She’s been tagged the ‘Grandma Gamer’ and well deserves that title, since at age 80, she has been gaming online for over 20 years — and has actually got nine grandchildren (and one great-grandchild).
But it was when Shirley Curry began commentating on the online games she plays, just over a year ago, that her virtual and real worlds united, spiralling her into the social media stratosphere.
The trend to include commentaries with gameplay and to upload them to YouTube channels, has been an online platform populated by the younger population, so when the Virginia-based octogenarian stepped into the fray, with her recording of Skyrim, a role-playing action game, it brought startling results.
“When I put up my first video, one of my viewers posted it on Reddit [the online news site] and it went viral overnight,” she tells Feelgood.
“The next day when I checked my email I had over 11,000 comments… I was stunned and scared. I didn’t know what was happening or what to do. I cried — it was so overwhelming.
“I thought only the few people who had been asking me to record, would watch it. Now I have viewers and subscribers from all over the world. It is amazing to me.”
To date, she says she has 155,000 subscribers and over 4m views on YouTube and is active on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
“My video interviews got thousands of views. Sometimes I think people need to get a life — including myself,” she laughs.
With so many hits, it’s inevitable that she’s now making some money from her favourite hobby — over two decades down the line since her son first gave her a computer and a game in her mid 50s and showed her how to use them.
“Yes, from the first, back then, it became quite an addiction for me — because it was fun,” she says.
“But now after the response to my YouTube videos, I did monetise them, just because people kept thinking I was crazy not to. But that is not what I intended by doing this.
“I just want to have fun! Making money on YouTube is a tough row to hoe, and I applaud the YouTubers who have enough subscribers that allows them to make a living doing what they love.”
Aside from the pure pleasure the twice-widowed gamer gets from her hobby, she is a firm believer in the brain challenging benefits it offers because “you’re managing many aspects of the game, constantly planning your next move, in line with what the goal is.”
And she urges others to start gaming, instead of “sitting in front of a TV vegging out watching something stupid”.
Her world has broadened out too, with players of all age-groups communicating with her online.
And when she posted a video — or as she tweeted, her “first vlog on YT” — last month, to commemorate her year of recording Skyrim game-play, she thanked her internet “family” for their support over the previous year and showed all the gifts they had sent her.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though; as is common online, she has got “nasty comments” also, especially in the beginning, but not so much now.
But she is well able for them: “I don’t mind people commenting about not liking the video or how slow I play or that I’m too old. Their opinion has as much right to be in my comments, as others.
“It was the truly mean, hateful, and sexually disgusting comments that I dealt with, that I’ve banned.
“Others just go away, or I have actually had a few who even apologised and behaved themselves. The gamer has the power!
“There’s a delete button and a ban button where you can report them and never see them again. Of course, they can make another user account and come back again, but you just ‘rinse and repeat’.”
Shirley trots off all the online terminology that many people even half her age might have issues understanding.
But although she has had to use her “monitor time” now totally for the gaming world and social media — and has had to give up researching and study which she also loved — she does have more “ordinary” pursuits also.
“I love to quilt and to run around with my quilting friends and to shop and go out to eat, just do fun stuff. I love to read and belong to the board of our Friends of the Library.
“My grandchildren come over often enough and spend the weekend. So I’m always busy — I need many more hours in my day.”
So what would her advice be to those who haven’t even sat down yet to a computer?
“Stop saying you’re too old! First of all you only have to click a button and when you do, it’s not going to blow up; it’s going to open up the world. None of my real life friends are gamers, but they think it’s cool that I am!”
As do her growing band of online followers, it seems.