James “Reep” Crowder is as gristled and experienced as pro gamers come – he was notable at the age of 15, made considerable money by 18 and he won the World Championship at age 20. Now at the ripe age of 22 years-old Crowder is retired from gaming and is coach for Faze Clan – one of the highest ranked teams.
“As a coach, I’m not standing behind them as they play – they used to have that, but I’m a little different,” said Crowder. “I watch all their games and if I see them make a strategy mistake I’ll critique them here and there but honestly, they’re pretty good at it themselves.
“I’m there to make sure there’s no tension between players, sometimes they argue, and making their lives as least stressful as possible,” Crowder said. “Anything that helps their focus on COD, even if it’s an in-life problem – something personal – I’ll help them the best I can.”
Crowder’s recognized as he walks through the convention center, “I started playing around 13 and ended up quitting Call of Duty around 17,” he said. “But then I saw some guys I knew win the World Championship and I wanted to come back. I ended up winning it, but it felt like I was getting on because I had to, not because I wanted to.”
“I didn’t want to burn myself out and I saw it going that way,” Crowder added. “I didn’t want three other guys depending on me to be the best self I could be, so I took a step back.”
Crowder’ love for competition is what keeps him in the scene and what drove him to start playing. “I’m a very competitive person, I played sports all my life, so when I started playing COD tournaments it just grew from there,” he said. “It takes playing a lot of tournaments. You go from playing tournaments with friends to playing online tournaments on Game Battle with your friends.”
Crowder’s parents saw his potential and supported his decision to be a pro gamer. “At first, they wanted me to stay in school, so I spent two years as an accounting major and it then it got to a point where I was half in and half out,” he said. “I decided to focus on just one thing and school is something I can always go back to. They were behind me for it once I chose and they’ve been pretty supportive.”
Crowder may be retired as the industry continues to grow. “COD and eSports are growing – I feel it’s a way for people to be competitive that don’t necessarily like playing sports,” he said. “I feel like a lot of people want that competitive edge, even after they may stop playing sports. I used to play baseball and I hurt throwing arm, but I got into Game Battles to compete. I think it’s growing and people are starting to accept it more.”
“I’ve had a good career, I’ve got to travel world – I’ve had a lot of experiences that most 22 year-olds haven’t had,” Crowder said. “I’m definitely proud of what I’ve done but there’s always the other end of the spectrum if I had stayed with baseball – I may have played in college. But I’m happy with who I am and what I’ve done. I didn’t get into this planning to get here.”