Gaming glitch: UK gaming industry hit by skills shortage as applications to creative courses down 20% in last decade

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  • At the top of the rich list is Borderland’s corporate president ‘Handsome Jack’ with an equally handsome salary of £333,043 per year.
  • Super Mario ranks among the lowest earners, taking home £32,895 per year on a typical plumber’s salary in Italy.
  • Pac-Man earns the lowest salary of all characters as a security guard in Japan, bringing in just £15,916 per year.


From Super Mario to Lara Croft, have you ever wondered where your favorite video game protagonists and villains would rank in the real-world job market?

Online gaming platform Solitaired looked at some of the world’s most iconic video game characters and calculated how much each would earn if they landed their real-world dream job. They based character earnings on data from salary comparison sites as well as publicly available pay bands to find an average yearly salary for more than 50 video game characters.


Video Games’ Highest Earners 

  1. Handsome Jack, Borderlands 2 

At the top spot is Borderland’s narcissistic bad-guy, Handsome Jack, who would take home an eye watering £333,043 per year as a corporate CEO. While Hyperion Corp is fortunately yet to be founded, it seems only fitting that as the fictional president of an intergalactic weapons manufacturer and supplier, Jack would take home such a huge paycheck.

  1. Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid 

In at second place is Metal Gear Solid’s eye-patch sporting Solid Snake, who would take home an impressive salary of £107,517 per year as a Special Forces Soldier for the US Army. Snake, who boasts an impressive military career, was initially inducted into the Green Berets during his teenage years before later joining Big Boss’ special forces unit, FOXHOUND, meaning he would be substantially compensated for his acquired specialist skills.

  1. Albert Wesker, Resident Evil 

In third place is Resident Evil’s Albert Wesker, who would earn a salary of £90,519 per year as a virologist. Having graduated at 17 with a doctorate in Virology, Wesker originally began his training with Umbrella Pharmaceuticals and was later transferred to the Arklay Laboratory as a senior researcher working on the t-Virus project, following the disbanding of his training school.

  1. Alex Mason, Call of Duty 

In fourth place is Call of Duty veteran and fan favorite, Alex Mason. Mason is unlikely to have trouble remembering these numbers, as he stacks up an impressive £82,317 per year as an Intelligence Analyst for the CIA. Mason, who makes his first appearance as the main playable character in Call of Duty: Black Ops, joined the CIA Operation 40 squad in 1958 and continued to carry out several missions for the CIA despite his imprisonment and brainwashing at Vorkuta.

  1. Max Payne, Max Payne 
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In fifth place is the titular action avenger Max Payne, who would earn £75,922 per year as a police detective in New York City. Payne began his police career in the 1990s, working for the NYPD as a detective before joining DEA colleague Alex Balder on the Valkyr drug case, following the brutal murder of his wife and daughter in 1998.


The 20 Highest Earning Video Game Characters 


Rank  Video Game Character  Video Game  Job/Occupation  Yearly Salary (£)  Yearly Salary ($) 
1. Handsome Jack Borderlands 2 CEO £333,043 $432,524
2. Solid Snake Metal Gear Solid Special Forces Soldier £107,517 $139,632
3. Albert Wesker Resident Evil Virologist £90,519 $117,557
4. Alex Mason Call of Duty CIA Operative £82,317 $106,905
5. Max Payne Max Payne NYPD Detective £75,922 $98,600
6. Cole Phelps LA Noire LAPD Detective £71,846 $93,306
7. Gordon Freeman Half-Life Research Associate Scientist £70,145 $91,097
8. Arthur Morgan Red Dead Redemption 2 Bounty Hunter £69,750 $90,585
9. Mortimer Goth The Sims Scientist £69,076 $89,709
10. Isaac Clarke Dead Space Engineer £64,859 $84,232
11. Duke Nukem Duke Nukem CIA Special Agent £62,837 $81,607
12. CJ Johnson Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Entrepreneur £59,626 $77,436
13. Bella Goth The Sims Intelligence Researcher £58,363 $75,796
14. Michael De Santa Grand Theft Auto V Film Producer £54,563 $70,861
15. Leon S Kennedy Resident Evil Police Officer £54,113 $70,276
16. Homer Simpson Simpson’s Hit and Run Nuclear Technician £53,629 $69,648
17. Master Chief Halo Master Chief Petty Officer £53,491 $69,469
18. Doom Slayer Doom Marine’s Master Gunnery Sergeant £53,490 $69,468
19. Sam Fisher Splinter Cell Navy Seal £48,729 $63,284
20. Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine Resident Evil SWAT Team Member £48,158 $62,543



Video Games’ Lowest Earners 

  1. Pac-Man, Pac-Man 

At the bottom of the list, Pac-Man take the spot as the lowest earner, with a salary of just £15,916 per year as a security guard in Japan – where the character first debuted. While the creators don’t specify that Pac-Man has a job per se, the role seems fitting given the Namco classic shows the yellow sprite navigating through mazes trying to get rid of unwanted ghost intruders.

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  1. Link, Legend of Zelda 

Second from the bottom is Legend of Zelda’s hero and protagonist, Link, who would earn only £19,661 per year as a knight – if the job were to still exist. A knight was paid an average of two shillings per day during the 1200s, which means that Link would take home just over £19k when taking into consideration currency conversions and increases in inflation.


  1. Cloud Strife, Final Fantasy VII 

The third lowest earner is Cloud Strife from the Final Fantasy series who would earn £19,964 per year as a Private First-Class Soldier in the US Army. Cloud was unsuccessful in joining SOLDIER, instead becoming a Shinra infantryman, hence justifying the lower pay band for our sword wielding fighter.


  1. Desmond Miles, Assassin’s Creed                  

As the fourth lowest earner in the list, Assassin’s Creed’s modern day main character, Desmond Miles, would earn just £21,408 per year as a bartender in New York City. Desmond, who is the descendant of a long line of assassins, used his training to hitchhike to New York City, where he worked as a bartender at Bad Weather before his eventual capture.


  1. Ryu, Street Fighter 

At fifth from the bottom is the main character of the Street Fighter series, Ryu, who would bring home just £21,723 as a martial arts instructor in Japan. Ryu made his first appearance in Capcom’s original Street Fighter game in 1987, and while his name roughly translates to ‘plentiful’ in Japanese, the same cannot be said for his expected salary.


The 20 Lowest Earning Video Game Characters 

Rank  Video Game Character  Video Game  Job/Occupation  Yearly Salary (£)  Yearly Salary ($) 
1 Pac-Man Pac-Man Security Guard £15,916 $20,670
2 Link Legend of Zelda Knight £19,661 $25,533
3 Cloud Strife Final Fantasy Private First-Class Soldier £19,964 $25,927
4 Desmond Miles Assassin’s Creed Bartender £21,408 $27,802
5 Ryu Street Fighter Martial Arts Instructor £21,723 $28,212
6 Marcus Fenix Gears of War Army Sergeant £24,119 $31,324
7 Don Lothario The Sims Medical Intern £24,784 $32,187
8 Geralt of Rivia The Witcher Pest Controller £24,906 $32,345
9 Niko Bellic Grand Theft Auto IV Taxi Driver £25,521 $33,144
10 Lightning Final Fantasy Security Guard £29,084 $37,771
11 Crash Bandicoot Crash Bandicoot Bodyguard £29,670 $38,533
12 John Marston Red Dead Redemption Rancher £32,770 $42,559
13 Mario Super Mario Bros Plumber £32,895 $42,721
14 Tom Nook Animal Crossing Real Estate Agent £33,812 $43,912
15 Isabelle Animal Crossing Secretary £34,071 $44,248
16 Freddy Fazbear Five Nights at Freddy’s Mascot £35,078 $45,556
17 Captain John ‘Soap’ MacTavish Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Army Sergeant £35,953 $46,692
18 Booker DeWitt Bioshock Infinite Private Investigator £36,000 $46,753
19 Spyro Spyro the Dragon Jeweler £36,516 $47,424
20 Sonic the Hedgehog Sonic the Hedgehog Professional Athlete £36,592 $47,522
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Honorable Mentions 

Some character earnings meant that they ranked elsewhere in the list, however some are so iconic that it would be a shame to miss them out entirely. 

Given Super Mario’s Italian heritage, he would earn a salary of £32,895 working as a plumber in Italy, ranking him 41st in the list. Elsewhere in Europe, Tomb Raider’s female lead Lara Croft ranks 27th, earning a salary of £41,998 working as a British archaeologist.

While Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t currently on the job hunt, based on his ability to run at supersonic speeds, it is only fitting that he would earn a salary of £36,592 as a professional athlete. Although he may have to wait a few years before he is eligible to earn, as the creators suggest he is only 15 years old.

Pokémon’s Pikachu would be perfectly suited to a job as a detective given his latest movie role, earning him £37,282 per year – although considering his element type, he would also make for a great electrician. His trainer and best friend, Ash Ketchum, would just top Pikachu’s earnings, taking home £41,327 as a Research Fellow for Professor Cerise.

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