Gamers get paid to play on website with huge following

Video games have been a spectator sport since days of the arcade, but that concept is getting a 21st century upgrade
Video games have been a spectator sport since... 03:22

Video games have been a spectator sport since the days of the arcade, but now, that concept is getting a 21st century reboot online.

A website called Twitch is transforming gaming, CBS News' Michelle Miller reports.

Like many fathers and sons, Bill and 18-year-old Jason Munkel often play games together.

But this isn't a game of catch. For several hours a night, six nights a week, they stream their video games live over the Internet.

They call their channel FatherSonGaming.

"I used to watch people do it," Jason said. "I was like, 'I think this would be this great idea if we started this channel.' And he was like, 'Sure.' He's always been like that."

Two years ago, the duo joined more than a million players who broadcast their games -- sometimes to thousands of viewers a night -- via the gaming platform Twitch.

"Twitch is an online video platform in which essentially people watch other people play video games," said Wired senior editor Peter Rubin. "I know it doesn't sound that exciting, but it's really kind of blossomed into this vibrant and apparently economically viable subculture."

Economically viable for gamers like the Munkels because they can make money through ad revenue and subscriptions.

Essentially, they get paid to play.

"It's profitable now where it wasn't before," Jason said.

There are even some gamers who make enough to quit their day jobs.

Twitch co-founder and CEO Emmett Shear said several of the site's gamers make six figures a year.

"It's always so heartening to see when someone can quit their job as a carpet cleaner that they didn't really like, that wasn't fulfilling for them and become a professional game streamer," Shear said.

More than 60 million people are now tuning in to Twitch each month. That's up from just over 3 million when the site was founded three years ago.

"It took us about 6 to 12 months to really realize, 'Oh wait no, we have a real phenomenon on our hands here,'" Shear said.

Earlier this year, Amazon took notice and bought Twitch for nearly a billion dollars in cash.

Twitch has also become the online broadcaster for video game tournaments like one at Madison Square Garden. These so-called esports events are watched by thousands live and millions online around the world.

For channels like FatherSonGaming, the real-time interaction they have keeps their fans tuning in.

"A lot of people don't come in to watch us play," Bill said. "They come in to chat with us, see how we're doing."

But if you're wondering how people have the time to watch someone else play video games, you're not alone.

"Our family would ask us like, 'Why do they watch you?'" Jason said. "'Couldn't they be doing something else?' I think it's because we're so personal with our fans, we're close."

Bill has even discussed the phenomenon with his fans.

"I've actually had conversations with people in the chat," he said, before telling Miller what he tells his fans. "'You've got to have kind of like a nice balance of both, you know? Get out there and still do things you enjoy to do. You know, there's a big world out there, you know? But then come back and watch us.'"