Red Deer student makes $400,000 creating Madden YouTube videos



The 22-year-old is the second-highest viewed Madden creator on YouTube, reportedly making more than $400,000 a year.

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Over 740,000 subscribers and six-figure earnings: those are the impressive numbers touted in video game streamer TDBarrett’s career.

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The 22-year-old university student from Red Deer —  whose real name is Brett Barrett — only started making YouTube videos of himself playing games in 2015, but he’s already the second-highest viewed Madden creator on YouTube, with claims of an income reaching over $400,000 a year.

“It’s been pretty life-changing,” Barrett says.

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Madden, a National Football League video game released annually, was the first game he played: his dad bought him Madden 2004 “probably in ’07, because it was cheaper,” he says. He played a bit of the shooter game Call of Duty when he was a teen, but kept returning to Madden and playing it to the point where he was ranked in the top 100 of online leaderboards. “I really wanted to be a competitive Madden player.”

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When he was in Grade 12, he decided to try his hand at making YouTube videos, but he quickly realized that he’d have better luck with a less played game: MLB The Show, an annual baseball series.

“The beginning is so difficult,” Barrett says. “There are so many people trying to do it, so you have to stick out. When I started — I’m really good with keywords — I was on Google trends all the time. I was trying to find certain things that nobody else was doing. I found that for MLB (The Show), no one was really doing entertaining kind of gaming videos. I was like, I think this is kind of a niche.”

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His videos are about 20 minutes long and feature him playing games while joking and trash-talking with players who have challenged him or he’s brought in to play.

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His subscriber count slowly grew, and then there was a big jump. “I went from 10,000 to 80,000 (playing) MLB The Show 16,” he says. “That’s when I was in school (Saint Mary’s University in Halifax). That’s when I quit football, I just couldn’t balance everything anymore.”

Barrett was recruited to SMU for the football team after playing quarterback for the Central Alberta Prairie Fire and winning a championship with the Hunting Hills High School Lightning. While taking marketing — “a backup plan for later in life” — he redshirted his first year with the SMU Huskies, but then found he didn’t have time to commit to both real-life football and his burgeoning YouTube career.

Though his average video is around 20 minutes, it can take an hour or three of filming. “It might’ve taken me five games to get something I thought was entertaining or eye-catching,” he says. Initially, he was also doing all the time-consuming video editing himself. A friend from high school who went into video production is now taking care of that for him. “He helps me out now, which is a lot easier with school,” Barrett says.

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The extracurricular job has led to not only comfortable earnings but also to playing games with famous athletes: Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, Astros shortstop Alex Bregman, Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, Tennessee Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

“When you’re a kid, you look at people like they’re larger than life,” Barrett says. “You see them on TV. When you meet them, they’re regular 22-, 24-year-old guys. It’s almost weird.”

“It humanizes them, which I think is a good thing,” he continues. “That’s how they want to be treated, too. They don’t want you to idolize them when you’re with them, they want you to treat them like a friend. When I met Aaron Judge, that was my first big-time player. I was so nervous. In the Bregman one, I was able to calm my nerves and go in and treat him like he’s just another guy, which makes for the best content.”

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They’re also typically not very good video game players, Barrett says. “They don’t play their own games. I felt growing up, this guy’s in MLB The Show, I bet he plays as himself all the time. No. They play Call of Duty, they play Fortnite. (Charlotte Hornets power forward) Frank Kaminsky was last week, he was mostly into Fortnite. He plays a little bit of NBA2K as himself. He said when you’re living it, it’s not as cool to play.”

Brett Barrett with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.
Brett Barrett with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.

Barrett now has a similar opportunity: he can play as himself in MLB The Show. “I got my face scanned in, and I got all my animations and stuff,” Barrett says. “My batting stance, my face, I got into a mocap suit and go through everything on a field. They obviously use the same technology for the regular players, and they put me into the game.”

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Not bad for someone who admits that he’s not actually that good. “MLB, I’m terrible at. I’m really, really bad at MLB The Show,” he says. “I blew up on creativity more than skill.”

That’s not true of Madden, his first love since his dad bought him that early version. After all his video game streaming career has given him, his parents are very supportive.

“They love it. They’ve always been super down for it,” Barrett says. “The toughest decision was stopping playing football and they totally supported me to follow YouTube instead. They’ve been great with it.”
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