How Gaming Saved My Life

How gaming saved my life.

We all have had our shares of ups and downs through life. Some of us just deal and move on, while others may struggle. It's how we get through the rough times that matter and that we did get through them.

Many of us have all kinds of ideas and methods that we use to get us through. Believe it or not, gaming has become a key escape for many. Whether it be the stress of school, work, people... but for me, gaming helped save me during a very dark time in my life.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I come from a large Latin family; I've been married and I'm a mother of four amazing kids. I was a mother of three boys and the most beautiful little girl for only two and a half years. This is where my darkest time begins.

Being a mother of three boys, I can't tell you how happy I was to finally be told I was having a little girl.

Yeah, I get to buy pink and dolls and dresses! It was too cool for me. I imagined teaching my daughter to game like me and her brothers, as well. I imagined and experienced a lot once my Isabel Simone entered my life after a very difficult delivery.

  (Photos of my daughter, Isabel Simone)

Isabel was amazing, friendly, social, funny (much like me), and didn't like anyone upset. This tiny girl loved Xbox and PS2 controllers, especially generic ones that would light up when plugged in. Playing games like Burnout on the PS2 around her was fun. Every time the music came on during a save/load screen, she'd jump up and start dancing with a big smile, then sit right down once the game started again. She believed she was playing because of the AIs.

Who is anyone to tell a little kid any different?

It was a very cold day on December 17, 2005 that I sat in rocking chair with Isabel in my arms, her father by my side while in the ICU of the Albany Medical Center Children's Hospital in Albany, NY. It was on this day that we had to say goodbye to our gorgeous daughter after recommendations of the doctors. The details are way too painful to explain, so I will spare you and me that.

Days, weeks, months of my life after that horrible day were numb, hazy, and stressful. I could barely fake my smiles at work, at home, around anyone or my poor boys who were also suffering like me. My moods were scary and very temperamental. I slowly couldn't function anymore, burying my grief.

It was at the lowest point where I didn't know if I wanted to even wake-up, that I was convinced by a gamer friend to play COD: Modern Warfare 2 on my Xbox 360.

It was at the lowest point where I didn't know if I wanted to even wake-up, that I was convinced by a gamer friend to play COD: Modern Warfare 2 on my Xbox 360. So I picked up a copy and with my eldest son guiding me through the campaign, I played and played.

I really loved the campaign, but it was the multiplayer experience that, believe it or not, snapped me out of my funk.

I wasn't much for chatter online, but it was pretty hard not to be during the game play. I met some crazy players and one who I can say ended up becoming a best friend. It was his constant taunting while on various maps during Team Deathmatch or Free-For-All that would make me laugh or want for homicide.

Here online in my gaming world, I wasn't a mother, an ex-wife, a daughter, or most especially, a woman who buried her little girl... I was just my gamertag. I can't tell you what a relief that was. I ended up throwing myself into my online gaming. My new buddy Bobby took me through so many games and conversations that I didn't know where the clock was half of the time--except when the school bus was heard.

I learned to laugh again and not feel guilty. I could talk about anything and not have that dark cloud over my head. I was in a way brought back to life and most importantly, back to my surviving boys who needed their Mom back.

I became a different person than I was before my journey without Isabel began, but I was back. 

I'm not the same, and I never will be. Anyone who loses a child never truly is. Yet, I like who I am though, and eight years later, I love who I've become. I still miss my sweet Isabel and am involved in many organizations in her honor. I have a great relationship with my boys and my new partner.

The best part is we all game, and we game together. I don't know where I'd be without having gaming as my escape like I did, but what I can say is that it saved my life.

Featured Columnist

Venisia is a public relations professional, video game industry contractor, published author, freelance entertainment journalist, copy editor, a co-organizer of the Latinx Games Festival, and a member of the Latinx in Gaming and the Puerto Rico Game Developers (PRGD) community. Her passion is video games. She loves the adrenaline rush from a multiplayer match and understands the frustrations of a brand-new raid. Venisia finds immense value in gaming especially in the realm of mental health.

Published Feb. 15th 2017
  • gabfran
    This was such a powerful article!! It brought me to tears. So many people speak ill of video games and yet don't acknowledge the good they do in so many ways. I commend your courage in sharing your personal story. I can't imagine how hard this must have been to do (sharing your story) nor can I imagine the gravity of such a loss. You're a brave woman with a gift for writing.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Your words of appreciation mean such a great deal thank you. It's not easy to share something so personal on such a profound level but it helps me to cope sharing my journey. If I can help reach someone in a similar state of mind for the better, then it's all the more worthwhile. No one should ever feel alone. We all need an outlet of some sort that's beneficial, not destructive. Video games became my outlet and more people should know how positive they can be.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Correspondent
    That is a really beautiful story that makes it hard for me to stop crying. I am truly sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you for reading, much love.
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    Didn't realize I haven't commented yet.

    What a superb piece. Thank you for sharing.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank YOU for reading and sharing my article like you have. I'm very grateful my friend.
  • Jody_6603
    So proud of you, you are the epitome of strength and courage. And though its been years since we've seen each other, you and the boys are always in my heart and prayers xoxo
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you so very much. Your words mean so very much to me.
  • Donell Torres
    This was such an inspiring story! I'm so sorry for your loss. No one should have to go through that kind of emotional pain. Your story was just incredible and it just goes to show that video games are more than just code and graphics. I game online because +I used to get bullied a lot. I mean A LOT. I was that one kid that no matter how cool or nice I tried to be, I always had that label that said "loser," Rumors were passed that I was gay and for a breif period of time people actually believed it.I'm not homophobic or anything like that but in middle school, that's not the title you want. Even when I got my first girlfriend they still thought that she was just a cover-up. Then, I started gaming. I recorded and uploaded videos to YouTube to find an escape from the terror that was middle school. Enough about me though. I find this story to be the best one I've read in years.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story. Bullying isn't cool and shouldn't be tolerated, no one should be subjected to it. I thank you for reading.
  • Proto Foe
    Senior Intern
    Venisia, I am not able to many deep words at the moment, your article took my breath away. It is an inspiration to read. Thank you,
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I'm glad you found it inspiring, it means a great deal. Thank you.
  • Chris Hendricks
    Featured Contributor
    Sometimes I get scoffed at when telling people how effective gaming can be as therapy for any number of problems. Few problems, if any, have such a lasting impact as your tragic loss. I am so happy that you were able to find solace and hope in gaming, even if ironically in such a "harsh" title as the CoD franchise.

    Gaming really has the ability to bring people together and allow you to tap into emotions you may have been unaware were there in the first place. Finding a connection or a sense of normalcy in anything is always helpful. Great post and what an inspiration to others!
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    The game is ironic in it being the therapy I needed and thank you for reading.
  • Steven Oz
    Featured Contributor
    Venisia, I am so sorry for your loss. This has touched me to the core. You are an inspiration to your kids and others. You are an amazing person with a great heart!
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you.
  • Si_W
    People find hope in places they may never have considered. The important thing is not where they find it, but that they find it. I'm glad you found your hope thanks to gaming and a good friend, the latter as important as the former.

    I'm pleased you were able to share the overall story with us, the painful private parts and details not relevant to those outside of your immediate family circle (I hope that doesn't sound too blasé), more the overarching story arc.

    It's articles like this that keep me coming back, for a more human experience instead of just dry gaming features.

    Thank you.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed my piece.
  • Dave Woods
    Thank you, Venisia, for writing this. I can appreciate how hard this must have been for you, and it has certainly affected me.

    Timing could not have been better as I have been very much entering into a depressive state. One that I know I will struggle to climb out off if I let myself go much further. I have had little heart for gaming recently, cheering myself up by interacting with a good community of friends on Facebook (which is where I was made aware of this article).

    I have felt little compulsion to pick up a joystick for long periods of time, what with the various concerns that surround me. All of which seem to pale into insignificance when compared to the trials that you have been through. Perhaps it is time for me to get back to the gaming that I so loved.

    Thank you for sharing with us. Thank you for teaching me a valuable lesson. Thank you for showing me that I am more than just an amalgamation of my problems, I am a living, breathing person that should be able to enjoy my life.

    Thank you for being inspiration and inner strength. Thank you for opening my eyes.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    No Dave, thank you. Knowing that I can reach someone makes me thrive. Best of luck and thanks for reading.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    This was touching Venisia, I'm really glad I read it. I'm so sorry you had to go through that, I have no idea what that would be like. It seems that you have made a very strong recovery and I'm happy for you! There was another contributor a few months back who told us his story of when his father died unexpectedly and how gaming was the most important thing to bring him back to reality after such a traumatic experience.

    Though my story of how gaming saved me is nothing in comparison, I went through some very tough times throughout my school life. I guess I was just that perfect type of kid to get all of the crap from everyone in school. Friends were scarce and being so shunned made making friends and developing a personality extremely difficult. This is where online gaming came in and held me strong and developed me into the person I am today. I learned a lot from MMO's on how to interact and how to make yourself valuable as a friend. This is only part of what games have done for me, my professional life is absolutely dependent upon my gaming past.

    Sorry for the rambling, I just love stories like this and the whole world needs to see stories like this. Soon the world, and more particularly, politicians will begin to understand the enormous need and usefulness of gaming in our lives.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you for sharing your story with me. I appreciate it tremendously. Gaming connects us all in a way some wouldn't begin to imagine.
  • Linda Govednik
    Bless you Venisia for putting yourself out there after such a deep loss. Thank you for telling your story, for sharing what helped you through your grief, but most of all for being real. There isn't much honesty left in the world. As a mother who also lost her daughter I sincerely appreciate this article.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Thank you so much Linda. It means a lot.
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Venisia, I am so sorry for you loss, and so glad that you had the right game and the right friend there to help you through some of the pain. Games are an escape, and sometimes exactly what we need is to be someone else, somewhere else, for just a little while.

    When my brother died unexpectedly, I poured myself into an MMO where I could be someone else and not think about it right in front of my face every second. It helped me function, and being functional helped me learn to live with the new normal in our family.

    I can't imagine what you've been through; thank you for having the bravery to share it. Hopefully your story will help other people recognize when a little escape in game can help them cope better with what's going on in their lives.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    I'm sorry for your loss also and I thank you. This article means a lot and I hope it helps anyone who's out there struggling.

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