Owen Monahan served in the Marines for four years as an 0331 Machinegunner, where he went on three deployments before being honorably discharged. He went on to become a fulltime video game streamer for Team2g on Twitch., meaning he broadcasts video games for a living. You can find him under the tag MachinegunnerUSMC.
These interviews, along with the author’s advice on the topic, are available in the book Military Veterans in Creative Careers.
Find interviews like this one on the Military Veterans in Creative Careers podcast.
Justin Sloan: You’re living the dream of playing games, but I’m sure you did your time to get there. What did you do in the military and why did you join in the first place?
Owen Monahan: I was in the Marine Corps as an 0331 Machinegunner, where I did three deployments. My first one I went to Iraq and was in the Al Anbar Province for 7 months. My second deployment was on the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) where I had the privilege to travel to different countries such as Spain, Greece, Dubai, Bahrain, Turkey and Kuwait. My third deployment was for Operation Unified Response where I was re-attached to the MEU and went to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. My Unit was the first Marines on ground in the epi-center in Léogâne, Haiti. The reason I joined the Marine Corps is I wanted a challenge. Truthfully, I was not the greatest student and didn’t have a scholarship to go to college—I come from a poor family that couldn’t afford to send me to college. So I thought it was a good option for me. I needed to grow up and needed some guidance and discipline, and so I figured the Marine Corps was the correct path for that. I also have always had this calling to want to join and fight for my country, a country that I love very much.
JS: Did the ideal live up to the reality? Would you join again if you could go back and do it all over?
OM: I would 100 percent do it again and do it all over again. Although I experienced some not so fun times during my service, the knowledge I gained and the change that occurred within me was something I could not have had somewhere else. I matured so much from an 18 year old boy from New York to a young man with a purpose and drive in life. The idea lived up to the reality and then some. I wanted a challenge so I joined the infantry, and a challenge is what I got. It was definitely a big wake up call for me, but one that I adapted to because I knew this is what I wanted to do at that time in my life.
JS: What did you learn from your time in, and how do you feel about it now? How did it change your life (for better and worse)?
OM: This is a question I definitely feel like I could go on about for a while. I learned a lot, but will try to focus on a few of the most important things for me that I think impacted my life while in the military and getting out. First off was to not take things for granted. While mostly deployed to some countries where people literally have nothing, it made me so much more thankful for what I do have. For instance, going to Haiti after the earthquake and seeing those people who have lost everything doing whatever it took to survive and help each other through a rough time like that left such an impact on my life. An example of that was when I was on post outside of where we made camp and one of the Haitian men noticed I hadn’t eaten in a few hours. He offered me his food and I asked him why he would offer me his food when he had basically nothing, and he said that the fact that I was there helping his family was enough for him to give me everything he had left and starve, just so he would know I would be healthy. Because I was helping his family he would do anything it took to make sure they and I were okay, and it was an eye opener of how many good people there are out there. That sort of experience happened numerous times during my time in, and they each had everlasting impacts on my life. Even to this day when I wake up in the morning and take my first breath of air, I think how happy and thankful I am just to be alive and not to take anything for granted.
JS: That’s an inspiring story—thank you for sharing. Coming out of the military, what went through your mind? Did you have any idea what would be your next step?
OM: When I first got out I knew I wanted to be home with my family, who were not in the best of health. I also wanted to attend college and get a better education for myself. When I was in college I took business and theatre and knew right away how much I loved acting. I had never acted before, and unfortunately never had the opportunity to apply it anywhere or get a job acting. I also wanted to be a New York Police Officer and went through all of the tests and physicals, but sadly I think my service connected disabilities held me back from it (this includes A TBI/Migraines and Herniated discs in my back). At the time I was also playing video games and was introduced to Broadcasting on Twitch.TV, which is where you can play your favorite games and people can watch you live with a camera and all. It started to turn into my own personal outlet and radio talk show. Not only did I play games, but I met people from all over the world and we instantly related to each other because of our passion for gaming. I was also able to share and express my own personal experiences with others who have never had the opportunity to talk or relate to a veteran who was interested in the same things as them.
JS: At what point did you know you had a passion for games, and what led you to deciding to make this a career?
OM: Well I have played games my whole life and always had a passion for them, but never knew that I could make it a career out of it until I met a woman named Cher Gambino, the Owner of Team2g, a Broadcasting team on Twitch.TV, and a fellow broadcaster named Trick2g. For a while I was broadcasting for about 16 hours a day, which to me never really seemed like work because I was so used to being in the Marines and being deployed or being in the field. Me being at home sitting at my PC playing games never seemed like work. Trick2g took notice of my hard work and the amount of dedication I was putting in, and he was already a very successful broadcaster at the time because of the hard work he had put in. Every month he was basically the #1 Broadcaster for hours, and when he saw that I was also putting in hard work he wanted to help me. He introduced me to Cher and she basically took me in and taught me about the business of being a broadcaster. Together they both changed and saved my life. At the time I didn’t have much money because I was quite irresponsible with my finances, like many veterans are when they first get out—basically living the high life of doing your time and getting out and going to college. Cher Showed me how to be a professional while broadcasting games, while Trick guided me with new and different ideas for how to help grow my stream. Cher helped me with things like managing my money, getting sponsors to help my viewers, and also to help myself. They showed me that benefits were a possibility in this business, and that changed my life forever. I was able to fully focus on broadcasting as a career and was able to setup a schedule for my viewers so that they would know when I would be broadcasting everyday just like anyone’s favorite TV Show.
JS: What did you have to do in the early days, and would newbies face the same challenges you faced?
OM: For someone who wants to make it a career I would advise to broadcast for at least two to six hours a day, minimum, and if you stay consistent then people will come. Early on no one will be there to watch you, because no one knows about you. The longer you are live broadcasting the better chances you have of someone finding you. The biggest challenge I faced, and new broadcasters will too, is just trying to stay motivated when very little people or no one was watching at all. In the end I realized that, just like other things in life, if you work hard at it and really want it to be your career, the amount of hard work you put in will typically reflect the results you achieve. If you want to be a broadcaster for a living, just broadcast. Every time you’re sitting around playing a game or two or not doing anything at all, just click the button that puts you live and at least give yourself a chance to be successful and know that you can do it just like others have before you.
JS: With Twitch.tv and your gaming in general, do you have a niche or focus? Do you tend to stream a certain genre, and what brings in the most followers?
OM: My niche or focus would probably be shoutcasting and teaching the games I play. Shoutcasting is basically like an announcer of sports where you are spectating and giving a play by play of the action while also giving information of what people did well so others can follow that or what people did wrong so that person as well as other viewers watching could fix it or work on improving. I don’t have any Genre I only stick to, because I enjoy many different types of games. However, the main game I play and work with is League of Legends, which is considered a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena).
JS: What do you do to set your channel apart?
OM: I would like to say my real life experiences is something that sets my channel apart. I draw a very wide and diverse viewership to my channel, which I absolutely love. I have a huge community of veteran gamers on my channel and also a younger audience. Some are just interested in my military career and what I did while I was in.
JS: I would say that life experience sets us veterans apart in many careers. How do you use twitter and other social media to promote your Twitch.tv following? Is there anything else involved here, such as a career plan?
OM: I use twitter and facebook mainly to promote my Twitch.TV, because although Twitch is a very large company and millions already know about it, there are still people who do not. My career plan is simply to broadcast and use social media to let people know, so they can either be involved while I’m broadcasting or at least have an idea of what I’m doing even when I’m offline and not broadcasting.
JS: Do you have one main piece of advice for veterans wanting to pursue gaming as a career?
OM: My advice to any veteran that wants to pursue gaming as their career is to take every single bit of knowledge you gained from the military and apply it to your work while broadcasting games. The Majority of your viewership will not be veterans, so you can teach them everything you learned from the military. DO NOT limit yourself in thinking you can and will only teach or talk about the game you are playing. Teach things like how to be a leader. Talk to them about your job and what you did, but make sure you tell them only what you are comfortable talking about. When you start broadcasting games people end up coming just for you and your personality and not just for the game you are playing, so don’t be afraid to talk with them and help them with things outside of gaming. Being in the military, whether you know it now or will figure it out later, gives you an amazing untapped source of knowledge that is new to a lot of viewers both young and old. Many of them don’t know much about the actual everyday lives of service members, so you should use that knowledge to gain a leadership role in your viewers’ lives.
JS: Great advice, and a main takeaway from this book, for sure. Are you able to live off of your gaming, or do you have to work on the side as well?
OM: As of right now I am able to live off of my gaming. At first it was a struggle, but I continued to work hard to get where I am today and after I got my partnership with Twitch.TV I was able to treat this like a full-time 9-5 job.
JS: I understand you are involved in Operation Supply Drop. What does it mean to you? How can others get involved?
OM: I am involved in Operation Supply Drop and so is the broadcasting team I am a part of. Operation Supply Drop is a Non-Profit Organization dedicated to “Providing fun where there is none.” They do that by doing video game supply/care drops to troops all around the world deployed in combat zones and recovering in hospitals. This organization means a great deal to me because I have been deployed and I know the struggles of everyday life when deployed, how much something so simple as a video game can change the lives of these troops, and how such a simple act can potentially lead to the same passion and career I have now in playing video games for a living. I encourage others to get involved and they can do so by going to http://www.operationsupplydrop.org. Go to the site and read some of the stories and amazing things the men and woman of Operation Supply Drop do on a daily basis for our military.
JS: Thank you again, Owen. Before signing off, do you have one last piece of advice for military veterans looking to pursue their passions in life?
OM: Yes, sir, I do. The best piece of advice I have for veterans pursuing their passions in life is that, when you get out of the military, sit down, relax, and find something you love to do. After you find that something you love to do, find a way to make it your profession and you will be the happiest person in the world. They say that if you do something you love for work every day, you will never work a day in your life. I can 100 percent tell you that is true.
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