PC gaming’s unsung heroes: the PC gamers you rarely hear about

(Image credit: Shirley Curry)

Many of us have probably heard the phrase “real gamer” before, often used by one segment of the gaming population to dismiss some other portion. And, with video games proliferating as they reach more and more devices and surge in retail, the question of who qualifies as a “real gamer” will persist.

The thing is, real gamers come in all types. The Entertainment Software Association has found large percentages of the population gaming, including Baby Boomers in the US. And, that range covers everything from young gamers duking it out in online battle royale games to older gamers playing poker alone on their computers.

With all this in mind, we’ve set out to show that PC gaming is full of players who aren’t always what we’d think of when the words “PC gamer” come up. It’s not all belligerent teens sitting at a desk with a $2,000 PC below and 2 liters of Mountain Dew on top. 

Here are just a few examples of real PC gamers that show how broad the culture really is.

Skyrim Grandma

Shirley Curry, the 'Skyrim Grandma.' (Image credit: Shirley Curry)

The famous Shirley Curry

One of the most colorful pieces of evidence that anyone can be a gamer is Shirley Curry, perhaps better known as “Skyrim Grandma.” Curry is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother living in Virginia, USA, and she loves playing Skyrim. 

She’s a true YouTube celebrity with over 748,000 subscribers and over 14 million views at the time of writing. She’s so legit, she has the YouTube Verified checkmark. (Something I don’t have, and I do this for a living!) Curry regularly shares her video game adventures, often adventuring through the almost endless world of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. She’s had enough of an impact that Bethesda is even going to include an NPC of Curry in The Elder Scrolls 6

So you know she’s the real deal, Curry even includes her system specs in the description of her videos:

“My Operating System: DogHouse Systems Model: Armor TL980 Hero Processor: Intel® Core™ i7-4790K Cpu@4.00GHz 4.00GHz Graphics Card: GTX980 Installed Memory (RAM): 16.00 GB (I’ve bought two more) System Type: 64bit Operating System”

To top it off, she also lists the Skyrim game mods she has installed.. Every now and then, you can catch Curry checking out other games as well, like Call of Cthulu and Deliver Us the Moon. 

While she might be the best example of a grandma gamer, she’s not alone. We’ve seen another grandmother enjoying an adventure in VR, and Japan’s own Gamer Grandma has things locked down on console.


Jack Black, or otherwise today known as 'Jablinski'. (Image credit: YouTube)

Celebs have gaming hobbies, too

A few years ago, the world got to see the widely beloved Terry Crews join the PC gaming fray when he publicly announced that he was building a gaming PC. Crews has a long career split between his stint in the National Football League as a defensive end and linebacker in the ‘90s, and his ongoing acting career.

Beyond his celebrity, Crews still has a family life, and he decided to build a gaming PC to share the hobby with his son. He picked up an X99 motherboard to slot in an Intel Core i7-6800K and 32GB of RAM. He didn’t include the graphics card in his livestream, but he picked up an HTC Vive to dive into virtual reality with his rig. He later confirmed that he got the rig up and running.

Crews isn’t alone either. Jack Black has also tipped his hat to the gaming world when he announced in late 2018 that he’d start a YouTube gaming channel. Over the ensuing year, his channel didn’t do much to produce gaming content, with one focused more on old arcade games and one pretending to stream but admitting he hadn’t figured out the El Gato game capture device. Eventually, Black did upload a Lego Star Wars video as well as a stream with PewdiePie playing Minecraft.

Regardless of whether they play publicly, we can count many celebrities as PC gamers.

Farming Simulator 2019

Farming Simulator 2019 in action. (Image credit: Google)

Gamers reliving reality

Skyrim Grandma and Terry Crews might be more high profile when it comes to the sorts of people you wouldn’t expect to be PC gamers, but there are still others out there silently enjoying PC games on their own. We’re talking about the simulation players.

You may think more about the gamers playing intense shooters where insane reaction speeds are a necessity. But, plenty of PC gamers enjoy a calmer experience that lets them live a small slice of reality they might otherwise not have access to. Think of Flight Simulator, Train Simulator or Farming Simulator. All of these put players into a unique position to dive into realistic experiences that still take them out of their day-to-day life.

Games like SimCity or Cities: Skylines let gamers design their own worlds and simulate reality from a bird’s-eye view. And, given that many of these simulation franchises launch new games on an annual basis, it’s safe to say there are plenty of PC gamers enjoying these. And, let’s not forget how many people are still building their ideal homes and lives in The Sims.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in action. (Image credit: Bethesda)

The faithful modders

Shirley Curry is actually a great example of another type of gamer: the long-term, faithful gamer who sticks with one game for a long time, using mods to keep the game fresh. Some games strike a deep note with players and offer enough to do to keep them around for years. Massive open worlds, like Skyrim, often manage this level of retention.

But, even a game that offers hundreds of hours of content can only hold the hearts of gamers for so long in its vanilla form. That’s where gamers who truly love their game turn to mods. The gamers who use mods can add entire new worlds to their games, add new weapons and equipment, and change the way the game world works to open up new playful possibilities. 

Some mods even allow gamers to add everything from new quests to entire voice-acted storylines. There are also mods that can overhaul the sound and graphics for almost every asset in the game, breathing new life into it even as the graphics of the vanilla version age. The use of mods can let these gamers stick with one game, steering clear of the latest fads, as they simply occupy the game world they love or wait ages for the next one to arrive (as many are doing for The Elder Scrolls 6).

FarmVille 2

FarmVille 2 is one of the most popular browser games to date. (Image credit: Zynga)

The overlooked browser gamers

One thing most would assume is essential to PC gaming is a gaming PC. But, there are so many games available to gamers that require little more than an internet connection and modest hardware. Browser games make the hobby accessible to many gamers, and they can even entice users who would otherwise have little to do with games.

It doesn’t take much work to see just how popular browser games still our. We took a quick peek at Armorgames and Newgrounds, sites we visited plenty over a decade ago, and we can see they’re still living. Games like Sonny 2 rank among the best browser games, with lengthy stories and compelling gameplay. Armorgames lists Sonny 2 as having over 25 million plays since it launched in 2009 (I personally put probably as many hours into this game as I put into any turn-based RPG in the past decade). And, newer games are still getting millions of plays. Some browser games even serve as a starting point for franchises, such as Meat Boy and N.

Kids can jump online to play a bit of Agar.io while adults hop on for some card games in the browser. (This writer’s father hasn’t had much involvement with video games since his days as a Dig Dug player in the arcades, but he recently got into a browser-based golf game.) And, these PC gamers are so easy to overlook, as they may well be playing quietly in the library or on a laptop while waiting for their flight at the airport.

And, lastly, let’s not forget there is even a select mass of PC gamers out there who actually prefer to have Motion Blur turned on in their games. If there weren’t, why would game developers keep offering the feature and setting it on by default? Ugh.

Welcome to TechRadar's PC Gaming Week 2019. We're celebrating the most powerful gaming platform on Earth with in-depth articles, exclusive interviews and essential buying guides that showcase everything PC gaming has to offer. Visit our PC Gaming Week 2019 page to see all our coverage in one place.

Mark Knapp

Over the last several years, Mark has been tasked as a writer, an editor, and a manager, interacting with published content from all angles. He is intimately familiar with the editorial process from the inception of an article idea, through the iterative process, past publishing, and down the road into performance analysis.