The woman who earns £30,000 a year from playing video games

A woman who discovered a love for video games at the age of five is now earning £30,000 a year from streaming herself playing them for up to six hours a day.

Kirsty Mawhinney has 10,000 followers on the online video platform Twitch, with hundreds of them paying £4.99 for a month of uninterrupted access to her channel.

She takes up to 50% of that charge as well as earning money from advertising revenue brought in from non-subscribers who view her video feed. The 31-year-old of Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland brings in about £2,500 a month all together.

Kirsty, whose fiancé works in cyber security, said: “I never went into this as a way to make money. But I soon realised that I could at least be self-sufficient from Twitch, earning enough to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.”



First finding work in the field in 2007, then 18, she moved to Dublin for a job as a game development support assistant, after falling into professional gaming by chance.

“I was looking up a game that I was considering buying, called Warhammer Age of Reckoning, and I saw that there was a job going,” she explained.

“I thought, ‘That could be cool’ and applied. I never thought it’d actually lead anywhere and the next thing I knew I was being offered a job two-and-a-half hours away.”

Kirsty worked for three different software developers over the next eight years and by 2016 she was ready to put down a deposit on a house with her childhood sweetheart, who will not be named because of his job.

Returning to Bangor to be closer to their families, her streaming career was another “happy accident” which began as the local gaming cafe where she used to hang out had closed.

She said: “When I was growing up there was a brilliant gaming cafe where everybody would play video games. People would talk about what they were playing, as well as other things, and it was a great place to strike up friendships.”

She continued: “When I moved back, the cafe had closed and I decided the next best thing was going to be doing a similar thing online.”

Discovering Twitch, she soon realised the hobby she loved could also turn a profit. Earning enough in the first few months to contribute to the mortgage, her follower numbers soon increased and she attracted paying subscribers.

By June 2016, with an average of 75 viewers for each of her streaming sessions, Kirsty was made a verified user on Twitch, increasing her status on the platform.

“It’s basically the same as being a blue-tick user on Twitter,” she said. “Twitch are endorsing you as a user and other viewers can see that by the purple tick that appears next to your name.”

Streaming for six hours a day, from noon to 6pm, five days a week, Kirsty – whose online alias is Psyche – soon saw her follower count hit 10,000 and her monthly subscriptions range from 300 to 900.



Kirsty's streaming set-up

Kirsty, who has an average of 150 viewers per stream, said: “People like watching other users play video games, as new gamers can ask questions and get guidance on the game being played. People are normally struggling with a certain level or challenge and I can show them how to overcome it. Then they’ll go off, give it a try and come back with other questions.”

But Kirsty believes it is the sense of community – like that she once enjoyed at her local gaming cafe – that is the driving force behind her success on the platform.

“Some people see their followers as fans,” she said. “But that’s not how I see it – they’re my friends. There are people who will watch me six hours a day, every day, non-stop. We talk about games, but we also talk about current issues, friends and family.

“You really grow close to the people and care about them. I had one girl who disappeared from my room for a month and I was so worried, especially with everything that’s been going on these past few months. She popped back up the other day and I was so relieved.”

Sadly, however, Twitch is not free from trolls.

Kirsty said: “I’m fairly lucky compared to some people, as I don’t get too many negative comments, but people will join the group and call me fat and ugly, or comment on my weight. Unfortunately, I think it comes with the turf – being a female gamer.

“I’ve been unlucky enough to have two unsolicited photos of men’s parts sent to my direct messages, but compared to some people that’s not that bad at all!”

Kirsty is also keen to use her platform to shine a light on issues she cares about and raised an impressive £1,640 in one day at the end of March, for charity Cats Protection.

“I love my cat, Crash, he gives me some routine, which is so important when you work from home all day. You need motivation,” she said.



Kirsty's cat Crash

“When I lost my other kitty, Zero, last year, Cats Protection were a huge help, as they offer an online service for grieving owners. It’s such a lovely service. People can feel so alone when they lose an animal and like they can’t talk about it in case no one understands.”

Taking part in the charity’s Pawsome Players Meowathon Challenge, Kirsty played cat-themed games for six hours straight on March 30 – giving her followers a link to the charity’s online fundraiser.

More than tripling her target of £500, Kirsty now hopes to raise money for causes close to her heart on a monthly basis.

“A lot of people who stream have their sights set on becoming a gaming developer,” she said. “But I’ve done it backwards – I’ve been there and done that. All I want is for my gaming to carry on being viable and to use my platform to raise awareness.”

She concluded: “I’m in a lucky position where I can say, ‘Hey, here’s an issue I care about,’ to 10,000 people. I want to use that to make the world a little bit better.”

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