In an interview with UKCSGO, James “bevve” Slinn spoke to Dafydd Gwynn about playing EPIC LAN with big names such as Owen “smooya” Butterfield and Thomas “Thomas” Utting, and how that gives him the expectation to win the whole event. He also went in depth about his ban from ESEA and FACEIT when he was 18 and the impact it had on his career.
You’re in a mix [team] this LAN, with some massive names, how does it feel?
Yeh, I’ve already played HLTV games with Owen and Thomas, Thomas I played with in Dubai and that was a sick experience. And then Owen (smooya) I recently played the [UKIC] Beyond qualifier, we played against the now-Viperio roster and played against Extinct, who’s now at LAN with us.
It’s a good feeling, but it’s nothing I haven’t already experienced, but it’s my first UK LAN, so that’s the main take away, it’s not really just playing with these players, rather in the moment playing in my first UK LAN.
And how has your experience been so far?
It’s been nice, really, it’s been nice meeting people. One of the main reasons I always struggled for teams. A lot of people tell me I should be in the BLVKHVND, should be in Viperio, Temperate or whoever. I have my friend group I don’t really branch out, I have no real reason to, I’m not going to force a friendship to force connections, which is probably on me to do better than that. Being at LAN, people come up to you, I’ve met former teammates, friends I’ve known online for a few years and met Dexie who I went to Academy with, it’s been awesome. So far… no tech issues. The only problem is we’re late to every game with smoke breaks, etc.
Being your first UK LAN, what expectation have you set for yourself?
I think, as a team, it’s difficult because we want to make finals because we have me and Extinct, we still consider ourselves at the upper end of the UK scene. Then Owen and Thomas are the tier above, Owen’s played tier 1 CS, played at a major, Thomas has gone international with cowana. Of course we want to win it, we’ve also taken Heartles, who is just a friend of ours, he’s not that great he’s definitely at a much lower level.
We’ve got to be realistic, there will be games where they just run at him, win rounds, win rounds, win rounds and that’s fine. It’s my first time meeting him after being good friends of 2 years and then Extinct 6 months, first time meeting him. It’s more of just get together, have fun, play some good CS, we’re still trying we’re not messing about. We just want to see how far we can get, hopefully make finals, hopefully win it, we should win it with Smooya and Thomas, there’s no excuse for us not to.
You’ve been on smooya’s stream quite a bit…
Yeah I’m kind of known as his side thing, his little Robin and that’s not really a nice title, I’m bevve I’m more than smooya’s friend and that’s how a lot of people see me.
…and how does that feel being perceived as “number 2” to smooya?
A lot of it comes from jealousy, to be honest you have a lot of people want to play with Owen. For me, Owen is probably still the best UK player until Mezii does a tiny bit more, I don’t think he’s far off. I think a lot of people have a certain desire to play with him, be friends with him, to get in with him, so people see me and think “he came off a cheat ban, 6 months later he’s playing for XENEX, second best team in the UK, going to Dubai playing with Thomas”. There’s a different between people having a joke like my friends poking fun, and that’s fine. I do get a lot of shit for it, but that’s life.
You’re starting to be known for other things now…
I think, it’s weird, literally six weeks before I was banned we just won CEVO Main, which at the time CEVO was still relevant and it quite the event, we’d beat a big Portuguese team at the time. A lot of the UK scene were happy, like a UK player that’s playing internationally, I played with a bunch of Europeans, before that Germans.
Everyone was like “wow” because I was 18 at the time, and then I got banned, came back and because I’m quite friendly and chatty, no one was like “he’s a bad person, he’s made a mistake” and that’s how I see it as well. I don’t consider myself a bad person because I cheated, it was a terrible thing to do, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t consider myself a bad person because I cheated in that moment. It was definitely a terrible thing to do and I would never to it again, one of the biggest mistakes, but I don’t think it will define me as a person or my future. I’m not going to walk down the street with people thinking “oh he cheated in a video game”, my mum’s not going to think “such an arsehole get out of my house”.
A lot of people make mistakes in the UK scene, coming out as racist, toxic or snake-ing their organisation members and teammates. Cheating is not the same level as racism, racism I think does make you a bad person. I say to some people this guy was racist, and they will say ”well its not as bad as cheating” and its like I saw through a smoke grenade on Counter-Strike I get it was a bad thing, I got banned. But then there are players who are outed for racism and are back within a month and no one cares.
Has it knocked your confidence, coming back from the ban?
I really thrived off it because when I came back, I’d been playing a couple different esports, so I hadn’t touched CS for a year and a half, I played Call of Duty, Battlefield, bit of VALORANT when that came out, came back and I was pretty much at the same skill level, I’d just lost the ‘edge’ in thinking. So I came back and I knew people would have this premeditation that I was cheating, so to get in their heads, with every smoke grenade I would shoot through it and if I get the kill, mentally their out the game. That’s how I got my early success in teams, I would use things like that, get in the heads of enemies, it’s an advantage but also their problem, I guess.
So I came back and I knew people would have this premeditation that I was cheating, so to get in their heads, with every smoke grenade I would shoot through it and if I get the kill, mentally their out the game.
So you played FPL-C?
Actually, I got kicked three weeks ago. I got invited by Neil on a trial basis, I played three months pretty actively and I had a holiday to Poland that was early February which got pushed back because of the Ukraine invasion. I had another holiday which got pushed back due to COVID and it kept getting pushed back and they were both booked for September/October and that’s when I got my FPL-C invite and I couldn’t move them. And when I came back it said ‘inconsistent skill’ ‘inconsistent playing’ and then I had a bunch of family issues, a lot of people fell sick. I spoke to Neil about it, he said he appreciates that, but they want an active player base. At the end of the day if I’m not active someone else will. I have full respect for Neil and I thank him for the chance.
I made a lot of connections, I have options with Touch The Crown now, I’ve been playing with them recently, standing in with Endpoint for ESL Premiership. It’s been a lovely experience, but yeah FPL C is definitely I’ve been known for in the last couple of months.
…and you’ve recently got into some university CS?
An absolute headache of a scene, yeah it’s horrible (laughs).
There is volt who plays for Fnatic. I mean our team UWE was just stacked, last season we had Hui, Crit, Magic, who was FPL in NA and then me and dox, who is on 1PIN, so it was like to not win this, impossible. And the issue is with a lot of these good CS players are 16 to 18 year olds that are doing college and take a few years to see what happens. It’s a good place, respectfully, none of these level 10’s on FACEIT are ever going to play me in an official, ever. Unless they come to an EPIC and get me in a group then I did. I think this will probably be one of my only UK LAN’s I go to.
Why would you say that?
I came here to meet Owen and Thomas, Matas and Alex and obviously all my friends. Unless I came with a team, it was an UK team and they said they want to go to EPIC or unless it’s a similar opportunity where i’m meeting new friends and a new group of people, I’m not sure I’d come again.
In terms of UK CS, what would be the one thing you would change/improve about it?
UK CS is quite a good system, it just needs to be more appreciative of things, like the Endpoint Academy got absolutely shit on for six months and we had instantly as soon as the team had been created where people, I’m not defending this person but one of the players was caught out for being racist and homophobic and was bombarded and kicked. Then another joins and leaves five minutes before registration and you have other people leaving behind the coaches back and it was just an absolute cluster fuck and that was a salaried team, it wasn’t a big salary but it was still a salary.