A great-grandmother who describes herself as a “video game addict" and plays for up to eight hours a day is so well known in gaming circles she is promoting a national tournament later this month at the age of 76.
Former council debt recovery officer Bridget Odlin was already ahead of her time when she picked up her first controller over 40 years ago, after buying a Nintendo console with a Super Mario title for her son Andrew, then aged 13 – and becoming hooked.
“I clearly remember Andrew wouldn't let me have a go and told me, 'Oh you'd just ruin it'," Bridget said.
Bridget spends up to eight hours a day playing video games (PA Real Life/Collect)
“But I was really curious and, soon after, my husband bought me my own console, together with another copy of Mario and I absolutely loved it. I was hooked," she continued.
“My son couldn't believe it. He told everybody at school, 'My mum plays video games!' It really helped us to have a connection. Teenage boys are hard to understand at times, but my gaming gave us a level playing field and something to talk about."
“We even started playing games together like Mario Kart."
Sadly, Bridget lost Andrew suddenly in 2009 but the mom-of-three still thinks of him whenever she plays.
Suffering from the lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) she has been shielding during most of the pandemic and says gaming has kept her sane.
Bridget playing a PS4 game (PA Real Life/Collect)
She is not alone, according to a survey of 2,000 people across the UK commissioned by Cadbury Heroes and Dr Lynn Love found that while 54% of the population now play online, 25% of parents had never picked up a controller with their children before lockdown.
“I've played lots and lots of games while we've been in lockdown. It's kept me sane," Bridget continued.
“Because I'm shielding, I've not been to the shops or anything, so gaming has been a lifesaver."
Bridget's husband Philip playing some games (PA Real Life/Collect)
Having his wife glued to a console is nothing new for Philip, who has always supported her obsession and has even bought her each new Nintendo and PlayStation console as and when they have been released.
“He always bought me new consoles when they came out, because I never lost my thrill for gaming," she said.
“I've played hundreds of games and Philip really does indulge me."
Bridget has since managed to persuade motorcycle enthusiast Philip to take up the hobby after he started telling her what to do in a video game she had taken on vacation to Lanzarote.
“He was telling me to go here and do this, so I told him to have a go and now he's into gaming too," she said.
A fan of open-world and puzzle games such as Lara Croft's Tomb Raider and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – which she has spent 70 hours playing – she admits to sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night to solve gaming conundrums.
Bridget playing some games (PA Real Life/Collect)
“If I get stuck with a puzzle and wake up at 2am thinking, 'Oh, I know how to do that,' I'll get out of bed and turn the console on. I'm an avid gamer, I'm addicted," she said.
Her passion for gaming also makes her a super cool gran, as she often bonds with her grandchildren over a console and says her knowledge of video games helps to close the generational divide.
“I play games with my grandchildren and have done from an early age. My eldest granddaughter Laura is 30 and is heavily pregnant, but she still comes over for a game," she continued.
“And the youngest, Tianne who is seven, used to challenge me to a game. Sadly, she can't come over at the moment because of the coronavirus restrictions, but I've played with them all over the years."
“Before the pandemic, our family gatherings would gravitate towards the dining room, where the gaming stuff is, and we'd enjoy multiplayer games."
Bridget first picked up a controller more than 40 years ago (PA Real Life/Collect)
“There's no age difference if you're into gaming. You're a gamer and that's all that matters."
Back in the 1990s, Bridget became something of a gaming superhero where she lives, solving problems for the townsfolk's gamers if they were stuck.
“There was a little video shop in our town, which I used to go into all the time and ask for hints and tips. Then I got so good at gaming that they asked if they could give my name to their customers when they were stuck," she said.
“It was an ego boost. It used to be the Lara Croft games they got stuck in and I've got a good memory, so I told them how to get out. People would ring me up and my husband would say, 'My God, it's those gamers again.' I'm not as good nowadays, though, my grandchildren can beat me."
“My friends used to ask me, 'Why don't you get a life?' My reply was, 'I'm a gamer, I've got loads of lives!'"
Now Bridget is keen to encourage other older people to pick up controllers and get gaming, especially during the pandemic, as it is a rewarding activity that can be enjoyed solo or as a group, without going outside.
And she is delighted to be promoting the Cadbury's Heroes League tournament on November 14 on live streaming platform Twitch, which is being staged to raise awareness of the benefits of gaming.
“I think they're correct in the little things people together and done research and that gaming is one way to do that. And I thoroughly support that," she said.
“People say video games are just for teenage boys sitting in their bedrooms, but they aren't. Gaming is an activity that can be enjoyed as a family."
These famous gamers have had 50 days to train their parents for the Cadbury Heroes League, the esports tournament w… https://t.co/yK4pK5S6hk— Cadbury UK (@Cadbury UK) 1603987202.0
“Through my gaming, I've become closer to my children, my grandchildren and I hope, when they're old enough, to enjoy it with my great-grandchildren, too," she said.
“Children can quickly outgrow their grandparents when they become teenagers, but our love of video games means we can always find common ground."
Bridget also believes that gaming is good for the brain.
Bridget playing some games (PA Real Life/Collect)
“I'd definitely recommend that older people should get involved with gaming, both to bond with their families and, as it keeps your hand-eye coordination going. It's really good for your brain," she said.
“I think I'll be in my wheelchair and still playing."
For the chance to connect with your family over gaming and Cadbury Heroes, visit the Cadbury Instagram page or watch the tournament on Twitch on 14th November.