Paid to Play

Recently I had an opportunity to stop by a former employer and say hello to a few old friends.  One visit was particularly interesting as a friend shared some of the joys and wonders of his relationship with his fiancée.

“She works all day playing video games.”

I immediately offered my sympathy, suspecting it must be difficult to make ends meet while a lazy significant other sits around playing video games all day.  They have been engaged for a few years and I wondered, given this new information, if they might ever make it to an actual wedding day.  The world is different today, and more often than not, both spouses have to work to make ends meet.

As I prepared to offer sage advice, he clarified, “No, she WORKS – all day – playing video games.”

Apparently my face was still expressing slack-jawed confusion, so he expanded, “Here, let me show you.”

And with that, he opened my eyes to the amazing world of Twitch.TV, online gaming, and the 21st century entrepreneur.

His fiancée’s career is playing video games online while streaming the video to followers who watch her play these games while interacting with them as they type messages to her in a chat window and she responds verbally across the video.  If they choose, they can subscribe and support her by paying a fee of $4.99 per month or subscribe free if a member of Amazon Prime.  I really don’t know what the heck everything I just typed means, but I am assured that somehow it is accurate.

In layman’s terms, she gets paid by people to watch her play video games over the Internet.  Paid well.

In truth, I had heard of such “gamers” before.  My kids follow a Minecraft gamer and use his tips to improve their gameplay.  What I didn’t clearly understand was that these folks are not unemployed adult children living in their parents’ basements.

This is a legitimate income-generating business.  Don’t believe me?  Keep reading.

Kintinue, – yes, it’s a play on the word “continue” – is the Twitch username of my friend’s fiancée, and after speaking with her, I learned that she has an economics degree from the University of Tennessee, is intellectually and socially well rounded, and possesses all the self-discipline and motivation one expects of the old-school entrepreneur.

She explained that she is actually typical of gamers who stream video for a living.  “Most are well educated.  Some are teachers who left the classroom to pursue online gaming full-time, and some leave various other professions.  There’s even a doctor.  All were disillusioned, burnt out, or just interested in online gaming.”

Kintinue cautioned me that this is a real job, and while the job is fun, it is also a LOT of work.  “I stream eight times per week,” she reported, “and almost never take a day off.”

She is 26 years old and started online gaming a couple of years ago but only recently jumped in with both feet and left her old job.

“As of three months ago, I had already earned more in 2016 than I earned in an entire year at my brick-and-mortar job before I left to do this full-time.”  She has over 300 monthly subscribers at $4.99 each, and although Twitch.TV, the website that streams her videos, retains a portion, she keeps a lot of it herself.  I’ll let you do the math.

In addition to that, viewers may support her in any amount they choose as frequently as they like, and the mostly small contributions Kintinue receives combine to measure not in the tens of dollars or hundreds of dollars or even thousands of dollars.  They measure in the tens of thousands.

Given that Kintinue is an economist and I am a CPA, the conversation flowed pretty easily between us about the financial aspects of the business, and I hope by now you are convinced it is a truly viable enterprise.  If not, consider this.

Kintinue selected a charity last year, the Testicular Cancer Society, and started specific streaming events to raise money for the organization.  She calls it “Gaming for Gonads,” and in just one event last year, she raised $6,200 for the charity.  Her goal is to raise at least $10,000 with her next event in April.

The Twitch community as a whole is very charity oriented.  They hold annual events where gamers like Kintinue come together to raise money for charities.  I bet St. Jude’s Hospital believed it was legitimate when they got the check for over $100,000 raised by gamers at one recent event.

Kintinue just recently hit enough volume that she is now a partner with Twitch and has business sponsors reaching out to her to advertise on her stream.  Steelseries, a manufacturer of video gaming peripherals such as keyboards, mice, and controllers, is a sponsor, and HTC has shipped her a free Vive virtual reality device, hoping she will review and play with their device on her streams.

As our conversation closed, I explained to Kintinue that I was 20 years old when she was born, owned the very first Atari, and saved money mowing yards at age 10 to buy my very first computer, a Commodore Vic-20.  But after our talk, I have a new goal.  I want to be like her when I grow up.

© Michael L. Collins




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