Gears of War player profile: Jack "Trap" Saunders
This British pro gamer is the team captain for Torpedo's Gears of War team, but how did Jack (pictured right) get into esports and what advice does he have for aspiring pros...? Here, he writes a guest post for the British Esports Association...
Like most people, my passion for games came at a very young age; the earliest memories of playing games for me are on Nintendo 64. I'd spend minutes blowing into the cartridge of my Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Super Mario 64 games just to get them to play. Then whilst playing them I would allow myself to be immersed in the experience, enjoying each dungeon, puzzle and mini-game within the two.
As I matured, my taste in games did also, going from the likes of Pokémon on the Game Boys to Timesplitters on the PlayStation 2.
My background in esports stretches back to 2008, starting and remaining exclusive to the Gears of War franchise. I started out, as most would expect, a casual ranked player that played purely out of love and enjoyment of the game. A friend of mine from school also played Gears of War and invited me to play on the Gamebattles ladder with him and his team - that was my first taste of a somewhat competitive match in Gears of War.
With my interest piqued, I continued to play, now having more than just fun in mind but the desire to beat the opposition each time I loaded the game up. I met and played with countless different people, some a lot older, younger, different nationalities, religions etc. However we all shared the same passion for Gears of War, something that allowed us to play together as teammates regardless of difference outside of the game.
I'll not bore you with tales of Gamebattles victories and losses, so I'll fast forward a few years and the release of Gears of War 2. This is the first time I've ever been genuinely excited for a game to come out, I remember the agonizing wait for the postman to deliver my copy as my friends, and teammates were all already online playing. Eventually I was able to join them, however the game didn't satisfy as many expected. It was a game so different from the previous version - that was my first true taste of disappointment in gaming.
At least the first one I can remember. Albeit somewhat dissatisfying it was still a Gears of War game, and I still had the similar desire to compete with my peers via the Gamebattles ladders. Fast forward a couple of months and a couple of hundred Gamebattles matche, and my hunger for victory and competition remained.
But the Gamebattles ladder just wasn't what it used to be, the competition thinned and the games were rarely exciting - I wanted something more and luckily there was an avenue for that, enter GowForum.net - the self branded home of European Gears of War. I signed up to the website and quickly realised this is what I've been missing, the level above what I've been playing at. The community was competitive both in and out of game due to them all intending to travel the country to compete at live events, LAN events.
I'll skip passed all the tedious information about getting my foot in the door with the competitive community and go straight to my first event: XG Colchester for Gears of War 2. At the time of this event, the entire community had decided they had enough of the disappointing sequel and opted to play the beloved original at future events, barring this one. I didn't plan on going to this event, however Nick (the friend I mentioned earlier who got me into Gamebattles) expressed his desire to go and wanted me to go with him.
"My background in esports stretches back to 2008, starting and remaining exclusive to the Gears of War franchise. I started out, as most would expect, a casual ranked player that played purely out of love and enjoyment of the game"
I had never been to a LAN before, so the thought of meeting everyone in person that I've known online for years and played with every day was exciting, yet kind of weird. I ended up getting a team together for the event and thoroughly enjoyed my experience there. I met people I knew online for years and others I didn't know, but would soon become good friends and eventual teammates: Charlie 'Brazil' Brazil, Ryan 'Ryke Kemp, Brad 'Brad' Orton, Ross 'Kraze' Kennell and Jack 'Reaxion' Oliver to name just a few.
With the event finishing, it marked the end of competitive Gears of War 2 in Europe, something I personally couldn't have been happier with. It meant I could finally play the game that I fell in love with many years ago at the highest level achievable. Gears of War 1's second coming was a little weird for me, I managed to get into teams that played well and had potential to achieve, however due to being 15 years old, my parents didn't let me travel the country to compete. Not being able to compete at a Gears of War 1 LAN event Is probably my biggest regret in my esports journey thus far.
Roll on Gears of War 3, yet another game very different from the original however seemed to have promise in the North American Gears of War competitive scene. With an event a month after launch and a stable member of the team(s) I was in prior unable to attend, I was forced to go as a spectator/sub, but the experience again was great. I met a new batch of friends that I so commonly played with online and saw some old faces I hadn't seen since XG, a year or two prior. At this point I was completely frustrated with myself, having not attended and played in full teams at events prior meant finding a top team was challenging, borderline impossible.
I had spells in the 'second best team in Europe', but were too brief to make any real waves. Midway through Gears of War 3 I let my emotions get the best of me and out of frustration decided to quit playing competitively. This only lasted about a month when I realised I was completely unsatisfied with what I had achieved in correlation to what I had set out and wanted to achieve.
I went to the next event as a last minute sub for a team tipped to do reasonably well. The event ended in a fourth place finish for me and the team, although we surpassed our expected placement we were all left very unsatisfied, knowing we should have been in the grand final. The event finished and I opted to not stay with the team I just played at the event with, in hopes of catching the eye of one of the two teams who out-placed us that weekend. It wasn't long before that happened and thanks to an unexpected roster change I saw myself on the roster that just won the previous event, apeX. The rest of Gears of War 3 played out rather simply for me, we basically won everything online that was there to be won until there was nothing left to play for, and we all eventually quit.
Like most people, my passion for games came at a very young age; the earliest memories of playing games for me are on Nintendo 64.
I made my return to Gears esports when Ultimate Edition was released, a remake of the first instalment of the franchise, a game I personally poured hours upon hours into. With promise of international events and professional tournaments, we decided to form a variant of our old Gears of War 3 apeX roster to hopefully replicate success on this game. We joined TCM Gaming, which at the time was the biggest organisation involved in the game and it was standard practice we were the team to beat in Europe winning the opening EGL tournament. Eventually the announcements were made by The Coalition notifying us that only North American teams will be able to compete in their Pro League, and there were no chance for open US events for us to travel to. With the team having clashing work schedules and really little to nothing to play for, we decided to call it quits.
Jump forward almost a year and The Coalition announced a $1m pro-circuit full of open events for any teams to attend. My interest was caught yet again seeing me return once more to the franchise I've had an on-off relationship with for almost 10 years.
On Gears of War as a game and Jack's role in his team
Gears of War competitively is a third person shooter where individual skill and superior teamwork is most noticeable.
At the core, the game is a gory cover-based disc of fun, however is incredibly layered the more serious you decide to take it: now more than ever with the newest edition to the franchise and the competitive specific game mode they've created: Escalation on Gears of War 4.
My role within the team varies, I see myself as the utility player - which basically means I play whatever spot is needed at any time, that can be a number of different things: defending our hill vs the opposition, supporting a team-mate in a fight or even pushing a crucial fight to gain advantages.
I recently have been elected the teams main shot caller in game, something I think we will benefit from as I believe my knowledge of the game-type and a Gears of War game like this is up there with anyone's.
Top 3 tips for aspiring pro players
My top three tips for aspiring players are:
- Do not waste the time you have to play - quality of practice is vital in success.
- Don't expect instant results, you get back what you put in. Take time to practice with your team and don't give up because things don't work immediately.
- Be as professional as you can, represent yourself the best you can both in and out of the game.
Lastly, I'd like to take the time to thank Torpedo and all their sponsors and all of the FachFam who support us.