By Jourdan Kerl
Carlos, Ricardo, Francisco and Ozzie Flores raced home after school as children to compete against one another in their favorite video games.
Now adults, their love for gaming transformed into bigger dreams for the brothers from Puerto Rico.
Four brothers. Three veterans. One vision: To establish a premier destination where any video gamer in Chicago, young or old, could enjoy social interaction with others.
This dream manifested into the family-owned Raid Gaming Lounge that opened in late 2017 at 3044 N. Central Ave. on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Their initial inspiration came from their mother.
“My mom started with gaming. She’s the main one who introduced us to gaming and all different types of games,” said Francisco, 27. “[We] fell in love with it ever since we were small, like a lot of Chicago gamers.”
This love passed from a mother to her sons forged a dynamic team of business owners, who all want to make a difference in their community.
“We see how much gaming impacts our lives and know how [it] impacts other gamers’ lives in Chicago,” Francisco said. “Gaming is not all about wasting time, like most people say. To us, we think it’s a good influence.”
Carlos, 32, had his first interaction with mixed arcades and LAN gaming centers on a visit to Japan in 2005. Reflecting on his experience in the country, he would explore other lounges in the United States. After years of brainstorming, he formulated a plan with his brothers to develop their own lounge in Chicago.
“This is the place that I would have loved to have when I was growing up [and] would love to go to, if it was available to me,” Carlos said.
Launching a gaming lounge in a city that is relatively new to esports culture came with challenges.
“The concept of video gaming is big, but the places where you only play video games are very young. Like any other industry, you need to have social interaction between people,” Carlos said. “One of the biggest questions we get is, ‘why would I go to your place and play when I can just play at home?'”
His answer? “It’s a social environment.”
To create this type of climate at the lounge, the brothers, who are currently the only employees, host weekly tournaments and events, such as Super Saturday for fighting games. Party game nights are held every Friday and RAID Tuesdays are in partnership with the neighboring Wingstop. The facility can also be rented to host birthdays and events.
In spite of the challenges, Francisco, Carlos and their brothers’ long-term mission has been much more than just playing games.
“All four of us see the same image and the same direction when it comes to gaming. We want everyone to help run the [Raid Gaming Lounge] community,” Francisco said.
“You can come here, play together, bring friends and interact.”
The Raid Gaming Lounge is open daily from noon to midnight.