How to be a pro gamer: Thomas 'Moose' Handley

Top TCM pro tells us about his team’s rivalry with Epsilon and delivers his tips for aspiring pros.

Tom 'Moose' Handley
Tom 'Moose' Handley© [unknown]

Epsilon’s finest – Jurd, Tommey and Swanny – have all told us what it takes to make it in pro gaming so we thought it was about time we heard from the team’s great European Call of Duty rivals. Thomas ‘Moose’ Handley represents TCM, who were victorious at i51 and the Call of Duty Championship London regional finals. However, after suffering defeat at the hands of Complexity of the Call of Duty World Championship, they were beaten by Epsilon at EGL12. Will they be able to turn it around?

In this interview TCM’s Moose tells us more about his team’s battles with Epsilon, how he made it in eSports and reveals his top tips for aspiring pro gamers.

How did you become a professional gamer?

Many pro players started playing competitively around the time of Call of Duty 4 but I only started playing competitively half-way through Black Ops, attending my first LAN 'ECL3' with Fariko England. Since then, I have stayed very loyal to every team I have been a part of and you could say that this may have held me back from being at the top from an early stage in my competitive career. That said, I don't regret anything.

Since attending my first LAN, I instantly fell in love with competing - I attended as many events as I could and it finally paid off for me. As each Call of Duty title was released, I gradually moved up in the ranks and became more successful.

Then, with the release of Call of Duty: Ghosts, I joined TCM and attended my first ever North American event, MLG Columbus. Since then, everything has gone really well for me in my competitive career. This is all still early days for me and I hope to be consistently successful in the future.

What was the first game you remember being really good at?

Modern Warfare 3. I may not have been playing for the so-called top teams when this was released, but I believe that if I was given the chance to play with some of the top tier teams, I would have been very successful on Modern Warfare 3.

How much do you practice?

A lot. Since finishing college, I decided to take a break from education and focus more on what I love doing on a daily basis and that is playing Call of Duty. I tend to play for at least six days of the week, between 6-12 hours a day.

As far as team practice goes, we tend to play for at least five days a week for about five hours each, whether that be playing Ghosts against other pro teams, sitting in a Skype call with my team discussing what we can improve on, or watching streams.

Each member of a team has different skills... What do you bring to your team?

I like to think I bring a lot of enthusiasm and leadership to the table. I am the team’s hype man, pumping my team up and making sure they are motivated to win. I always make sure we are not slacking and always keep us focused on our goals and future events we are likely to attend.

What was your greatest ever victory?

My greatest victory would have to be beating Epsilon in the grand finals at the EU Call of Duty Championship. As many people will know, Epsilon dominated online prior to this event and was more or less everyone's favourite to take first place but we beat them 3-1 in the grand finals in a convincing fashion, only dropping one map throughout the whole event. Not only did we prove everyone wrong, we took home £3,000 each.

TCM won the CoD European qualifier
TCM won the CoD European qualifier© [unknown]

What was your most painful defeat?

My most painful defeat would have to be losing to Rise Nation at the Call of Duty Championship 3-2 on the last map. The winner of this match was guaranteed to finish in the top eight and a share of the prize money. The loser was eliminated from the tournament. Unfortunately we lost such a close series, getting completely countered in the last map.

Me and my teammates were distraught. I was silent for a good couple of hours; not because I was angry but I felt like I had let so many people down. I couldn't think of a worse feeling in gaming than coming away with nothing having been so close. There is always another chance for me to redeem myself and I hope I am at the next Call of Duty Championships.

You've got a good rivalry with Epsilon. They beat you recently at EGL12. How do you think you'll get back on top?

Both times Epsilon have beat us (EGL12 & I51) we had minimal practice with our fourth player. At i51 we had only about three days to practise with Flux and then prior to EGL12, Flux had to quit due to university commitments. So we had to pick up Peatie and only managed to practise for about two days. This obviously had an effect on us, especially when coming up against Epsilon, an outstanding squad who have been together as a team for a while now. This showed when we played them in the grand final as they completely outplayed us and took home the championship.

Now we have been able to practise a lot with Peatie and get strategies locked down we have been looking really good. Another factor is the transition onto the Xbox One. We are a lot better on the Xbox One than the 360 which we had to play on at EGL12 and i51.

The next couple of tournaments, including G3 and MLG Anaheim, are being played on the Xbox One so we have been constantly playing on the new console and been looking really good online. We just need to keep on practising and grinding, making ourselves less predictable to play against and we will be back at that number one spot!

There have been quite a number of team changes. Why do you think players switch teams so much and can you ever see eSports being like football with big money moves?

Some players and teams take losses too seriously and think just because they lost one important game, they will split up or drop a player. This is not the way to go about things at all.

Loyalty is key within gaming. Myself, MarkyB and Gunshy have been together since Call of Duty: Ghosts was released and I can certainly say that it has paid off for us. I love teaming up with these guys and being a part of the TCM-Gaming roster.

In the future, I can certainly see big money moves coming into effect as long as we see more players being contracted to teams. It will make players show loyalty and stay with their team. In my personal opinion, it will make the Call of Duty scene better off.

Tom hopes TCM can return to the top
Tom hopes TCM can return to the top© [unknown]

What’s the best thing about being a professional gamer?

For me there are three things. Number one being the people you meet. I have made some great friends within gaming whom I talk to on a daily basis.

Number two: travelling around the world. This is something I have always wanted to do since I finished school. I was into geography back in school and have always wanted to travel around the world and see amazing places and cultures - gaming has made this possible for me as I’ve travelled to places such as France, the Netherlands and America numerous times. Not many people get the opportunity to do something like this and I am truly grateful that I have been given the chance to travel to all these amazing countries to play video games.

Which other players do you admire?

I wouldn't say I admire any players to be honest, although I do have a lot of respect for players who have helped grow Call of Duty as an eSport. So Nadeshot, for instance, who has a crazy following, has stuck by Call of Duty eSports and has helped grow the scene so much in the past couple of years and I have the utmost respect for him for doing that.

Do you have time to play other games? If so, what are your favourites?

To be honest, not really… I'm always on my CoD grind day in day out. Although I do play the odd Forza game now and then whenever I want to chill out and have a bit of a break from Call of Duty.

TCM Gaming's Call of Duty team
TCM Gaming's Call of Duty team© [unknown]

How much money can you make from eSports?

With the right attitude, commitment and personality, you could potentially make a lot of money from eSports, enough to make it your job. If you have the right attitude and commitment towards the game and you’re part of a team that can win events, then you can win a lot of money of prize money, especially if you win an event such as the Call of Duty Championship.

A perfect example of this at this current time is the Call of Duty team Evil Geniuses who have won lots of tournaments, including the World Champs and, if I am correct, they have made somewhere between $200-300k in around a year and a half which is not bad at all.

Another example is Nadeshot. As well as making money from tournaments, he also makes a lot of money from streaming and YouTube and, of course, he is a Red Bull athlete so he has made a very good income from gaming. The possibilities really are endless: it’s all up to you. If you want to make gaming your job you can, you just need to put in as much effort as possible and really dedicate yourself to eSports.

Do you have any tips for young players hoping to make it as a pro gamer?

Grind out the game as much as you can, be as dedicated as you can. Play GameBattles, scrims, 8s and watch pro player's streams a lot; you will be surprised with how much you can learn from just watching a professional players stream for an hour or two.

Also try to attend as many LAN events as you can to get your name out there. Some players get recognised straight away and some don't; it’s just the way it is at times. Some of these lesser-known players expect things to be given to them on a plate. You have to work yourself to the top just like I did. I couldn't be any happier with where I am right now.

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Written by Tom East