The general public is (finally) starting to realize there's money to be made in video gaming, and that it's not an annoying, nerdy little thing that will go away if you punch it enough. Though people will continue to "what is this, I don't even" over things like a Heroes Of The Storm being broadcast on ESPN2, we're not that far off from a future in which we will worship these new celebrities and the people who support them. And in true capitalist fashion, we'll shower our heroes with gold.
#6. Competitive eSports Athlete
Think eSports aren't real sports that involve real money? Think again. The 2013 League Of Legends finals sold out the Staples Center in an hour. And in 2013, the US officially recognized competitive gaming as a pro sport, putting it right up there in legitimacy with curling and mini golf.
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Legally, this is now more sporty than cheerleading.
We're always in search of new ways to see the good guys rip the bad guys to shreds, so it makes sense that eSports would capture our attention in the same ways that football, soccer, and chess boxing have. It just seems so much less barbaric -- and more exciting -- to watch digital avatars tear off each other's limbs and burn each other to a crisp with lasers than it is to see real-life lumps of clothed meat smacking repeatedly into each other. And the great part is that you only need one skill in order to start.
How To Get In:
Get really good at playing games. Or, to be more specific, one game in particular. Playing games professionally is often a full-time job, and very few people excel at multiple titles (though the ranks of more casual eSports, such as Hearthstone or Barbie's Fun Time Spa Day, swell with retired pros barely into their thirties). Most of the time, you won't need formal education or training, but you will need to play a lot. Like, enough that if Fox News heard about your schedule, they'd do a story on you, holding you up as a sign of the coming apocalypse.
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Though to be fair, they do that with everybody.
Your practice schedule alone is exactly the opposite of what the entire world considers sane. Expect to put in at least six to eight hours a day, not including travel or tournament time. That might not sound like a big deal, but as with many sports, players usually put in the hours on top of their regular school or work schedules -- and only the best of the best make it work full time.
What It's Like On The Inside:
Once you make it to the point where you can support yourself off of gaming, the hours aren't such a big deal. Though say goodbye to your social life, as you'll likely play when everyone else is asleep. Unless, of course, you're like xPeke -- or sexPeke, as he's more commonly known -- and you can roll subtle seduction into your promotional activities. (What, you thought eSports athletes wouldn't leverage their fame to get with the ladies?)
"Eight bits by day, eight inches by night."
At this point in your career, you'll have plenty of time to watch the sweet, sweet cash flow in. Though eSports athletes haven't quite reached the eight-figure payouts common amongst players of more traditional sports, their earnings are still solid -- and on the rise. Dota 2 and StarCraft II tend to lead the pack, with tournament prizes regularly hitting $200,000 or more. Samsung White, the winners of the 2014 League Of Legends world championship, took home a cool million in prize money. Which, in modern games, is roughly what you'll need in order to upgrade your computer to run the new expansions. In addition, many players on well-known teams receive decent salaries just for showing up.
Speaking of which ... notice something about the Whites' team name? Sponsorships are a huge deal in the competitive eSports scene. The lucrative nature of getting your logo plastered all over professional gamers is not hard to fathom. Sure, maybe a soccer fan will go out and buy some Messi shoes, which will promptly be relegated to the bowels of the nearest closet. But when it comes to gaming, pretty much every spectator is also a player, and all that gear you're pushing is essential to their own inevitable climbs to glory. Sweet, geeky, sit-on-their-ass-and-get-paid glory.
#5. Anti-Cheat Software Engineer
If you have a passion for justice but prefer staring down the barrels of digital guns over real ones, consider a career in anti-cheat software.
Cheating in games has been around pretty much since the beginning. In fact, some of the earliest cheat codes were built into games by the developers themselves to make testing easier. Because apparently, life isn't like Grandma's Boy, and it eventually becomes boring when you test video games for a living.
20th Century Fox
And if the monkey shreds your face because you stared at it too long,
good luck getting medical leave.
No one really cared much about cheating when games were single-player or couch co-op. But everything changed when people started manipulating games where your opponents couldn't punish you by stealing the good controller. Especially because the cases weren't isolated. In 2006, at least 10,000 people were cheating in games like Counter-Strike every week, according to data gathered by Valve's anti-cheat software.
Because what fun is corpse-humping whoever you just pwned if you don't earn the right to do it?
Millions of gamers spend their hard-earned cash on systems of interactions that they believe to be fair (or at least, only broken in ways deemed acceptable by the developers). Not only that, but as tournaments and competitions rake in more and more money, the scrutiny on game fairness grows. The stakes are always getting higher; a few vulnerable lines of code can mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How To Get In:
Companies like Valve and Blizzard usually have multiple listings at any given time for anti-cheat software engineers on their job openings pages, such as this one. Other companies, like Riot, use the broader term "security engineer." Which is basically gamer for "OMG FIX TEH TANK HAX!!1"
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"Superman's got Lex Luthor; I've got Bob the Wallhacker."
Most positions of this type require a degree in computer science from a reputable university. Although we can't say for sure whether going to jail for being really good at cheating won't land you a spot, like in Catch Me If You Can.
What It's Like On The Inside:
We know the neon-streaked fever dream scenes from Hackers are playing on a loop in your head right about now, but it's not quite as glamorous as you might think. Most of the work done by anti-cheat and security engineers involves writing software to resolve vulnerabilities and detect foul play, instead of actually wading into the fray to battle vicious bots and suspicious players head-on in a pulsating, symbol-filled visualized Internet landscape. According to GameSpot, the average person working at a game company made $84,000 per year in 2012, and we imagine that they pay the people who keep all the characters' faces from being covered in genitalia quite a bit more.
"Asking for a dollar per dick was the best decision of my life."
Then again, the games industry is notorious for long hours and high turnover, so you better be dedicated to the cause if you choose this as your path in life.
#4. Team Manager (And House Mom)
Team manager is a common occupation in sports, but video game teams take it to the next level. Professional teams will occasionally put their players in team houses, giving the manager or another employee the additional role of house mom, with responsibilities ranging from preparing meals and keeping the pantry stocked with energy drinks to soothing the athletes with guitar tunes during their downtime. Those who fill these roles might get fancy titles like "player logistics manager," but at the end of the day, they're trying to make sure that their pet geeks get enough food and water, and that they don't party too hard or stay up all night playing Candy Crush before a big match.
Or play Candy Crush, period.
How To Get In:
Team managers almost always have experience in the games and with the teams they manage, sometimes transitioning to management when they retire from professional gaming (often before hitting age 30).
You can only spawn camp so many n00bz before they all start to blend together.
You'll see a lot of terms like "managing facilities operations" tossed around. (That's the way Anna Prosser describes her work at the Evil Geniuses StarCraft II training house.) Which gives you a hint that it's a lot less like hanging out with cool people who play games all day and a lot more like your typical administrative office job involving purchasing, receiving, inventory management, and maintenance tasks. And occasionally having to break up infighting with a stern, "No! XxxBONE69, we do not hit! Do you hear me? No hitting. Now you apologize to TurdCorn."
What It's Like On The Inside:
As anyone who has ever paid attention to their mom's activities beyond harboring a simmering resentment for interrupted gaming time knows, running a house -- or a team -- can be a 24/7 job.
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Especially when TurdCorn hits a rebellious phase and refuses to stop teabagging his coworkers.
It's hard to find solid salary statistics, since the position is still fairly rare. At least in some cases, people will volunteer for management and related roles in hopes of proving their value and eventually getting paid. However, former team members are in a much better position to negotiate salaries befitting their status. Unless you're one of those, you'll likely end up being Intern Mom ... which actually gives me an idea for a Disney movie.