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GAMING

Want to make money gaming? An expert shares how 

Heather Garozzo – known in the gaming world as sapphiRe – knows how to win. She doesn’t just hold a place in the Women in Gaming Hall of Fame, she was also the first woman to be inducted into the Esports Hall of Fame. And she knows how to win with money.  After a 15-year career earning multiple six-figure prizes as a professional gamer, Garozzo is now an esports executive at Raidiant – the fastest-growing and second-largest female-first platform. 

We asked her about her profession - and her wallet. Here’s what she had to say:

When did you realize you wanted to be a full-time gamer?

I started playing in 2002, but it wasn't until 2012 that I won my first world championship. Even then it felt like an unrealistic way to make a living, so I chose to go to school to get my MBA and continue working on the side. 

In 2016, Dignitas, the company I work for now, reached out to my teammates and me. Dignitas is owned by the Philadelphia 76ers and knowing that a real sports team was investing in me validated things in my mind and gave me the push to do this full-time.

Read more: How to stay on budget while turning your side hustle into your primary income. 

What are the different ways people can make money gaming?

I'll start off by saying that you don’t have to be a good gamer to make money. If you simply love gaming, there are still plenty of ways to find a viable career in the industry. 

Becoming a professional gamer

The obvious answer is being a professional gamer. If you're a professional gamer, you get a salary from the organization you are representing. In that role you're showing up to practice, you're executing on activations and deliverables, and you're hopefully winning some prize money. Also, as a pro gamer, you can get your own sponsorships and potentially become a content creator yourself. 

Esports and playing in video game tournaments

As a professional – or amateur even – gamer, you can participate in an esports tournament for prize money. Those tournaments are based around a specific game, such as Counter-Strike or VALORANT, and players come from all over the world to compete for the title and prize money. Once gamers earn a reputation as being good at a game, tournaments will invite them to compete. but otherwise, players are paying for entry. The prize money for the winners can vary depending on the tournament and how much money has been accrued in the prize pool, but for example, this year’s VALORANT LOCK//IN tournament has a prize pool of about $500,000 – so semi-finalists will receive $40,000, finalists $60,000 and the overall winner will go home with $100,000 (before taxes, of course).   

Playing on streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube gaming 

Some gamers make money through streaming their game play. Once you get big enough, you can make money on YouTube from ads and subscriptions, as well as other platforms. Those opportunities are constantly expanding. 

Content creators 

Streaming platforms aren’t just for players. There are also content creators in this space that are solely focused on making content that they then livestream on Twitch. As that content gains a presence, those creators can make money through ads running on their channels, through subscriptions and donations. Sometimes you can even gain sponsorships on Twitch.

Behind-the-scenes opportunities

If you don't want to be on camera and you're not a gamer, there are so many other opportunities behind the scenes. In my role now, I'm an observer and, to put it simply, I direct the games almost like a film director. We also have people who know the game so well that they can serve as referees of the games. You could also become a game developer and actually create the games, or you could become a game marketer and promote the games.

Beyond those fields, there are countless other opportunities. If your interest is law, there are lawyers focused on gaming and esports. If your interest is in the sciences, we have sports psychologists, nutritionists and a team chef. So again – you don’t have to be a gamer to make money in gaming.  

Learn more: We’re on a mission to support gamers via Ally Arena in Fortnite .

What are some expenses – expected and unexpected – someone starting out in this industry should be aware of? 

Your equipment is definitely an investment. You may not have to start with the best equipment, but you’ll eventually have to level up your setup and there are budget-friendly ways to do that. A lot of people build their setups over time, but you have to be mindful of your priorities and end goals. If you want to be known for good content, think about prioritizing a good camera and good lighting. If your priority is to be a good gamer, you might want to focus on your computer, mouse and keyboard.

And then there are the less fun things to consider – like taxes! When they’re starting out, some professional gamers don’t realize that their prize money will ultimately be taxed. Gamers also need to understand how to fill out a W-9, create invoices and understand contracts.   

What did you do with your first gaming earnings?

Book my flight to the next tournament! However, my most notable purchase was in 2015 when I saved up enough money and I bought a Corvette in cash. It took me a long time to save for it, but after winning a World Championship in 2012 and placing second in the World Championship the next year, I finally got enough money to buy my Corvette.

Garozzo poses next to a red Corvette with its hood up

Garozzo and her new Corvette – paid for in cash

What’s your advice to women in the gaming space? 

Surround yourself with allies who will provide you with support, confidence and encouragement. It can be hard sometimes. People online can say nasty things. I used to think that it was just targeted at me, but unfortunately, even some of the most talented female athletes in the world are subjected to people’s mean comments just for being women. While it’s hard, surrounding yourself with the right people is the most important thing. 

What’s your take on the future of the gaming industry?

I think it’s going to become even more mainstream and as normal as sports are today. I even see a world where gaming will be integrated into schools and little leagues. 

Gaming keeps you mentally active and teaches you a lot of great skills: teamwork, communication and special skills like reaction times. You can also learn a lot about technology and different cultures. I've traveled all over the world and met so many people that I would have never had the chance to if I wasn't gaming.

The views, information or opinions expressed are solely those of the individuals involved and do not represent those of Ally.

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