Mad Skills Motocross 2 recently held its first World Championship with a £16,000 prize pot in Stockholm. In 2016 the game has paid out over £735,000. James ‘Master52’ Lambert is one of the world’s top players. The ‘Master52’ is a reference to the amount of weeks he spent top of the rankings. Last year alone he took home almost £16,000 in winnings.
We spoke to James about the title, how he got into it and the potential of mobile esports.
Esports Insider: Tell us about your background and how you became one of the top Mad Skills players…
James: I come from a motocross racing family. I’ve been racing since I was 6 years old. The summer after I graduated high school in 2010, I was working at my family’s business. On a break, my cousin was playing a racing game on his phone. I leant over and asked what he was playing. He said, “Mad Skills Motocross, give it a go”. He gave me his phone and after I did a few runs I was hooked.
I downloaded the game right away and started playing regularly. Now, this was before there was any sort of worldwide playing. So I was playing my own ghost on the tracks over and over and kept getting better. .
When they announced there was going to be a tournament, that’s when things were about to change. In the first round, I got 28th in the world. I had no idea that I was good at the game because I’d only played myself, so I thought it was truly amazing to get 28th.
The next week I got first and I was going crazy! I couldn’t believe I was genuinely really good. From that point on I was addicted to winning. Throughout college I was able to stack up 87 overall jam wins from Mad Skills Motocross 1 and into Mad Skills Motocross 2. My goal is to make it to 100 wins before I retire – or partially retire!
Esports Insider: What’s your opinion of the potential of mobile esports more generally? How many other titles do you play?
James: Mobile esports in my opinion will continue to grow at a rapid rate. When I first started, I was playing on a 3.5-inch screen. Now, I’m playing on 5.5-inches with much better graphics. Technology is steadily increasing and these games are becoming very realistic.
“A few years back, there was discussion in the community of the game that I wasn’t actually a real person, because I was winning so much”
I had stopped playing Mad Skills for a while, but came back when they introduced the ability to make money from winning. If you happen to be good at a game, the chance of making money does make it a bit more exciting. Especially because you are playing against people who are at a similar level.
A few years back, there was discussion in the community of the game that I wasn’t actually a real person, because I was winning so much. Back then, there was really no way to prove it unless I got the winning run on video, which I tried and people still didn’t believe me. Having the esports element to it, and with the first Championship being broadcast live, if I do win, it’s on video. But it’s also made it more competitive. I mean, there were 200,000 people who entered the championship and just 12 of us got to the final.
With virtual reality becoming more popular, I think the possibilities are endless. Right now I only play Mad Skills, because any spare time I have, I put into that game. Sometimes I try other games but then I realise I don’t like to be bad at them [laughs].
Esports Insider: Is this now something you’re able to do full time? How many hours a day do you spend practising?
James: I wish one day that I could play this game full time, but the current income I make from it just isn’t quite enough.
“To have a competitive mobile game it has to be addictive, fun, and make you angry”
I usually play every day unless I’m physically unable to. I’ve only missed a few days in the past 10 or 11 months, ever since it was possible to make money. I estimate that I spend somewhere around 2 hours a day playing, usually right before I go to sleep.
But look, I do make more from Mad Skills than my first job out of college, which is not bad! Two hours a day has led to me getting a nice bit of additional income and took me to Sweden for the first time, to play with the other best players in the game.
Mad Skills has opened a ton of doors for me, including being invited to race in the Red Bull Straight Rhythm Motocross event last year.
Esports Insider: In your view what makes for a top competitive mobile game? What elements and features keep players coming back?
James: To have a competitive mobile game it has to be addictive, fun, and make you angry. Just like Mad Skills!
In every good game, there has to be room for improvement, the game itself and your skills. Mad Skills has come a long way since the first version and made it to where people want to keep playing. That could be either proving to their friends that they can beat them or get good enough to make a decent monthly income.
And look at the other people who were in the championship. Pretty much all of us have been racing in Motocross or BMX since a young age. Even though it’s not the same, you know the importance of finding the right line on the track.
I think the creativity of Turborilla and Gumbler will continue to bring in new users and keep making the game better than ever.