For most teens, a typical summer job involves flipping burgers or scooping ice cream. But, with teen employment now down 60%, even those jobs are tough to come by. So, many tech savvy teens are turning to the world of make believe to make money - a lot of it.
18-year-old Mike Everest is bringing in the cash without working a nine to five job. He says he's earned about $35,000 in the past year by playing and having fun in a virtual world in the comfort of his own home.
Mike plays at www.entropiauniverse.com. "Entropia Universe is a computer game," he said. "It's also a virtual world and it's populated by about 730,000 people now. I hunt animals for hides, wools and other equipment that they may drop and I sell them to other players for a markup."
Entropia's John Bates says that there are an unlimited number of job options in cyberspace. "You might want to go into mining or you might want to become a hunter or you may want to manufacture armor or you might even want to build furniture." However, in order to do business, you'll need to purchase virtual currency. For example, it costs one dollar for ten Entropia "peds." When a player sells something, they buyer transfers currency into their account - and the money can be cashed out into real dollars. "When I say we have $1.5 - $2million per day changing hands at Entropia Universe, that's actually US dollars. So it's quite a bit of commerce."
At Entropia there are two ways to access funds - an online deposit into your checking account, or withdrawal from an ATM with a special debit card. Second Life credits your earnings onto a credit card that is put on file.
Steve Mariotti of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship says that techie jobs are tailor made for teens. "I think the trend started 6 or 7 years ago with the explosion of the internet and the fact there is a generational gap in knowledge," he says. "Really, the last decade has been a great opportunity for young people to use their technology skills to get a head start."
Mike says his friends can't believe how much money he's pulling in, but the results speak for themselves. "I put my brother through college," he says. He does so well that he's turned his job into a year round gig.