Nate Mark is a British SMITE pro. He tells the British Esports Association all about his background, how he went pro, what the competitive SMITE scene is like and more in this in-depth interview…
How did you get into gaming?
I got into gaming at a pretty young age. My parents were divorced when I grew up, which isn’t always the best environment. That said, it wasn’t all bad as it meant that one of them bought a Nintendo 64 and the other bought a PlayStation which meant no matter where me and my brother were, we were playing video games!
Early on, me and my brother were really competitive at everything we played (or at least I always wanted to beat him)! We’d play a lot of Goldeneye and Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64, and eventually graduated to games like Dawn of War on the PC.
These days my favourite games tend to be RPGs. I play a lot of SMITE – my competitive game – and my perfect way to relax with gaming is an excellent and quality RPG like the Witcher 3, or any BioWare game.
Please tell us about your background in esports specifically and how you went from amateur to pro.
I’ve always been extremely competitive, probably to a fault, at almost everything I do in life. Growing up I’d always try beat my brother at games and the like, and it shaped who I became as a person. When StarCraft II came out, that was my real taste of being competitive against the larger world and not just in my immediate friends group.
I played that game a ton and managed to make it to Masters in Europe. The game taught me discipline and perseverance to make it that far, and even that wasn’t enough to compete with the upper echelon of StarCraft II players.
The best thing that happened to me because of StarCraft II, however, is finding out about Sean Plott, better known as Day9. He would host a daily show called the Day9 Daily where the aim was to “be a better gamer”. He changed the way that I not only viewed video games, but the world too, and while growing up I never really invested in the idea of role models or idols, I am proud to say that Day9 had a profound impact on my life and I would not be at the level I am now in SMITE if it wasn’t for what he taught me.
The funny thing is, he’ll likely never know how much he shaped me as a person. If it wasn’t for Day9, I wouldn’t be playing SMITE for a living right now, and I am eternally grateful for that.
“I would say I was lucky to get in into SMITE when I did, a lot of making it as a pro is joining a game when it’s young to get your name out there. It’s far easier to make it in a new game than an old one.”
Onto SMITE itself, I was studying psychology at the University of Liverpool. I was playing a fair bit of StarCraft II over the summer, when my brother gave me a beta key to a closed beta game called SMITE. At this point me and my brother unfortunately didn’t get a lot of chances to play any games together, as he’d gone off to university too and, well, life happens.
I jumped at the chance to play with him again, got hooked and the rest is history! University gave me the free time to get pretty good at the game, and while I was never actively looking to go pro, I got the attention of a few other good players, made my way around some teams until 2014, where we formed what would go on to be Titan, the number one team in Europe for Season 1.
I would say I was lucky to get in into SMITE when I did, a lot of making it as a pro is joining a game when it’s young to get your name out there. It’s far easier to make it in a new game than an old one, as it’s very easy for even the best players to never get the chance or recognition they might deserve.
Give us an overview of your role within your team and the game you play professionally.
I play SMITE, which is a MOBA created by Hi-Rez Studios. The unique aspect of SMITE is that it’s not played using the typical top down view other MOBAs have, instead you play in a third-person perspective battling it out as badass gods! On my team, I play as the Hunter player, which translates to the ADC (attack damage carry) in other MOBAs and I’m also the captain of my current team, The Obey Alliance. My role revolves a lot around having good positioning to survive and crush team fights.
How much do you train on average? What are the hours like in your role overall?
It depends on the part of the season. If we’re running up to a LAN or major event, then I try to put around six to nine hours of solo practice in a day, as well as the minimum three hours of team scrims almost every days of the week.
If we don’t have an event coming up, scrims stay the same but I’ll usually relax a bit on the solo practice and spend more time with my friends, family and girlfriend. Sometimes sitting here and playing that many hours a day can be super tough on life, but it’s my dream job and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
What advice would you give to aspiring pro players? Perhaps provide your top 3 tips…
1. Have passion. You’ve got to play a game you love, and you’ve got to love the competitive nature of it. People are usually better at things they love, so the most important thing is to find a game you love!
2. Work hard. Not surprisingly, competitive gaming is VERY competitive. You’ve got to be in the top 1% of the game’s population if you want to make it, and that means actively working at it. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes, put the hours in and grind. You won’t make it otherwise.
3. Be kind. Competitive games bring out an unhealthy amount of toxicity in even the nicest of people, and over the years I have seen some absolute incredible talents in SMITE that have been held back by their awful and downright abusive attitudes. Being kind to your fellow players is important for a number of reasons, as well as being the golden rule to life, which is ‘don’t be a dick’. It’ll increase the likelihood of you being recognised as a strong player, someone that can work well in a team and it’ll make the necessary grind you have to do more enjoyable.
What is the competitive SMITE scene like?
The Smite scene is fantastic! We sit in the middle of esports in terms of size; we aren’t as big as the giant games like League, Dota or CSGO but what we lack in size we make up for in passion. Hi-Rez does a great job in taking care of their players, especially their pro players.
Most teams in the Smite Pro League earn decent money, not just the teams at the top. We get to travel all over the world and play a video game for a living! We’re not perfect though, SMITE definitely has it’s issues, but which competitive game doesn’t. There isn’t another game I’d rather be part of.
What would you say to the parents and teachers of aspiring pro gamers, and those who perhaps aren’t convinced that pro gaming can offer a viable career path?
You’ve got one life, and it’s short enough as it is. We should all pursue what makes us happy and fulfilled, not necessarily what society deems as ‘successful’. I won’t lie and say it’s not a risky path to go down, there’s low job security and career paths afterwards are limited. With that said, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my years so far, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’ll find my way when this is over, and so will your kids.
What are the perks and challenges of your job?
The biggest perk is no doubt being able to play a video game that I love for money! The hours can be long, and sometimes I’ll hate it, but I can happily say that nine out of ten times I’m having a great time playing SMITE: I’m doing a job that I love!
The biggest challenge is the drive. To stay at the top of the game you need to be very committed; you need to have a strong work ethic and drive to continue to improve – never get complacent. Burning out is a big problem across esports, and it’s one to be wary of if you’re looking to make a start.