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‘Everyone wanted to be a gamer because there was nothing else to do:’ FaZe Clan gamer ‘SWAGG’ on pandemic boom

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Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and FaZe Clan gamer Kris ‘SWAGG’ Lamberson discuss the boom in gaming popularity amid the pandemic and diversity in esports.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: The video game industry is a multibillion dollar business, but it's not just the developers who are profiting off the games. Players are also profiting, including my next guest, who is proving that sometimes it really does pay to play. 24-year-old Chris "SWAGG" Lamberson is one of the most popular players of one of the most popular video games on the planet.

Happy to have him on the show. We're also joined by our tech editor, an avid gamer himself, I might add, Mr. Dan Howley. So SWAGG, I'm going to start with you. During this pandemic, what has happened to the gaming industry and your experience in particular?

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: Yeah, I think the biggest-- it just blew up to a different stratosphere. I mean, you saw so many different cultures and-- yeah, like athletes, musicians, everyone came together and just everyone wants to be a gamer because there was nothing else to do. So you saw the gaming industry just boom.

And everybody just wanted to play video games because, I mean, everyone's in lockdown. So it's been crazy, and it's been awesome.

DAN HOWLEY: SWAGG, I was talking to Activision CEO recently about the growth of "Call of Duty." Obviously, I was watching some of your streams of "Warzone," and I'm a big "Warzone" player, not great, not great at it, but I'm in there. I'm in there.

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: Nah, all good. All good, man.

DAN HOWLEY: But I guess, you know, as far as the game goes, where are you seeing it trend? And do you think that it's going to hold itself long term? Kind of-- you know, "Fortnite" was really super hot, and then we had "Warzone" come in and kind of take that over now. So do you see it holding on for a while? Or do you see another one coming soon?

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: No, I definitely see it holding on for a while. I just saw recently that Activision actually said that, you know, "Warzone" is going to be their main focus. As long as they keep updating the game, I mean, it's free to play, it's an incredible game, the engine is awesome. So as long as they keep putting just content into it, it'll last for a really long time, very long longevity.

DAN HOWLEY: I also just want to touch on, you know, when it comes to streaming, obviously diversity has to be part of the conversation in video games. And I kind of want to get your perspective on it, what you feel as far as Twitch streamers go in terms of diversity, whether or not there's enough representation across the spectrum.

I mean, video games, you know, they're for everyone right? So I guess, are you seeing that as far as Twitch streaming goes? Are you seeing enough representation? Or is it kind of still lopsided?

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: No, it's definitely progressing. I know one of the biggest things that I actually noticed is that a lot of Black and Latino kids don't have, you know, PCs. A lot of them have, like, consoles. And so with the release of, like, these new gen consoles, the PS5, the new Xbox, you know, they're bringing abilities, new technology for a lot of people to actually stream who can't afford the equipment.

Because when I first started out, I couldn't afford a $2,000 PC. I couldn't afford a $300 monitor. But, like, now with this new technology, with new consoles coming out, it's going to allow people-- allow more diversity in people who really can't afford to stream, be able to stream with limited tech. And that's all you really need to get actually started in the gaming industry.

DAN HOWLEY: I just want to hit on one quick question. As far as the actual streaming fundamentals, a lot of people seem to think that it's just playing video games all day. But you're really working. You have to be on non-stop to entertain people, to make sure that they come back to your channel and subscribe and then perhaps donate. I guess, what is an average day look like for you when you're streaming?

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: Yeah, no, so I usually wake up, figure out-- so I do YouTube and streaming. So I figure out what I do-- what YouTube video is going to have and stuff like that, what other content I'm going to have on other platforms. And then I usually go live about for seven, eight hours.

And don't get me wrong, I'm very blessed. I'm not finna sit here and act like it's the hardest job in the world. But it definitely does-- you can't just hop in here and think you're going to be successful, you know what I mean? It definitely takes work. I mean, if everyone-- I'm sure during the pandemic, so many people tried to be gamers and tried to be streamers, and it just didn't work out because it takes a lot more than just turning on a camera or just turning on a video game.

You know, you got to be entertaining, you have to be good. Like, you don't have to be good, but being good also helps. There's a whole different array of things. But yeah, it's definitely not easy. And it's taken me, I mean, almost seven years to perfect, so.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, I want to jump off that because I think a lot of people see the kind of money that content creators, these video game content creators can make. I was reading somewhere between 10 and $20,000 a month if you're really successful at it.

I guess your big moment came last year when esports came calling and asked you to join their team as a content creator. What would you tell folks who see that and are trying to get there and try to emulate you?

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: I think the biggest advice I can give is enjoy the process. I think-- it took me six years to join the team of my dreams, you know what I mean? I've been watching FaZe Clan for so long. And I think that it's not so much always about the end goal, it's about just enjoying the whole process, you know, getting better at making videos, coming to every stream with different energy and just coming with something new.

And I think that's probably the biggest advice is just keep-- every day, become a better streamer, become a better gamer than you were the day before. I think towards the end, you'll just see more progress. And you never know what can happen.

DAN HOWLEY: OK, this is a question for me and probably the other gamers out there. What's your go-to loadout right now?

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: Oh, man.

DAN HOWLEY: What are you rocking? Because I need some tips.

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: Nah, nah, nah. Right now, I think we're going AMAX, MAC-10. I think that's my-- that's my go-to loadout right now. I see a lot of players using the FFAR. What about you? What are you rocking right now?

DAN HOWLEY: I just started with the RAM just now. I'm trying to get-- I'm not good at sniping, I'm terrible. I always get taken out right away. I spent a lot of time in the gulag, like I said. But the MP7, you know--

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: It's cool, it's cool. Give the MAC-10 a go, man. I think you'll like it a lot.

DAN HOWLEY: I got to give it a shot. I got to give it a shot.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: This is like a whole other language, guys. I don't know. You two should just get together, play some video games. Sounds exciting, you're going to have to teach me.

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: Most definitely, most definitely. Oh, most definitely.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: But-- so just tell us, SWAGG, before we let you go. What are you most excited about in the near term in the industry? Anything new coming out or anything we should be looking-- that you're keeping an eye on?

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: I think-- like I said, with, like, a lot of these new consoles and stuff like that, I mean, we're just going to see just more players just coming from controller and just more diverse. You'll see-- like, in maybe in the next year, you'll see a top, you know, Black or Latino gamer who's number one. You know, they're just going to be so many new players coming to the game and just really being exposed. And I'm really excited to see where the future holds for gamers.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, it's definitely an exciting time to be in the midst of it all, which you are, SWAGG. So thanks so much for coming on. I know Dan was excited. Dan, you should just continue the conversation offline there with SWAGG. All right, guys.

DAN HOWLEY: If I could get tips.

KRIS "SWAGG" LAMBERSON: For sure.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Anywhere you can get them. And he's a good person to get him from. So listen, continued success to you, Chris "SWAGG" Lamberson. And Dan, thanks for joining us on that. OK, we're--