Disclaimer: This following story contains mentions of sexual and physical abuse.
Lourdes “Luly” Flores looked out of the window from her hospital bed six years ago to see the bright blue tip of the Walter Pyramid peering over the windowsill. She burst into tears, wondering if she would ever get her life back.
Flores endured physical and sexual abuse from her boyfriend in her time at the university, which lead to a six-month hospitalization for severe depression and a two-year hiatus from school.
The 27-year-old is now the president of the CSULB Esports Association, leading the club in a new direction in the age of a rising gamer culture.
From a young age, the Long Beach native had the drive to attain her goals as she rose to the top of her classes in middle school and high school — leaving behind the several clubs she pioneered which would last long after she graduated.
After a two-year absence and many moments of her life lost, Flores returned to the university in 2014 to find herself in a strange place where everyone she remembered had moved on without her. The friends she once had, had long since graduated which left her with a feeling of emptiness.
“I felt like Fry from ‘Futurama,’” Flores said. “It’s like I woke up one day and everyone I knew was gone.”
In 2016, Flores began to get more involved with the Esports Association, where she quickly established herself as a valuable asset and was elected president of the club for fall 2017. There was no shortage of ideas she had planned for the organization and quickly modeled her life around improving it.
“She works so hard to make things enjoyable for the members,” said long-time friend and club member David Villatoro. “Sometimes I worry she works herself too hard, but if she stops working then she slips backs into that sadness she had felt for so long.”
“I was so numb”
During her first few months at Cal State Long Beach, Flores started dating a man she met in a school club. After a period of time, the relationship turned physically abusive. Flores was raped and beaten by her boyfriend for three and a half years and kept it a secret from her family and friends.
Flores found herself riding a downward spiral into depression — she couldn’t eat or sleep for over a month. After having a bad reaction to a prescribed mood altering antidepressant, her parents rushed her to the hospital where Flores was so weak, she had to relearn how to walk and eat.
Due to memory loss from medications, Flores said that specific details were difficult to accurately recall.
She was kept in the A Wing of the Long Beach Community Hospital for an extended period of time, where the medical staff forced medication on her. Should she refuse, Flores was threatened to be transferred to the B Wing, where mentally unstable patients were kept.
“I would cry, just wanting my normal life back,” Flores said. “I would cry behind that window looking at that tip [of the pyramid] just wishing I had my life back and just praying and hoping for the day that I graduate.”
Through her entire hospital stay, Flores remained in a relationship with the man who abused her. After she was released, she returned home to her family to recuperate.
“It was difficult to go back to my room, I couldn’t figure out why but it was terrifying,” Flores said.
While resting in her bed, her boyfriend came over for the first time since she had been in the hospital. Angry over her absence, he ridiculed her and put his hands around her throat.
“I was so numb to what he was saying I was just over it,” Flores said. “I thought if he wanted to kill me, then go ahead.”
From that moment, Flores put her foot down and told her parents about the violence she faced and ended the relationship with him through text. He texted back, “have a good life.”
Desperate to get her life back, Flores began researching the medication she had been given during her hospital stay. She had received 15 types of psychotropic drugs, five of which are linked to memory loss. Flores began to piece together why she had huge chunks of her memory missing over the last two years.
Upon her return to school, Flores struggled to keep up in her classes, having to relearn to study due to her short-term memory loss. Through the Disabled Student Services, she found the accommodations she needed with her studies.
While facing difficulties to integrate herself back into normal life, she came to a dark realization about the root of her depression. During a class on human sexuality, the topic of abuse and molestation was brought up and for reasons unbeknownst to her at the time, Flores began to break down and cry.
After days of wondering what caused her outburst, memories from her childhood began to resurface. From ages 4 to 13, she had been continuously molested by two of her family members and one neighbor.
“To this day I still sleep in the same room that I was molested in since I was 4,” Flores said. “And that’s when I realized why my room has always been such a bittersweet place.”
“‘luma’ means to illuminate”
After she was released from the hospital, Flores still struggled to move past her traumatic experiences, so she looked to the stack of video games in her room. She remembered her love for gaming, a hobby she’d long forgotten, and began the healing process through the characters and stories in her favorite games.
“I really related to Lara Croft, even if we had endured different kinds of suffering. Her story just really stuck with me and how strong she was through it all,” Flores said.
Although Flores had spent her life aspiring to become a marine biologist, she came to the realization that her passion lay with video games. She made the decision to switch her major to business marketing, so she could begin her road toward a career centered around gaming.
“It took a lot of strength to get through what she went through,” said Alex Flores, her older brother. “She took it the other way and started exercising and really just changing her whole life around. She took something she really enjoyed and turned it into a career.”
“The ‘electri’ comes from lightning, which often scares people, but in a happier sense it can be seen as something that lights up the darkness,” Flores said. “And the ‘luma’ means to illuminate. It’s just taking something negative and turning it into a positive.”
While attending the fall Week of Welcome, Flores stumbled upon the Esports Association on campus.
Looking for an outlet, she decided to get involved with the club in her free time.
“It’s just beyond words”
Over the last two years, the club has become her family, with Flores committing any free time she had to improving the lives of her club members.
Flores has added a more diverse genre of games to play, which increased enrollment for the club and garnered sponsorship from the school to participate in competitive gaming tournaments. In the last month, Flores has also introduced official gaming jerseys for team members to wear during competitions.
“Every time I call her, she’s on her way to a meeting or a competition or something,” Alex said. “She’s just always on the go.”
With so many members younger than the 27-year-old president, Flores often sees herself as a mother-figure to the club.
“[The officers] will always joke around and call me mom,” Flores said. “And if they misbehave I threaten to whip out the chanclas.”
As her time at the university comes to a close, Flores stresses that she did not accomplish all she wanted to for the club in the short time she spent as president. However, other members are forever grateful with the turn around they’ve seen with her in charge.
The club will be recognized Friday at the Celebration of Leadership Ceremony, where Flores will also be recognized as an organization leader and given the Department Outstanding Undergraduate Award at the CBA Honors Luncheon. She is also being recognized at the CBA Commencement Ceremony May 25.
Following graduation, Flores has been invited for a post-graduate internship position with Nintendo. She currently works for the Blizzard Entertainment arena for the competitive Overwatch League.
“I know graduation means a lot for everybody,” Flores said. “But to me it means that much and more. I still think back to that time in the hospital staring at the pyramid wondering if I’d ever get to this point and to see it actually happening — it’s just beyond words.”
This article was updated for corrections and clarifications May 3.