A conventional work day for most people consists of waking up, commuting, clocking in, staying from nine to five, then punching out — and repeating the process the next day. Ryan Borst’s experience is a little bit different. He wakes up in the morning, works out at a gym, and from there he gets home to hop onto his computer to stream “Fortnite” for nine hours, from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. every single day. Ryan is living a life that millions of people dream of: he is being paid to play video games for a living.
Ryan uses the website Twitch, a platform similar to YouTube, to stream. The only difference is that Twitch primarily focuses on livestreams. There you can find him using a different name: 00flour. “00 flour is a type of flour used to make pizza dough,” Ryan said. “I like pizza.”
The website gets nearly a billion viewers per month, according to similarweb.com. You might be wondering why anyone would watch someone else play a video game, but Twitch streamers are typically much more interactive with their viewers. It’s a totally different experience compared to other forms of media.
Streamers are simultaneously players and entertainers. They build communities around the games they play. If you’re a professional streamer who’s not very good at video games, you’ve probably got a good personality that people get attached to. Some viewers like more quiet streamers that they can watch run through a single-player game. There’s a wide range of marketable traits and games on Twitch. Full-time streamers have essentially become masters at marketing themselves.
Twitch has two tiers of streamers, affiliates and partners. Affiliates are newcomer streamers that are just building their audience. To become one you need to stream at least seven times in one month, have three consistent viewers and around 50 followers. Once you’re accepted into the affiliate program you can begin gaining subscriptions where viewers can give you around $15 every month. You can also earn money by selling the games you play to your viewers through a link that’ll be added to the bottom of your stream.
“I always played video games when I was little,” Ryan said. “But I got really into them when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I started playing a game called ‘Runescape’ a ton, and then ‘Call of Duty’ on the Xbox 360.” When Ryan turned 16, one of his close friends got him into a game called “League of Legends” that would go on to become the first title Ryan played religiously.
Ryan originally wanted to work in game development, not playing, but creating games. Like many entertainment industries, though, the game development industry can be incredibly harsh due to unstable employment and long hours. Ryan quickly lost passion for it and dropped out of college for good.
“I tried going to community college but didn’t like it,” Ryan said. “I thought that going away to Florida would help. I went for a semester and was like, ‘I’m not going again, I hate school.’” Ryan picked up a full-time job working as an apprentice chef, but on the side decided to pursue streaming with the full intention of playing professionally from the get-go. He stayed in Florida, living in his grandparents’ second home.
In July of 2017, a development studio known as Epic Games released “Fortnite,” and since then it has become one of the most popular games on the planet. It didn’t start off this way though. The game originally launched in July of 2017 to less than critical acclaim. By September, Epic Games had decided to release a free-to-play “Battle Royale” mode that was totally different from what the first version of the game was. In its original state, “Fortnite” was a game that had players building fortresses to stop zombie hordes. But this was sort of a played out genre and “Fortnite” didn’t offer anything players hadn’t seen before.
If you’re unfamiliar, Battle Royale games are a more recent craze in the gaming industry. Up to 100 players are dropped into a map and the last man standing wins. Epic Games capitalized on the Battle Royale craze and the results speak for themselves. You can go almost anywhere and find a prepubescent teen who knows what the game is. Even the game’s biggest streamer, “Ninja” A.K.A Richard Blevin, was the first eSports athlete to be featured on the cover of ESPN.
Epic Games hosted the Fortnite Summer Skirmish earlier this year. It was Ryan’s first tournament and the first professional “Fortnite” event hosted by the game’s developer. Based on Ryan and his team’s performance, he personally walked away with $6,250. Team Rogue placing 20th overall due to points acquired by each individual player on the team.
Rogue is the organization Ryan has a contract with. They’re one of the bigger organizations in eSports, with over 600,000 followers on Twitter. The team is co-owned by popular DJ Steve Aoki. “A couple of teams had tryouts,” Ryan said. “A lot of the teams would just watch you play instead.” Organizers would keep an eye on how players performed in skirmish matches and eventually Ryan was noticed and signed.
“The organization is super easy-going,” Ryan said. “There’s obviously a salary, a schedule, events, and they’ve made my life a whole lot easier.” Organizations work with players across multiple different games, and each contract is different depending on the person. Some players aren’t streamers at all, they’re just really good at their select game(s).
“I started streaming 17 months ago,” Ryan said. “I became an affiliate like a month after streaming.” Today, Ryan is a Twitch partner which is a level above affiliate.
To become a partner, you need to have at least 75 concurrent viewers. Partners need to accumulate a total of 25 hours of streaming within a month, and broadcast at least 12 days out of 30. You’re granted all the benefits of an affiliate with a few other additions like being able to earn monetization off of ads that’ll play when viewers click on your stream.
Ryan receives daily donations from his viewers through a digital tip jar, and he receives nearly 100 percent of those profits. Most streamers have tip jars attached to their stream, this is not something through Twitch, rather, the broadcaster’s Paypal account is attached to a link below their stream. Stay just a few minutes in Ryan’s stream and you’ll notice him getting tips ranging from $1 to $25. Those add up quickly.
“I don’t really remember when people started sticking around. I just kept doing it and noticed it was going really well,” Ryan said. Because he had always wanted to play professionally from the get-go, Ryan began networking with other players, joining different chatrooms and servers where he could play with others around his skill level.
“I was never worried about committing to Twitch,” Ryan said. “ I always knew I’d be able to get to where I wanted to be professionally, and eventually I was noticed by Team Rogue.”
Ryan said that even if he wasn’t signed to Rogue, his 20,000 followers could keep him afloat through their donations and subscriptions.
“My parents are really proud of me, my sister’s husband watches me all the time, my dad watches me, everyone watches — it’s really awesome,” Ryan said. Some people don’t always know what’s going on, but Ryan says his dad actually understands “Fortnite” the best out of his entire family.
Streaming video games definitely is not for everyone. Ryan takes no days off and no breaks during his nine-hour streams, outside of going to the bathroom and occasionally eating, meaning he always has to be on his A-game. “You wanna have fun if people are watching you don’t wanna be upset saying stupid stuff, nobody wants to see it,” Ryan said. “If you don’t like the game it’s gonna be hard. It happens to a lot of people.”
For now, Ryan is living the dream of any young adult. He recognizes that one day he may have to return to the realm of working a nine-to-five day job, but he said he’s totally content with that too. Ryan’s career is a product of hard work and dedication, showing that almost anyone can do exactly what he’s doing with the right mindset, a controller, a webcam and a good internet connection.