Shirley Curry, also known as Skyrim Grandma, is an 85-year-old gamer who became widely known through posting videos of Skyrim gameplay on her YouTube channel. She is adored by thousands of fans, who she lovingly refers to as her “grandchildren.”
“I have always wanted to write stories,” Curry admits to me. “I have often started writing stories, but I never finished them. I can’t just sit down and write endlessly. So, that’s what really got me started on roleplay. It’s like writing a book, only I am actually doing [the adventure] myself.”
In a YouTube documentary done by Gameumentary, Curry has shared her journey on how she first branched into gaming, how she initially went viral, and the stigma that surrounds older gamers. But through watching her content and chatting with her about her gameplay process, it’s clear that there is so much more behind what makes Curry’s gameplay unique and captivating than just her age.
Roleplay at a Whole New Level
When most of us start another playthrough of Skyrim, we debate about which character and class we’ll focus on this time through. Along with constructing a name, this is typically the extent of creativity that goes into our character creation—but not for Curry. She adds an entirely new level of imagination to her gameplay that has enamored viewers of all ages.
Bringing the Character to Life
Curry starts off her roleplaying in the way you might imagine—creating a new character. “After I learned what all the different character types looked like and how different you could make each one look, I would sit in my chair and just ask myself, ‘what do I want a character to look like? What do I want them to do? What’s their main goal going to be?’” Curry explains to me. “I write myself all these questions until I know what I want. Then I open the game and start trying to make it appear how I want it to be.”
While there are likely others out there who do this when they begin a game, Curry does not stop here. When she begins recording, she works to fully bring her character to life. “The first video I record is always the character’s backstory,” she explains. “So, I usually have the character talking about where they came from and why they are here. I try to do this how the character would really talk or how they’d be thinking about it.”
A Life of Their Own
When you watch Curry play Skyrim, you don’t get your average lackadaisical gameplay. She makes it effortless for her audience to become attached to her characters, as she carefully crafts and develops their stories throughout their journeys. But as any great author will admit, Curry doesn’t always know the direction her characters are going to take. “Sometimes your characters can absolutely take on a life of their own,” she says. “What you plan for them might totally change, and what you think they’re going to say might come out differently.” But despite the unpredictability her characters can bring to the table, Curry ensures that her stories reach a satisfying conclusion—even if they aren’t always happy ones.
Favorite Character Story
Curry has played through numerous adventures with a variety of characters, but she still reflects on a favorite among them. “I did a story about a vampire,” she recalls. “I downloaded a cool vampire house for her to live in, and it started with her standing up on a balcony in her house. What I really loved about her backstory is that it was like I didn’t know how it was going to go as I was talking, even though I was the one who was making the story.”
While many of us can relate to having a weak spot for a good vampire story, that isn’t the only factor that makes this character stand out in Curry’s mind. She goes on to explain that most of her stories feature your typical protagonist—in other words, your average “good guy.” But Curry’s vampire character was an exception. “Her thing was that she and her family had tried to live among people without letting their vampiric side come out or be visible.” Curry explains. “But either the military or the Thalmor found out about them and started in on them. They ended up killing all her family after her mother had sent her off to the bushes to escape. So, she was alone after that…and she was full of revenge.”
Inspiration for Roleplay
The immersive story-telling experience Curry brings to the gaming world is refreshing amidst countless streamers with similar playstyles. In fact, the way that others have tackled games actually played into Curry’s motivation for bringing roleplay to her gaming in the first place. “I think one of the reasons [I started roleplaying] is because I used to get so sick of watching other players grind through a game or just go from quest to quest to quest,” Curry admits. “They don’t even look around at the land that they’re going through, and the developers made such a beautiful world—there’s no reason for us not to enjoy it and include it in our experience.”
In fact, Curry is so dedicated to appreciating her surroundings when it comes to Skyrim that she has consistently captured breathtaking screenshots from the game. Throughout the years, Curry has uploaded some of the most impressive captures from all of Skyrim, and she doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. In her words, “Everybody seems to like it, so I just keep doing it!”
Skyrim’s Most Dedicated Fan
Through her unique roleplaying process and her patient approach to detail, Curry has managed to keep her passion for Skyrim burning. Despite how many years she’s been playing, she was quick to inform me that she “hasn’t lost any love for Skyrim or for playing it.” However, this is not to say that making ongoing content doesn’t pose other challenges at times.
Back in February this year, Curry confirmed that she’d suffered from a mild stroke. “It is still affecting me,” she informs me. “I went through a lot of therapy after I had the stroke. They finally released me, but now I’m going to other types of doctors to check my memory and stuff like that, which is what I’m dealing with right now. When I’m just talking with people, I will just suddenly come up against a blank wall and have to stop and work my way around some things. But I was so thankful that it was just a mild stroke. It didn’t affect my limbs or anything.” Despite the consensus that the stroke was “mild,” fans continue to express care and concern for their favorite gaming grandma.
Sadly, the stroke has not been the only challenge Curry has faced when it comes to creating content. “The older I get, the more tired I get,” she admits. “I’m at my computer just about all day long, recording one thing or another, and it does get tiring—really tiring.”
But as Curry discussed these challenges with me, I couldn’t help but find myself inspired rather than discouraged. Not only has she created a way to make Skyrim consistently engaging through remarkable roleplay, but she remains determined to continue creating content—both for the enjoyment of her fans and for herself. All of us face different struggles in our own lives, and Curry serves as an inspiration to pursue our passions, even in the face of hardships.
What’s in the Future for Curry
While Curry will always be known as one of Skyrim’s most dedicated fans, she isn’t opposed to branching out into new games. Unfortunately—in a struggle I can relate to—she’s having a difficult time finding another game that hits the same way Skyrim does. “I am constantly looking at other games, but I have not found anything that I love enough to do it,” she explains. “Too many of the games in Steam—the only platform I go to for games—seem like they’re all either strictly shooters or the little pixelated games, and I wouldn’t play either of those. I can’t find any wonderful games like Skyrim anymore.”
The Elder Scrolls 6
Fortunately—or so we hope to believe—The Elder Scrolls 6 will eventually be released. Due to her love for Skyrim and overwhelming adoration from her fans, Curry is actually set to appear as an NPC in the new Elder Scrolls game. Despite this, she does have some concerns about the gameplay. “I’m looking forward to it! The only thing I worry about is whether they have changed the mechanics in it, and if playing it is going to be too hard for me,” she confesses. “If they left it pretty much like Skyrim, then yes, I will definitely be playing it—I’m going to be in it! But even if I wasn’t going to be, I’d still be playing it, if I’m able. I’m at an age where I’m not interested in trying to learn new things. I’ll try new things, but I don’t want to do things in new ways.”
Considering Curry’s thoughts on The Elder Scrolls 6, I suspected she might not be the most enthusiastic about Bethesda’s big up-and-coming game, Starfield. However, Curry explains that she might be open to giving Starfield a chance, depending on the type of game it ends up being. “It would have to be something that’s not just traveling around in spaceships a lot or constantly building them,” she says. “It would have to be something like picking a planet, going there, and then building a city and characters and stuff like you do in Skyrim. That’s the only way I can imagine myself liking it. If it’s like that, I’ll play it. If it’s out in space, traveling around, and building spaceships, then I won’t.”
Though the future of Curry’s gameplay is dependent on various factors, we at least know one thing for certain. Curry has left a permanent mark on the gaming world, and no matter which game she plays next, she will always be remembered as everyone’s favorite Skyrim Grandma.