From behind two monitors, a custom-built computer and a high-quality keyboard and mouse, Shirley Curry says, “give me that soul of the dragon.” She has just fired an iron arrow into its hide. After weeks of preparing for this battle, the 82-year-old gamer is content with her victory.

Shirley has been playing Skyrim since 2014 and has posted her gameplay on a daily basis for the last three years. After her son introduced her to the computer game Civilization in the 1990s, she was hooked on gaming. More recently, Shirley immersed herself in online gaming culture and was frequently commenting on other gamers’ posts. Members of her gaming community encouraged her to release videos of her own gameplay. Shortly after she did so, one of her fans shared one of her videos on This exposure multiplied Shirley’s fan base and started her journey as Grandma Gamer.

Shirley is a “role player,” meaning she immerses herself in a variety of characters and virtual worlds and then shares those experiences with her audience of 440, 000 followers — and growing! Her followers affectionately call her Grandma Shirley and she fondly refers to them as her grand kids.

“Gaming is good as you grow older because in a game, you have to make decisions, plan ahead, plan strategies, decide on what you are gonna do and where you gonna go, and which quest you’re gonna do, and how you are gonna do it. And your brain is acting.”

Three decades of gaming

After almost thirty years of gaming, Shirley describes her hobby as therapeutic for her brain, “gaming is good as you grow older because in a game you have to make decisions, plan ahead and plan strategies. Decide on what you are gonna do and where you gonna go, and which quest you’re gonna do, and how you are gonna do it. And your brain is acting.”

In addition to her love for games, Shirley is motivated by the constant interaction and support from her fans. In fact, Shirley dedicates much of her day to interacting with her fans. She says that some days feel more like work than play, but the appreciation she receives from her fans sustains her. Many of them are honest and open with her. They even discuss struggles and personal issues with her: “a lot of them make me cry, they make me sad, but they make me glad that I am here and can somehow give them comfort.” This sense of personal connection motivates Shirley to continue creating content, “every time I feel like I am getting tired, or maybe boxed in a corner because I feel like I have to keep playing, I think, well, I can’t quit if I wanted to…And I feel like I just have to stay here.”

While being open to her viewers has allowed her to better connect with them, it has also had some drawbacks. When she first starting posting videos, people would say, “you need to be sitting in a rocking chair and knitting.” Others would make inappropriate comments about her age and the type of content she was creating. However, these comments have decreased because Shirley continues to make her community aware that she will not tolerate negative comments. By establishing clear audience expectations, she has developed a community of respect that provides a safe space for her play.

On being old and good at gaming

Shirley recognizes that her role as an eighty-two year-old gamer is unique and credits it to the years she has spent honing her skills. She is adamant that starting early has been key to her success and doesn’t think gaming is something anyone can pick up in an instant. “The kids [say] ‘I wish my parents were like you’, ‘I wish my grandparents were like you’, ‘I wish they played games with me’…but I didn’t start at this age… I started back in the 90s, when I was in my 40s and 50s.”

Shirley has developed an ethic around her style of play and her online identity. She describes herself as a “clean and decent” player who doesn’t “scream and yell and run through the game like an insane person.” Rather she is passionate about being honest with her community stating, “I use my own picture and I use my own name, because when I started out, I thought, if I’m gonna do this I want people to know me. If they are going to leave comments and watch my videos, I want them to know who they are watching and who they are talking to.”

Building a Community

Shirley’s transparency about her age has helped her develop a digital community that attracts young and old gamers. She does not see herself as a minority in the gaming world. She explains, “there are a lot of older gamers out there, they just don’t record and upload to YouTube. They talk to me and leave me comments and stuff”.

Through her willingness to use her own name and a photo of herself on her profile, Shirley stands out among other older gamers, “…all the other older gamers that I talk to, they use these cartoonish pictures and stuff, and they never ever mention their age. They don’t use a webcam like I do. So, the kids didn’t know there are these older gamers out there.” In becoming a public face for elders who game, Shirley has become a voice for senior gamers who may not be open to publishing and posting their play. Her openness around her age attracts other seniors to talk with Shirley about their experiences and many discuss concerns around potential harassment within their gaming communities.

Today, Shirley posts consistently on her social media and Youtube channels and is humbled by the appreciation she receives from her community. Her considerate demeanor, honesty towards her viewers, and passion for play are fabulous traits to have in a gaming community that does not always value these qualities.

When asked if people should try gaming, Shirley said, “The only thing I can tell you is to just start. You have to start. You can’t sit around thinking about it and wishing to do it and hoping to do it someday. Just start.”

Listen to clips from Shirley and Scott’s interview:

On older gamers:

On the importance of creating an online identity:

On being immersed in the game:

Find and follow Grandma Shirley:

YouTube: Shirley Curry

Instagram: @ShirleyCurry1

Twitter: @ShirleyScurry