Become a quality assurance tester
Prior to release, most mainstream video games go through a beta testing phase. Dedicated quality assurance (QA) staff will play the game for hours, carefully documenting any bugs, exploits or unfun play patterns.
While this might sound like a dream, know that you won’t get to pick and choose your assignments. Depending on where you work, you’re as likely to play the next Grand Theft Auto as you are to play Big Brain Academy or Barbie Horse Adventures.
You’ll be expected to perform repetitive and mundane tasks, like running into rocks or fiddling around in the menu, in your search for glitches.
You may be able to snag a job with just a high school diploma, but it’s not the most lucrative career. Half of testers make less than $35,000 a year, according to the job site ZipRecruiter.
So if you decide to start a career in testing, make sure to invest any extra income you have — even if you’re only investing with your “spare change.”
Go pro as an esports competitor
The esports industry has gone from “rapidly growing” to “just plain huge.” Prize pools for the biggest Dota 2 tournaments can top $30 million. Overwatch League members have been offered minimum salaries of $50,000.
Of course, only the best of the best can make good money in a game’s competitive scene. Even then, you won’t make a steady income by doing well at the occasional tournament.
Like pro sports careers, pro gaming careers are often very short. You’d be lucky to get five good years in before your reaction time slows down or the game’s popularity fades.
That’s why it’s a smart move to ask a financial adviser to sketch out a retirement plan and to invest as much as you can.
That’s sound advice for ordinary Americans, too, and these days you can even start a real estate portfolio with as little as $100.
Become a Twitch streamer or YouTuber
As the Twitch mega leak has proven once again, the biggest and most consistent money in gaming is earned by entertainers who use their skills and personality to connect with fans. It’s also one of the more accessible paths.
You will need to buy all of your own equipment — including cameras, microphones, decorations and other essential gear — but you can save some money by using a free browser extension that will automatically hunt for lower prices and coupons before you hit checkout.
And even without any official support from Twitch, YouTube or another platform, you’ll be able to accept donations from fans, sell T-shirts emblazoned with your catchphrase and solicit sponsorships from headphone manufacturers and game publishers.
How to make money on Twitch
Once you have at least 50 followers on Twitch and meet some other basic benchmarks, you can join the Affiliate program. Affiliates gain access to an integrated donations system and will get a cut when fans subscribe to their channel for extra perks.
You can also get a 5% share of the profits whenever a viewer buys a game you’re playing through an on-screen link.
The most popular affiliates can apply to the Partner program, which offers a cut of the advertising revenue made on your channel.
How to make money on YouTube
First you’ll need to sign up for a Google AdSense account and enable monetization. Once you have enough viewers watching and clicking on ads, a few pennies will start to trickle into your account. Keep in mind, AdSense favors videos it considers “safe” or unobjectionable.
To apply for the YouTube Partner Program, you’ll need more than 1,000 subscribers. The program offers access to other income streams, like a cut of YouTube Premium’s subscription fees and live Super Chat donations.
How to support yourself as a streamer
Remember, no matter which platform or platforms you choose, you’ll be working as an independent contractor and not an employee.
That means, for example, finding your own health insurance. Luckily, generous subsidies are still available; over a million people who have joined marketplace plans this year are spending $10 a month or less.
You also can’t rely on an employer to give you free money for a 401(k) retirement account.
Instead, get creative and look for lucrative investment opportunities wherever you can. You might be surprised by how much money you can make investing in farmland or turning your digital “spare change” into a diversified portfolio.