The Cosmic Era's first world populace lives in a post scarcity near fully automated economy, one that is currently governed by the freemium economy with everyone who isn't among the wealthy and elite living on the Federation universal credit system. Most people earn enough credits by being frugal and interacting with surveys and keeping small side jobs doing their own small craft things and hobbies. The poor, who live off of the freemium economy live on charity, and their own barter systems. But this isn't about them, this is about the Neo-Otaku, the denizens of the CogNet who make their living by working the system of the virtual game domains. These domains, immersive MMORPGs, have their own rules, and own internal economies that utilize both in game currency and real currency. This real currency is a highly valuable commodity, and can be used outside of the freemium system to buy and sell things.
1. Gold Mining
Most game domains have very tedious tasks that are undertaken to generate a small amount of currency. This system is in place to technically present a level playing field between paying and non-paying players. It only takes a great amount of patience for a person to grind out the same amount of 'gold' that a paying player can gain with a swipe of their multikard. The Gold Miner is a player who sets up their 'mining rig' to grind out the gold, and then selling that gold in Gray Exchanges, online forums that function as a semi-legal free market. This allows for paying players to get a better exchange rate than buying through the game. A smart miner will have multiple proxies all engaged in mining activities to produce the largest return on their time investment.
Guild Miners work for the various organizations or companies that exist within the game domain, and benefit by guild associations. These can be very large operations with top guild mining operations matching or surpassing actual real world mining work. Most games have open and elastic architecture, meaning that if a player were to invest enough time and energy into their mining work, they could more resemble Decepticons strip mining a planet rather than 49ers panning for gold in a creek. As this scale of operation grows in size, it invariably will become a target for other guilds, or even draw the attention of the game server systems, which will respond to such a large scale disturbance in the code by setting up spawn points for higher and higher level monsters. A guild mega-excavation could routinely draw the ire of dragons, sandworms, or whatever other high level monsters the domain has to offer.
Note - gold is interchangeable with crystals, gems, and whatever other resource a game domain offers as it's internal currency.
Rare Game Hunter
Game domains are littered with items of rarity and high value. These items are readily bought, sold, and traded on the gray markets. Getting these items is difficult, and this is quite on purpose. This is part of what makes them desirable. The Rare Game Hunter has made their task the hunting of these items. The term hunting is used in the martial aspect, as most of these items are loot drops from beating hidden foes, or taking down monsters that rarely spawn, or only spawn under certain conditions. Where the gold miner is a relatively outside skilled job, running bots and programming macros to do their work, the Rare Game Hunter has to play the game, and they have to play it both very well, and ruthlessly.
The majority of Rare Game Hunters are employed in fantasy and sci-fi games, where they stalk alien worlds, for their quarry, to bring it back to the markets. After this, the items can be sold for large amounts of in game currency, or the items themselves can be sold for real currency. Other games offer exclusive items or gear that can only be gained by completing arduous tasks, such as special weapons, special vehicles, special costumes, and other things that are considered valuable, and people with money would be willing to pay for.
Most of the game domains have craft systems, where users cultivate in game skills to combine sometimes random items to create new items. Most intend for this to be a form of grinding, such as making arrows, and other consumables, to mimic the function of gold mining. The difference is that grinding out 100k arrows is largely useless because the real value of 100k arrows it the XP earned while making them, in contrast to making 100k gold, which could be sold for a handful of credits. The real value in the Crafting occupation is creating one of a kind items, or specific items such as high quality replicas of legendary items, and then selling them. The crafter is an artisan, combining real world creativity and skill with in game statistics and items
A Crafter is going to work hard to max out their skills and then find ways to keep boosting their skills beyond the normal max. This is going to include a crafting sanctum, access to items that boost stats and skills associated with their work, and getting a supply of the specific materials they need to craft their items. A typical gamer can get a basic crafting skill, a hunk of ore or ten, and spend some time to craft a sword. It is a sword, and probably not a very good one. The professional crafter has maxed out their stats, has made sure they found a hunk of Starfallen Ore, and then uses their Elemental Fire Forge after dropping an Elixir of Dexterity to craft a duplicate of Excaliber. The normal sword is worth a few in game gold, and nothing outside of it, but the Mock Excaliber could be worth a few hundred credits.
The Crafter works within the game rules and framework, and their creations and accomplishments are legit, even if the sale of their items on the Gray Market is questionable. The Modder is a cheat and hacker who exploits loopholes in the game system. The Modder is sought out to make game breaker weapons, unbalanced spells, to create impenetrable fortresses, and to turn a closet in a safehouse into a replica of Hugh Hefner's Grotto. Modders also work to port things between game domains. The most basic rifle in a shooter-verse would be radically overpowered in a genre fantasy setting, but there are people who are willing to pay the money to carry assault rifles in Cimmeria, or to have a Sword of Omens in a cyberpunk setting. It's all about gaming the system, about cheating, about winning.
Modders work is considered illegal because it is exploiting the underlying code of the game system. This means that Modders are among the most likely to be pursued by real world law enforcement for their violations, where most others who abuse the system are just likely to be banned from that domain. Any good modder is likely to also be a clocksmith of passable skill.
A Mercenary is an in-game professional, a bounty hunter, assassin, smuggler, bodyguard, and general man-at-arms for hire. Most mercenaries work for people who have an interest in the game domain, but no actual interest in playing in said game domain. These are typically the corps behind advertising campaigns, and people interested in the overall economic activity of a game domain. The CEO who is concerned about a guild getting too powerful and upsetting the sponsors, a group of sponsors who have a team they want to rise in the ranks, rogue players, broken items that cannot be erased from the system, and so forth, these are all mercenary jobs.
In the digital dungeon, there are a hundred and one jobs available for a good mercenary. In less honest domains, the server operators could very well maintain a cadre of expendable mercenaries to ensure the volatility of a domain, and to make sure no one ranked number one too long. Mercenaries often engage in activities online that are normally crimes in the real world, such as digital murder, digital theft, and such. Such things are generally not crimes in Player Versus Player and Online Battle Arenas.
Note - This is the domain of I-ROK, Boba Fett, and Scud the Disposable Assassin
The Professional Guildsman
Within the medium and large game domains there are formal leagues, and these leagues engage in their own competition or virtual bloodsports for ranking and supremacy. A decent player who is able to present an affable persona and a mildly interesting stream can make a living as a professional player. These players are treated like members of professional sports franchises and in similar fashion, many of the clans/guilds/leagues are owned by various outside of the game enterprises. What better advertising than for the most dominant team in the Ivalice Blitzball league (FFX reference) to be owned/sponsored by the most popular energy drink, snack food, or other popular interest.
The professional player is going to be graded just like any other pro performer. There are junior units, special interest groups, minor leagues, bush leagues, and a player has to work their way up through the ranks, find their niche, get a following, and so forth. In some instances a very well performing but dull and uninteresting player can and will be passed over for a less capable player who is much more marketable. NASCAR is full of known faces who are celebrities and demi-celebrities despite having mediocre to poor race records. Pro-Guilding is the same.
Life on the Outside
Most people who make their livings in the online realm often have minimal offline lives. Small homes, few physical needs, very unlikely to be hoarders or collectors of anything outside of their specific area of interest. They take their in game winnings and either sell them on the gray markets, or exploit existing rebate and exchange programs, where they trade their game currency for real world durable goods.
This post inspired by the economics of media like Ready Player One, Sword Art Online, TRON, and actual economic activities around modern MMORPG gamers who can and do make a living playing the games.