Gamer Face On
Mar 03, 2020 01:48PM
By Sean Robinson
Benjamin Lupo has almost 90 million total Twitch views, 4.4 million Instagram followers, and 1.5 million YouTube subscribers.
Eight-time Grammy nominee Lizzo has 7.4 million Instagram followers and 1.57 million YouTube subscribers.
Numbers like these don’t lie. Benjamin Lupo of Omaha is a bona fide celebrity—whether he likes it or not. Lanky with a Nebraska-nice smile and commonly wearing just a t-shirt and jeans, he may look like your average 30-something…until you step out in public with him.
“Um. I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else. Wait. You are DrLupo,” said the teenage boy serving Benjamin and his wife, Sam, at Village Pointe’s Paradise Bakery.
A slew of adoring adolescent fans soon congregate to snap selfie after selfie with him.
“We are not celebrities, but we have a following,” Benjamin said. “I’ll take some pictures, but I do put up sort of a wall at a point just so people don’t feel like they own me.”
It makes sense why strangers would approach Benjamin like he’s just another one of their pals. They’ve played hours upon hours of video games with him…well, with DrLupo. That’s how he’s commonly known and made his living over the past couple of years—recording himself playing battle royale video games Fortnite, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and others up to 65 hours per week on the streaming service Twitch.
His schedule is a gamer’s dream. He wakes around 7 a.m. when his son awakens, and plays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sam brings him lunch on stream almost daily, at which point he allows “Chair” (which has imbedded controls) to take over onscreen so he can still play and eat his lunch without making his viewers watch him eat. He logs off for dinner and to spend a couple of hours with his family, then logs back on from 8:30-11 p.m.
“When I’m live, it’s the most engaging job. It requires 100 percent attention,” Benjamin said. “Otherwise, you’re not getting the best content and that feels unfair.”
The best DrLupo content makes fans feel as if they are just hanging out with him. Tune in to watch him play against other streamers—such as Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the most followed professional gamer in the world—crack jokes, and sometimes (like anybody who has ever picked up a controller) lose his cool.
One grenade led to a friendship and a successful career. In 2017, Benjamin threw an in-game grenade at Ninja and killed him. When DrLupo realized he had eliminated this top player, he knew people online would be talking about it. He made an online comment about playing together, and the two struck a friendship. That friendship caused cross-promotion, and more views and followers for DrLupo.
That’s why his Omaha home has a studio built specifically for streaming. Separate A/C and power, soundproof walls, and six monitors in total. It’s gaming done at its most professional.
This may be all fun and games, but it’s also serious business. All those followers? Yeah, they bring in big revenue. So much so, he ditched his six-figure salary IT job at a local insurance agency and is now making 10 times his previous income.
So how does Benjamin manage to make so much moolah with gaming as a gig? More views and more subscribers equals more money. It’s as easy as that.
His max one-time viewership was 180,000, but he averages 8,000 to 20,000 per stream. He can cash in on certain content multiple times, too, when replaying it on Twitter or YouTube then profiting from ads.
Then there’s branded merch, contractual events such as narrating play-by-plays for world cup-style video game tournaments, and his own coffee line. Kylie Jenner has makeup, Britney Spears has perfume, and DrLupo has Lifeline Roast with Kings Coast Coffee Company.
Like other professional sports players, Benjamin is endorsed by notable names. In January 2019, he became the first eSports player to be endorsed by State Farm Insurance.
“I got really lucky repeatedly to be where I’m at,” Benjamin said.
It was actually his wife who encouraged him to leave the corporate world behind. In 2013, he began streaming on Twitch for fun but started making income from it a few years later as a “partnered” streamer with 1,000 subscribers. Then, about a year after that, his 30th birthday dawned. It was time for a change.
“If he wants to do something and he’s serious about it, then, yeah, he should go for it,” Sam said. “I had my own business for 10 years as a photographer, so it felt like a natural transition, too.”
Sam is now Benjamin’s manager and a gamer herself—albeit on a smaller scale. Her content is almost the antithesis of her husband’s. Watch her play The Sims or build LEGOs in a calm, chill manner.
“Our content is kind of purposefully opposite, so you never have to leave the Lupos no matter what you’re looking for,” Sam said. “I’m also not good at Fortnite. Like at all.”
Even their toddler son, Charlie, is part of the brand, occasionally popping up in videos and buddying around with gaming gods like Ninja. The “Dr” piece has as familial tie, too.
Benjamin’s father was James Victor Lupo, Ph.D., a Creighton psychology professor. The online moniker acts as an homage to him.
“I believe a person dies twice,” Benjamin said. “Once when the body gives out and again when people stop saying their name.”
Now the name is a household one amongst many. For Benjamin, that comes with its perks and pitfalls.
His cell’s contact list includes the likes of Brendon Urie from Panic! at the Disco, but his home has been “swatted” three times in one month. Swatting is a form of harassment where an anonymous person calls police with a fake report to generate a heavy response. A concerning trend in the professional gaming community, swatting is often done in the middle of a live stream.
“I take it in stride and am at a point where I just want to make other people happy and give back in ways I never thought possible,” Benjamin said.
In 2018, he participated in GuardianCon in Tampa and brought in $350,000 in donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in four hours, the record high for one person. Sam said that a lot of the gaming community saved their donations for his block because they knew Benjamin was passionate about this cause and wanted to produce a large donation.
Much of his giving back benefits children’s programs like Make-a-Wish and St. Jude. For the latter, DrLupo raised upward of $920,000 in less than five hours in 2019 during a fundraising live stream. He continues to sponsor 24-hour streams to raise money for the organization, including one Dec. 21 event that generated $2.3 million.
“For the longest time, mainstream media has put a negative light on gaming,” Benjamin said. “My goal is to show gaming is nothing but good. It’s one of the most social things, it brings people together and opens the doors to meet others from different walks of life like nothing else ever has.”
Visit twitch.tv/drlupo for more information and to watch DrLupo online.This article was printed in the March/April 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.