Former COD students bring gaming to Agua Caliente Casino

Photo courtesy of Conflux Gaming Facebook page. People gather at Agua Caliente Casino in the 360 sports bar to watch tournaments hosted by Conflux Gaming.

BY RAMON RAMIREZ

STAFF REPORTER

The Coachella Valley has a new place for local gamers and people who are looking for a good time. If you are 21 or older, Agua Caliente Casino, located on Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage, now has a 360 sports bar. Brought by Conflux Gaming.

This new spot now hosts tournaments for a variety of games for their 360 eSports After Dark event on Wednesdays starting at 8 p.m. and the Madden20 tournament for football lovers on Thursdays at 9 p.m. The rise of video game entertainment is evident, and Conflux Gaming, a Coachella Valley-based gaming company, was always one step ahead from the beginning. Former College of the Desert students, Chadwick Blackard and Dajana Menjivar are founders of this company, and they talked about what Conflux Gaming is, what it offers, and what local gamers can expect.

“Conflux Gaming started in 2011 as the college group known as ‘Nerd Stock,’ which was founded by my friend and me, Garret Stevens,” said Blackard, “Nerd stock continues to this day as we’ve passed the torch to passionate gamers, who we are still in contact with.” These passionate gamers Chadwick mentioned are who you see now at the 360 sports bar and are the people who run the event.

Co-founder Dajana Menjivar, who also happens to be Blackard’s girlfriend, said, “We saw an opportunity while doing events for Comic Con Palm Springs. Once we saw potential, these events changed from a hobby to a legitimate business, and we were able to take the beginning steps to finally bring gaming to the Coachella Valley.”

Over the years, Conflux Gaming has grown tremendously, and although Blackard and Menjivar no longer live in the desert, they have left Conflux Gaming in good hands. “Conflux grew over the years through hard work and dedication to the community. It was an opportunity seen during Comic-Con Palm Springs when the convention first started in 2016. The following year we were invited again to host a game room during the event, where we held an even larger game room in-conjunction with Cascade Games. In 2018, we were hired to do events again by Comic Con Palm Springs, which was Mayhem in Agua Caliente Casino resort and spa,” said Menjivar.

These events led Conflux Gaming to strike a deal with Agua Caliente Casino. “Our business with Agua Caliente came about because of our previous events with Comic Con Palm Springs. John Bednar, an employee of Agua Caliente Casino, contacted us to bring the eSports scene to their new 360 sports bar,” said Blackard.

Even though the founders enjoy where Conflux Gaming is right now, they plan to keep their options open, “We could see us doing business with Agua Caliente for years to come although not everything lasts forever, we have our sights on other goals,” said Blackard, “The short one is to keep hosting successful gaming events while learning all aspects of the business as an experiment to see what we are able to do. Our long-term goal is to host larger events, opening our own store, and fill the gaming void we have in the desert.” Conflux Gaming seems to be taking care of that gaming “void” that the Coachella Valley had by now doing the tournaments they host.

Conflux Gaming tournaments include a range of different games. The events at Agua Caliente Casino include a variety of gaming tournaments for competitive gamers, as well as games for casual gamers. The more popular titles according to the founders are Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Mortal Combat 11, Tekken 7, Street Fighter 5 and Madden 20. Prizes each Wednesday night are varied based on the difficulty of the tournament; typically there are between 3-5 tournaments with at least $100 in cash prizes per tournament. On Thursdays, in addition to football, Madden 20 tournament is offered with a first-place prize of $350.

As Conflux Gaming continues to expand, there could be plans to move into a competitive PC platform. “We can see Conflux Gaming adopting competitive PC eSports. PC gaming is a larger market than console gaming is, and one day we look to delve into it. However, getting ahold of the physical hardware is a serious investment. Typical gaming PCs are $2000-$3000, and we need at least 12 to start hosting competitive multiplayer games,” said Blackard.

Gaming has become a big industry in recent years and video game tournaments have become extremely popular. There is big money to be won on video game tournaments. “I don’t see a future where gaming isn’t relative, where it stands today, it’s a multibillion-dollar industry larger than both sports and Hollywood combined,” said Blackard, “It’s hard to say where Conflux Gaming will be in the years to come, as gaming grows and becomes more mainstream there will be so many new opportunities opening. Where I would like to be though, is hosting larger events on the same scale as a full-sized convention.”

After eight years on the gaming field, Conflux Gaming has made its mark on the gaming industry here in the valley and only compares to its competitors in the way they host games. “After that our differences begin, many other competitors lack the technical understanding of software and hardware intricacies. Our staff are all seasoned tournament operators, trained, and certified IT staff, and all have a background working in the service industry,” said Blackard.

Blackard is proud of his team, and everyone’s hard work. “Our head of operations is Bob Ming or ‘Ming Bob’, he’s a known figure here in the Coachella Valley who had a personal hand in everything from Coachella Fest, Gameline USA and Comic-Con Palm Springs. He has over 20 years’ worth of event and festival experience. Dajana and I couldn’t have found a better staff than those who are with us now. At one point, each member has been a key figure who hosted their own tournaments or leagues with a strong dedication to the gaming community,” said Blackard.

Conflux Gaming has more Coachella Valley projects in the works. Blackard and Menjivar thank the community for coming out all these years to show support. You can follow their various social media @Conflux Gaming on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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