With qualifying for World’s Fastest Gamer 3 going on right now via Gear.Club, we caught up with World’s Fastest Gamer 2 winner James Baldwin to see how the competition changed his life, the advice he has for new gamers and why you should try your hand at qualifying for WFG3.

Q: How did you get into gaming and esports?
A: I wasn’t racing anymore and I was shopping with my girlfriend at PC World and we saw a cheap rig, 250 pounds. So I bought one and started playing and naturally just started to get more competitive and meet a few people online. Really, one thing just led to another.

Q: You competed in karting as a child, can you tell us more about this, what level you got to and why you stopped karting?
A: I made it to the national level in karting. I started at eight years old, in 20016 and stopped when I was 15. Then, I went into British Formula Ford for half a season in 2015 before we ran out of funding.

Q: What attracted you to take part in the World’s Fastest Gamer competition?
A: The prize, for sure. And the competition, the other gamers that were doing it. And the other people around it like Barrichello and Montoya and the team at Torque Esports, and just seeing what Rudy had done. It was kind of a no brainer!

Q: What skills do you feel you need as a gamer at this level? How do you think they differ from a ‘real life’ racing driver?
A: Esports drivers are very similar to real world racing drivers. They’re identical in mental approach, having resilience in a race to not make mistakes, putting everything together for a quali lap, nailing every corner, intensity of concentration. I think mentally they’re the same. Physically, there’s a bit of a difference. Even myself, I was nowhere near as strong in the car as Matt Parry or Chris Buncombe. Physically there’s a difference just from training. And socially there’s a difference as well, gamers just aren’t used to the media and the PR. But, if you expose them to it, I think they would be nearly the same. I think racing drivers and esports drivers are very very similar.

Q: And how do you feel these skills learned in the sim translate back into on-track performance?
A: I think it helped a lot! I would say the car felt about 80% like it did on the sim. It’s definitely worth doing the practice on the sim. It really puts you at a disadvantage if you don’t do it and that’s why I think I have an advantage when I go to these tracks compared to drivers that don’t use a sim. Although, there are now more and more racing drivers that do use the sim, which is good. But, that extra practice does make them harder to beat!

Q: How has life changed for you now?
A: Life has changed a lot. The title has a lot of power behind it. For example, I’ve been able to get in contact with people that wouldn’t have been possible to reach before. It opens doors, because there’s only myself and Rudy that are the World’s Fastest Gamers. There’s been a lot of coverage of the competition and the announcement of the drive, so that’s only exposed me to even more people as well. It’s pretty awesome!

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time as a result of this?
A: I see myself still racing in real life and still racing in esports. I’ll be 27 years old then, that seems rather old. I’d love to still be racing in real life, and hopefully in a top-tier championship like WEC. Esports, still at the top level as well. I’m not sure if I’ll still compete in esports at 27, maybe I’ll go into a more managerial role and create my own team. Because that is a long time away, five years. But, definitely involved in both, hopefully driving in both, and maybe even have my own team.

Q: Today, given the current ‘stay at home’ conditions, do you feel that now is a good opportunity for gamers to up their game?
A: It was only last year or the year before that there were only a handful of people taking it very very seriously and treating it as a job, but as more and more people have seen the kinds of things that can come from it for people like Rudy and myself, more people are doing it. And now, with the stay at home conditions is a great time to work on your craft. And the competition is getting harder.

I think we’ll notice the effects of this about a year from now where people will just reach a whole new level and compete like the big games, like Call of Duty. Hopefully I can improve with it, but the level of competition is going to go up and a lot of the names at the top may not be there after. We’re going to have to put work in to stay at the top.

Q: What do you think gaming has taught you personally? (e.g. attention to detail, patience etc.)
A: Looking into things in more detail, constantly asking ‘why?’, resilience and I think for me it’s just taught me to be more accurate with driving. On the sim, you can really go for 100% accuracy and inch perfect lines because it doesn’t matter if you crash.

Q: What do you feel is the minimum kit needed in order for new gamers to get involved?
A: Everyone is different and some people prefer expensive hardware and others don’t. But, just on the wheels and pedal and actual rig, not including the PC, I would say under a grand and you can definitely be near the top. If you budget was just under a grand or just over a grand you could be near the top, The equipment is pretty good even at the entry level. But, if you do go for the more expensive equipment, it does benefit you in small ways, but it is really hard to get. I’m pretty sure on certain sims and games it gives you an advantage, especially if you know how to tune it, but even I don’t have that equipment!

Q: What’s the one piece of gaming kit people shouldn’t compromise on?
A: Pedals, definitely. With a wheel, at the end of the day, it’s a circular thing you use to direct where you’re going. Sure, some are less realistic, some are less powerful, some you have to guess a bit more with, but if you get used to how much you need to guess with your particular wheel, you can still run the same lines and turn good times. The pedals, stopping and accelerating are so important for consistency and pace. So, if you have no feeling in your pedals, especially the brake pedal, that’s hard to overcome. The clutch and the gas are usually about the same from pedal set to pedal set, where as the brake, you need to feel if the car’s about to lock, you need to be able to brake as hard as possible. I know people with very cheap wheels with fairly expensive pedals who are very very quick.

Q: If you could give one tip to gamers starting out at home, what would it be?
A: Meet loads of people online because you’re never going to learn everything yourself. You’ve got to speak to different people, learn information from them, that’s what I did. And, it’s massively fun as well to meet people along the way.

To get to the top, you need to put a ridiculous amount of hours in. Do as many competitions as possible, see what suits you best. Then, once you figure that out, go 100% down that avenue.

And it’s a cliche thing to say have fun, but it’s entirely true. Have fun! But not all of it is going to be fun and that’s one thing that you need to realize. Yes, when you’re sweating on a time trial at 1AM, that’s not fun. But, it depends on how much you want to win.