Interview with APO, Sentinel of the Mandatory Team
He is a diamond in the rough that just needs to be refined. Tom ' APO ' Bonnion cut his teeth with HyP on Shootmania before reuniting with him on Valorant many years later. He's ready to put his energy to work for the team Mandatory. Interview with this young player with a bright future.
Mandatory: Hi APO, and welcome! Could you introduce yourself for those who don't know you yet?
APO: First of all, hello everyone! I'm Tom Bonnion, APO in-game. I've been a Sentinel player on Valorant for a while now, so I'm the Sentinel of the Mandatory team.
Mandatory: Can you tell us a bit about your background, how you became a professional player on Valorant?
APO: It all started with L'Institut, with LoWkii and Twenee1 in particular. I had stopped playing games for a while to concentrate on my studies. I wanted to finish my bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science. Playing for the Institutequickly got me back on track competitively and I gained more experience. After that, it was a kind of springboard because I met Ex6tenZ, who is a renowned French leader and with whom I played for the first big European tournament of Valorant, the First Strike. We managed to do very well, but we failed to qualify for the Closed Qualifier of the tournament. At that time we lost to the mixed team of Prodigy. It was a pretty tough loss, but it was still what got me into the competition. It got me noticed and it opened up opportunities for me. I was lucky enough to have my first professional international project with Entropiq, a Czech organisation. That's where I really jumped in at the deep end and it proved to me that I had something to do in the game.
Mandatory: But you've been playing competitive games for a while now. What other games have you played?
I started playing FPS when I was about 12 on CS 1.6 I started playing FPS when I was about 12 on CS 1.6 at the time. But it was really nice. I was dabbling a bit in the competitive scene, but I wasn't at a super good level. Let's just say that the serious stuff started back then on Shootmania. I might as well say that it's been a while since it came out! I was 15 at the time. It was the first game I played with HyP and we did very well, especially at a Gamer Assembly where Strenx said about us 'the young guys over there, they are really good, you should follow them'.
After that I went to Overwatch where I joined HyP again, but not for very long. Then I switched back to CS with CS:GO. After that I went to Overwatch where I joined HyP again, but not for very long. Then I switched back to CS with CS:GO. I did a few LANs with decent results and I reached a good level, but far from professionalism. Then, I moved away from competition, or at least from esport, because I had to finish my studies and it took too much time. I couldn't invest in it like I did before. Instead, I competed in traditional sports, as I did a lot of athletics.
At the end of my master's degree, I got my first permanent job... and then I saw Valorant coming out and I told myself 'this game looks pretty good, I'm going to try it'. And then I fell in love with it. It really became my favourite game of all the ones I've played.
Joining the Mandatory Team
Mandatory: So you are joining the Mandatory team today. What interested you in this project?
APO: The Mandatory team project was very interesting for me, first of all because HyP is the team captain. For the record, I've known him for a very long time now: since primary school. We lost touch for a while, but we met again on Valorant. We even did some teams together. When he told me about this project, I was really interested, partly because he was part of it. But also because the Mandatory team is something quite huge in France. Their coverage of the scene since the beginning of the game is interesting.
Mandatory: You only joined us because there was Hyp?
APO : Not at all! The project is ultra ambitious, but realistic. I think there's something really incredible to do, both in terms of hype and competition. Plus, since arriving in the premises, there have been quite a few things that have surprised me. Well, surprised, yes and no.
First of all, there is the professionalism of the whole team, of all the people on the staff who surround us. There's joy and then there's the 'relaxed but really working' atmosphere. This is a work philosophy that I have myself outside the games. I think it's important and that we're beginning to understand that we have to move away from the control of employees in the professional world. But there's this fun, relaxed but professional side to it and I love it.
I thought I had experienced something really strong in my former pro team, but I realise that there is still a lot more to do and we have seen that since we arrived here. We are really well treated at Team Mandatory and that's really cool.
Mandatory: What are your goals with this team?
APO : As far as my personal goal is concerned, I think it will be a bit of a continuation of what I did in 2021. I already want to prove to myself that I deserve my place, that I still have a lot of room for improvement, even if I am quite satisfied with the level I have been able to develop, especially over the last few months when I feel I have really stepped up my game. But I feel that I am very far from my maximum.
I would be really happy if from next year we were able to compete in the European league. The French VRL is a very good springboard and it will allow us to develop both individually and collectively. When you see what the LEC has become on League of Legends today, it's a bit of a dream. I must admit that I really want to get there one day and I really hope it will be with Mandatory.
From a collective point of view, the main objective is simply to smash it in the VRL this year. To surprise the other teams and why not try to get a podium in this French league. We don't have a goal for a place at the moment. For me the most important thing is to progress and to see that we evolve. The evolution is essential and it is important to be able to overcome the problems that each team faces. There is no magic team where everything goes right away and you become the best all of a sudden.
Mandatory: Are there any teams already in the running that you would really like to play?
APO: Not exactly. In France I would say that I would like to beat Vitality, for what they represent in the country. Even if they only have two French players at the moment, they are still the best French team.
Otherwise I'd love to have some big games in the league with a lot of hype around it. Especially against organisations that could potentially come in like Solary, GameWard, KCorp, who knows... That's something I haven't really experienced yet, actually. Competitive high stakes games I've had, but high stakes games in terms of hype I've never really had. It's something that interests me. I can't wait for it to happen.
Afterwards, on an international scale, I would say Liquid in order to be able to compete with ScreaM and his brother, that would be interesting.
APO and his teammates
Mandatory: How would you describe yourself as a player?
APO: So, on the outside I look calm, but on the inside I'm boiling. I don't talk much during the games, I'm not a very talkative person, but there's a lot going on inside my head and that's something I'm working on. I love to fight in the game though, so sometimes I go a bit out of my role. I sometimes take duels more than a Sentinel should, but I think that's also part of my success in my role and my effectiveness.
As far as the atmosphere in the team is concerned, I am more of a person who tries to bring something positive and pleasant. Of course with time you get to know yourself and I know that I need a good, healthy and pleasant environment to perform well. So I try to bring that about.
Otherwise, it's true that outside of games, I like to tease others. I've also been having a little fun recently, because I was given a little bell. It's a gift from my friends and my girlfriend in particular. Now, every time I pull out the Odin on Ascent, I put a bell in the mic and say 'It's Odin's time.' I try to lighten the mood even during the official games because it's important to have fun and laugh a little bit. Because if you're all tense about playing, it doesn't work.
Mandatory: Speaking of lightening the mood, what do you think of Jbzz's recruitment?
APO: For me, playing with someone like Jbzz who hasn't been a pro like all the other players, it's not necessarily a brake. Simply because he is someone who has shown that he is good at games and that he can become very good at several games at the same time. I think that will be the case on Valorant as well, I'm convinced of it. So yeah, even though it's ambitious, I'm looking forward to proving to everyone that just because we have a content creator on our team doesn't mean we're not competitive, far from it. I'm looking forward to proving to everyone that we're going to be there in 2022.
Mandatory: Apart from HyP, whom you have known for a long time, is there a player in the team with whom you are already in complicity?
APO: It's not a player, it's the coach: menegh. We joke around a lot, even outside training. We spend a lot of time together and I must admit that we like to tease each other, but it's always very nice. I have a really good affinity with him and he's a really good coach. I think there's a friendship that's developed and he's someone who knows how to get people to move forward, including me. So I try to give him as much as I can in return and I think we appreciate each other for our qualities.
Mandatory : What do you think he will bring to the team?
APO : He will bring structure, an outside opinion and he will also have this role of mediator within the team. I think that a team without a coach is complicated. He will be able to say things more easily and with more distance than the leader in game. He will also be able to put everyone on the same page and make sure that we are all in harmony with what we want to do, to assume it completely and to do it to the end. That's essential for performance.
Mandatory: Is there anything else you'd like to say to your fans and to those who will discover you after this announcement?
APO : Take the time to do what you want to do, don't skip steps. And above all, whatever you want to do, do it with fun. Because without fun it's hard to succeed. This is a philosophy that we try to follow with all the teams I've had and in the end it's really what succeeds best.