WCG Ultimate Gamers Mark and Jamal

WCG Ultimate Gamer's Mark Smith (left) and Jamal Nickens (right) with BG's Tim Danger (center)

WCG Ultimate Gamer's Mark Smith (left) and Jamal Nickens (right) with BG's Tim Danger (center)

One of the neatest things we got to do at SGC was hang out with WCG’s Ultimate Gamer contestants Mark Smith (the big winner of the show) and Jamal Nickens (who ended up taking the SGC’s “Iron Man of Gaming” championship this past weekend). The weekend was spent socializing, watching them play some games, and even a night out to downtown Dallas Texas with the gamers and their friends where we demonstrated the only game we could probably take them at was “drinking”. On Sunday, I found some time to sit down with Mark and Jamal and talk about the show, girls, and games.

TDANGER: How did you two guys meet, it was obviously before the show right?
Jamal: Actually, it was a weird thing. We had both went to the same audition. I was the first person to arrive and then I saw Mark and I don’t know if anyone has said this but whatever… I’m like, “Alright, good, he doesn’t have a chance. Who is this dork?” *laughs*
Mark: Yeah, dude, I saw him with his Sonic pillow thinking, “Man there is no way this clown is going to get on this show!” *laughs*
Jamal: But we were the first two at the audition, I was like five in the morning, he was like at seven. It was intense. I was there sizing up people.

TDANGER: So you guys had not met before then? Not in any other gaming circles?
Jamal: Even at the audition we didn’t even talk. We just saw each other.
Mark: Yeah.

TDANGER: Talking about the show then, how many rounds of auditions did you have to go through?
Jamal:
There was actually two audition rounds. The first was like a prelim, there were game challenges, you had to fill out a survey, like a contract type deal, you had to interview, video interview…
Mark: Yeah, and then they made us play some games. They wanted to see if you talked trash to each other and that sort of thing. Then after that they did auditions in Chicago, Austin, New York and L.A. and out of all of those, they narrowed it down to like 40 people. Then they flew us out to L.A. and they had some really really intense auditions there.
Jamal: I thought it was like 60? They just sent half the people home the first day once you got to L.A.
Mark: Yeah, one guy they actually sent home because you weren’t allowed to leave your room without a handler and stuff because they didn’t want you talking to other potential contestants. Some guy was walking around double fisting beers, like you know, pounding them. They said, “No drinking while you’re there”. I don’t know what he was doing…
TDANGER: We wouldn’t have survived that (referring to Busygamer’s legendary outing on night one of SGC).*laughter all around*

Jamal competing in SGC's 'Iron Man of Gaming' July 09

Jamal competing in SGC's 'Iron Man of Gaming' July 09

TDANGER: So the show ran for a few weeks… how long did it take to do?
Jamal:
I think it was like a month and a half of filming. Each episode was really like three days, and then we had rest days… sometimes… other times it wasn’t . It kept you on your tippy toes.
TDANGER: So it was actually finished and done by the time it aired right? But you couldn’t tell anybody…
Mark : Oh, yeah…
Jamal: Like three of four months.

TDANGER: So how did it feel? I mean I’m sure people were asking you about it… and you couldn’t tell anyone. I’m assuming you didn’t get paid until later.
Mark:
Yeah, exactly…
Jamal: It had to have been a lot harder on Mark but my friends and I are very very competitive. So I had to listen to them say you know “you suck”, you know “you’re going home the first week”. Ha ha. You know we would all get together and watch it and they would say “Oh man! This chick is gonna send Jamal home!” *everyone laughs*
Jamal: But we’re always like that it was all in good fun…
Mark: For me … I won, so it was really hard for me big time. But, luckily, they flew my girlfriend out. She’s actually here at the event with me so I had someone to share it with. That was nice but I didn’t even tell my parents. My mom was constantly like “Did you win?” you know, “I’m your mom you can tell me”. But I kept it straight faced, I was like “I did good, you’ll be proud of me.” I really wanted it to be set up for the final match where I was so down. I could tell in her face she was like “My baby lost!”, you know she was really upset until I came back.

TDANGER: You said something interesting, you said they flew your girlfriend down and that she is here in the event with you. Friday night we were talking about the difficulty in having a girlfriend being a pro gamer and all that stuff. When I’m not interviewing people I’m a musician, I understand, you know, I’m on the road. I understand what it’s like to have to lose someone at home who doesn’t understand you are doing your craft, practicing and everything like that?
Jamal: I mean it’s a tough situation when you are dealing with a girlfriend and trying to do pro gaming. Because, you know, when I’m at home, I’m training to win a tournament. But some girls see it as a game. They think I only care about that or wasting time, but it’s not that. I’m there to win a tournament. I’m here to put my name out there, they don’t understand that. Even when you do give them time, they think you’d rather be doing that. But it’s like a job, even though I have to work another job so it’s like even more… I end up just losing sleep. That’s how I do. Until I get sponsored or something that’s what I have to do, struggle or whatever.
Mark: Well, luckily Sara, she loved me even when I was broke and gaming. But things have changed quite a bit after the TV show. But she was really good about my gaming anyway. We wouldn’t have been together so long if she hadn’t she’s a good girlfriend.
TDANGER: That’s pretty rare.
Mark: Yeah, I’m holding on to her. Don’t get any ideas, guys…

TDANGER: You guys do a lot of conventions together?
Jamal: This is the second one we’ve gone to this year but I’ve promised myself I’m going to more. I’m sure Mark is going to more, we’ll see a lot of each other. In September we will all be in New York.. all of us. It’s a cool thing just hanging out. That’s what’s cool. I mean on XBOX Live, it’s a person but it’s not really a person but when you get to see them and enjoy it. I mean this weekend has been a blast… *points to Busygamer* You guys, too. It’s been crazy. It adds a whole new dimension to the game and makes it worthwhile.

Jamal and his IMOG belt with WCG Ultimate Gamer winner Mark

Jamal and his IMOG belt with WCG Ultimate Gamer winner Mark

TDANGER: Do you have any advice for people looking into pro gaming circuit or looking into doing tournaments. It’s becoming a bigger industry….
Mark:
First off, don’t think you are going to enter your first MLG tournament and turn pro. I mean it starts going to like your local Denny’s Halo 3 tournament when only 4 teams that show up. That’s where it starts. Practice makes perfect. If you don’t put the time into these games, then you’re not gonna shine when you have to. You have to go to every single local tournament or wherever you can. You have to get your feet wet. I mean, I know Jamal has been going to tournaments forever like me and that’s why we don’t choke when we get onstage because we are used to the heat of battle with everyone watching. It’s not a big deal. But someone when it’s their first or second tournament, they get real nervous. You’ve got to get battle tested and get your skin thick and get ready for a big tournament.
Jamal: Everyone needs to go and support the local tournaments even if they don’t participate, go and watch. Because unless people support it then it’s never going to grow to the level where everybody can benefit from it. Right now it’s such a limited amount of people that can actually get to that level where it can sustain income but if more people watch it as a spectator sport than it can grow to where it needs to get to.

TDANGER: How’d the tournament go anyway?
Jamal:
We don’t know the official but rumor has it that someone in room 420 won (refers to himself).
Mark: Rumor has it…

TDANGER: So is there going to be an ongoing rivalry between you two in conventions?
Mark:
We both want to win, but I am happy someone from the show represents. I can’t tell you how…I mean Jamal gets it, I get it a lot “You guys are fake ass gamers I can beat you. You’re not legit ”. One thing we want to do is show that we can place high in a multi game tourney.

TDANGER: Anything else you want to add?
Jamal:
You can follow me on www.twitter.com/zophar321 and www.myspace.com/uyula.
Mark: You can follow me on twitter… mmmapplesauce… but I am not much of a twitter updater.

TDANGER: Yeah, I saw that… you last updated in June haha. You guys have events you’re gonna be at?
Jamal:
WCG event in September. All 12 members of the cast will be there.If you want to compete against us come there. Marks going to GVN in August. There is going to be an expo in October in Philly. I’m thinking about Quakecon.
Mark: Quakecon, definitely going to Quakecon.
Jamal: Even Pax I want to get out there. It’s really money and time. I have to pay out of my pocket and then I am missing work so it’s a double whammy.
TDANGER: Well, it’s cool this time you got to see family.
Jamal: Yeah, my brother. Between you two… I got to see my brother and hang out with you guys it was a great time. He’s a great guy.

TDANGER: Alright, guys. Well, thanks for your time, it was really cool….*click*

“Thanx for rolling with us to the club. You guys party like Rock Stars!!!!!!! Kinda cost me my NBA Jam bracket action with a hangover lol…..” -Jamal Nickens aka Zophar321

 

Posted By Timothy Danger

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