Tatyana Zinovieva lives in Kursk, Russia. She's 59 now, younger in the photo here. She only started playing video games three years ago, after getting treated for leukaemia. She'd been depressed. TV didn't help. Video games did.
"My husband was playing King's Bounty: The Legend then," she said, through a translator in an email I recently received. "My spouse showed me the game and proposed that I spend some time levelling up there while he is at work. I dropped into gaming, played other King's Bounty titles and then I found [a] similar game in [a] social network: King's Bounty: Legions."
King's Bounty: Legions isn't a game that was made for 59-year-old housewives like her, at least that's what the people who are promoting the game and brought Zinovieva's story to my attention tell me. They say it was meant to be more of a hardcore game — a hexagonal, strategic contest of barbarians, mages, archers and swordfighters crafted to please a 20-year-old guy who might not have anything else to play on Facebook or on the big Russian social network odnoklassniki.ru.
Zinovieva didn't care if the game she was playing wasn't made for her. She's good at it anyway and recently won a game-wide player-vs-player tournament. A rep for Legions studio Nival thought her tale would be worth sharing because it shows how anyone could win at their game. It is also worth sharing because it's not the kind of tale we typically tell about gamers.
Zinovieva is neither young nor rich. She was an engineer. Her husband is a fireman and a woodworker. She's on a pension, one she says is too low for her to spend any money on the online games she plays. She plays for free, for as many as 10 hours a day.
"I don't need much now," she says. "I have almost all that I need. My very own house, bathroom. We live in countryside. I have broadband connection. I found friends in the internet. I have two grown-up daughters; they help me in the backyard. I have a granddaughter. I wanted to teach her how to play KBL but she prefers other games. I just miss having grandchildren from my second daughter. I also love growing flowers — that is all hobbies I have."
She also plays Heroes of Might and Magic V (another Nival game) and doesn't like "FarmVille clones". Those games "suck...as youngsters say."
The Nival reps tell Kotaku that Zinivoevea is "renowned" in the King's Bounty: Legions community. She is an unlikely star, this housewife who can out-game all comers. She's also a proud gamer. She likes what these things do to people. "You know, King's Bounty is like an addiction," she said. "But similar addiction helped my husband to overcome his drinking problem. In 1994 he quit drinking because we bought a console for our daughter. It was very trendy in the '90s to have one. She almost ignored it, but he started playing himself. But we never quarrelled for that, he played only in his spare time."
Now her husband spends less time playing and more time working. She's the household's master gamer. "You have to create a strategy for every creature, understand all advantages and disadvantages of every creature," she says of the game she's conquered. "King's Bounty: Legions is about mind, passion and luck."
It's also a game a grandma can play as she smashes a few stereotypes on her way to her next victory.