Quickfire interview with James Banks on hosting the Blast Premier Fall Final 2023 and how CS has changed

British esports host James Banks reaffirmed his love for Counter-Strike (CS) in an interview with Reece Barrett for Esports News UK at the Blast Premier Fall Final 2023

Banks hosted the Fall Final at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, an event he has appeared at annually since 2020.

He gave praise to the local crowd, citing a strong and friendly environment as to why he enjoys working in front of the Danish support.

James Banks said: “[Copenhagen] has become the home of Danish Counter-Strike and the fans here have always been amazing. Even now, when we don’t have a Danish team in here, they’re still enjoying the Counter-Strike.

“The one thing I’ve loved and enjoyed being on [the Blast Premier Fall Final] stage is that we get such a family atmosphere. You get to some events and you see four [split-up] units of people, but here I always have the biggest memories of mums and dads and their children running around a bit more.

“Copenhagen has got its place as one of the most prestigious events alongside Katowice and Cologne, for example.

“The major will never be beaten because it’s Valve’s, it’s the money, it’s what every player dreams of, but right after that, you have Copenhagen.”

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James Banks at Blast Premier Fall Final 2023

James Banks has been hosting events in the esport since the early days of Global Offensive, when he began transitioning from Starcraft events to cover the first-person shooter.

But before he became a media talent, Banks did play Counter-Strike at a semi-professional level, and he acknowledged that his decade of playing experience made the jump to hosting CS easier.

“I’ve played Counter-Strike since 2003, not at a professional level like the guys here (at Blast Premier Fall Final 2023) but at a very high level within the UK scene,” he said.

“We were not very good as a country which still plagues us in many ways. We didn’t have much international success and I only travelled for a few events, but I was always very passionate about what we had and how different CS was. I loved what it offered up in terms of mindset, gamesense, how you outsmart an opponent. It’s like chess but sped up in the way you make moves and make players work as a team.

“When CSGO came out it was terrible at the beginning. It wasn’t a very well-polished game and it took some time to build into it, but then when events started to happen, because I had a lot of experience with Counter-Strike I got called upon and given some opportunities.

“The game certainly wasn’t as polished as it is now, but we learnt as we [went with it].”

James Banks on why CS is easy to pick up but hard to master

Banks argued that the simplicity of Counter-Strike’s concept makes the first-person shooter more attractive for spectators than other esports at a base level, and that it’s simple enough for parents and families to enjoy together.

James Banks, who recently joined Guild Esports as a consultant with Guild Eagles, believes that people who have no experience with esports can pick up Counter-Strike easily.

Banks said: “On a base level, I can show my parents Counter-Strike and they’ll enjoy it, and that’s the beauty of it.

“Anyone can watch Counter-Strike, see the scores and say, ‘okay, this makes sense’. But then you start to look at the intricacies. [You ask] why did he throw that smoke, why have they decided to plant the molotov in that position, what do they know, what don’t they know?

“You get into the mind games, because when the best teams in the world all play against each other, they learn each other inside and out.”

James Banks

“Then it’s not about who shoots better, it’s about who’s got the better tactics. You have to change the tactics – it cannot be the same.

“Maybe you fake into doing the attacks, so they think [the team is doing something else] and then you get into moving everything around and there’s where the mastermind mode of it all [comes into play].

“Lots of younger fans can bring their parents, and they can still be part of it, but then you get to the level where we’re watching it and you can go so hardcore into detail. There is a funny part, because sometimes we will [explain why] a player made a decision and we will give him extra credit like he’s a genius. Then he turns around and says, ‘I just had a feeling,’ and that’s sometimes the way it goes.”

The Blast Premier Fall Final concluded just over a week ago, as UK player William ‘mezii’ Merriman and Team Vitality beat Faze in the 2023 Blast Premier Fall Grand Final to lift the trophy.

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