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Westminster man turns to Twitch, building a following in streaming video games during pandemic

Tyler Smith, a 27 year old Carroll County resident who is an avid gamer and and Twitch streamer, has decided to turn his gaming hobby into a future career. He streams six days a week and is confident that he can make a full-time career out of gaming in the future. The pandemic has helped him gain subscribers and followers.
Tyler Smith, a 27 year old Carroll County resident who is an avid gamer and and Twitch streamer, has decided to turn his gaming hobby into a future career. He streams six days a week and is confident that he can make a full-time career out of gaming in the future. The pandemic has helped him gain subscribers and followers. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the state, keeping many people indoors and socially distanced more than usual, one Carroll County resident has decided to take advantage in his own way — through live-broadcasting video games.

Tyler Smith, a 27-year-old Westminster resident, has garnered hundreds of followers and made a name for himself online as a video game streamer on Twitch, a platform where users like him can broadcast their gameplay live for thousands to watch around the world.

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On Twitch.TV, streamers can broadcast the things they love such as cooking, painting, and, notably, gaming. As a result, video gaming streaming has become an increasingly viable career path.

According to TwitchTracker, in June alone, Twitch broadcasted a total of over 1 billion hours of people playing video games. That equates to about 185,000 years of footage.

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The Amazon-owned platform has only risen in popularity during the pandemic among gamers who are looking to pass time playing their favorite games while also raising some money by building and entertaining their audience.

Smith, an avid gamer since childhood, began streaming three years ago as a way to connect with his friends on a casual basis. His love for gaming manifested at 6 years old when Smith’s uncle gifted him a Nintendo 64, a home video console released in 1996. And on that system, his first ever, he played the classic first-person shooter “Goldeneye 007.”

“That game changed my perspective on video gaming for the rest of my life,” he said. “I knew I wanted to continue gaming and get better at it, but it was also a fun thing.”

Now 27, Smith believes he has a chance at converting his video game hobby into a full-time career.

Tyler Smith, a 27 year old Carroll County resident who is an avid gamer and and Twitch streamer, has decided to turn his gaming hobby into a future career. He streams six days a week and is confident that he can make a full-time career out of gaming in the future. The pandemic has helped him gain subscribers and followers.
Tyler Smith, a 27 year old Carroll County resident who is an avid gamer and and Twitch streamer, has decided to turn his gaming hobby into a future career. He streams six days a week and is confident that he can make a full-time career out of gaming in the future. The pandemic has helped him gain subscribers and followers. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

According to Smith, his go-to game is “Call of Duty,” another first-person shooter that he says he streams 98% of the time to his viewers. He likes the game’s competitiveness and its appeal to older players like him.

“I’m getting up there in age in the gaming years so I switched to CoD where it’s only shooting and building, and I’m enjoying that and having a good time on it. It’s super fun,” he said. “It’s a little more my kind of audience, they’re a bit older.”

Smith’s channel can be found at Twitch.tv/tdawgsmitty123. He said making a career out of playing video games has become a viable option relatively recently.

“Maybe 10 years ago it was unheard of to play video games and get paid to do it, but now it’s a very real thing if you have good support; of course, you have to be decent at the gameplay as well,” he said.

Smith’s newfound motivation to convert his favorite pastime into a possible future career has only grown during the pandemic, which he says has helped grow his channel’s popularity.

“The pandemic has really opened me up,” he said. “There’s not a lot much to do anymore, so people are watching others play video games and it’s given me the opportunity to sneak in there as people have started watching my content and sharing it. It’s been pretty cool to see.”

Before the coronavirus outbreak hit the state in March, Smith had five to 10 concurrent viewers and about 100 subscribers. Today, he averages 40 to 50 viewers on his streams and has garnered over 500 subscribers.

According to Smith, it’s all about the subscriber count when it comes to making money, which is possible through Twitch’s affiliate program. A Twitch affiliate can earn money by accepting subscription fees from its viewers, with subscription options including plans for $4.99, $9.99 and $24.99, as well as Twitch Prime.

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The subscription payment goes directly to the streamer, meaning that if a user has 1,000 subscribers, they have 1,000 people paying them to watch their streams,

Although Smith has 500 subscribers now, he believes he will need about 1,500 to 2,000 to make a decent living where he can support himself.

Smith currently streams six days a week for four to five hours a day, often jumping online right after he comes home from work.

Although staying at home and playing video games sounds like a dream job, Smith said there’s more to it than just sitting in front of a computer and trash-talking with friends.

Consistency and positivity are key, according to Smith.

“I try to be positive and encouraging to those who are watching. There’s a lot of crap in the world right now, whether it’s the elections or the virus, and I just want this to be something where people can hang out and talk about gaming and fun stuff,” he said. “I want it to feel like a safe space where everybody feels welcome and is having a good time away from whatever crap is happening in their life.”

Smith also manages social media accounts related to his channel, though he gets help from a friend with managing his social media accounts and content creation.

As of now, Smith said, he earns about $1,000 a month from his Twitch streams, a number he hopes to see increase in the future with hard work and dedication.

“At the end of the day, if I can somehow make gaming a career, I have to at least continue to push for it. That’s what keeps me going,” he said. “I just continue to grind it out and hopefully one day we’ll hit that little stride that we’re looking for and make some moves with it.”

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