The next generation of gaming is more influential than ever, and everyone – from consumers to investors to politicians – is taking note.

Locked at home due to the pandemic, people are turning more than ever to gaming. According to a study by Nielsen, 82% of consumers around the world play video games or watch game content. This is the perfect platform to shine for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Games 2021.

With a unique ecosystem, the games industry allows a wide variety of creatives to thrive, from the athletes and streamers who play the games to the founders and indie designers who make them. This includes Yang Liu, co-founder and CEO of End Game Interactive, which makes simple but addicting multiplayer games, including ZombsRoyale.io, which has sales of 4 million this year with the help of its 65 million players who play on iOS US dollars. Android, PC or the web.

“We saw how adorable something like zombs was,” says Liu. “There are people with over 8,000 hours of gameplay and it’s a memorable part of their experience growing up in middle school, high school, or college.”

Liu is a Chinese immigrant who grew up playing free internet browser games from Neopets to Runescape. His experience bears resemblances to Argentine-born Mariano Cavallero, the founder of HopFrog, another game developer who has succeeded after his passion. After Cavallero struggled to update his idea for an open world video game and use his mother’s savings as a last breath, he got his big break after receiving a free pass to the Seattle Casual Connect game conference had an award for winning the Game of the Year award at a conference in his home country. There he connected with an employee of Humble Bundle, which led to an offer from the company to release his game. Inspired by Zelda and Stardew Valley, Forager was released last year and became an instant hit. The first year grossed $ 10 million and sold 900,000 units.

Both Liu and Cavallero initially self-financed their projects, but a new wave of investor interest in the gaming world offers new growth opportunities. In February, just before the pandemic hit the United States, Liu’s company announced $ 3 million in venture funding from well-known investors including David Helgason, co-founder of Unity Technologies, Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch, and Scooter Braun, Talent manager. “In 2017 the [venture capital] The environment was extremely weak for games compared to today, ”he says. “You haven’t seen a semen announcement every two to three weeks like you do today.”

Liu isn’t the only 30-under-30 award winner to take advantage of this newfound interest. ProGuides co-founder Sam Wang is building a platform that offers courses and on-demand coaching for esports players, while eFuse founder Matthew Benson is building a LinkedIn for esports that connects players with scholarships, internships and competitive tournaments.

Others think even further than Ateyo co-founders Rachel Feinberg and Breanne Harrison-Pollock, whose companies make game apparel and equipment. With the family tree of New York Fashion Week, the two have already entered into collaborations with YouTube Gaming, the hardware manufacturer NZXT and the esports organization Evil Geniuses.

As the games industry continues to reach the mainstream, other interfaces, especially this year in politics, are becoming more common. Before Election Day, President-elect Joe Biden’s team created an island and billboards for the hit Nintendo game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Meanwhile, US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) took advantage of the popularity of breakout indie darling Among Us to launch a voting campaign.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitch stream with his representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) Became one of the top ten most watched shows on the platform and featured some of today’s most popular streamers, including new 30-under-30 listeners Jeremy Wang and Imane Anys. Wang, better known by his online alias “Disguised Toast,” reached three million subscribers on YouTube earlier this month thanks to his “Among Us” videos, which received two million views consistently. At the end of last year, he signed a lucrative exclusivity agreement to broadcast his streams on Facebook Gaming.

With 6 million followers, Anys, known as “Pokimane”, is the top streamer on Twitch, with whom she signed a new multi-year exclusivity deal earlier this year. Anys’ eventful 2020, a founding member of the creative collective OfflineTV, which now also houses Wang, included an agreement to become the creative director for the game apparel brand Cloak and a donation of $ 50,000 to the University of California at Irvine to help a To receive scholarship for the school’s esports program.

While video games dominate this year’s list, Carolina Acosta claims a spot with the success of her party and drinking game Tragos. The Bootstrap game celebrates and pokes fun at the cultural norms and traditions of the Latino, and has grossed more than $ 1 million since its release in 2018.

In 2017 the [venture capital] The environment was extremely weak for games compared to today. You haven’t seen a seed announcement every two to three weeks like you do today.

Yang Liu

The 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Games was selected by a panel of four judges with outstanding roles in the industry. Siobhan Reddy is the studio director of UK game developer Media Molecule, the company behind the LittleBigPlanet series that has sold millions of units over the years. Earlier this year, Reddy’s studio released the PlayStation-exclusive Dreams to rave reviews. Kellee Santiago is Developer Relations Director at Pokémon Go Maker Niantic, which she joined last year after holding positions at Google and Ouya. She previously co-founded Thatgamecompany, where she directed the publication of Journey – the fastest-selling PlayStation Network game at the time.

Team Liquid Co-CEO Steve Arhancet helped his esports company become the third largest company in the industry, with an estimated Forbes worth of $ 320 million. Revenue for the organization, which has won championships in League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, was estimated to be around $ 24 million in 2019. The jury is rounded off by UTA agent Hanako Tjia, a 30-under-30 winner from last year, who represents a star-studded line of female streamers, including “Valkyrae” and “LilyPichu”.

Additional coverage from Matt Perez.

Click here for a link to our full list of games and click here for full 30-under-30 coverage.