Story & Photos by Mitchell Brown, Reporter
Retrograde Charitable Toy & Video Game Museum at 112 W. Gay in Warrensburg, Mo. is located in a house that could be any house in any town.
Once inside the door, the sound of the “Super Friends” cartoon is heard emanating from a TV, and looking to the left and right, large arcade machines are on display. In the next room sits a large display case, housing a collection of video game cartridges from days gone by, Nintendo, Sega, “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “The Legend of Zelda,” “Contra,” and “Mortal Kombat” are all there.
The walls are decorated with rare and collectable animation cells, some of them autographed. The inside of Retrograde feels like a nexus point connecting memorable pop-culture artifacts from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. It looks like every kid’s Christmas wish list from bygone eras stuffed into one building.
Although Retrograde might look like an independent used toy store, the massive display of video games, action figures, board games and other collectables is in the name of charity.
The museum is the creation of Jed Rhodes, Ryan Edmondson and Brian Chamberlin, and the genesis of Retrograde came out of a conversation about the current political climate.
“This started from us talking about the state of our world and the state of politics and the way that people were being looked at and wanting to do something to change that, and also to help meet needs we see within our own community,” Chamberlin said.
“If you want to change the world, you start in your own corner,” Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin expressed interest in helping children and the community at large, particularly those who are struggling or suffering.
“With my background, I’ve worked in downtown St. Louis – I’ve worked with the homeless in the past,” Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin has a background in working in the non-profit sector, he is also a foster parent, and one of his aims with Retrograde is to provide a safe environment for kids.
“With foster kids, you are dealing with kids who have needs and have maybe been through some extremely horrible things or hard times,” Chamberlin said.” They need that space to just be a kid, to be able to blow of that steam, we all do.”
Chamberlin spoke to how he helped to start a program in St. Louis called Tools for School, in which free school supplies were provided for children. One of his plans, via Retrograde, is to provide school supplies and backpacks, with super-hero and cartoon images on them, including books, with the aim of helping to grow a child’s imagination.
Seeing large arcade machines in an area that was once someone’s living room is a surreal sight. To obtain the machines, Chamberlin and Edmondson had to pursue unconventional methods.
Chamberlin explained how four arcade machines were bought for $600.00 altogether. They were in a state of severe disrepair, and he and others went to work on repairing and restoring the machines.
The collection of arcade cabinets, which ranges from a Neo Geo machine to a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, is not complete.
“There are machines we would love to have,” Chamberlin said, with a boisterous laugh.
Edmondson remarked that he would love to get “Gauntlet” and “Killer Instinct” arcade machines.
The process of acquiring other materials for the museum ranged from scouring the Salvation Army to using online resources.
“Anybody who is serious about their passion will go through just about anything to get what they are looking for,” Edmondson said.
The passion for the material is shown in how dense the collection is at Retrograde.
The name Retrograde announces a space dedicated to an embracing of the past. Responding to why would kids today embrace a franchise like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which originates from a comic book first published in 1984, Chamberlin spoke of how one generation can pass the things they loved to another generation, which is one of the goals at Retrograde.
Chamberlin spoke of connectedness that can come from the enjoyment of such things.
“I think if there is any one thing you could give another human being that is a childhood and good memories.” Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin has future plans for Retrograde, including video game tournaments and the possibility of tabletop gaming sessions.