“When people say things like, ‘You’re a legend!’ it embarrasses me. Because I’m just a newbie old grandma,” says Shirley Curry, 84.
From the fantastical land of Ohio, Shirley Curry goes on adventures with magic and dragons. Every day, the 84-year-old Ms. Curry hops on her computer with the camera on to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim—and thousands of people watch. With almost a million subscribers and 18,186,913 channel views, Ms. Curry has become a heavyweight amongst video game influencers.
“When people say things like, ‘You’re a legend!’ it embarrasses me. Because I’m just a newbie old grandma. I try to just be honest and be me. I sit here in my apartment and dream up stories. That’s all I do," says Ms. Curry.
Skyrim is an old game by now, but there's lots to do. Ms. Curry leads her viewers, which she calls "grandkids", through dungeons and snowy mountains to discover long-slumbering magic and danger. She reads every in-game book and takes moments to appreciate the in-game ambiance. And at the end of each video, Ms. Curry always ends with a warming "bye-bye, grandkids."
The Road to High Hrothgar
Before finding gaming stardom, Ms. Curry had been a secretary, worked in a candy factory, and spent several years as an associate in a Kmart women’s clothing department—all while raising four children. She retired in 1991, at the age of 55.
Her son taught her to play a classic 1996 strategy game, Civilization II. “I’d play so much, day and night,” she said. “I’d just go out and conquer continent after continent and I loved it.”
After joining YouTube in 2011 to watch some of her favorite gaming channels, Ms. Shirley uploaded a Skyrim video in 2015 that generated 2.1 million views. Since then, she's grown her successful YouTube career which funds travel to gaming conventions to mingle with fans (which has since halted due to pandemic conditions.)
Bethesda, the studio that develops the Elder Scrolls games, has promised to recreate Shirley Curry as a character in the sequel to Skyrim. Rick Vicens, a senior artist at Bethesda, said:
“Everyone at the studio knows who she is. I wanted to do it right. That meant not only capturing her likeness, but also her skin detail and facial expressions. When we spoke about the process and what it would take, Shirley was completely on board. I’m excited for everyone, and most importantly Shirley, to see the final result.”
After taking a short health-related break, Shirley Curry is back at it.
Though it comes with the challenges of managing a growing fanbase and the difficulty of connecting with her peers, both the land of Skyrim and our own is better for having Ms. Curry in it.
Have you heard the legend of the gaming grandma? Is gaming a good hobby for the retired? Comment below!