David ‘Daveyskills’ Kelly is a two time Forza Motorsport World Champion. David, who is from Liverpool in the United Kingdom has won $76,500 in total prize money so far in his video gaming career. Despite having accumulated the majority of his winnings almost 10 years ago, David still ranks in the top 50 of the highest earning esports players from the UK.
The past several years have seen the world of esports explode into an eruption of popularity. Many popular video games including; FIFA, Counter Strike, Dota and Forza Motorsport now have their own competitive esports scene. Audiences numbering in the millions regularly tune into Twitch – the primary streaming platform of esports – in order to watch their favourite teams and players compete. Esports teams are supported by fans in the same way as stereotypical sports teams are and the most well-known esports stars are idolized by their adorning fans. The fact that viewers are also able to bet on esports matches like they would in a football match also brings fans closer to esports – fans feel like they are in the game battling the opposition with their favourite players alongside them.
David Kelly sat down with Iain Fenton, a journalist and writer for EsportsOnly to discuss David’s career within esports so far as well as the future of Forza motorsport and esports as a whole.
Iain: Firstly, could you tell me a little bit more about yourself, age, where you grew up, how you got into competitive gaming etc?
David: I’m 28 years old, definitely on the more experienced side of things when it comes to esports. I grew up in Liverpool and I’m an avid supporter of the mighty Reds. I’ve always been drawn to video games. I got my first console when I was 3. Playing Sonic the Hedgehog and micro machines on the Sega Megadrive any time I could. I continued to play games all the way through my childhood, then Xbox Live came out it took gaming to a whole other level. I love being the best at something, and I hate losing. Halo 2 was where I really got bitten by the competitive bug, but unfortunately I wasn’t good enough to compete. Then when the Xbox 360 came out I got Project Gotham Racing (PGR) 3 with it as part of a package deal. This was the only game I had at the time so I played it a lot. There were leaderboards so I could compare my times with the best in the world. This was fascinating to me, as I needed to be the best, I needed to understand how people were better than me. Over time I got better, then I heard that some people earned money from competing on the game. These people were below me on some of the leaderboards, so I immediately started looking for competitions. The first competition I entered was WCG 2007. I managed to win the UK final and get a trip to the World Finals in Seattle where I unfortunately didn’t get out of the group stage, but that defeat made me want to win the next one even more.
I: So you realised that racing games were your forte then? How old were you when you first started competing professionally at PGR 3?
D: Yeah racing games are definitely my specialist genre, but I’m a bit unusual in a sense that most other racing game fans are real life motorsport fanatics. Whilst I do like motorsport, I can take it or leave it. I think it’s more the competition that keeps me playing more than anything. I’m a big fan of esports in general too. I regularly stay up late to watch CS:GO. That’s where I’d love to see racing esports get to one day, it’s incredible. I was 17 when I first competed on PGR 3.
I: How is the racing esports scene in the UK? Competitive? What needs to be done for it to receive more publicity?
D: It depends what game you play really, on Forza which is my specialist game there will always be the same handful of drivers towards the top in my opinion. There are more and more people getting better all the time, but certain people will never go away. I suppose you can apply that to the genre as a whole, there will always be a group of people at the top who rarely change, in a similar way to Football and the Premier League, you’ve got the top 6, then the rest of the league really. Obviously teams below are pushing and getting closer all the time, but certain teams will always have that edge and it’s rare for a new team to break into the top 6 permanently.
In my opinion there needs to be a clearly defined rule set. You look at other esports which are thriving and you have a map pool, with structured rules which don’t really change between events. Then you look at racing games, and people pump money into them, give away nice cars and cool prizes, but they get no return or interest on it. I believe it’s because they have no idea what they’re doing. They try to make the esports events realistic, to simulate reality. So they put damage on, 12 player races, which is great, but then they decide to have us qualify over 1 lap, with no practice, using a car and track we couldn’t have prepared for because they kept it secret for some unknown reason. After that you’re then asked to race over seven laps. Which is absolutely nothing. I think the organisers would be better off giving us the rules when the event is announced. I personally would also prefer it if they tried a 1v1 collisions off knockout style tournament. Where speed and consistency wins over luck with collisions. They also don’t promote the players, they need to create some sort of narrative to entertain the viewer, this isn’t being done at the minute. To once again go back to CS:GO you know who the players are, you support those players, not just the game.
I: How has esports/competitive gaming as a career worked out for you so far? Has it been stressful? Have you earned a decent amount of prize money? Would you recommend it to others?
D: It hasn’t really been a career for me. For a time when the competitions and the prize money was coming thick and fast I could have seen myself using it as a main source of income. However, that stopped pretty quickly. Since about 2010 I’ve been using esports as a hobby that I can earn some extra money on from time to time.
It hasn’t been that stressful at all. I’m confident in my abilities and I understand you can’t win them all, so I just try and enjoy myself. The most stressful thing for me at the moment is trying to get the time off work to compete!
I’d say I’ve earned a decent amount of money. I’m definitely up there with the top earners when it comes to racing games.
If you want to do this as a full time job then I’d say prepare to sacrifice almost every other aspect of your life for at least a couple of years, also right now there isn’t enough competitions to earn a living off, but if you don’t mind being poor with the occasional trip to another country for a competition then it’s ideal for you. At least until it gets bigger, who knows maybe in a year’s time you could win £20k every other month? I guess it’s not really a recommendation to become pro, you’ll know if want to do it or not, an if you can you might as well when you’re young. Enjoy yourself!
I: You’re obviously old enough now to look after yourself and make your own decisions, but what did your parents think of your semi career/hobby with esports? Did they understand it?
D: Initially like any parent they were sceptical. I remember one night telling them I was going to go to London the next day to compete in a tournament and they couldn’t understand it. I think after my first win they saw it was real and they have always been really supportive. Even now if I’m competing they show interest which is great.
I: Do you have a job outside of competitive gaming then?
D: Yes, I work for Santander in their call centre in Liverpool. Shift work with one weekend off in 4, getting time off for tournaments is an absolute nightmare.
I: David, thanks a lot for speaking with me. Best of luck for the future!