There are a few reasons Nicholas Kolcheff, better known as Nickmercs in the gaming world, is watched by millions on Twitch and YouTube. For one, the guy is a good (virtual) hang. UFC champion Max Holloway and Tampa Bay Buccaneer wide receiver Mike Evans are just a few fans who enjoy the gamer’s vibes, and count themselves among his MFAM online community. For another, the guy can absolutely slay in Call Of Duty: Warzone.

“There are a lot of things I’m not good at, but I’m fucking good at this game,” says Kolcheff. That statement is backed by the fact the Michigan native just dropped his personal record in the Activision battle royale, racking up 39 kills. The accomplishment is one to celebrate, but even more so, the fact that tens of thousands of people tuned in live to watch him do it on Twitch. “The game is really fun for me right now.”

Kolcheff is not alone. CoD is blowing up, with Activision reporting 111 million active players monthly, making it the No.1 global franchise once again. Men’s Journal asked the FaZe Clan star for insight into the life of a pro streamer and some insights that can level up your game.

Get in There

NM: Before I played Call of Duty, I was a national champion at another game, Gears of War, and sometime between I also played Fortnite. For each of these games, it definitely comes down to time in. That’s always going to be a big factor. You have to put the right kind of time in in the right kind of situations. If you want to get better at the battle royale, you have to drop in. The overpowered guns like the DMR have been nerfed, which is good, because you can use a lot of different weapons and still win.

Think Chess, Not Checkers

There’s a lot of timing that goes into CoD, and you have to be able to position yourself accordingly. This game is like chess, not checkers. The majority of beginner players are going to try to push you in one direction, and only expect you to go one direction when there are dozens of different ways you can go. Starting to think like that is a huge leg up. Once you get that part of the game down, the rest starts to come easy.

Use Your Ears

There’s no music or audio distractions when I’m really locked in. Your ears are half the fight. Every little footstep you hear matters. I would say half the time I’m playing I’m looking at the screen, but I’m not focusing on it because I’m using my ears. Sometimes that’s all you need to predict exactly where an enemy is going to be. There’s no way you’re sweating the game if you have music playing. I’ve been rocking Astro Gaming headsets for years.

Choose Your Team Wisely

There are a lot of players who don’t have the right energy. My list of friends is pretty small, and my list of friends I like to game with is even smaller. TimTheTatman, SypherPK, Clocky (Cloakzy), and Swagg are great; we have an understanding. We blend well together. I can be a real asshole, but we all have similar energy and the same goals. Once you find the right ones, together you’re better.

Controller Gang

I have teammates who play on a keyboard and mouse. There’s no question it can be an easier way to play, but I’m so used to controllers and have been playing that way my entire life. It’s where I feel home, and I’ve figured out the settings that work best [see below]. Make sure you have your FOV set to 107, because aim assist doesn’t work if you go higher than that. I have a special controller I designed with the crew at SCUF Gaming that’s all I play with. There are moves you can do with them you can’t do with others. I’ve won hundreds of Call of Duty tournaments with a controller. There are very few people who’ve accomplished what I’ve done.

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Snack Right

There was a time when I’d eat all kinds of snack on the stream, but I’ve really dialed in my nutrition and I have better energy than ever. These days I have a big power smoothie with all the essentials. I’ll also have my first meal of the day while playing, which is 5 or 6 ounces of protein, 6 ounces of carbs, and a whole lot of veggies. There’s a lot of water constantly. If you want to really get on another level like a real gamer, you can pour a little G Fuel into that water.

Fit Body, Sharp Mind

A few years ago, I streamed 300 hours in a month, which is probably about 10 hours a day. I was pale as fuck. I was 180 pounds, which is light for me—usually I weigh 210. Sure that time playing games was fun, but there’s no doubt it was really unhealthy and I needed to take a step back. Getting into the gym brings a lot of structure to my life. I’ve always enjoyed lifting, and decided to dial it up again recently. The community has been asking for me to do live workout streams for a while, and now that I moved down to Florida for the winter it seemed like the right time. I’m excited I can encourage people to be healthier, because people have held onto this particular image when it comes to gamers, and it’s not a healthy one. I’m working to get better every day at gaming and in the gym. The key to life is having balance.

Get Nickmercs’ PC build here and his studio setup here

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