A grandmother from Chile discovers comfort and fame through playing games online.
Many players of the popular video game Free Fire may not be aware that their toughest adversary, a nimble fighter armed with guns and dressed in a short kimono and fang mask, is actually an 81-year-old grandmother from the countryside of Chile.
Maria Elena Arevalo, a quiet individual, transforms into a ruthless predator while seated in her gaming chair in her rural hometown. She dominates in a game where millions of players compete to survive on a fictional island.
Arevalo, wearing an apron and a frilly skirt, looks quite different from her online persona “Mami Nena”. This nickname was given to her by her only grandson, Hector Carrasco, who is 20 years old.
Carrasco was the one who first showed Arevalo the world of online gaming, which has brought her a new sense of purpose after experiencing profound loneliness following the passing of her husband of 56 years in 2020.
She shared with AFP that she was unaware of the concept of a mouse while at her residence in Llay-Llay, located in central Chile.
Later on, I became filled with enthusiasm. We would play whenever Carrasco was available. I felt improved since I wasn’t fixating on my deceased spouse as much.
Initially, she stated, “I had no intention of causing harm,” but as time passed, she developed a liking for simulated violence.
Currently, Arevalo competes at the “Heroic” level, which is just below the highest “Grandmaster” level that only 300 players participate in.
She boasts a staggering 4 million followers on TikTok and 650,000 on YouTube, where she offers valuable tips to fellow players.
In the previous year, she traveled to Mexico City with all expenses covered as a representative for Free Fire’s anniversary event – marking her first experience traveling outside of her home country.
“I was approached by many children requesting autographs… It was a lovely experience. When I pass away, I will cherish that memory,” she fondly recalled.
In the beginning of this month, Arevalo received recognition as one of the 100 most significant senior citizens in Chile from the El Mercurio newspaper and the Catholic University for challenging age stereotypes.
Carrasco is amazed by his well-known grandmother.
He expressed, “I think she’s my best friend and I really like her.”
‘I’ll keep going’
After three years of playing Free Fire, Arevalo no longer experiences feelings of loneliness.
As a tribute to her deceased spouse, a bird named “Benito” in remembrance of him joins “Mami Nena” on her quests for domination.
A recent study revealed that nearly 50% of individuals over the age of 80 in Chile report experiencing feelings of loneliness, which poses a significant threat to their mental well-being.
More and more elderly individuals are seeking comfort in playing video games. The Ukrainian group “Young Guard” is a highly skilled team in the game Counter Strike, and 93-year-old Hamako Mori from Japan, also known as Gamer Grandma, is believed to be the oldest gamer globally.
For Arevalo, conducting online campaigns has become more difficult as their scleroderma, a condition that hardens and tightens the skin, has worsened.
However, she has no intention of reducing her pace.
She expressed her passion for this activity and vowed to continue as far as possible.