to mid-’90s), including the time-traveling epic “Chrono Trigger” on the Super Nintendo. But he likes all kinds of videogames, dating back to Battlezone on the Atari 2600.

What got him thinking about service were the events of Sept. 11, 2001. After the terrorist attacks, he started going back and forth in his mind about joining the military.

The Midland native signed up at age 27 and served from 2006-2013. When he was done, the military offered him a contract job in Afghanistan to continue working satellite communications for the Air Force, but he decided it was time for something new. He was accepted to Wayne State University, but he thought the time was right to open his own business, which he did in September. 

That business is Retro-Taku Videogames in Madison Heights, dealing in used software and hardware, all in good condition and ranging from the recent to the truly rare.

A number of items in the store come from his time stationed in Japan, where he would peruse local shops looking for models that would be hard to find anywhere else, like the Hello Kitty variant of the Sega Dreamcast. And then there are hard-to-come-by games, like a boxed copy of the Japan-only “Sin & Punishment” for the Nintendo 64.

“My goal is to never have to sell anything on eBay. I want my store to be a gamer’s heaven,” White said. “I buy, sell and trade. Right now, we have more unique items in stock than when we started.” 

Recently, White combined his love of games with his respect for the men and women he served alongside and who continue to serve in the military today. Retro-Taku hosted a 24-hour game-a-thon from Nov. 9-10, where local gamers sought out donors who would sponsor them as they played games all day and all night, at the store or at home.

Donations continued to be collected beyond the game-a-thon period, until Nov. 15. Many people showed up, White said, and they raised $350.

The fundraiser is for Operation Supply Drop, a national nonprofit that sends videogames and consoles to soldiers in combat and those recovering in hospitals. The charity set a goal of $60,000 for this year’s event, taking place at gaming stores and hobby shops nationwide Veterans Day weekend.

Prior to the event, White said the plan was to set up 10 different systems in the store’s backroom, including the Atari 7800, Intellivision, PC-Engine Duo-R, a Japanese Wii, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and a Japanese Sega Saturn.

“I was thinking one day about trying to put together a charity that would do exactly what this charity happens to be doing,” White said. “When I found out about them in a Google search, I decided to help out.”

Ian Iverson, a friend of White’s, said the game-a-thon was a unique way to give back.

“It’s a great event for the local retro gaming community,” Iverson said, “and it’s for a good cause.”

Retro-Taku Videogames is located at 507 W. 11 Mile in Madison Heights and can be reached at (248) 268-3299.

Their Facebook page is www.facebook.com/retrotakugames.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.