When it comes to esports, Quake champion Johnathan “FATAL1TY” Wendel pioneered the profession. FATAL1TY was the first pro gamer to make competing his full-time job, earning $450,000 in cash and prizes, mostly through the four Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) titles that he won. A few days ago, I got the chance to talk to FATAL1TY and ask him some questions about the current state of esports.
It’s no surprise that esports have changed a lot since you used to play professionally. Of all the changes that have happened since then, what would you say are some positives and negatives?
FATAL1TY: The positives are definitely that more people can make money in esports and in gaming than ever before. When I was playing, you had to win… a lot!
As for negatives, I can’t think of many… One that I’m hearing a lot is parents wishing that they let their kids play more or follow their dreams more in this space. The success on Twitch, YouTube and the Pro Circuit has become such a phenomenon.
If you weren’t in the competitive esports scene, what did you foresee being your career?
FATAL1TY: I was always into programming and inventing. Today, I make products for gamers under my esports lifestyle brand “FATAL1TY.” Making products for gamers and helping them play to their full potential is very fulfilling to me.
What do you think of some traditional sports athletes saying that esports athletes aren’t real athletes?
FATAL1TY: In the competitive world of sports, which is where I originated from, I saw many similarities to esports. The hand-eye coordination, strategy, timing, reflexes, and outthinking your opponent were all the same things I did in traditional sports. Of course, the physical side of running or jumping doesn’t exist in esports, but every other aspect definitely does.
What esports athlete do you admire, if any?
FATAL1TY: As a kid, I was a fan of Dennis “Thresh” Fong because he won a Ferrari for playing Quake. I just thought it was amazing. I reached out to him when I told him I was going to pursue being the first full-time professional gamer and make my sole living from this. He gave me some great advice and we have been friends ever since.
With an unlimited budget right now, what would you do to revolutionize esports?
FATAL1TY: I would like to support the amateur scene more to keep the masses involved just like you see in traditional sports. There are tons of weekend warrior gamers out there. We just need to capitalize and support those type of gamers.
Where do you see esports in 10 years?
FATAL1TY: We are building our fanbase everyday, and with time we will continue to grow and become a true sport of the 21st century.
How does it feel knowing there are children looking up to you and aspiring to achieve what you have?
FATAL1TY: It’s an honor. I push myself constantly to be a great role model and inspire people. I want people to go for it and try their hardest to achieve what they want.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest thing holding esports from breaking through into the mainstream?
FATAL1TY: It’s getting there, but it takes time. If I had to put it in simplest terms, everyone who has an opinion came from somewhere. They have their beliefs and thoughts and try to achieve their goals as well. If they’re in love with traditional sports, they will protect themselves as long as possible, naturally. If a new young person comes into the space and is in a situation of power, he might side more towards esports.
At the end of the day, I feel we all can succeed together, as I am in love with both esports and traditional sports. I look forward to these two markets working together, because at the end of the day we are all still competing to win!
If you could go back to yourself as a youth, what esports advice would you give yourself that you now know?
FATAL1TY: This is a very tough question, as I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason. I didn’t leave anything behind, because everyday I tried my hardest. So my advice to someone who wants to get into esports is to never give up, enjoy the ride, and make the most of every opportunity that presents itself.
Do you think there is an oversaturation of tournaments in esports today?
FATAL1TY: In traditional sports, there are tournaments all the time for the same sport, with each being at a different level, etc. I think eventually there will have to be one governing body to represent all the Majors in competitive gaming. But in reality, esports is more than just one game. It’s a lot of different games that are constantly changing.
I like how Riot, Valve, and Blizzard are approaching this right now though.
Thank you for the interview and make sure to always, “practice, practice, practice.”
What do you think about FATAL1TY’s responses? Is there something you agree or disagree with? Let us know in the comments or @GAMURScom.