- CohhCarnage/Twitch; Samantha Lee/Business Insider
- Playing video games professionally has become extremely popular – for good reason.
- We spoke to eight professional gamers, many of which live-stream themselves on websites like Twitch, to discuss the biggest upsides of what they do for a living.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Video games are better than ever. They’re also more fun to play with an audience.
Game-streaming has taken off in recent years, thanks to the lowered barriers to entry: Webcams and microphones aren’t too expensive, and there are so many computers out there with more than enough power to handle playing a game and streaming it online simultaneously.
Thousands of people have turned their game-playing habits into full-fledged careers. Many don’t reach the heights of, say, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who rose to fame after rappers Drake and Travis Scott played “Fortnite” with him on Twitch one fateful night (he’s also one of the best players of “Fortnite,” one of the most popular games in the world, which totally helps).
But even if you don’t become a celebrity through streaming, people can still make a decent living from playing video games in front of a live audience. And game-streaming can be a great outlet, too: a way to work out your problems, connect with others, and make new friends.
Game streamers have done lots of good for greater communities as well: For example, players from the “Destiny” community raised over $4 million for St. Jude Children’s Research during a few short weeks this summer. Many streamers also participate in the series of Games Done Quick charity marathons each year, which have raised over $22 million for charities like Doctors Without Borders and the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
If you’re considering game-streaming for a living, there’s a lot to look forward to. We have a separate story detailing the downsides of being a professional gamer, but we wanted to highlight all of the ways in which this profession can have a positive impact on your life, and the lives of others.
Sean Gallagher, a.k.a. “Gladd,” is a 31-year-old Twitch streamer and YouTuber.
Gallagher says he’s loved gaming since he was a kid, and streaming lets him “do something I love every day, for a living.” Plus, he’s been able to foster a community and create “impactful relationships.”
“Building a community from scratch has always been a main goal of mine,” Gallagher told Business Insider. “When I first started full-time streaming, my initial goal was to ‘create a place where anyone can hang out and not feel judged.”
Over time, Gallagher has embraced the entertainment side of streaming.
“I love helping people in any way that I can,” Gallagher said. “Whether it’s helping someone through a tough time, making them laugh or smile, or showing them the ways of a certain game, it’s always heartwarming to know that I’m having an impact.”
Soleil Wheeler, a.k.a. “Ewok,” is a 14-year-old Twitch streamer and YouTuber.
Wheeler, who was born deaf, said the biggest upside to her profession is that she can build a community and “lasting relationships with gamers like myself.”
“These people that interact with me help shape who I am today,” Wheeler told Business Insider. “We share common experiences as gamers and we have our lingo, inside jokes, and a unique bond. The gaming community feels like a second family.”
She compared being a professional gamer to schools and workplaces, where you learn how to communicate and collaborate with the people around you, “which makes us feel even more united.”
“I feel that I get more opportunities to mod not only myself, but those around me by being an influencer,” Wheeler said.
Stephen Brown, a.k.a. “Gunfly,” is an 18-year-old professional “Fortnite” player for the professional esports team Luminosity Gaming.
Brown kept it simple: He loves playing games, and loves even more that he can “pursue it full time.”
“Being able to have fun with my friends online, and being able to build a community just through online that supports you … I love being able to do what I love every day,” he said.
“AFKayt,” 32, is a stay-at-home mom and a variety streamer on Twitch three days a week, where she gives makeup tutorials, plays games like “Overwatch,” or learns to play the ukulele.
“AFKayt,” who wished to not use her real name due to harassment and recent threats made against her online, said streaming helped her deal with lifelong anxiety and a recent bout of post-partum depression.
“It works for me personally,” she said. “I wouldn’t say, ‘Do you have anxiety? Go stream!’ But it’s helped me to connect with people. Gaming is something I’ve always loved, and I’d watched Twitch for awhile, so I took my passion of creating things – doing art and everything, plus playing games – and honestly, it’s helped me a lot as far as having an outlet for me and having some identity other than just mom.”
Ryan Wright, a.k.a. “True Vanguard,” is a 31-year-old Facebook streamer and YouTuber who often plays first-person shooters like “Destiny 2” and “Borderlands 3.”
Wright said the upsides to professional gaming are two-fold: You can influence the larger community of gamers (including viewers and other content creators), but you can also influence the game-development process itself since companies often ask for feedback on their games before they ship them out to players.
“I’ve been flown to studios and gaming events to provide direct feedback to games still in production several times over the last few years, and it’s always humbling to have developers ask you what you think about their work and how they think your community will respond to it,” Wright said. “Being able to be a spokesperson for a huge body of gamers is a responsibility I don’t take lightly but also thoroughly enjoy.”
Wright also said he’s loves growing his community and using it to do good. Wright participated in a charity event this summer, called GuardianCon: His stream raised over $20,000, while the entire event raked in more than $4 million for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
“Just being able to be a part of that was a humbling experience and a reminder of how much the gaming community not only cares about people, but how much they’re willing to do about it,” he said.
Melissa Misenhimer, a.k.a. “Lulu,” is a 32-year-old part-time Twitch streamer who works full-time as a pediatric registered nurse.
Melissa, who splits her work between being a nurse and streaming games online, said she loves meeting people “from all around the world.”
“I play one base game, called ‘Destiny 2,’ and from that have been able to meet a ton of people I otherwise would not have through Twitch and teaming up in-game,” she said.
Despite the time commitment needed for her main line of work, which requires keeping a strict streaming schedule, Melissa said she “definitely wouldn’t change it.
“I’ve learned and gained so much, both in the technical side of setting up streaming equipment and programs, and the friendships gained along the way.”
Christopher Pavloff, a.k.a. “Jay3,” is a 24-year-old former pro esports player and a current Twitch streamer and YouTuber.
Pavloff, who has played in competitive tournaments for the past several years, said the biggest upside to what he does for a living is that it gives him a sense of community.
“Despite a stereotype about gamers being anti-social and isolated, video games create some incredibly social communities,” Pavloff told Business Insider. “Working in esports is an amazing way to get to know people from all walks of life, from all around the world. You get to make lifelong friends and build a community from not only esports, but the streaming that many professional gamers do on the side.”
Pavloff also described the perks of playing games competitively, including the traveling you can do, and the money you can win if you perform well in tournaments. Attending a tournament in Montreal is also how he met his long-time girlfriend.
“I had the opportunity to go to Taipei, Taiwan, because of ‘Overwatch,'” he said. “It was an amazing experience where I got to explore another country and culture with my teammates. I can’t imagine I would have been able to go there otherwise.”
“Elixa” is a 35-year-old Twitch streamer who also works part-time at Tesla.
While Elixa shared one of the worst online harassment stories I’ve ever heard (you can read about it in the companion piece to this story), he says he wouldn’t change doing what he does: spending 50 to 60 hours a week between Tesla and streaming online.
“It’s just so rewarding and, at times, emotional,” Elixa told Business Insider. “I think it’s very empowering to be able to have your own set schedule, your own rules, and really express who you are. If you can do this, the lovelier your life will be.”
Elixa started streaming games in November 2017, but in August of last year, he started doing makeup tutorials and wearing drag – and he noticed an explosion of interest. Elixa said he was able to create a community through Twitch, and he loves “building people’s confidence” to help them accept who they are.
“People were reaching out saying, ‘I was able to come out to my parents because of some of the things we talked about on stream,” he said. “Some of the stories that I would see, just because I get on here and I do my thing.”
Are you a pro gamer with a story to tell?
We’d love to hear from you, about the upsides or downsides to professional gaming. Shoot me an email at email@example.com.