'There's good in the gaming community'
In just seconds, one stranger’s senseless brutality put Brian Scott’s life on hold.
Scott, a GameStop employee, was struck on the head with a hammer during a February robbery at the video game store. The attack left a 5-centimeter depression that fractured his skull and caused a brain hemorrhage.
The two robbers were allegedly both video gamers looking to pay back a drug debt with their raid.
Since the assault, Scott’s had to step back from his "childhood dream" job working with video games, and his business studies at Rochester Community and Technical College are on hold in order to focus on recovery.
But a month after the attack, the actions of a second stranger heartened the 24-year-old’s relentless optimism.
When Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Jeff Geske heard about the assault, he knew he had to reach out to help the fellow gamer (though the two had only met in passing when Geske purchased the special edition Shadow of the Colossus video game). Geske raised more than $500 in donations and brought together the city’s tight-knit gaming community in the hope of bringing Scott a little joy, amid all the disruption.
"I wanted to show him that there’s still good in the gaming community," Geske said. "Things are not always bad and violent."
Scott was preparing to close GameStop on Feb. 19 when two men — one of them masked — entered the store and spent minutes browsing through the store’s collection and talking with him.
Scott, who had been working as a manager at the video game store for six months, didn’t think anything of the ski mask. It was a cold and icy February Minnesota evening.
The men, later identified as Ali Joshua Jalil Robida, 19, and Jacob Anthony Meier, 18, spent eight minutes chatting with Scott before Meier struck him in the back of the head with the hammer, court documents say. While Scott lay on the ground unconscious and bleeding, Robida and Meier filled a duffle bag with merchandise.
The next thing Scott remembered was waking up on the floor — covered in his own blood. He stumbled to a business next door to call police, while Robida and Meier fled.
Scott’s reaction to the men is a perfect example of "his positivity and his tendency to see the good in people and the bright side of people," said his mother, Donna Scott. "A man was walking around the store with a a mask on, but because the other guy didn’t have a mask on he didn’t think anything of it."
Rochester police tracked down the men days later. Meier was arrested at his apartment, where he was found playing one of the game consoles allegedly taken from the store. Robida was tracked down a little later, after he’d pawned many of the stolen games in Duluth.
Meier entered not guilty pleas to first-degree assault, first-degree aggravated robbery and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon; his jury trial is set to begin Aug. 27. Robida reached a plea agreement for the same set of charges, entering a guilty plea to first-degree assault on May 9; his sentencing is set for July 30.
Connecting to a tight-knit community
The applause that erupted when Scott walked into Godfather’s Pizza for a video game swap on March 24 confused him initially.
He thought he was at the swap to pick up some sought-after video games. But Geske had different plans. As a surprise for Scott, he brought together about 100 people from Rochester’s gaming community in a show of support at the swap meet. They presented him with $500 in cash and gift cards that had been donated by local businesses and video gamers.
"I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ And then I just started thanking everyone," Scott said. "All of a sudden, whatever I was there for, I immediately lost it."
When Geske saw news reports about the assault, he didn’t need to fall back on his medical expertise to understand the severity of the attack.
"They could have killed him," he said.
He knew he wanted to help. Initially, Geske had hoped to raise some money to put toward medical bills, but when he found those were covered by Scott’s employer, he thought, "Why not give him the money to spend on the hobby they all shared?"
"They went into the store with the intention to hurt him," Geske said. "It gives the wrong impression of what video gamers are like."
"We wanted Brian to know that as a community, we were supporting him," Geske added. "The gaming community is a good community, and good things can come out of it."
Scott’s injuries landed him in the hospital for two days.
"I was asleep for the worst parts of it," he said, joking. And even though he’s remained positive throughout his recovery, he realizes how serious his injuries were.
"I didn’t realize how bad it was until I made so much progress," Scott said. "And then I look back and go, maybe I wasn’t OK then."
He’s gone from being able to spend about 45 minutes outside of his home, to three-and-a-half hours at a time. Still, if he pushes it, headaches set in.
"We’re so close," Scott said. "But I’m definitely not better yet."
Even now, as he’s recovering, video games, and the community he finds there, remain a source of positivity in his life.
"It makes him so happy," said Donna Scott. "Maybe his friends aren’t able to come over, but at 10 o’clock, they’re all getting online to play a game together."
The outpouring of support from that "new, local community" he’s been connected to has helped the family work through the chaos of the recovery.
"There’s more good in town than bad," said Donna Scott. "This is still a great community."