What started as a small fan project for the owner of a local business has evolved has led to him partnering with big names from one of computer gaming's most iconic series to raise money for local charities.
Steven Skwarkowski, a longtime resident of the Las Vegas Valley, has always been a huge fan of the video game series Command & Conquer. The series was a pioneer in the once-popular real-time strategy genre, and its name is instantly recognized by anyone who followed PC gaming in the 90s and early 2000s.
"Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn was groundbreaking and planted the RTS Genre firmer than nearly any other game before it," Skwarkowski said. "Yeah, you heard me Warcraft nerds. Fight me!
As time went on, developer Westwood Software disappeared, and the series fell from the limelight not long after.
In the meantime, Skwarkowski -- who had lost both his mother and father and became homeless for a few years -- managed to get back on his feet and start up his own local computer shop, The Tech Monkey.
"Once I hit rock bottom, it was only up from there," Skwarkowski said. "I am thankful I screwed up early in life. It is a bit easier to pick yourself back up."
Then, in 2018, he heard that Electronic Arts was remaking the first two Command & Conquer games. Skwarkowski decided to put his PC-building skills to use and build two high-powered rigs themed around the games.
It was a simple idea, and one that played to his strengths. But he kind of went overboard.
"I had planned a nine-month build time to complete. I factored in roughly $6K-$8K in parts and build-time labor, for both PCs," explained Skwarkowsky. "The estimate, like all things custom, more than doubled in cost and time (You know, because Race Car!)"
But even that, Skwarkowsky decided, wasn't enough. His love for Command & Conquer made him decide to go beyond just making computers for the release of Command & Conquer remastered.
"The end result is this huge Fan Project," said Skwarkowski. "All of the work was done in our small computer shop. I had an idea a few months ago to go all out. We made custom shirts, posters, glasses, stickers, etc."
But it didn't stop at just making themed merchandise.
In Las Vegas, Command & Conquer was more than just a popular game series -- it was also a local treasure. Westwood Studios was based right here in Las Vegas, and it was one of the greats of the gaming industry. The studio held its own against the likes of Blizzard, Maxis, and Bullfrog, and its offices even used to give tours to fans and let them meet the actors who starred in their games' cutscenes.
Many of those actors and developers still live in town. For example, Joseph D. Kucan, who played the villainous Kane -- a dictatorial, self-styled messiah figure -- remained a part of the local theater scene and co-founded A Public Fit Theater Company.
Kucan joined the project. He once again took up his iconic role appeared in a promotional video for the auction.
According to Skwarkowski, many others who were a part of the original series have also been in touch with him, many of whom have autographed his merchandise for the auction.
"I cannot discuss any more at this moment as I will need some confidentiality forms signed by them first," Skwarkowski explained.
The auctions will begin on November 26, with bids starting at $1. When the auction is over, 50 percent of the money raised will go to Toys for Tots and two Las Vegas-based charities -- Connor Millies Dog Rescue and Shade Tree.
"This is just my best attempt to give back to the C&C Fan Community and keep it local to Las Vegas," said Skwarkowski.
For more information about the auctions and the computer specifications, visit TheTechMonkey.org/cc-charity.