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The gaming industry is exploding.
Technology has been rapidly expanding, stretching the boundaries of everything thought to be possible, across every industry. The video gaming industry is no exception. Whether you play on a gaming console – like Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii – or a computer through manufacturers like Bioware and Blizzard and platforms like Steam, which has given talented indie game designers a way to reach tons of gamers easily – or even a phone through Google and Apple marketplaces and apps, the bounds of technology are making more and more amazing options.
For example, we used to play (and love) 8-bit games, feed tons and tons of quarters into arcade games while out in public, and play Snake on our computer and Gag Wars on our programmable calculators instead of paying attention in math. Now, we can use augmented reality (AR) to watch our Pokémon come alive in our very own living room or cast actual spells while preserving the Statute of Secrecy!
Even tabletop board games now include interactive elements like phone apps and virtual reality (VR) goggles. Speaking of those, the giant VR headsets and Google glass technologies of the past have now become so compact that you can have your own augmented and virtual reality scenes using a small lens that clips right on to your glasses!
In this giant industry, there are a few different options for kids (and adults) to follow. Option one involves people shaking their heads at you because all you do all day is play video games, and option two is where you play them recreationally – maybe with some friends at a party, or for a couple minutes during down time at work. If you’re solidly in the Option One category and tired of everyone judging you, then I have some good news. You can actually be earning money while playing games!!
No joke, totally serious. The more appealing an option is, the more difficult it will likely be to make the money doing it, but if you show some dedication then you can make a fulfilling career out of playing video games. Let me let you in on a few of those ways to make money.
Programming and Development
This path is going to require the most dedication. Have you ever been playing games, thinking about all the things you would do differently? Maybe you’d fix this here, or add that there, optimize this feature or remove that one?
If you have the technical skills it takes to develop and program a game then there is a booming career path for you through college. Tons of universities are offering degrees in video game technology – both programming and designing them. While this isn’t strictly play for money as an option, it is worth mentioning because if you’re really passionate, you can study what you love instead of earning a degree you hate in a field you’re not excited about just to shut people up and make enough money to keep you loaded with your favorite games.
In fact, if you genuinely have a great idea and a lot of technological skill, you can develop your own game and market it right away. Steam is a game sales platform that will highlight and feature Indie game designers who have great games that people enjoy. You can reach tons and tons of people without having to struggle to find a gaming company that will pick you up – and who knows, if your game gains enough traction you may find that those companies seek you out to make an offer for the rights to distribution!
If programming isn’t your style, then consider entering tournaments. If you are extremely good at playing video games, there is unlimited income potential on the table. Almost all of the biggest games in nearly every genre have several tournaments per year, with may of the top spots raking in millions of dollars in prize money!
While a lot of tournaments are invitational events only, there are others – like eSports – that are open to everyone who proves their worth. These tournaments are ranking boards, and you make your way to the top by beating everyone else. You’ll need to be extremely good to make it high enough for it to be a viable career option, but once you start gaining traction and getting yourself noticed, you may not even need to win every time. There are a lot of corporations looking to get their name out there by sponsoring the top gamers!
The downside to this tactic is that you do have to be extremely good. Video game tournaments are often as competitive as professional sports, sometimes more so. Think of this like the World Series of Poker – because that was one of the first gaming tournaments to get recognized and start paying out big time for winners, and video game tournaments are very similar. If you aren’t at that level, then it might be in your best interest to take a different approach.
Get Paid to Play with Points Clubs
A lot of games are attracting users by a paid to play system. While the app market is still dominated by free to play games with in app purchases to enhance gaming experiences, a new trend is emerging – one most casual gamers have probably seen advertised. The advertisement shows some popular time killer games – like Solitaire, Puzzle Blaster games, Bubble Pop games, and Yahtzee – and tells you that you could be getting paid to play them.
Most of these apps give you a certain amount of start up money to entice you into downloading. Once that finishes, t he general concept is to beat the computer or to beat a competitor. You pay a nominal fee – like 10 cents a game – and if you win it pays around $1 on average. It takes a while to get major money with these games, and it’s akin to gambling in that the more you put in to play a game, the bigger the payout is if you win, but it will make you money if you pick a game you’re very good at.
Another popular variant to this is paid trivia games. The Q and HQ have exploded, offering multiple variants of their trivia games, including specialized theme nights, giant jackpots, and big cash payouts thanks to corporate sponsors who want their stuff advertised to millions of players. The bad news is that winners all have to split the cash prize, so you rarely make more than 50 cents a game, but the good news is that if you’re very good at trivia and play regularly, you can actually make some decent pocket money on the side with games like this.
There are some game sights that will pay you to play in crypto currency. War Field is a prime example of this model. In this game, you buy token in their token sale and then spend them to play. There is usually a cost to enter a play and a prize to the victor. The way this model works is that both players pay a fee to enter the battle, the War Fields game takes a bit of that cash off the top, and the victor wins the rest. Essentially, if you lose a lot you won’t make anything but if you’re good at the game you will start making money quickly. The best part about this particular version is that they have free practice grounds so you can get acquainted with the game and sharpen your skills. They also have an algorithm that pairs competitors together based on their skills and abilities and levels. This prevents new players from losing all their cash to reigning kings. You play against other new players until you get better, and better, and so on.
Points systems are another example of this game type. While you may not come away with cash, you can pay for a lot of things through this. For example, I didn’t have to pay money for hotel stays or shows the last time I traveled to Las Vegas because one of these play for rewards systems paid me big time with hotel reservations and comp show tickets, which was about as good as cash to me when I was booking a vacation!
Popular platforms for this are Swagbucks and Inbox Dollars.
If none of this works for you because you’re a very casual gamer who isn’t skilled enough and doesn’t have the time to dedicate to becoming the top of the class, then there are still options. Streaming your game play is a massive industry right now, and you don’t have to be amazing! Twitch and YouTube are great options.
A lot of different things draw people in to streaming games. Obviously, if you’re talented at it, you will attract followers who want to learn from you… but there are other ways. This medium is all about personality!
If you are creative and have a unique voice, you can potentially make a lot of money streaming. Your followers will tip you, or pay to subscribe, and once you attract enough subscribers, you can get money through advertising partnerships. Affiliate marketing through your channel is a great option, and YouTube has a pay for advertisement plan that you can get involved with once you have enough followers to be worth this option.
To get into this option, be engaging. You can’t just play the game – you have to offer some type of entertainment along with it. Some gamers go for “adorable gamer girl” or “raging gamer girl.” Some use tactics like dry humor, or sarcastically making fun of ridiculous elements of the game. N00b pwnage is another option. Find what makes you unique and script out your game play. It’s kind of like stand up comedy for gamers in a way.
If you’re not interested in social media marketing and amassing followers, then you can still make money without going pro in tournaments. A lot of games are looking for testers, and although entry-level positions are little more than minimum wage, it beats flipping burgers for many gamers.
I will offer a word of caution about this method: It can get boring very quickly. It is not as glamorous as it sounds. It is also not as glamorous as the marketing for this career path looks. Most of the time, it is a lot of repetition of a single part of the game with tons of crash reporting. That being said, here are a few options if you’re still interested.
Play testers are in higher demand these days as the market explodes with new games. These jobs are available for people with some experience playing these games as well as people who may not be super great at them. This job pays you to play the game and give your feedback regarding elements of the game. Another term for this job is Beta Tester. The goal of being a play tester is actually to break a game. You are looking for ways to exploit loopholes in the code, to mess it up and cause it to crash, or things that make it less fun for other gamers. This way, you can tell the developers what works, what is broken, and how to make it better.
If you have some programming skill, or more than entry-level experience, you can become a Quality Assurance tester. The main difference between the two is that at the QA level, the game is supposed to meet specific standards of quality. The beta testing should have removed any exploits, coding hiccups, or broken piece s of the game and it should be ready to hit the market for end users. These testers play different builds and designs of the same game until they can’t find anything they dislike about it, then let the developers know which version they had fun playing. It can be a difficult task because by the time you get finished playing the same game several times over, it can be hard to remember what you loved about it at the beginning of the process. I recommend taking copious notes along the way. This is like working a jigsaw puzzle. You’re trying to reproduce glitches as they happen so you can show a programmer and they will be able to figure out what causes the glitch for certain and fix it.
The least lucrative option in this section is for super casual gamers who just want to make a little bit of spare money with some days off from work. These users are perfect for focus groups. A focus group will usually meet for 2 to 3 hours and the result is that you will get a Visa gift card for around $100. They regularly use the same people for different games of similar style as long as you provide worthwhile feedback that is constructive to game development. Focus groups see less game play but have the most input in the game itself. The goal is to introduce a game that is under development, let you play through a few levels, learn the features, and have input on the storyline. They want to figure out what you love and hate about the game, how to improve it, and what needs to be reworked.
If you’re not a huge fan of streaming yourself but you are good at online work and writing, you can always go into video game blogging. There are several different options here. You can write gaming tutorials and step by step guides and walk through outlines to help frustrated gamers beat that difficult part of the level. You can write game reviews, and maybe even get gaming companies to send you free copies to review or free tickets to gaming conferences. You can offer thoughts on the gaming industry itself and breaking news in the gaming community. Whatever it is you love most, go ahead and write! It may take a while to get enough followers to make money from the blog, but through affiliate marketing opportunities you can do it.