Put your ear to the sidewalk in Bay Ridge and you might hear something. If you time it right you may hear the rumbling of a stampede. A nerd stampede. On Sunday, April 21, as I was walking along Fifth Avenue, I saw a commotion forming a few blocks away. It seemed a herd of about 20 man-children were running toward me, wearing an array of Mario and Final Fantasy T-shirts.
My first thought was, “Perhaps today is a good day to die.”
As the mob charged toward me, I recognized the owner of local store Gotham City Games, Ralph Pugliese, spearheading the unlikely rabble.
“What’s going on Ralphie?” I asked.
“Thievery!” he bellowed as he whooshed past, with the nerds running behind him in desperation.
Apparently, someone had lifted a game from Ralph’s store, putting a damper on the video-game tournament that was happening. An angry mob formed, determined to bring vigilante street justice to the dastardly perp. Despite the face-value hilarity of this enraged nerd herd, shoplifting is obviously no laughing matter to any business, let alone a new, independent small business. Ralph, however, is not discouraged by the incident.
“This is the only instance of straight theft” he said, adding with a laugh, “The kid was a character. He shoved the game down his pants and he ran.”
The culprit escaped with a used copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare stuffed into his underwear. But Ralph took it in stride with a wide grin.
“Everybody in the store ran after him because they love the store so much,” Ralph said. “Guys come and meet at events, and they wind up playing outside of the store together.”
Perched just off the corner of Fifth Avenue and 84th Street, Gotham City Games has become an instant gem not only for Bay Ridgers but for all New Yorkers with an itch to revisit games of the past, or in need of a new game for their current-generation systems; giving a brick-and-mortar alternative to the facelessness of eBay, the shop has been attracting video-game fans of all ages—and apparently bringing together a group of people that are usually not known for being social. If you go, just remember to behave: it’s not likely that Ralphie’s squad of Vitamin D-deficient joystick jockeys will allow the next evildoer to escape unscathed.
Chris Ghiorzi was born and raised in Bay Ridge. He has been Spock twice for Halloween. He is the founder of Gotham.beer, which happens to be a website about beer.
Follow Hey Ridge on Twitter @heyridgebk