BOTB-winning Church Of Nintendo seeks help repairing van, putting "smiles on faces" of retro-gaming community

click to enlarge Church Of Nintendo founder Matthew Barker in front of The Bricks in Ybor City on June 16, 2014. - Ray Roa
Ray Roa
Church Of Nintendo founder Matthew Barker in front of The Bricks in Ybor City on June 16, 2014.

The two-and-half year saga (not Sega) of the First United Church Of Nintendo has been amazing to follow. From its humble beginnings illuminating the mirrored walls of Fubar, to the way it’s become a true Bay area sanctuary for local NES-heads, the free, two-time BOTB-winning retro-gaming night (complete with one of the state’s largest collection of NES games) has won the hearts of anyone who’ve ever had this reaction to being put in front of a gaming system.

The church’s humble, mulleted, and always-smiling leader, Matthew Barker, routinely deflects attention away from himself to talk about his love of St. Pete and the Bay area, or all the friends he’s made through the project, instead.

Two weeks ago, the congregation suffered a huge setback when its van completely hit the shitter. The steed’s final voyage happened on November 5 before a worship session at The Amsterdam in downtown St. Petersburg. The church is on indefinite hiatus, with plans to get back on the road as soon as possible, but Barker, 32, is asking the community for help. A modest crowdfunding campaign has set a goal of $3,500 dollars and as of today 15 people have chipped in the raise just under $700.

“It's a bit overwhelming and emotional to see so many believe in what I’m doing,” Barker wrote in an email to CL. “To see a community come together and share, give, and offer their support not just financially but any way that an individual can — a ride, a dollar, a connection, a shoulder so many things ... response has been exceptional.” Barker’s long-term goal has been to eventually turn the church into a nonprofit, and he has aspirations to apply for grants that’ll be utilized to continue giving back the community he loves so much.

“I was born and raised here and have no plans on leaving, so why not give back to the city? I absolutely love being able to put my passion into something and present it to people in a form where you could hang out with your friends, relive a part of your childhood, possibly bring your child,” he added. “I love what I’m doing and have a strong support group. To me Church is everything.”

Look below to check out a video of Barker talking with the congregation at the Bricks Ybor’s Monday night event, and donate to Church Of Nintendo’s GoFundMe campaign here. Get connected on Facebook.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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