Gaming has largely evolved beyond the stereotype of a young man’s hobby, but playing for the entertainment of others feels like it skews young. The average Twitch user is 21, the average YouTuber older but still below 35. Exceptions, like 84-year-old “Skyrim Grandma” Shirley Curry and Japan’s 90-year-old “Gamer Grandma” Hamako Mori are reported on by The New York Times and CNN as oddballs, with the thought of older people taking to YouTube seen as an inherent marvel.
But while Curry and Mori have deservingly wracked up hundreds of thousands of subscribers, their presence isn’t unique. There’s no shortage of older YouTubers who, with no serious plans to become stars, are motivated only by a love of gaming.
Playing From Pong To Fortnite
The RPG Chick, who also goes by Amethyst Lunitari, is currently taking her 6,100 subscribers through The Elder Scrolls: Arena, The Outer Worlds, Enderal: Forgotten Stories (a Skyrim total overhaul mod she says is better than its source) and Ambermoon (a 1993 Amiga title she calls “possibly the most underrated RPG ever”). Lunitari’s upload schedule is relentless — two lengthy videos every day — but she has a calm, relaxing tone as she guides viewers through sprawling dungeons and dangerous encounters.
Some older people pick up gaming late in life, but taking to YouTube is often the natural evolution of a decades-spanning hobby. Lunitari started gaming in 1980 on an Atari 2600, and still remembers “being flabbergasted that one could actually control what happened on the TV screen.” While she would continue to play on consoles, it was PC games like King’s Quest that really hooked her. “It wasn’t just arcade action. You were taking part in an interactive story. Being able to examine your surroundings, interact with other characters, and have your own inventory of goodies really appealed to me.”
RPGs, as her YouTube channel name implies, are her favorite. “The great thing is seeing your character advance from a weakling into a powerhouse. It’s this epic progression of not only [the story], but your character. Creatures could put sheer terror into your heart at low levels, but be conquered later. It’s also very rewarding to finish objectives. Seeing that vast quest log eventually dwindle down to one final quest is a sight to see.”
Steve Fletcher, known on YouTube as Gaming Grandpa, was introduced to gaming with the Christmas gift of a ZX Spectrum, a 1982 British PC. From there he was a Sega loyalist before moving to the Xbox, citing Golden Axe and Streets of Rage as older favorites, while the mix of action and story in Halo and Assassin’s Creed captures his attention these days. His 6,500 subscribers are treated to an eclectic mix: one day he’ll be working on his New Horizons island or playing Roblox with his granddaughters, the next he’ll be ripping demons apart in Doom Eternal or saving humanity in Terminator: Resistance. His featured video shows him rattle off six Fortnite kills in 50 seconds while playing with his son.
Some older YouTubers expand beyond gaming — William Roeben, whose channel is dubbed NearlySeniorCitizen Yetagamer, racked up a million views with a reaction video to Lil Peep’s “Star Shopping” — but on the gaming front he’s been into Minecraft, Genshin Impact, Vampyr, and Dungeons of Edera. Like Fletcher and Lunitari, you can expect multiple videos a day. And, like them, he’s been gaming from the beginning. “I was maybe 12 when my stepfather bought a home Pong machine, and later we had an Atari 2600,” Roeben said. “I plugged quarters into arcade machines all over town until my early 20s. My favorite was Scramble.”
Scramble, a 1981 precursor to shmups like Gradius, is an obscurity today. But when you’ve been gaming since the birth of the hobby, you remember some old classics… and some elements better left forgotten.
Be Grateful For Storage Space And Load Times
Lunitari’s breadth of RPG knowledge is impressive. She names some of her favorites as Mass Effect (“That first time exploring the Citadel will always remain with me as a major ‘wow’ moment in gaming”), Sega’s Phantasy Star series (“memorable characters, engaging stories, a rocking soundtrack, and an intriguing mix of fantasy and science fiction”) and Planescape: Torment (“Probably the best story in an RPG ever. Plus, you got to hang out with a talking skull, a mage who is on fire, and a chaste succubus. What’s not to like?”). But 1983’s Starflight was the first to really capture her imagination.
The critically lauded Starflight is largely forgotten today, but influenced games ranging from Mass Effect to Dwarf Fortress. Lunitari was captivated by its sheer scope. “You explored an entire galaxy, full of mysterious races, planets, and strange phenomena, amassing wealth and making your starship more powerful along the way,” she tells me. “It was so engaging and satisfying.” And then there’s Ambermoon.
“The game was only released on the Commodore Amiga in German, [although] an unofficial English translation exists,” Lunitari notes. “The game has an interesting story, continuing many years later from the previous game, Amberstar. However, Ambermoon has full 3D environments, which was not something commonly seen in 1993. You interact with some really interesting characters [and] the music is excellent. It’s well worth firing up an emulator to play it.”
At the same time, there’s no denying that video games have come a long way. More sophisticated graphics and long taken-for-granted features like voice acting are the most obvious improvements (Lunitari noted that “Going from a pixelated sprite to a character who looks so lifelike is quite the advancement. Graphics are not what makes a game great, but these changes enhance the story and the world”), but it’s the little conveniences that younger gamers may not even realize they’d miss were they absent.
For Roeben, the sheer scale of modern games is what appeals to him the most. “I really liked how worlds for games were getting larger,” he tells me. “There were more options to make games more ‘realistic.’ Characters were able to become more fleshed out.” Fletcher, who cites the Rollercoaster Tycoon series as a underappreciated gem, speaks about the ease of modern gaming, saying, “Back in the ‘80s it would take five minutes to load a game, now it’s instant. Development has [improved] so much, looking back at older games some of them seem really bad.” And while some complain about huge download sizes today, Lunitari recalls the opposite problem.
“We no longer have the storage issues that once plagued the medium,” she says. “I’m thinking of those [booklets] that would be included in PC game boxes. The game would say read page 34 for a more complete description of the environment, or a verbose paragraph of what an NPC would say. The size of the game was so constrained that they couldn’t even fit all the text they wanted!”
More Like This:
- How to Introduce a New Console to Your Cats
- The Gaming Community Where Players Take Their Time
- Meet the Fuel Rats, the Players Making Elite: Dangerous a Little Safer
Sharing The Fun, Playing With The Grandkids, And Coping With Loss
Roeben, Fletcher, and Lunitari obviously know their games. But why take their hobby to YouTube, why maintain a pace that all three said is challenging, and why plan to keep creating for as long as they can? Fletcher is aspiring to hit 10,000 subscribers in 2021, but he’s less interested in fame than in socialising and spreading joy.
“It was my sons and granddaughters that got me involved in YouTube, and I play a lot of games with them,” he tells me. “[Gaming] is my release in life, and if I can share some of the joys and scares then my job is done. I have had so many emails and messages over the years from strangers who said that my videos cheer them up, and that they wish they had someone like me in their life. I just want to make people happy. I have made good friends [through YouTube] and one day the plan is to meet up with some of them, like a big family.”
For Roeben, YouTube began as an escape from a dark time. “My wife of 12 years had just died and I needed to get out of my head,” he says. “I looked around and grasped at the only thing I could see as a lifeline, and that was YouTube. Making a channel, getting out of my own head. I have been disabled since 2003, when I injured my back working as an aide in nursing homes. I have nothing but time, [and] making videos gives me a sense of purpose. I am still alive, and I have talked with some of the best people around because of my channel.”
And for Lunitari, it’s all about sharing gaming’s best moments with others. “It’s like watching a movie with a friend. You can remark on what shocks or surprises you, what characters you loved or despised. When a beloved character dies, it’s all I can do sometimes to stop myself from bawling! I just really enjoy exploring these worlds with others. There are so many games that I probably wouldn’t finish if not for the YouTube channel. The audience keeps me going.”
Eventually, this will all be unremarkable — everyone will have grown up with games and YouTube, and it won’t be unusual to play for the entertainment of others no matter your age. For now, older creators are a small but passionate part of the YouTube community, serving as a valuable reminder that gaming really is for everyone. For anyone looking to join their ranks, Lunitari has some advice: “Do it because you will enjoy it, not for monetary gain. That can be nice, but it has to be something you’d enjoy [anyway]. That will come through in your videos. You’ll also be a lot happier, as there is not a whole lot of money to be made on YouTube [for most people]. Put your heart and soul in it, and just have fun with it. Anything else comes second.”