“Skyrim Grandma” Shirley Curry has drastically cut back on her videos for the sake of her health and enjoyment of the game.
The 84 year old started sharing her Skyrim games in 2015, and her warm, joyful videos made her famous enough to get her own mod, and even a role in the next Elder Scrolls game. She’s racked up over 800,000 subscribers on YouTube, but only a tiny percentage are active viewers, and the work and pressure involved are affecting her health.
As she explained on her channel earlier this month, her enthusiasm has been worn down by the time and energy it’s taking, and doubts about who’s watching and why she’s even doing it. The hassle of patronising comments and backseat drivers hasn’t helped.
Honestly, that was genuinely upsetting to watch. I live in a weird mix of defiant pride and sheer terror that people might realise I play most games in a backwards, awkward way. The thought of playing them with people peering over my shoulder is unsettling, and having internet randos tell me how to have fun would drive me to spears. She has the patience of the victims of a saint. And it’s affecting her health.
“My health isn’t very good. My blood pressure is going insane. My stress level is way too high.
“It’s just snowballed beyond anything that I can handle anymore, and it’s taking up way too much of my time.
“Anyone who doesn’t enjoy watching me can always go watch better players who run after quests and numbers and see how fast they can speed through everything without really seeing all that I love that’s in the game. If that’s what you want, go watch them.”
I can relate. After years of playing Skyrim I’ve yet to fight a single dragon, but will get genuinely excited about chopping wood. I used to blog about my non-adventures and even that spiralled out of control. If you’ve never made a real go of it, you can’t know how much this kind of work can grow in your head and take over. Game diaries, especially in a world as big as Skyrim, can inspire you with ideas that split into other ideas and before you know it, an hour of playtime takes three hours of planning and you end up dreading the very thing that you used to turn to when you wanted to get away from that kind of stress.
Add thousands of viewers to that, and I can well imagine how an annoyance becomes a frustration, which becomes a constant pressure, which becomes a drain smack in the middle of your favourite part of your life. It’s really not what you need when you’re happier talking about a mummified body that needs a pillow, or a feller you found out in the grass one day, just chillin’.
“I’ve played Skyrim for years, and I know about the HUD. I know about the different mechanics of how to play the game, and I don’t have to be reminded and told all the time. I don’t have to be told about what games to play… I look at all the games. I’m a gamer. If I wanted to play them, I would be playing them. And when I tell somebody ‘no’, that’s a simple answer, easily understood. You don’t need to come back with ‘why?’, because I don’t have to explain myself. If you don’t like the way I play it, I don’t know why you watch. So you can just go watch some other gamers, because I’m tired of stressing over it.”
Happily, Shirley isn’t giving up on doing what she enjoys. She’ll be cutting back her videos to a weekly update about Ja’rii, a cat person with a pet dog, “because I have fun with her. It’s relaxing, it’s laid back, it’s fun”, and she’ll do some small series and limited, more freeform videos for her own amusement.
I’m glad she’s putting her health and happiness first. YouTube broadcasting and streaming in general are still fairly new things, and their metrics and algorithms and demands can foster some really unhealthy cycles, even before you consider the strain of dealing with the swarms of awful people that hosting companies largely turn a blind eye to. I hope she feels better soon.
Thanks for pointing this out, PCGamesN.