James Baker (aka Bakery) is a professional Heroes of the Storm gamer who plays as team captain for one of the UK’s most well-known organisations: Team Dignitas. He tells us about his path to going pro and what his job entails…
How did you get into gaming? What were your first favourite games?
I first really got into gaming a long time ago with Halo 3 on Xbox 360, although I was never aiming to be competitive, I would spend most of my time in Custom games and Forge mode. I really started to want to get better when I picked up StarCraft II. I quickly became a huge fan of esports, and across those few years I really pushed myself to become better at both StarCraft and my other favourite games at that time: Call of Duty.
So a few years later I was playing a lot of League of Legends, and I was hovering around high Diamond when the idea of becoming a professional player occurred to me, and I wanted it more than anything. It didn’t really seem like League of Legends was the right game for me though, I was not enjoying the game at all at this time, and was just playing for the competition.
Please tell us about your background in esports specifically and how you went from amateur to pro.
After a brief, unsuccessful stint of CSGO I got invited to the Heroes of the Storm Alpha, and I instantly knew it was the game for me. I immediately dropped all other games and focused all my attention on improving, and after just a week playing the game I joined one of the better teams in the scene. From there I climbed the team ladder until I became a professional player.
Give us an overview of your role within your team and the game you play professionally.
I’m the team captain for Team Dignitas, one of the most consistently successful teams in the scene. Heroes of the Storm is a team game in every sense of the word – teamwork and synergised plays are the cruxes of the esport.
A huge part of my role within the team is managing our interpersonal relationships and how we practice to improve as a team. I’m also the public face of the team, which means I get a lot of credit when things go well as well as the brunt of the backlash when things don’t.
What is a typical working day like for you?
A typical day for me generally starts with waking up to a quick team discussion about how we want to improve that day, straight into a two-hour scrim block. After one hour of replay analysis, we hop into another two-hour scrim block before a one-hour break to eat.
We’ll close out the day with one more two-hour block and optional replay analysis. At the end of the day I’ll look back to see what issues we had and if we need to watch some replays or talk with people to get them back on track. We scrim six days a week, with just the one day off.
How can people get into this kind of role? What kind of skillset does it require?
Being a pro player is not an easy job; it requires a diverse skill set, ranging from teamwork, to interpersonal relationship skills, to in game skill, to dedication and perseverance. Let’s not forget the most important skill though, you also have to be one of the top 40 players in the whole of Europe.
If you have what it takes you will feel it inside yourself, and when you find the right game for you, the world will bend to your will.
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?
Parents and teachers are definitely right to have their concerns – the same concerns that they will have over traditional sports, or any of the arts.
What I can say is that if you have faith that your son/daughter or pupil can be the one of the best in the world, then they have the potential to earn more than some people ever will in their lifetime over the course of a few years, and forge a career for themselves that will last the rest of their lives.