Shirley Curry, the ‘Skyrim Grandma’, became a YouTube celebrity in her 80s. Wit and a welcoming tone earned the videos where she explores Skyrim thousands of devoted followers. She’s not the only grandma gamer on YouTube, though. She’s one-quarter of the Grand Dames, four women who meet virtually once a month to record a Livestream tea party. They have their own merch, including branded teacups, and a following who see their age not as a novelty but a feature. They bring a huge amount of life experience to their videos, and aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
“The Grand Dames started last year at PAX Online, the very first online PAX, and the title of our PAX panel was Tea With Grandma Gamers: Grandmas Talk Shit About Games,” explains Dame Jessa, the organizer and informal boss of the Grand Dames. “Although maybe it didn’t say ‘shit’, it had a bunch of cartoon curse icons.”
Though ‘grandma gamers’ is a label they happily apply themselves, Jessa says she’s never thought of herself as a gamer before now. “That’s because there’s a very narrow definition for a lot of people of what that is,” she says, “and also the idea of who that gamer tends to be: Young, white, male. Then there’s the negative stereotypes: Living in his mum’s basement, unwashed—and I’ve been to PAX West, so I know the unwashed part. Merrie, back me up.” “Truth!” shouts Dame Merrie, the Texan of the group.
“Truth,” Jessa laughs. “I hadn’t smelled some smells like that since I’d been to Paris, there were some heady smells there. But anyway, seriously though, I’m learning that I love identifying as a gamer now. However, I still see myself primarily as a storyteller who uses games as the tool to tell the story, rather than being a gamer who plays games to win them, beat them, that kind of thing.”
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