While most of the industry is recovering from Gamescom, Myztro are just warming up. The UK-based Quake Champions team are competing at Quakecon this weekend. Before they took off, we took the opportunity to ask Gareth 'GaRpy' Marshall and Aaron-Anton 'Hell' Jones about how they got their start in esports, and the public's perception to the growing sport from players that've been in and out of competitions for over a decade.
When did you start gaming and how long have you been a professional player for?
Marshall: I first started playing professionally in 2004 at the Painkiller Cyberathlete Professional League World Final – 13 years now. From Painkiller I moved on to Quake 4, then Quake live, then Unreal Tournament, then Shootmania. I haven’t actually done much for the last two years professionally, until Quake Champions came along. I was 18-years-old when I started playing and am 31 now.
Jones: I started playing really young, I was only 16. I never planned to be a pro, it wasn’t a thing back then, it was more about reputation. I used to go to events in the UK and just play – I was just happy to get a free mouse pad and a mouse! It was all about reputation and wanting to be the best in the UK at this game.
I realised in the early 2000s during Quake 3 that money could actually be made from gaming. For me it was less about money and more about having my expenses paid – I won the UK CPL qualifier and got an all expenses trip to Holland which was a big deal for me as I was only 16. I could see then that gaming was on the rise and I saw teams like Fatality as a potential goal.
I’m 32 now – 33 in December. I’ve been playing professionally since 2000. I started playing on LAN with DOOM, then Duke Nukem and Quake. I’ve always played FPS but in my downtime I like to play FIFA. I support Barcelona - don’t talk about Neymar just yet, it’s a sore subject!
What made you want to be a professional gamer and what game is your speciality?
Marshall: I only recently realised that it was a viable option to be considered a pro gamer. When I started you could do okay for yourself in terms of prize money, but there was nothing like there is now – it feels like you’re a celebrity! Like I said, I haven’t been playing pro for the last couple of years, but recently the whole scene has exploded. I couldn’t believe how well organized the regional finals were when I went to Leicester, and now there’s proper wages, proper leagues and huge prize pots to play for across lots of different titles. It’s great!
What is the biggest challenge for those looking to become a pro gamer?
Marshall: I got picked for my first team when I was playing against a guy in the CPL world tour and he said that I should come to an event because I was quite good. I went to Singapore and came 14th which led to me getting noticed and signing for a team. Then that led to another team and another etc… until now with Myztro.
Nowadays I think the best way to go pro is to play a lot in leagues and online cups to get noticed, then managers will spot you. Just make sure to play online with all of the other professionals. LoL and DOTA have a structure for players to have something to play for with its leagues and cups, but other games aren’t as beginner friendly which can be demoralizing – Games need ranking systems so you can build your way up and have something to play for e.g. Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Street Fighter V with players aiming for the global elite and Master ranks online.
Jones: The biggest challenge is overcoming the difficulties of Quake – it’s an easy game to watch, but it’s harder to play, much more difficult than you think. The Quake skillset is so high that you could take any Quake player and put them on another FPS and they’d be just as good. You couldn’t take someone from a different game and expect them to dominate in Quake though.
Beginners don’t see a lot of stuff which puts them off when they play – perseverance is a must; you need to stick at it to be good. I think you need a certain mindset to go pro ultimately, you need to have the goal of being the best. Soon you could have youngsters growing up wanting to be gamers rather than footballers.
How often do you train each day?
Marshall: If I’m working I don’t get home until 7, then I play from 9 to about 12/1 and catch up with sleep at the weekends. It’s impossible to work full time and play professionally really as being a pro gamer is a career in itself – I own my own business so I’m there from 7am until after hours. I needed to take time off of work so I could focus on Quake.
Before the Regional finals I set up a boot camp at work with five PCs. We spent from about 10:30am until 6pm playing duel, and then played Sacrifice from 6pm – 12am. My ideal amount of time to practice would be 12 hours per day and we’ll be will practicing in Dallas as much as possible ahead of the finals.
What is your relationship with your teammates like?
Jones: I’ve known GaRpy for 12 years via Team Dignitas where we used to play Quake 3 and Quake 4. Overall the team dynamic is great, we’re all such good mates, we’re like a family.
Myztro is a new team setup in July, how did the team come to be?
Marshall: The team was set up by one of my old friends who lives in Dallas. I know him from when I used to play for team All The Rage (ATL) and he used to run it. He moved to America and is doing really well for himself and we started speaking again recently after Quake Champions came out because he wanted to know what my plans were for it.
Originally, we [GaRpy and HELL] were initially just going to play casually and see what came of things but my friend suggested starting our own team and growing our own brand. My friend had lots of money that he was willing to invest in the team – he set up a gaming house, bought 5 new top of the range PCs and stocked the fridges. He’s on holiday at the moment but told us he’s there to support us because he really believes in us.
What can you tell us about your welding business and work/life balance?
Marshall: I’ve currently taken 6 months off work for Quake Champions to try and make it work professionally. I own my own company doing steel work which was handed down to me by my dad who now lives in South Africa. I took the business over 11 years ago. My dad comes back for three months each year usually to take over the business but I asked my dad to look after the company for 6 months so I can focus on Quake. My parents are great at supporting me playing about Quake. It’s my dream come true to play Quake full time but I need to work out how to balance it with my business. I might do gaming for the majority of my time but keep an eye on company, or maybe 50/50 – I couldn’t walk away from the business completely due to my family.
What do you think the public's perception of esports is? Is it accurate?
Marshall: People who don’t have anything to do with esports will assume that players are just geeks, but perceptions are changing a lot now – when I went to Singapore their national sport was Starcraft and people were impressed when you said you were a professional gamer and wanted autographs, but then you came back to the UK/Europe and the perception was very different.
It’s great to see everything getting more popular. It’s only going to get bigger and bigger and more mainstream in the next few years.
Jones: From my point of view people always been supportive. When you tell some people you’re a pro gamer, they’re like “Really??” Not in a horrible way, they just say “You don’t look the type!”
Some people do have a negative perception of pro gamers and this definitely isn’t accurate, but I think it is changing. Even my sister who isn’t into gaming at all really enjoyed the spectacle of the Quake Champions regional finals. She tuned in to watch Sacrifice and got sucked in to the whole competition. People’s perceptions about esports change when they watch it themselves and see how exciting it is.
I get excited when I’m flicking through the sports channels and I see the likes of BT sport showing competitive FIFA– I was like “Oh my god!” It blew me away. I thought it was awesome and it can only get bigger from now.