There are plenty of frustrated parents out there who are tired of hearing their child grunt ‘professional gamer’ whenever they are asked about future ambitions. Pro gamer? Is that even a thing? Or is wanting to become a professional gamer simply an excuse to play online games 24/7? Well… probably a little bit of both.
At only 28-years-old co-founder and CEO of Click Management Grace Watkins represents some of the biggest professional gamers globally. These are kids like yours and mine who have pushed through and are earning decent money online by playing video games. Many of the teens Grace represents have become international gaming stars, so she knows exactly what it takes to become a professional gamer.
Gaming creators have audiences of millions
“I’m lucky enough to represent a number of the world’s top gaming creators,” says Grace. “These are creators that primarily, are recording themselves playing video games, and then uploading it to YouTube, or streaming on Twitch. They have amassed audiences of millions, through approaching games in a funny, entertaining way.”
So, these are kids, just like ours, who are making good coin simply by uploading videos of themselves playing video games? In a nutshell, yes.
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” I think much of what makes YouTube creators incredible, is that they hit this amazing balance of relatable, and aspirational,” says Grace. “Many of them are still just creating videos by themselves at home, and that rawness allows them to develop a really close relationship with their audiences, where they really feel like friends. But at the same time, they have been able to create these incredible careers out of doing something that started as a hobby, so I think its incredibly inspirational for kids.”
How achievable is being a professional gamer?
Inspirational indeed. What kid wouldn’t want a career doing the thing they love the most? Many tweens and teens want to become a professional gamer simply because they know that the kids they are watching on YouTube have made it happen themselves. It seems like an achievable career path, with more than a little glamour thrown in.
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But just how achievable is pro gamer as a career path for most?
Unfortunately, not likely to happen, according to Grace. It’s incredibly difficult to reach the level of success needed to become a professional gamer like the influencers Grace represents. “It requires a massive level of commitment, and an element of luck to create a business out of gaming,” she admits.
Encourage them anyway
That said, Grace emphasises how important it is for parents to encourage their kids to build their interests into hobbies that they can potentially turn into a career. Her own parents supported her move away from her commerce/law degree and PriceWaterhouseCoopers job to develop Click Management.
” My brother, Elliott, really opened my eyes to [the gaming industry], where there was room to add value and create something, and encouraged me to jump in and go for it,” she recalls. “My parents, although initially probably a little skeptical, were actually hugely encouraging around fostering my ambition about taking calculated risks while I was young.”
Grace sees the world of online gaming as one that holds plenty of opportunity for kids to learn. “For many kids, starting a YouTube channel, means they are then learning about the creativity of creating a storyline for a video, the discipline of uploading a video regularly, understanding analytics and how they can use them to improve, and a bunch of skills they can apply in the future, regardless of whether or not they make it a job,” she says.
Getting started as a pro gamer
In order to set them on the right path, Grace suggests encouraging your kids to start a gaming YouTube channel and setting some metrics around what the success of that channel might look like. “If they want to make it a career, that’s not just an excuse to play games mindlessly all the time,” she points out. “Are they training with other people? Are they entering regular tournaments? Are they holding themselves to a schedule?”
Recent research from Telstra has found that 43% of parents of 8-15 year olds don’t feel confident having conversations with their children around setting boundaries for tech and social media use. Which is not surprising when you consider that less than one in 5 Aussie adults feels like they can keep up or understand online trends with teens. That’s less than 20 percent of us feeling like we know what we’re talking about when it comes to what our kids are getting up to online.
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“I think parents taking a genuine interest in what their kids are interested in, can have incredible results in building stronger bonds between parents and kids.” says Grace. “My parents definitely saw gaming as a really unproductive hobby, and had a preconception that it was totally unproductive, isolating and anti-social.”
She admits that before she got into the professional gamer industry, she probably shared some of those opinions herself, but now feels completely the opposite. “It can teach incredible problem solving skills, allow kids to connect with people all over the world, spark creativity, and allow people to find passions,” she enthuses.
To help parents get on board, Grace has teamed up with Telstra, Em Rusciano and a panel of other tech experts to deliver a ‘Keeping up with Teen Tech’ webinar tomorrow night (22 June). You can find out more about the webinar and register to attend here.