Tim the Tatman on Playing Video Games for a Living

As one of the most popular gaming personalities in the world, streamer Tim “TheTatman” Betar has amassed 6.4 million followers on Twitch since he first started making a living playing video games less than a decade ago; broadcasting games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offenses, Overwatch, Fortnight, and World of Warcraft to an average of 20 to 40,000 viewers per stream.

He’s won Fan Favorite and Gamer of the Year awards. He’s helped raise 2.7 million dollars for children’s medical research, setting the Twitch record by raising more than $106,000 in four hours. And ESPN is making a documentary about his 8-day journey to victory playing a game “made for a five-year-old”. Such is the power the booming streaming industry yields now. Yet, the affable, humble New York native still refers to himself as “not terrible” at video games.

Here, he talks finally getting that Fall Guys crown to no less than 350,000 eyeballs, how becoming a dad has changed him, favorite games growing up, what made him quit his day job, and where he might be heading next.

LEO: How has becoming a father changed how you view the gaming industry, and do you feel compelled to make changes within that space because of it?

BETAR: To an extent. I don’t think I am going to change the whole industry, you know, but baby steps in my own journey. Obviously becoming a dad is a complete paradigm shift compared to what I was used to. 

How old is he now?

He is about to be two.

He is a long ways away from video games.

Yeah. He is a long ways away. So I got some time, but I think ultimately, I guess in my head, it’s less so about the way that I’m—quote un-quote—presenting myself way differently from when I first started out. But more about—I have kind of grown up myself. I have been doing this for about eight years now. It’s almost a decade of time. When I first had my son, it was almost this shift of the reason for what I am doing, if that makes sense? It was a wake up call, like—okay, how long am I going to be able to stream? I am getting old in the gaming space. I’m about to be 31 this year. What can I do to continue to do well on Twitch and YouTube? The biggest thing for me is trying to have a balance where I can still stream, still work, and also be present in my son’s life. I think that was the biggest thing. 

Right. More so than shifting the actual culture of the industry.

Yeah. You know, the culture of the gaming industry I think is always kind of going to be the same. It will change—everything changes eventually. But, you know, there are great parts of it; there are some not great parts of it. But ultimately, I don’t think I am trying to change the whole culture of the industry.

“I’ll never forget when I went into my boss’s office, and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to try to do this thing full time.’ “

One thing I will say about gamers and gaming is that a lot of these streamers and a lot of these guys and girls who are putting 200-300 hours in a month on stream… one thing I do very differently is that they go for those kind of numbers—which is great that they can do all that, but for me personally I don’t want to do that because I want to make sure I am giving a lot of time to my son and my wife. I am doing probably between 100 to 150, which is a lot lower than the norm. So for a lot of people, they probably see me as a part-time streamer because I am barely on. The norm is like 300 hours. You just go and you just play, but I do that very differently. I always tell people, there are phone calls and stuff that I will do off stream, that obviously they don’t see—but as far as my life time goes, I try to keep it shorter.

Like you said, you’ve been doing this for almost a decade now. Are there certain things about the industry that have really changed from when you started?

Yeah a lot actually. There’s a lot of change. I started eight years ago. I did it as a hobby. I was working 40 to 45 hours a week. There were maybe about a handful of streamers that were able to make a living off of it, but it was a really really small pool. Back then, it was more like ‘oh this is kind of fun’. You can play video games and people can watch and they can comment in the chat. ‘That’s kinda fun, I want to do that’. So it started as a hobby. One major thing that has definitely shifted is that the amount of money in gaming— in general, throughout these last eight years I’ve been doing it—is unbelievable. You see a lot of streamers today sign these huge contracts, but when I started they got 1,000-2,000 viewers and were kind of like, hanging out.

They’re more like athletes now. Getting partnerships and sponsorships.

Ezekiel Elliot has been streaming on Twitch. Juju has been streaming on Twitch. Now you are at a point where it’s that big. Compared to when I first started, when it was like, ‘This is a fun little hobby I think I can try and do.’ I’ll never forget when I had the realization, I was working 45 hours a week at the time, and I was maybe streaming like 20 total a week. I was making almost as much as I was at my full-time job, on the side, for like 20 hours. I was like—alright, maybe I should try and do something here. Maybe I should give this a shot.

Was there something specific that made you go—okay, I’m going to quit my day job and do this as a career instead of a hobby?

Back when I first started, obviously there were not many people that were trying to stream full-time at that time—this was like 2012, 13, right around then. And I always talked to my dad about it too. One thing he always told me was: make sure you have a fall back plan just in case it doesn’t work. Early on, I kind of set a goal. I looked at all my bills at the time—college loan, stuff like that. I kind of had this rough number…. and it was like, alright, I’m at 1,500-2,000’s subs—around that. That was kind of the point where I was like—Ok, I’m going to give it a shot and see what happens. My community got us to that point. It’s weird to think that was eight years ago. 

What was the job you were doing at the time that you quit?

I was working at a halfway house. I did a lot of odd jobs when I was younger. I was landscaping on the side as well at the time. I did some warehouse work too. Just kind of doing my own thing. But right before this, I was at a halfway house as a shift supervisor there. That was a great rewarding job; it was a way to work with kids and help them through some tough times. I’ll never forget when I went into my boss’s office, and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to try to do this thing full time.’ He was really nice about it. He was like, ‘Hey, hope for the best and good luck; if it doesn’t work out we will be here if you need something to come back to.’ I was like, ‘Yup, appreciate it.’

It must have been such a foreign concept to him at the time.

Everyone. Even my dad now, eight years later… I don’t know if he still fully understands what I am doing. In his defense, it is kind of hard to explain.  

“That’s probably the reason why a lot of people watch me—because they can relate with me. Maybe you’re the worst one in the squad, so it’s like, ‘Oh I’m going to watch Tim because he’s the worst one in the squad.’ I just try to have fun. I’m not trying to take it too seriously.”

I saw that you signed with WME last year, in 2020. What’s the goal there?

I don’t want to fully branch out of gaming, if that makes sense, but obviously WME is connected in a million different ways. I just wanted to have the ability, if I wanted to, to potentially branch out. They have been great at bringing me little things here and there, just talking about ways I can grow my brand. I thought, WME has so many tools and so much utility that can really help me. Not that I want to get out of gaming, I still very much enjoy what I’m doing. But obviously, as I get older now, you got all these 18, 20, 25 year old streamers down there; and I’m like a 31-year-old dad now. It is for the avenue, if you will.

Are there certain things that you specifically want to do or that you see yourself doing in the future?

That is kind of the funny part, because I don’t really have anything like that flushed out. I just kind of was like, I know there are a lot of connections and a lot of benefits to working with them. One thing I have done in the past, little by very little, is some voiceover stuff for cartoons and stuff like that. So there’s this little part of me that’s like, what if I want to try to make my own little cartoon thing.? WME has the connections and ability to really help me and walk me through the process of that. That’s a little example of something where I was considering another avenue. 

You were one of the first to stream professionally. Are there any peers whose careers you look to and go, I’d like to go in that direction?

There are a ton of great content creators out there. It’s funny, everyone always asks me tips to start out, and I’m like, ‘Listen, I think I am grandfathered in at this point because I have been here for so long. So I don’t fully know how to give advice to grow your channel and stuff.’ But I absolutely look at what other content creators are doing, and I think you can get ideas from that. A couple of my buddies—Vanoss, Wildcat, Marcel—they just had their own cartoon show come out. Same kind of thing. It’s doing really well. I look at something like that, and it’s like—wow, that is something that they worked on. It’s really cool to see it all flushed out. You just kinda look around and see what other content creators are trying to do and trying to expand to.

Max Holloway was just on Rogan—

Did you see him roast me on Joe Rogan by accident?

I didn’t see it, but I read about it.

He was talking about how he was gaming with some big streamers, and he’s talking about Nickmercs. [Holloway] goes, “and the Fatman”. That’s like a running joke on stream, where people will call me Tim the Fatman instead of Tatman. But Fatman is what came out, and he started laughing. He instantly apologized. He was like, “Tim, I am so sorry.”

Are you a UFC fan?

Yeah absolutely. I started watching a couple years ago. I got really into watching a lot of the main guys—obviously Conor McGregor, watching him, just how he carried himself. We have gone to a couple of fights now. Obviously pre-COVID. We were at that Vegas fight with Conor right before COVID kind of broke out, and that was awesome. It was a great experience to see that fight. Him vs. Cowboy. We will usually watch cards anytime it’s on. I like UFC, it’s fun to watch.

Do you go on Twitch and watch other gamers when you’re not on yourself?

Sometimes I do. Sometimes, almost right before I go live, I will pull up some of my buddies who are live and just chill and watch and talk and chat a little bit. It gets my head right for the day, if you will. I will say, now especially with my wife and son, I do not near as much as I used to. When I first started, I would sit and watch streamers. I would be live myself for four to five hours, and then I would probably watch other content creators for another three to five hours, just kind of have them on—not like popcorn out, just as some background noise. Not near as much as I used to, but I still do. Usually in the mornings if I do. 

“I got to see the internet come out with dial-up and stuff like that. A lot of kids these days probably have no idea what I’m talking about. I got to see video games really progress. I still remember when I got my N64, for my 6th or 7th birthday. I’m looking at the graphics on this, and I’m like, ‘Man these are the best graphics I have ever seen. This is awesome’. It was N64 which is now so old, right? My favorite game growing up.”

Have you noticed the huge growth in the industry since the pandemic? With everyone stuck at home there must have been a huge shift.

Absolutely. It’s been really across the board. All my social media, the numbers have just been up. Obviously the pandemic affected a lot of people in a really negative way, but gaming was one thing that was booming in it because, like you said, everyone’s home—so everyone’s like, ‘I guess I’ll watch Tim’s YouTube’, or, ‘I guess I’ll put Tim on’. The whole Fall Guys thing. I don’t know if you heard about that. I was going for my first Fall Guys win, and this whole crazy weird thing that happened, where I couldn’t get a win at this game. It was created for like, a 5-year-old, and I was just really struggling with it. And, finally, I got my win; I got one. And there were about 350,000 people watching me—and I was like, ‘I’ll never see a number like that again’. It was this crazy turn of events where everyone had eyes on, and everyone’s paying attention. That was last year during COVID. It has been a wild thing to see, for sure.

It must be sort of a weird bittersweet thing because of the pandemic, but it’s interesting. Everyone’s at home...

Everyone was quarantined, and they couldn’t go anywhere. You know, you might be tired of watching the same Netflix show, or whatever you’re watching at the time. ‘Wow. I’ve kind of binged five different TV shows, so I guess I will put Tim on and see what he’s doing’ – that kind of thing.

Was there a video game that was your favorite growing up? Super Mario Brothers—or that’s me? I’m old.

I played Super Mario a lot when I was younger. I was born in 1990, so I’m really happy with being born into that year because I really got to see the internet come out with dial-up and stuff like that. A lot of kids these days probably have no idea what I’m talking about. I got to see video games really progress. I still remember when I got my N64, for my 6th or 7th birthday, I think. I’m looking at the graphics on this, and I’m like, ‘Man these are the best graphics I have ever seen. This is awesome’. It was N64 which is now so old, right? My favorite game growing up. I played a ton of Nintendo and N64, Game Cube and all that.

I was 13, and I built my first computer with one of my buddies. He helped me build it. I worked chores, and mowed lawns for $1,000, and I saved it all. And I built this computer with my buddy, and that was when I really started getting hooked on gaming. There were two games in particular that were all I played. One was Counter-Strike, which is still to this day a very large game. It’s called Counter-Strike GO, which is an updated version of it. Counter-Strike 1.6—that was one of the first games I played when I was like 13. And this other game, World of Warcraft, which is this MMO where you make your characters—like an orc or an elf. You kind of [laughs] level up your gear and stuff. I fell in love with that game, so those two games are like my TOP TWO, if I had to pick something. But they’re kinda tied because those were the first games I got really, really hooked on. 

Do you have a favorite game now?

Now? That’s a hard one because there’s a lot of games. Even to do this day, I will play World of Warcraft off stream every once in a while. Call of Duty growing up was huge for me too. If I had to pick like a top three, Call of Duty is definitely that third one. Obviously, right now all I’m playing is this game Call of Duty Warzone. It is a really fun game, but it can get me really angry at the same time [laughs]. I guess right now, if I had to pick one favorite game, I would say Warzone. It’s just what I’m playing for five to six hours a day now.

What do you think makes you so popular compared to other gamers?

I was saying it earlier, but I’m kind of grandfathered in because I was one of the earlier streamers that kind of got bigger, if you will. When I used to play Counter-Strike GO, years ago, I had 2,000 to 3000 to 4,000 viewers—which was pretty big for the era. One thing I will say is, I always try to have a good time. I try not to take everything too seriously. I am definitely not a pro-gamer. I think that’s the interesting part. I’m not a pro, but I’m not bad. I play with a lot of these guys who are really, really good—you know, professional gamers. Then you got me who is funny, comic-relief, but not terrible at the game. That’s probably the reason why a lot of people watch me—because they can relate with me. Maybe you’re the worst one in the squad, so it’s like, ‘Oh I’m going to watch Tim because he’s the worst one in the squad.’ I just try to have fun. I’m not trying to take it too seriously. 

Would you want your son to play when he gets older?

It’s so funny, someone literally asked me this morning when I was streaming this same exact question like, “Would I let my son become a streamer?” I mean, I would, but what I said this morning, I would say the same thing now. I don’t want it to come from me. Does that make sense? Obviously he’s going to see me streaming and be like, man, thats cool. But I don’t want him to do it just because Dad is doing it. I don’t want him to be like, ‘Dad, give me a shout out’ or something like that. Obviously I’ll be like, ‘Hey guys, my son is going to try to start streaming,’ when he’s older, and give him a shout out. But I would totally be cool with it as long as—like my dad said to me—as long as your bills are paid, and you can make it work. And if it’s something you love, why not?

Who knows what the industry will even look like at that point.

Right. I’m about to be 31 this year. My son is going to be two, and by the time he’s actually old enough to stream, at 14 or 15—that’s like 12 years. I’m going to be 40-something. I don’t know where I’m going to be at that point in my life. If I am still streaming, it would be cool to see him do that.

You have kids [on YouTube] who sit there and play with toys. My son loves that, by the way, he sits there and watches people play with trucks all day. I’m like, ‘I should’ve just been playing with trucks on YouTube, what was I thinking?’

If you could go back, what would you tell your 13-year-old self?

Man, he would be blown away at what I’m doing right now, that’s for sure—he’d be like, ‘We’re doing what? We’re playing video games for living?” [Laughs.] I would tell him… keep playing games. But you should probably listen to your parents a little more because at one point in my life, I got really hooked on them [laughs] and was really struggling in school, and it was this whole thing. My dad— obviously at the time, you know, you couldn’t make money at it. He would say, ‘Get outside and stop playing video games all day’.

But I would tell my younger self: follow what you love, which is video games, and keep it at the center of your heart because you never know what is going to come of it. I wouldn’t want to spoil it for him too much, if you know what I mean.