Gaming for Dollars: The Fatal1ty Interview

Professional gaming is something many guys and gals wielding an Xbox 360 controller or PC mouse can only dream about when Monday rolls around and they head off to their day jobs. For Johnathan Wendel, who goes by the gaming handle “Fatal1ty,” gaming is actually a full-time career which has netted him a lot of cash ($150,000 alone in one competition, for example), corporate sponsorships and the unveiling of his own PC-based gaming gear. Wendel, who specializes in crushing his opponents via the first person shooter genre, got into professional gaming in 1999 and has rapidly become one of the best gamers in the world. Wendel recently took some time from his gaming practices to chat it up with Digital Trends regarding his winning ways.

Digital Trends (DT): Tell us about your professional gaming background. When did you first pick up a mouse and what was the first First Person Shooter (FPS) you ever played?

Johnathan Wendel (JW): I picked up my first mouse probably when I was about 5 years old and played a lot of flight simulators and stuff when I was a boy with my dad. I didn’t start playing FPS games till I was about 12 or 13 when Wolfenstein 3D came out…it was as an amazing game back in 1993 and was really the beginning of the FPS world.

DT: What is behind the name Fatal1ty?

JW: Fatal1ty came from the word "fatality". I picked this name when I was about 13 years old when I was logging onto a BBS with my 2400 baud modem, and it asked me for my alias. At the time I really had no idea what that meant but my friends told me and I was like, “fatality sounds pretty killer.” I also liked Mortal Kombat a ton back then too, so seeing a fatality was extremely exciting back in the early 90s in these games. It’s stuck ever since.

DT: What specific titles would you say are your best games and why? Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel

JW: Quake 3, Aliens VS Predator 2, Unreal Tournament 2003, Counter-Strike, Doom 3, Painkiller and Quake 4. Those are probably my best of best games where I can compete and win at the highest level. Those are my best games mainly because I’ve trained the most on them and took my skills and thoughts to another level than most average or above average gamers take the game. I always try to analyze every game to the last drop, so I’m trying to find any and every edge I can on my opponent in all of these games.

DT: Describe your longest and most grueling match.

JW: My most grueling one was probably on the World Tour Finals in 2005 with my rival voO. I was coming from the lower-bracket and ended up winning the whole tournament and $150,000!!! It was extremely exciting to comeback from behind and win that!!!

DT: You seem to play mainly PC games. Why do you prefer this platform over consoles like the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3?

JW: Well, PC gaming is pretty much the formula 1 of gaming period. All the games are made on PCs and are just made to work on your different systems if you so choose to play on a console rather than a PC, but the graphics and everything are always evolving in PC as the consoles really don’t get better hardware as time goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I love console gaming as well – I play all types of games for fun. PC and console are both a ton of fun for me and very competitive.

DT: What does it take to be a professional gamer in your opinion? Do you think there is a future for this as a job occupation or is it a passing fad?

JW: It takes the same kind of discipline it takes to be a professional at anything. Only the best of the best make it to the top and make a living doing this. As for it being a passing fad, I can’t see that at all. This will be a sport and is becoming a sport today and will be around forever hopefully, but I don’t see any reason it would ever fade away!!! Gaming is here to stay and will continue to grow for centuries!

DT: What do you specifically do to get in shape for a match or tournament?

JW: I like to run 3 miles a day and be physically fit, but also train a lot and practice with my sparring partners I fly in to train with me. Just practice, practice, practice. That’s what it’s all about and being confident – if you’re not confident you’re going to win, most likely you’ll never win.

DT: There are many who would look at your chosen profession and say you are perhaps wasting your time and to get a real job. What would you say to those naysayers?

JW: Well, I’ve won over $500,000 from playing competitive games for the last six years and received even more money doing business deals and partnerships on the side of that from sponsorships. So for me, gaming has been a dream come true. I went for something and got it. I just feel really fortunate that I get to do something I love so much for a job – it allows me to be who I am.

DT: Have you made the leap to Windows Vista yet? How do you think it will do as a gaming platform as it replaces Windows XP?

JW: I haven’t upgraded yet to Vista. I’ve been traveling non-stop, but I do like a lot of things. It’s adding to the possibility to bring the PC community and console community together!!! I think that’s a great step forward for gaming and really hope we can unite these communities so we can grow stronger together!

DT: What does a professional gamer like you do for fun when he is not gaming?

JW: I love playing sports – hockey, tennis, golf, basketball, football, etc – just anything competitive. I really can’t tell you how much I love playing sports, but I treat gaming just as a sport, and that’s why I love it so much. It requires the same skills I learned as a kid growing up playing sports, and now I get to use those same skills in the game.