Pacman Gobbles Up Call Of Duty Opponents

Jonathan “Pacman” Tucker discusses his career in eSports and offers some tips for aspiring pro gamers.

LOS ANGELES — The captain of Team Rise Nation, Jonathan “Pacman” Tucker, was at Activision’s $1 Million Call of Duty Championship 2014 at the LA Event Center. The Rise Nation came in seventh and won $35,000 at the event, which was watched by a global audience over three days. Tucker, who’s been playing games since he was a kid, won the 2008 MLG Call of Duty Modern Warfare National Championship. He talks about what it took to go pro and offers some advice on how to play Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty Ghosts in this exclusive interview.

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How did you get your cool nickname?

One of my first gaming teams was called Icons of Gaming, so all of us had a game that we named ourselves after. Mine just happened to be Pac-Man.How did you get involved in eSports?

I used to play online in free-for-alls. I thought I was the best until one day somebody beat me. I was like, “He can’t be better than me. It’s impossible.” So then I just kept playing him over and over and over again and then he told me about Game Battles and MLG and that’s how I got started.

When it comes to Call of Duty, what are the challenges of having them throw a new video game at you every single year?

You have to adapt really fast. The players are all really talented and some people have more time than others. So you have to use your time wisely in order to be at the top quickly.

How does Call of Duty Ghosts compare to Black Ops II from a pro gaming level?

The learning curve in Black Ops II was really big. Ghosts is a lot easier than Black Ops II, which makes it more intense in tournaments because the skill gap is smaller. Any team can win on any day.

What is your strength when it comes to playing Call of Duty?

I’m extremely aggressive and I’m always trying to get behind the other team and annoy them. I just try to be a nuisance and communicate with my team.

What do you feel your team’s strength is?

Our run and gun game types are really strong…Our Domination, our Blitz. We hardly ever lose.  We have some of the best gun skills in the world.

What is it like playing against teams from all over the world and how do their styles differ from what you’re used to?

When we play the professional teams from the U.S., we all have been playing the game for years, so we know that he’s probably going to be waiting there or he’s going to challenge this gunfight. But when you play people from around the world, you don’t know anything about them, so you have to make the best decision that you think is going to work without a lot of background knowledge. And that’s exciting.

How have you seen this tournament evolve over the last couple of years?

This tournament is really cool. This venue is the biggest that I’ve seen. Last year it was in a smaller place and this year the production value is insane. It’s great.

What’s your favorite map and how do you like to play it?

My favorite map is probably Octane Domination.  I think that you have to trust your teammates on that map more than any other map. You have to rotate and every single gunfight matters. It just makes the map really intense because you can be down by a lot on that map and come back to win. You can’t do that on any other map.

What’s your favorite weapon and why?

The MTAR is my favorite weapon. It’s the most stable sub in the game and you can just do crazy things with it.

Over the course of your career, what’s a favorite match that stands out and why?

My favorite map was probably in Modern Warfare 2 and it’s crazy because it’s the match that I lost. I had never lost before on that game. I was undefeated, like 150-0. It was a tournament in the Finals. I think it was against Crimsix, who is on CompLexity now. I was laying in a plane on a terminal and I got stuck. The game just glitched and I could not move and I was somewhere between angry and confused and upset. After you lose, you’re upset of course, but then you laugh about it. It’s like, “How did that just happen? Our first loss is when I get stuck in a plane.” It’s insane.

How have you things evolve when you tell people today that you’re a professional video gamer versus back when you started?

Before if you said, “Oh, I’m playing games,” they’re like, “You’re a nerd.” Now with all the companies coming in it’s like, “Video games is the fastest growing industry in the world, so now people respect it a lot more.” Especially when you tell them that you could possibly win $100,000 in a couple of days. 

What impact do the huge prize pools that these games are giving away have on the growth of eSports?

Any growth from any of the games is huge. Anything that gets people on Twitch and on things like that watching people play is great because it gets people involved and it’s exciting. When people see the excitement online they want to come see the excitement in person. Once they do that, people are always hooked — even if they were never into it before. The big numbers just help generate that excitement and it will help bring future growth.

What kind of validity do you feel companies like Coke, American Express and HBO that are getting involved in eSports bring to the table?

That makes it more mainstream. I’m sure the players, when we all first started we had to sacrifice certain things for the greater good. With all those major companies coming in it will be mainstream, but that’s better for our growth. It’s better for the youth, like the 13-year-olds that are coming up in a few years. They might have it way better than we have it now. 

What are your thoughts on the conversion of eSports and real sports with real stadiums hosting virtual competitions?

That’s just insane. That’s just something that you could never imagine — a bunch of people showing up to the Staples Center where the Lakers win championships to watch people play a computer game. That’s insane. Wrapping your mind around that is impossible. It really is.

We’re also seeing a unique blend of sports and eSports with your team owner. Can you talk about that?

Our owner is Rodger Saffold, who plays for the St. Louis Rams. He went to a tournament last year at MLG Anaheim and then he got hooked on eSports. It was just so much fun for him that he’s our team owner. He’s a really great guy and like people like him coming in from the NFL is great. Gilbert Arenas, who used to play for the Wizards, was a part of the Halo scene. It just adds legitimacy to the whole process.


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Author
John Gaudiosi
John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN. He's EIC of video game site Gamerhub.tv.