This question has been rattling around in my head the last couple of days.
It's not necessarily a question I desire to ask; it is however, a question of a lot of people are asking.
First are the developers, both indie and studio funded. Followed by the publishers trying to sell finished games. Then there are the retailers who stock the games but also sell game related merchandise. Even farther down the line are game news and review websites like this one.
Then there is the recently emergent group of users asking "How can I make money playing games?"
Most gamers have been touched in some way by this phenomenon. Either we've seen professional gamers on TV, through stream networks like Twitch, or we've probably clicked on one of the endless "Let's Play" videos on youtube. Even seen some examples in-game.
Some of these people have more financially successful careers then most average people; conversely more and more young people are quitting their menial jobs in pursuit of a successful career in video game entertainment.
Before we consider societal implications, let's consider the moral question behind such a thing: should we make careers out of playing games?
Companies like Avermedia (producing affordable capturing hardware) and more games including Twitch/Youtube functionality, the opportunities for everyone are increasing. However, when more people do a certain thing (any thing really), it makes it harder for everyone to find success. It "waters down" the culture as a whole.
Being professionally involved in the music media business, I have to say this reminds me of what happened to the music industry in the late 90's.
Indie music groups/labels were having major success, the digital age of music was beginning, and professional level recording equipment was becoming affordable at a consumer level. It wasn't long before everyone could say they knew someone in a band or knew someone who had their own recording studio.
Consequently, an indie revolution occurred which brought a great change to music; but ultimately created more hands dipping into the same pot. Major labels went from being full talent development to only publishing marketable material that had proven successful, ie. everything on the radio started to sound the same.
The video game industry is going through the same trend at this very moment. We have a lot of great indie games and myriad choices of small, affordable releases; while on the major studio side of things we see the constant repeating of grey and brown cover based ultra-manly shooters being endlessly churned out to retail.
I'm getting off track a bit; I didn't want to start talking about the game industry as a whole. Back to the question of should we try to play games for money.
If I compared video gaming to music, I could easily say that just because you like playing guitar in a band doesn't qualify you to be professional musician. On the other hand, I know several people who have had semi-successful careers as musicians without ever breaking into "star status".
Most notably would be my cousins. Two brothers who play the most awful mix of grunge rock and art-house garbage you've ever heard. Think of sludge-rock groups like The Melvins... but not good.
Despite the lack of popularity or quality, I can't question their creativity and for the last 10+ years they've managed to play on several successful tours throughout the midwest and even the east coast. When they are off tour, they usually work whatever minimum wage job they can just to save money while writing more music. I wouldn't call their music good, but they are happy living that kind of life; and they even have a following.
By that logic we could say that there is no reason someone can't or shouldn't try to make money playing games. They may never make six figures, but if someone can be happy doing something they love, what's wrong with that? I certainly couldn't criticize, calling myself a professional hip hop producer.
But... There is still the question of how can someone make money playing games.
Unfortunately at this time, I can't answer that. I've given 3 examples of how people are trying to: pre-recorded play videos, streaming live, and competitive play.
All three are quite exclusive. I would doubt there are more then a handful of consistently successful streamers (successful meaning they can afford to solely live off streaming/uploading); and while there are quite a few major successful professional players in the world, I would imagine the ratio of professional players (successful or otherwise) to gamers as a whole is less then 5%.
I "made beats" for almost a decade before I sold my first piece of music. It wasn't because I wasn't serious about what I did, I just never realized I could sell my music.
Discovering my music was both profitable and desirable, it changed my perspective. I would bet there are more ways to make money playing video games then we've discovered so far.