League of Legends pro gamer numlocked (Seb Barton) is the top laner for Choke Gaming, which has just been named the best LoL team in the UK and Ireland after winning the 4 Nations tournament last weekend to win €5,000.
Far from being content with just this victory, numlocked now has his sights set firmly on the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) – we caught up with him to discuss winning the 4 Nations, how he got into esports and what’s next.
Congrats on winning the 4Nations! What was it like taking part and how did it feel to win?
Thanks! It was great taking part. It’s definitely the biggest thing happening in the UK right now in terms of esports and I didn’t want to miss out on it, even better to be the champions of it. All that hard work paying off was great.
Do you think we should have more UK tournaments like this to boost the profile of esports on our shores?
Definitely! I think this was just the beginning of it all. I can only imagine it getting bigger from here. Riot, ESL, GiffGaff, Gfinity and plenty more I’m sure have big plans for the UK next year. It’s an understatement to say that I’m excited. Next year’s looking to be a big one and I’m really excited to be part of it all.
Tell us about Choke and how it was setup. What’s it like to be a part of?
Choke was set up this year by the manager Vince after it not being around since the earlier 2000s. This iteration of the team, previously known as Mistakes Were Made, was formed to basically win tournaments within the UK. We formed just before MCM and a few online tournaments, all of which we placed top 2 in. It’s great being part of a team that are as like-minded and focused on winning. Although we don’t practice much as a team, everyone plays a lot individually. As for my role within the team, I don’t do anything other than the normal role of a player. I play the game and my lane, that’s kind of it.
Some of Riot’s ‘top plays’ from the 4 Nations tournament
Tell us about yourself and how you got into esports.
I originally got into gaming through finding out about Xfire one night. I only ever played games on my PlayStation up until then, so PC games were completely new to me. I read about games like Digital Paintball, Counter-Strike, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and decided to download them all to try them out. From playing these casually on public servers I found out about a website called EnemyDown which turned out to be a competitive gaming league for games like Counter-Strike. I signed up and found a team and I all kicked off from there really.
I didn’t really become known/really good at competitive games until Team Fortress 2. This is where I became ‘known’ and played ‘professionally’ for about six years.
Honestly as soon as I found out about competitive gaming I knew I wanted to focus on it. I’d always been a very competitive person before that, competing in motocross and football, so I wanted to take it to a new level I’d not tried before and it kind of stuck. I’m glad it did.
How did you fall into the top lane? Can you remember when you realised it was your preferred position – which champs did you start with?
Hah. I wouldn’t say it was my preferred position. I fell into top lane because originally my friends got me into LoL and they had no top laner to play with, so I kinda did it so we could play as five. My first ever champion was Teemo. There’s an embarrassing video of one of my first games with it…
One of numlocked’s first matches as Teemo – it seems he’s come a long way since then!
I had a lot of fun playing the easier champions or those that are annoying for enemies, like Teemo and Singed, just because they were easy to pick up and I could just jump straight into a game without a steep learning curve. They were best for levelling.
Do you play any other games other than League in your spare time? Would you consider playing other titles professionally like Dota 2?
I play a lot of games in my spare time, most recently it’s been CS:GO. I play it with the same group of friends I got into LoL with and we’re going to play in ESEA for fun, nothing serious. Other than that it’s mostly casual/fun games, like Tabletop Simulator, BattleBlock Theater, Arma 3 etc. I still play some TF2 from time to time, just because I still love the game that was a big part of my “esports career”, but not quite on a regular basis.
Although I do like and enjoy Dota 2, I wouldn’t play it competitively. I enjoy LoL too much and don’t think it’s possible to play both at a high level, so I’d rather stick to LoL and focus on improving.
What’s your earliest gaming memory?
Getting home from school and playing Runescape/Digital Paintball 2 with friends. I really enjoyed the latter because that’s where it got competitive for me, and I was always trying to beat them in it. We all got pretty into games together so it was a lot of fun sticking things like Quake, Halo and Counter-Strike on a USB stick and playing them in school in ICT lessons or on our breaks.
What’s your weirdest or most memorable moment in League of Legends?
Weirdest would probably be season 3. The start of the season was pretty crazy, with Black Cleavers everywhere, double Targon bot/top lane, no junglers. It was all over the place.
Most memorable so far is definitely winning the 4 Nations. It felt great to be the champion of something so big.
What’s next for you and Choke in the future? What are your ambitions?
My ambitions personally are to make the LCS. Since knowing about it I’ve wanted to play there myself. As for the team, I hope it’s the same, but we’ll be having a meeting in the next month or so to decide what our next steps are. Hopefully we aim for bigger and better things.
Thanks for your time numlocked and good luck for the future – we’ll be keeping an eye out for Choke and yourself to see how things develop in 2015.
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.