Interview with BanKs

00:37:02

We sat down with the Tom Hardy of esports, James "BanKs" Banks, and discussed his journey to becoming a talent and his goals moving forward.

Hello everyone. Joining me today is none other than James "BanKs" Banks. He is a talent known across multiple esports titles such as Dota 2, CS:GO, and Tekken, just to name a few. If you keep up with these sports of almost any kind, you have more than likely seen him a time or two. Now, we get the chance to learn more about him and his success as a talent in esports. Banks, how's it going over your part of the world?

Yeah, it's not too bad all things considered with the coronavirus. I'm here. I'm based out of Kyiv at the moment in Ukraine. I even got to take part in the WePlay! Dota event there as well, which is awesome. So we're still doing what we can. Still trying to make the magic happen, streams, all that good stuff, and just keeping things positive while all of this madness is going down. How are you?

Oh, I'm doing good. I'm doing great. I'm really glad that you got to join us on that, the WeSave! Charity Play deal. It was a good time. It's been a good time this whole week. So I'm glad you got to join us on that. And I wanted to open this up because I noticed something; that me and you share a birthday. It isn't quite the same year, but how does it feel being born on the best day on the calendar?

Well, it's also my mom's birthday, so I was actually born on the same day as her, so we all share it in that sense, which is quite an interesting one. Not many people can say that they gave birth to their child, whether that's a blessing or curse, on their birthday, but it depends which way you look at it.

And it's often Mother's Day too.

Oh yes. Oh yes. [Just not for us in the UK, we celebrate it in March.]

So, you claim to be the Tom Hardy of esports. I've compared the pictures of you two, and the math checks out. If you had to pick between Bane, Venom, Mad Max, or Handsome Bob, which character would you say you relate to more?

Oh God. Probably Bane as I'm slightly insane from all of this stuff that's gone on. I'd go with him more because he did, you know, there's a video, a film called Legend that's based on two east end, East London gangsters and he played both twins in it to make it really good, it was a fantastic movie. I will recommend people to watch it, but because I am from the east end of London, that's where this whole meme started to come from. And then it came from Peaky Blinders, obviously, when he was doing this stuff into that. And, I just put it in my Twitter bio as a joke, but even players started mentioning it during interviews. I interviewed a Cloud9 Sonic, and I asked him a question, and the moment before he even answered it, he was like, “you sound like Tom Hardy. And I'm like, “Cheers mate, thanks for that.”I'm glad you know that as well.”

Yeah, I mean, that's a pretty high compliment, right?

I'm definitely gonna take that. I'll have the esports voice for him. That's no problem.

For sure. For sure. Well, talking on your esports career, before we get into where you are in your career today, I wanted to talk about the past a little bit. Take us back in time. Before you formed BanKs Esports in January of 2014, you wore many hats. You were a professional player, you were in sales, an engineer, a journalist, and marketing before transitioning into being a full-time talent. While obviously, those other career fields weren't things you wanted to do for the rest of your life, how did those previous experiences set you up for success in a talent role?

I think it puts me in like the jack of all trades. So, from the information you have there, it doesn't even really paint the full picture. So I was a pro player from 2003 until about 2007 when I retired properly from CS. But even then, I continued in Virtua Fighter 5, which I had a silver medal in at the World Cyber Games UK qualifiers. I played Forza to a pretty high-level. Even on the X league, which was a UK TV channel that was played at, I was like second on their rankings against some of the players that came from the CGS time. Basically, for me, I got so into esports that I just decided I would stay involved any way I could. I even worked as a journalist on SK gaming, which was huge as a news website back in the day.

And, it helped me meet people like SpawN, HeatoN, who are obviously legends from the 1.6 era. When they eventually retired, they moved to work for a company called Zowie Gear, which, obviously, is the world-famous brand now known as BENQ. I managed to do a bit of marketing through them, but basically, everything that I did, I did it while I was studying, or I had to have a full-time job and to do esports as a part-time. So for many years, I burned the candle at both ends doing normal life, normal work, normal studying, and then esports in the evening, the whole time. And a lot of those esports jobs at the beginning weren't paid, or I was even earning a very low amount of money. You can't live off it or even just like mouse pads and gaming gear and that side of things.

So even when I finished college, I went and just worked for the MOD (Ministry of Defence), being an electronic engineer, so doing repairing of stuff that came back from our military forces, and a bit of private work as well. And then for me, it was important to have a skill like that because that's a skill that's always going to be needed, right? An electrician, or an electronic engineer, that kind of role, could be used whether esports happened. I had no idea it would become this big, we had obviously dreamed of it, we wanted it to happen, but there was never really a clear cut path into it. So I had to put my sensible hat on and make sure I had something to fall back on. But then it really started to kick off in like 2014 like you mentioned, because I was getting more CS work as a commentator. But even then, I went full time in it. Then I went part-time in it. Then I went completely out of esports for a year. Then I went back into it, and really since the end of 2017, early 2018, that's where I can say it's been a constant where I've never had to kind of take a step back.

Right. Well, I mean wow, that's awesome that you've had that much background in things because like you said, you know if something ever happens, you have something to fall back on, right?

Yeah. I think that's key, especially for anyone. I think that's a big mistake; people dream so hard that they don't have an idea of saying, “Oh, maybe, maybe if this doesn't work, there's not another option.” They're so focused on making it happen, and I agree with that because, like you want to make happen, it's a dream, but not everyone can live out their dreams. I'm very lucky that I can, but it certainly hasn't been easy. And I come from like a council estate background, low income meaning that I didn't have anyone to bankroll me. I had to make this work myself. I moved out at a very young age from my parents, and I kind of had to stand on my own two feet, and I had to make this work. So for me, it was always finding a balance.

And I actually think, and I even look at it towards colleagues I was working with, like Pansy, some of her first Counter-Strike commentary was with me. We were doing it together online back in the day. But I didn't even have a chance to take a job like for low money working at ESL, for example, when they offered me a full-time job for ESL UK. And that would've put my career maybe massively further forward, but I had to support my family, I had to support myself. I had to make an income that was realistic, and real money was so much better than the esports money at that time. So I took the long route, but I just never gave up on it. And I, and I think many people now, they want the dream so bad that they almost hinder themselves in the future if it doesn't work out. Because the same as being a pro footballer and stuff, it's not going to be really working out for everyone. You're not going to be the next Ronaldo. You're not going to be on a Premiership team, for example. You might want to be, you might train super hard, but sometimes you just don't get the break.

Right, right. And while we're still having fun in the past, I found an Instagram post from you back in November on November 30th, 2012. It was for a StarCraft 2 Major, ESET UK Masters 2012. It was a part of the insomnia47 Gaming Festival at the Telford International Centre. The prize pool was £5,000, and BlinG won as a Protoss. Thinking back to that event and comparing it to where esports is now, how do you feel about how far esports has come?

Oh God. Back then, I can tell you about this event so well. So it was actually my company, I used to run a website called Definitive-eSports, but we were hired even to do parts of the production and stuff for these guys. So I supplied the commentators, me as the interviewer and host, I even ended up commentating part of the grand final. I was not a StarCraft commentator. We were using the equipment that insomnia gave us, but my tech team was helping out with things. It was a crazy event. It was so much fun. We had top Korean players coming in, I believe at that one or maybe that was the next one after it. But yeah, from that to where we are now, where we're regularly filling out stadiums and the prize money is a life-changing amount of money across multiple games.

Now the salaries are so much higher. Like even back then, we could see it was getting bigger. We could see more big companies are getting involved and people were taking an interest. It was starting to move stuff to TV and not just in Asia, like around the rest of the world as well. But even then, you couldn't have been sure on it. I don't think we were really sure until maybe 2014, 2015 the okay, look, we can be solely working on this, and have a hugely successful future ahead of us in terms of just where esports were going.

Yeah. And like you said, you look at it now, and we're selling out arenas. Now, with the whole coronavirus thing going on, we're the sports media now; no real sports are happening. So we're kind of the fallback on that. So a lot of esports is going up on TV and stuff now. So, I agree with you. It's crazy to see how far it's come. 

And, throughout your career, you've developed a reputation for being a very generous and real person. While I'm sure you've had many instances like these behind closed doors, I found an instance of that quality out in the open. On a Reddit AMA back in November of 2017, you had someone reach out to you and ask how they could get back into casting in CS:GO after putting it down for a while. Your reply was, “Suggestion to get back into it? How about coming to do a cast with me and giving you a trial run for Unikrn? I am looking for a co-commentator at the moment! Just followed & DM'd you on Twitter!” Is your generosity a way of giving back to the community, or do you think you're just built that way?

I think I want to try and give back in many ways. I always say this. I still find it weird when people say, "Oh, I'm a fan of yours," or "you have fans," for example. I never see us as having fans because I don't see us like traditional sports. I see us as just all gamers. We all love what we do. We all have a passion, which is the reason we're here for it. Whether it's watching, whether it's playing, whether it's just following the scene in some way. And that's always the thing that I'm never too sure about. I don't like considering these people as fans. I just consider us all gamers or a community of friends and people that have a similar passion. And in terms of my generosity, I'm definitely that way anyway.

I've always had the support of friends or family to be able to try to stand on my own two feet from early on, but I just feel like there's not enough of this at the moment in the world in general. And because I'm in a very privileged position in esports, if I can help people or if I can offer an olive branch or give someone just an opportunity, whether they nail it, whether they flop hard, I've done something to help them. And like you were saying at the start of your question about being a real person, it's just, I went through a stage, and I've spoken about this honestly before where I was a horrible fuck. I was just not a nice person. I was going through some stuff myself and depression, and horrible things, but I was even pushing away talent and friends and being disrespectful to them, egotistical, and it really came from me not being myself. So like I said, I come from kind of like the ghettos of London, you can call it that, right? My mom, my stepdad, my dad, I have all of them in my life. So I'm privileged in that sense, but life wasn't easy. I've watched friends be shot dead in front of me. I've been stabbed in the leg myself.

I understand that the world is not such a nice place, but I was definitely always kind of hiding myself from everyone else. So, I realized that a lot of other talents, a lot of players and stuff, they were generally smart or they come from nicer backgrounds or something like that. And there wasn't anyone I could really relate to. So I just tried to fit in, but what I realized was I wasn't being myself the whole time, and over the last two years, I've made a great effort to just be me, and I feel much more comfortable. It shows in my work. I'm more relaxed when I'm doing my hosting, when interviewing, and my commentating. People are like, "Oh, you've really improved," and it's not even that I've improved. I'm doing the same stuff. I'm just being me. I'm not holding back in that sense. And I think I've just got to know my roots a little bit better and that includes being generous. That includes helping other people in any way I can.

I've never been one, and I don't think I ever will, that will chase the dream of, "Follow me on Twitter," or, "I want 100,000 followers," and stuff like that because I've never put my own gains further ahead in that sense. I've not tried to be like, "Oh, I'll do giveaways and stuff. Yeah, everyone does giveaways," things like that, but I don't make myself like a meme or something just to try and get extra followers. My biggest criticism on certain interviewers and hosts that we have across all games and esports is they really put the focus on, "Oh, how do I get the most out of this interview to boost my career?" No, my job is to get the most out of the player to make the viewers’ job or the viewers’ experience better. So tell the story better on the desk and stuff like that.

I have no interest in doing it for self-gain. If people liked me for who I am, that's what I want. I don't need to be trying really hard to think of how to post my next Instagram picture to get people to like it. I'm just showing you the real me, and if you like that, awesome. If you don't like me, well, you don't like me. I can't force you to like me. Too many people try to play towards, "Oh, I need to be liked by everyone," and that's just pathetic. I don't agree with that at all.

Yeah. And, speaking on you, something else I've heard about you is that you never back down from a challenge, especially one when it comes to you on the stage. So you had a moment back at Copenhagen Games 2019 where you kissed fellow commentator, MitchMan, on the cheek to close out the broadcast. You also jumped over a real fire stage prop during an event to try and get in place at the proper time. That's dedication to your craft if I've ever seen it. Do you tend to plan these crazy moments, like the one with Mitch, out, or do you just go for it?

Oh no, that was not, none of that was planned at all. That was only my second live event ever working with him, but me and him had a really good relationship, and almost like a friendship that blossomed over Copenhagen Games. And, Copenhagen Games is a very relaxed event anyway, the organizer who does it, they are amazing. The people that are involved have a lot of fun with it. It's definitely a bit more of a relaxed, casual event. And it was just towards the end, and we were closing it all up, and we'd had an amazing event overall. The winners had come through, and production hadn't actually told us in our ear yet, like when to end it. And it was done, there was definitely nothing more we could say, I would've just been dragging a dead horse. So I was like, "Well, how do we end this?" And so they were making a laugh because Warclown, who was also on that desk of us, he got, not famous but got well known for getting drunk one time at Copenhagen Games years and years ago. I'm talking about ten plus years ago and running around naked, and that was a unique one. But that was a bit of a meme for him. So he was like, "Oh, you could never make me feel uncomfortable." And it just stuck in my mind. So I just reached over to Mitch, grabbed his face, kissed him, and he was just like, you saw his face. You saw Warclown buckle and just leave off the broadcast, and it just ended. It was just completely me deciding something and being like, "I'm comfortable." I have no problem on sexuality and stuff like that. I've got an amazing girlfriend, but it was just like, I know some people will take a pass on, some people laugh and joke about it, but that was a way to close the show, and it was an abrupt ending.

And the fire jump at the major, Oh God, that was so funny because literally you just saw all the fans in the crowd and this is a huge arena, the Mercedes-Benz Arena. I just saw these phones out. And, basically, the problem was there was a bit of miscommunication. Someone had taken my microphone and put it back when they shouldn't have. So I went to the normal location to pick it up. I was like, "Wait a second; where's my mic?" I had to run and get it, and the person is in my ear saying, "Look, we're coming to you in like a minute," and at this time you're going through security, elevators, this is complete lockdown, right? You've got to have super good security. So I just ran with all my speed. When I got there, I was literally sweating beyond belief because I didn't even take the elevator, I took the stairs. And then did the segment, got off the segment, and literally this is the very end of the day. I had to just basically sit on a wall. And then, all the fans are leaving, and people are offering me drinks and asking me if I'm okay and then trying to take pictures with me and stuff, and I'm just sitting there dying slowly but, at the end of the day, I got the interview done. I did my job, and I didn't let anyone down.

I think the best part about that Mitchman moment was that when you did it, everybody just froze in disbelief. And then when it had set in, all three of you dispersed. Like you just disappeared.

That whole moment, right, and people still think it was completely like we staged it, we made it up. You ask anyone from the people that ran the event, the production, to the other talent, nothing was staged, it was just a completely off the cuff thing. I remember afterward we just played a bit more Counter-Strike at the event, and you've gotta remember, Copenhagen Games is a very old school LAN style, not the big arena or an event you see now. And it's so unique, and it's so raw to what esports to me was at the beginning. Even though I love where we're at now, it just takes me back a little bit in that sense, and it was just one of those moments. After, so we had a few drinks, and we got to chill, and we were all laughing and joking about it, and I think it's one that it will go down as a little bit of esports fun history because it's just times of old, and obviously, as we get more professional and things. Yeah, I hope we can still have fun like that, but you never know where the next journey takes us or what the suits might try to make us do.

Right. And now that we've had some fun in the past, let's fast forward to the present a little bit, and you're still wearing many hats as you did in the past as a talent by being a commentator, a host, interviewer, just a number of things. And you also have an extremely abundant list of games you cover. I'm just going to list the ones that I know of here, and that is:

  • CS:GO

  • Fortnite

  • PUBG

  • Dota 2

  • Apex Legends

  • Overwatch

  • StarCraft 2

  • Tekken 

  • Street Fighter

  • League of Legends

  • Virtua Fighter 5

  • Forza

Those are all games that you've touched in some form as a professional or as a talent, and that's insane. How do you keep up with so many events, or so many titles to be able to cover them at a high level? And do you think that it's really beneficial for you to have so many games in your pocket versus being like a master of one?

I think in general, for me and where I am position-wise is, first of all, covering all these games, I always make it clear that I can host and interview for many games as long as I'm following the scene. To commentate a game is very different. You have to be playing it. You have to be actively involved in the scene a bit further. Not all commentators may agree with that. I know not all commentators do that. They think they can just wing it, but I never do anything that I'm not a hundred percent confident in what I can do. Like just now, I hosted Dota, and I started the broadcast. We were talking with the talent, and I said like, "I've got about 150 hours in the game. It's nothing special. I love watching the game. I always watch TI and stuff." But I'll be honest with it, I don't try to pretend like I have all the knowledge and I think that's why Kyle, who's really famous in the Dota scene, was so welcoming and actually made a comment at the end. He was like, "You actually did good for a CS guy." And I'm like, "Yeah, I appreciate that man." Cause obviously, it's their baby, it's the game they are most passionate about. And I'll always come in and do my prep, and in some ways, if I had and was getting all the big CS gigs all the time, then yeah, I'd have less time to do it. Like CS is my passion, it's what I started with in being a player to where I am now. But I just love esports, and I think the benefit is now, and I've always done this anyway, it's like any games I'm involved in, I'll follow as much as possible. Like I'll download VODs, I'll watch stuff on YouTube, I'll watch live events whenever I can and stuff. I really do live and breathe this. And that's not even because it's my job. That's because I genuinely enjoy it. If I had a normal nine to five job, I'd still be trying to consume this much esports content alongside of it. And that may seem crazy to many, "Like, well, why would you do that?" It's like, "I enjoy watching this stuff." When I was commentating Fortnite, when I did Apex, I was actively playing a lot of these games. I was actually being involved in it all. And I think in some ways some people look at it and like, "Oh, well you can't be that good in all of it," but I let my work speak for itself. I can quite happily right now be covering CS, Dota, Apex, Fortnite, I've played CoD Warzone too, a little bit, but I could never cover CoD because it actually doesn't interest me in the actual game itself. I can maybe do interviews with enough time to prep and stuff. But if someone offered me the job and they said, "There's another Call of Duty guy who loves the game and does it," then I'd rather him take that role than me because, for me, why should I get a job that I'm not passionate about? And that's another huge issue. You just have to look at the scene in the last year, year and a half, maybe a lot of talent come in who never worked in esports, but they might have some big following, or they might fit the bill of what's required. And actually, they're just picking up any game, but they're not doing a good enough job. They're not doing it properly in what I would deem. And, I take this mentality from Dwayne Johnson and, yes, he used to be a wrestler. People can laugh and meme about that. But this is an incredibly successful, hardworking guy who came from nothing. And he uses the mentality, "hardest worker in the room." And that is my goal every single time. And that's no disrespect to anyone else on the talent team, anyone else working it. Some people are incredibly talented at just being able to do little to no research, do their job, what was happening, talk about it and get it down. But for me, I love to be prepped. I love to be ready. I will outwork anyone that's stood in front of me to ensure that I do the best job, and it's not to be better than you. It's not to be better than Joe Bloggs down the road. It's to be the best me I can be, in that, whenever I've done an event, I want it to be a positive reflection on me so someone can download a VOD, or they can watch any part of that and see I did good and people who've worked with me know I'm incredibly hard on myself. 

I'm always pushing the next boundaries. But when we did the StarLadder Major in Berlin, people thought I was crazy because every other talent just took the normal talent hours, and they are long hours. They're very tough hours. Well, I decided to take the interview role. I also hosted for the Minors part of it, and I did all the content for the Minors. Even when all the other talent took a break between the Minor and Major, I was creating more content with StarLadder for the Major itself. So I was sometimes working 16 hour days, but I was still up in the gym every morning before work for an hour, an hour and a half, sometimes maybe even two hours. And if I couldn't hit the gym in the morning, I'd do it in the evening. I'd make sure that I had this drive, and this motivation, and some nights, I was sleeping four to six hours a night, and people go, "Oh, you're crazy." And it's like, "No, this is what I want to do." And it's not like other people couldn't do this or wouldn't want to do it, but everyone's designed differently. For me, I don't ever want to be in a position where, obviously, I've put stuff, put work out there that I've done that could be better. I can always critique my own work. I've got plenty of friends who are in esports, but also most importantly outside of esports who I send examples of my work to who gives me great criticism, and I've got some really, like Richard, Thorin, SirScoots, three people who have really looked after me for a lot of my career. I even worked under Thorin and Richard at different times when they were my editor-in-chiefs, and these guys give me solid feedback on a regular basis when I ask for it. And obviously they're very busy a lot of the time, but what's most important for me is that if I've done something wrong, I'm aware of it for next time. And that's why even going into the Dota event that we spoke about earlier that I did today, first time ever doing anything hosting Dota, to get that kind of praise from Kyle was great. But I watched it back already when I got home, and I was like, "Oh, great." I literally said one of the team's names. I got the letters the wrong way around. And I was like, "How the fuck do you make a dumb mistake like that? You've got the notes, you've got it in front of you," and obviously, I was fuming at myself, but it's my way of dealing with my own mistakes, my own critique, and myself. And people who know me very personally and stuff, like my girlfriend, will happily tell anyone that I am so hard on myself, even on little things. 

There was a time a few months ago where certain payments from different companies were extremely late, and that actually meant that we were struggling to even pay our bills and things and it's not my fault. I've worked, I've done it all, but I was so annoyed at myself for even letting it get to this point. I refuse to be a man that's led by excuses. I want to be someone who is accountable for his own actions and what, which is why, like I said to you earlier, about being myself and being real, I've come out with this thing where no one can get any bad shit on me. All of my skeletons are out of the closet. If you want to mess with me now, then you will only be able to give something that I'm already happy that's been out there. Like I'm a complete open book on personal and private life and my working life. I don't have anything to hide because why should I hide the truth? Why should I hide my life? I want to see my good and bad be an inspiration, if possible, to other people.

Yeah, for sure. And then, on you being like a workaholic and just obsessed with being good at everything that you do and being driven in your passion, recent events with the coronavirus stuff has seen events canceled or restructured. What are you doing now, as your workaholic, your passionate self, what are you working on in the meantime until stuff gets back to normal?

Well, right now, it's absolutely horrible because I was, with my ex-partner, I was going through court to just to get access to my son and work all that kind of stuff out. All of that's had to be put on hold. I've lost, it's just like a hell of a lot of money, that would have made my life a lot easier for this year. I'd had a couple of big gigs that have already been canceled off, and everyone's having this problem, right? So you can't be negative. And I straight away I was like, "Okay, this sucks. It certainly isn't what I want. I can resume court when I do get some more money, but for now, it's on hold, which means still not a hundred percent sure when I'll see my son." Luckily his mom has been cool recently and lets me FaceTime him, have some pictures and stuff sent back and forth, but it's not where I want it to be. I want it to be sorted now. I want it to be at a better stage than this. But, I'm just holding onto the money I have, looking at other ways to drive revenue in terms of streaming more, creating content on my YouTube channel.

I was hired to do interviews at EPL. It went from offline to online, which meant the studio is only for commentary and hosts. So there was no need for the interviewer. So I just started doing interviews by hitting up the players because I have a great relationship with them outside and said, "Do you mind just hopping on a video call with me or even just a voice call? And we'll record an interview, and I'll put up my YouTube channel," because I've got to make sure I'm still working in some way. I can't just sit here like a little kid and be like, "Oh, this is so unfair. I'm so upset." You just got to get back on the bike, so to speak and grind it out. 

So I'm just doing anything in that sense, and I'm hopefully working on some deals where I'll sell some of the content I'm creating to different brands or whatever, but there's no guarantees with that. So you just gotta grab everything you can, and again, do the best I can to try and make it work because we all gotta eat, right? We've gotta pay our bills.

Well actually there's another point on that, sorry, there's another point on that. There was a guy that came in on one of my Twitch streams, and he was like, "Oh, you should be fine. Like you're making all this esports money." And it's like, unless you're doing loads of big events or loads of big events back to back, the money's great, right? We're very lucky in what we do, but being a freelancer, having two months with no work, and then having all the other normal bills and stuff to pay for, the security is not there yet. We're not living the dream where we're rich as hell, and we're just buying everything we want. It's not even an option. I even had to borrow a computer from WePlay because all my stuff's in the UK, and I can't even get it back from the UK to Ukraine right now. Because, obviously, normally, I'm on the road nine to ten months of the year. I wouldn't need a setup like this is. It's not normally a requirement. So people are a little bit disillusioned to maybe how our lifestyles are in some sense.

Yeah. So you're creating your content. I know you're big into health and fitness. And I saw that you were also contemplating doing something around a workout routine at home because everybody's at home. So I mean, like you said, you have that mentality to just keep working, keep fighting through it, and just keep making content, keep doing what you do. While you're doing all that, so I know, like you said, you're passionate about what you do, and you work a lot. Do you have a favorite streamer or YouTuber, somebody you like to watch, in downtime when you're kind of just relaxing, or what do you like to do just in downtime?

I like to try and maximize my downtime with my girlfriend, who, without her, would not even be possible what I'm doing in terms of a job or even just being fully strong mentally because she puts up with all of this and deals with it. But also seeing my son, which is obviously why I was going through the court battle, that helps a lot. But in terms of Twitch streamers, like I'm a big fan of a World of Warcraft streamer called Towelie. You know, for old school RuneScape you've got B0aty on there as well. He's always a good one. Swifty is one I watch with my son, who's a World of Warcraft streamer because he doesn't swear or anything. So it's very suitable. My son likes the colors and stuff, but like I said to you before, it's mainly tournaments I'm trying to watch. So, if I'm watching anything like that, it's tournaments all day long. It's just a constant thing for me to be entertained by the actual tournaments like normal sports, right? Like how people treat it, that's how I view esports.

Yeah. Same for me when anything CS is going on, it's on. I have it on in the living room. It's on at my desk. It's on, you know.

Yeah. Probably. I probably drive my girlfriend insane with that because it's like we have the iPad, TV, my computer, my phone, there's always something. Even if, say when we're making dinner, there's a tournament on, but I've got to watch this game. I've got to know what happens, and unless like we're really busy or you obviously have to spend that quality time together, then I will make sure I watch the VOD afterward or something. But it's the live viewership and also tweeting stuff out and being active. Our jobs are very like 24/7 in that sense.

Yeah. My wife's the same way. I was like, "I have to watch this event. I have to watch this tournament." And she's like, "Oh, can we watch anything else?" 

So now we've talked about the past and the present, let's talk a little bit about the future. What are some of your personal goals that you want to achieve in the next, say, couple of years or so?

I'd love to work even just like a small to medium size Dota event because I find the community very similar to me and being very, I don't know if they'd be happy with me saying, nerdy, but a bit more on that side of things. Me and TGov (TeaGuvnor) were talking on the desk today and how CS is kind of like the jocks, right? In that sense of coming into a school style of looking at it. But I said many times I'll be playing things on my Switch or something like Pokemon, and people said to me like, "Why are you playing that game? Like it's not CS, it's not like a shooter or something." And I'm like, "I really do like to nerd out. That's why bro, I watch so many streams and different games." So I've set myself a goal this year of, I'd love to work at Dota events, for example.

I also set myself a goal at the beginning of the year to work a BLAST event. Well, that already came around, and that was huge. I didn't expect it. I want to do my first DreamHack Open. I worked at a Masters event last year, which was amazing, but I haven't done an open before, which is like the level below Masters. So I'd love to get a chance to host one of them. I set goals for myself for events that I like the style of, or I like the format or the tournament organizers, for example. But I like to test myself.

I don't want to just sit in a comfort zone of it all. I want to continue with my fitness grind as well. I'm trying to work on a few things with different personal trainers to promote like ways for gamers to stay fit and active. Because while what I follow is very extreme, I want something out there that I can offer up to everyone and that suits all walks of life and what people are trying to do. I'm potentially working with a company on some stuff like that as well, where we look at some endorsements and things, and we set up plans, and diet routines, and stuff. I really liked the idea of trying to inspire people through these kinds of journeys as well. And again, that comes back to being honest and open because, again, I'm never holding anything back that way. I'm giving people the real me whether they hate it or love it.

And, hopefully, what we were talking about before with the whole coronavirus thing and all that, hopefully in the coming months that stuff will start to go away and then, and then you'll have your Dota events coming up on the back end, and we have BLAST also in the fall. Hopefully, spring won't get touched. And I think there's some more DreamHack Opens that were scheduled to happen. So your goal, the one thing I guess I'm getting at with that is that, your goals, while they're ambitious and they're something you're gonna have to work to achieve, they're realistic, and they're not super far out there. And I think that's where a lot of people, even trying to come into a career in esports, they set these unrealistic expectations or goals for themselves, and then when they don't achieve it, they kind of beat themselves up a little bit. And with you, like you said, you're looking ahead and you say, "I want to do these things, and I know how to get there, and I'm going to do it," and it's realistic and it's attainable. And I think that's super important.

It was like the way I approached trying to get the Major last year. I didn't think I would get a Major last year. And then it started to look good like I was going to get, maybe IEM Katowice, but then some little things changed, and they wanted someone else. And then it came for the StarLadder one, and, obviously, I basically just looked at what I could offer that no one else could offer. And on top of just doing the interviews, it was like, "Well, I can also do all the content you need. I can script write. I can produce it. I can literally direct the whole thing, and I can talk to the players and already get their approval on what they think is needed, or what they would like to show." And I think that's one thing I need to lean on more is the fact that I can offer a lot more as a complete package than what other people in my roles can do. I have relationships with players. I have players literally telling me they want to see me at more events and stuff like that. And that's not because I'm all friendly with them or I'm trying to make them really like me. It's because they see what I'm doing and they like that kind of content. They see the effort going into it, and they also want to have their stories told in the right way. They don't just want to be a meme, for example.

Right, right. Well, I really appreciate your time today, James. And we were just talking about your content, and before I let you go, I want you to tell us where we can find your social medias, where we can find the content that you're putting out there for anyone that wants to keep up with you. And if you had anything you wanted to say to, you don't call them fans, your fellow gamers, and people that are passionate about esports.

Yes. To anyone listening, to anyone checking this out, hope this has been a bit of eyeopener. I hope it's been insightful and interesting. If it's inspired anyone, then amazing as well, just remember to do what you love, to be smart, to be kind to each other, especially in times like this. Especially with the whole corona stuff as well, reach out to friends and family, don't go outside, do play your games. We've been preparing for this for our entire lives, right? We don't normally go outside, so this has worked out perfectly. Isolation doesn't even seem like a problem right now. I just go to the shops whenever I'm low on supplies, pick up the bare minimum and then just come back and back to the drawing board. But yeah, I just want to see esports grow bigger. I want to keep enjoying what I do. I want to get back to normal as soon as we can with events and stuff, but until then, I think we'll continue to roll as best it can online. And if anyone wants to check me out on social stuff, on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram, it's BanKsesports, all one word. Oh, and YouTube is also BanKsesports, it's all one word as well. And Twitch is just BanKs. I have the official name on that. I beat the FaZe guy to it once and for all.

Awesome. Well, like I said, I really appreciate it. I appreciate you taking time out of your day to talk with us. And I look forward to seeing you at a future WePlay event or wherever, one day. But once again, appreciate it. And I'll talk to you later.

Lovely mate. Speak to you soon. Bye.

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