There’s a major change happening affecting life on earth and life in an unfamiliar world called Azeroth. At the crossroads of these worlds sits a 79-year-old grandmother who goes by the alias WowGrandma78. She is shattering existing stereotypes and changing the way thousands of people look at online gamers.
WowGrandma78 is turning heads with her passion for the video game, “World of Warcraft.” For privacy reasons, she prefers to go by her online handle. During the day, she loves spending time with her six children, nine grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and her dog Zoey. But at night, she leads mythical raids online with friends she makes playing “World of Warcraft,” while chatting with 40,000 followers on Twitch, a live-streaming service.
From babysitting to building computers
Some may think: If this grandmother is so good at a videogame — thought to be just for young adults — she must have spent her career working with computers. In fact, WowGrandma78 didn’t have a computer degree or any formal experience when she decided to build computers in her 50s. She just had passion and curiosity.
“I decided in 1998 I wanted to learn to build computers,” WowGrandma78 said. “I had an old Packard Bell, so I searched on the internet and found all these fancy parts. I got this company to let me watch while they built it. But they couldn’t get the drivers going.”
WowGrandma78 went to another store and met a young man who said he could get the drivers to work.
“When I went to pay him, he said, ‘You know what I really need is a babysitter. My wife’s about to have a second baby. Would you be willing to watch my 2-year-old?’ So, I said, ‘Of course,’ and we struck up a friendship that’s been since 1998; and now that little 2-year-old just got married.”
A world of adventure
“World of Warcraft,” created in 2004, was intended for many players to engage at one time. Players create a character and explore the mythical world of Azeroth, fighting monsters and beasts while completing quests with other gamers. As they complete missions, they can improve their character, earn better equipment, and become more powerful.
“When I first got into ‘World of Warcraft’ I knew nothing,” WowGrandma78 said. “But I like to push myself. I like to better myself.”
WowGrandma78 has now played “World of Warcraft” for 16 years. Despite her skills, she says it’s the social aspect of the game that keeps her coming back.
“If you’re out here by yourself, it would get old after a while,” she said. “I like to be with people. So, I take my friendships on the game seriously. Working with other people is what I like to do best. I love my friends.”
Grandma draws fans worldwide
Last year, this Arizona grandmother began sharing her skills with the public. In early 2020, she launched her live-streaming channel on Twitch, where anyone can watch her play and chat with her at the same time. For most streamers, building a following is a long process. But WowGrandma78 amassed 40,000 followers in just over a year to become one of the biggest “World of Warcraft” streamers on the planet.
“When my (guild members) told me I ought to stream, I laughed at them for a year and said, ‘Who’s going to watch an old woman play a game?’ Well, you’d be surprised,” she said.
“I have people on my stream from everywhere — Australia, New Zealand, all of Europe,” she said. “Down in South America, I’m playing with someone from El Salvador, Chile, Argentina. I want them to know they are welcomed here. I love my viewers, and I try to make sure I don’t miss chatting with them ever.”
As this story goes to print, WowGrandma78 has streamed every night since 2020. Perhaps even more impressive, she chooses to go live on Twitch from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. ET.
Benefits of gaming
No matter what game is played, there are benefits beyond the fun, social aspect of picking up a controller. Medical experts, such as Dr. Vonda Wright, a Growing Bolder contributor and internationally recognized authority on active aging, say older adults can improve brain health and emotional well-being by playing games.
“I know that by mental stimulation, we’re going to stave off the fogginess that can happen with aging by doing complex activities” Wright said. “Gaming is a complex activity. It’s eye-and-hand (coordination); and if you’re walking around with your game, it’s total body. It’s great for our bodies and our brains.”
“I hope (gaming) is going to keep me from Alzheimer’s, because when I’m raiding, I need to be alert,” she said. “I’m a little slower than others sometimes, but I’ll pick it up and I will get it.”
This gaming grandma also has found a special connection with people who need socialization.
“There are disabled people out there, insecure people out there,” she said. “Some are autistic that have (chatted with) me. If I can make them feel comfortable, welcomed, and loved, that’s my goal. The gaming world has given something for these people that if they are shy, they can come on the game, and they can be what they wished they could be out in the social world. That’s a goal, because if you can encourage somebody here, maybe that encouragement will help them to be able to grow out in the real world, too.”
WowGrandma78 said gaming has played a special role during the pandemic.
“We’re not made to be a recluse,” she said. “We need people, and I think the gaming industry has given an outlet to people for that.”
Leading by example
Before gaming, this grandmother climbed mountains and volcanoes in her 40s and 50s. She enjoys directing musicals and encourages others to follow their passions like she has.
“People think they’re old when they’re 50. No, you’re not old,” she said. “Age is just a number. If you’ve got goals, don’t let anything be a barrier. There’s all kinds of things you can do. If you want to do it, there’s a way to do it. But you just need to be true to yourself, be kind to others, and kind to yourself.”