Jonathan Wendel has had a very good year. Known to the masses by his
screen name, Fatal1ty, he is the top-ranked gamer in the world. He has
been featured on MTVs "True Life: Im a Gamer", on ESPN, CNN, and in
magazines like Details, Maxim, Computer Gaming World, and Entertainment
Weekly. Pulling in over $100,000 in winnings last year, Fatal1ty is a
three-time world champion in the
Professional League. He has recently partnered with
makers of custom keyboards, mice, and other gaming accessories, has
invested in his retirement, and, perhaps most surprisingly, is one of
the nicest guys youll meet. Fatal1ty is rapidly becoming the ambassador
to the mainstream for professional gaming, and its hard to imagine a
better representative. I was lucky to get some sit-down time with
Fatal1ty during last weeks E3 show, which I used to get to know the
hardest working gamer in the world a bit better.
GamesFirst!: First of all, what does it feel like to be the
pro videogame player?
Fatal1ty: Its pretty cool. I mean, youre living a dream that
nobody else is, that no one probably thought was possible, and its
living a dream. I feel very fortunate that Im doing what Im doing and
I love doing it. I want to keep doing it; I want to contribute to the
gamers and create some cool, high quality products for gaming. Also, I
want to go back and do things to help sponsor and help grow the sport.
So were trying to do a lot of cool things and make this an accepted
GF!: Well lets get the business out of the way: Tell me what
youre doing with your Fatal1ty line and Auravision here at the show.
Fatal1ty: I just signed a massive licensing agreement with
Auravision, and theyll have the rights to manufacture all of my
products. So well have a Fatal1ty computer coming out, and were
rolling out right now a Fatal1ty keyboard and a Fatal1ty mouse. We
already have the Fatal1ty mouse pad that I sell pretty much worldwide,
in Europe and Japan, USA, and Canada. Basically were going to create a
lot of high-end gaming products for the gamers. And once weve grown the
company, we want to sponsor gamers through it. So as the revenue comes
into the company, well turn it right back around and put it back into
the gaming community.
GF!: So what does a gamer get from having a Fatal1ty keyboard and
Fatal1ty: Basically, its going to be the higher end. Its going
to be customized how I would want it. When youre playing its important
to have the best equipment available. The keyboard has certain
characteristics, such as how it allows you to respond faster because it
has quicker key action. With the mouse pad, it has a larger surface so
youre able to use a lower sensitivity and become more accurate and more
consistent. It will help you become a better player. The mouse pad is
very important because it allows you to have better aiming precision and
its more comfortable on your hands. The idea is to allow you to focus
on your game instead of your equipment, and thats what Ive always
preached since I began competing in 1999. I dont want to worry about my
equipment. I want my equipment to be there, done and over with so I can
focus on my game.
GF!: And how is the game working out so far?
Fatal1ty: Great. Over the last three years I was the Quake III
world champion in 1999. I was the CPL [Cyberathlete Professional League]
world champion in 2000. In 2001 I played more Quake III and won
tournaments all over the world, in Australia and other places. I was the
CPL winner in Dallas in 2001 and that was a repeat, which no one had
ever done before. But my goal is to get CPL champion every year. Its
like Tiger Woods; he wants to be PGA champion every year in golf, and I
want to do the exact same thing in gaming. In my third year, I went and
played Unreal Tournament 2003 and got first place in the CPL
championships. That was actually played on MTV. I won $10,000 and
captured my third CPL championship in a row.
GF!: I saw you on MTV, and, speaking of that, you come off as
this really mature, thoughtful guy, who is putting a lot of thought into
what youre doing as well as the future of what youre doing. What do
you say to people who expect you to be some kind of stereotypical
Fatal1ty: Everyone thinks that. You always have an image of that
top guy being a real jerk or whatever, and my goal when I got into this
game was to get rid of that image, especially from the gaming point of
view. There are these guys who think that theyre the hot stuff, and
they might bethey probably are one of the best gamers in the world. But
I come out, actually being the best gamer in the world, and show
a bit more of a modest side. I try to show an image like Michael Jordan
would, or like Tiger Woods does. Theyre icons of their sports, and
theyre mature, modest, and they know theyre the bestthey dont have
to tell you; they just play the game.
GF!: You compare yourself often to other well-known athletes. But
there are people out there who dont buy it, who question the notion of
a "cyberathlete". What do you say to them?
Fatal1ty: If you name a sport or an athletic concept, I can give
you an example of that from the game. No joke. Like, you talk about an
overhand slam in tenniswell I can give you a perfect example of how you
do it in UT2003: Youre over a hill, and you have to shoot over a ledge.
You do just like you do in tennis. You jump up so high and you shoot
that shot while youre in the air to get that guy. Same thing with
dodging. The other guys going to shoot you, so you have to dodge and
fake him out. So you look left, go right. Or you keep pushing up on him,
knowing all the time that hes going to shoot to your left as soon as
you go left, so you go right the whole time because you just know
what hes thinking. Its just like being in any other game. When you get
in the game, youre high, and youre in the groove, and noone can hit
GF!: Would you say that people often, and mistakenly, perceive
athletics to be a purely physical activity?
Fatal1ty: Yeah, theres definitely a focus on the physical
activity, but I tell you: This game has so much thought process going
on. You can think of it as chess, but this is not chess. This is like
chess and sports in one. You have to have real stamina, not just
physical stamina, but brain stamina. You have to bring that mental game,
and thats the most important thing in these tournaments. When you get
to the high levels, its always a mental game. You just have that
confidence, knowing youre the best, youve got to win. And thats the
kind of focus you have to have going into it.
GF!: So you play UT2003, Quake III, Aliens vs. Predatordo you
play any other games competitively?
Fatal1ty: Those are the main games Ive been playing lately. I do
play a little Counter Strike, but not too much competitively. Theres
always a Quake III tournament coming up or a UT2003 tournament coming
upsomething big. And the thing is, I love having all the pressure on
me. When the pressures on me, Ill play my best game. When I play a
one-on-one game and its all up to me, its nice knowing that if I lost
its really my fault, and not my teams. Its cool having that edge,
kind of like tennis, like Andre Agassi; you know, that guys cool, hes
just awesome. And he knows he has to work on certain parts of his game;
likewise, I know I need to work on certain parts of my game and get
better. So if I ever do lose, I know I have to work on certain things.
GF!: I know that being a game reviewer, I go through loads of
games. You spend a lot of time with individual games, but Im thinking
we might have something in common: How do you find the time to just play
games for fun anymore? Or do you?
Fatal1ty: Oh yeah, I definitely play for fun. I play Counter
Strike for fun. I play Battlefield 1942 for fun. I play Warcraft III for
fun. I play all kinds of things. And also, on top of that, I play sports
a lot. Ive played sports all my life, and I broke some school records
at my high school for tennis, so I love playing tennis. I love golf. I
like football, basketball. Im a sports maniac and I love playing every
sport there is. I grew up that way.
When I was 13, I actually played competitive billiards. I got up to
where I could go to Junior Nationals for billiards. I tore up these old
guys all the time at tournaments and whatnot. Id play in professional
tournaments and Id win like four or five games off guys who played
billiards at the highest level. I wanted to make a career of it, but
things didnt work out. My mom didnt want me to go compete so much, so
I kind of lost the drive to play that. I was kind of upset, but she
didnt want me to go to the Junior Nationals.
Ive always had these skills of hand-eye coordination. Im able to
understand mathematics. Theres so much math that goes into these kinds
of games and sports. Ive always had a knack for being really good at
these kinds of sports, and its just something thats always driven me.
GF!: By now youve got people knowing you, and ordering your
products from your website and reading about your winnings. What do you
say to the people who want to beat youwho want to be the next Jonathan
Fatal1ty: Well, youve got to have good enough equipment. You
have to have dedication. You have to practice. And youve got to have
fun. I started out and this was just a hobby, just fun. It was a thing
to do at night after playing sports. At 8pm at night my friends and I
would get going on some Quake or Doom 2. We used to string a network
cable across the cul-de-sac to play Doom 2. And it was just a hobby. The
next thing you know, Im playing in the CPL. Thats what you have to do.
Go to the LANs around your area, show up, and play against the good
It was always just a hobby, but when I turned 18, I thought, OK,
lets see how good I can do. I went to Dallas, played in the CPL
tournament, the first time Id ever played professionally, and I won
four thousand dollars. I got home, I put the check on the table, and I
said, "Look at that, Mom and Dad. I made $4000 playing a computer
gamewhats this world coming to?" That was back in 99. After that I
got invited to go to Sweden. People paid my airfare and everything. I
got sponsored by a company to use their mouse, and after that it just
boomed. Lately its booming again, and this thing is just getting bigger
and bigger. Were going to make it, and were going to make this really
fun for a ton of people.
GF!: You mentioned practice, and I heard you talk about this on
the MTV special. But how much do you practice every day?
Fatal1ty: I think two to six hours a day is typical. But if its
before a tournament, I practice eight-plus hours a day easily. One time
at the house in San Antonio where we were training down there, we woke
up at 9am and gamed all day until 4am. My friend went to bed, but I kept
gaming with another friend for two or three hours. I got up to get a
Coke from the fridge because I needed the caffeine, yknow, and my
friend, who Id just got done playing with for like 15 hours straight
wakes up and says, "What are you doing Jonathan?" And Im like, "I dont
" So I said, "You wanna practice more?" And he says, "OK." So he
gets up after three hours sleep and we went at it again, all the way
until like 8pm that night. We went for 36 hours or so.
To me thats fun. We were having so much fun. People kept showing up
and we were just having a blast. Were talking smack back and forth. Im
not a big smack talker really, but when Im hanging out with friends and
stuff we talk. Well be like, "In your face!" and like, "Oh! Facial!" It
was hilarious. That time we were laughing so hard I was just rolling out
the front door. I was on my knees laughing so hard because these two
brothers, Shogun and Valdez, were talking so much smack. I mean, you
know their brothers, but they talk trash so hard its hilarious. We have
a ton of fun just practicing and its a blast.
GF!: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Fatal1ty: Hopefully still gaming. I want to game. I want to stay
true to the gamers. I want to be with them and have fun with them.
GF!: Is Fatal1ty still going to be a huge name among gamers?
Fatal1ty: Yeah, were going to still make the high end gaming
products for the gamers. I mean, 40 years from now Ill probably be
retired and who knows what. I might not be able to play anymore. But
Ill still be with the gamers. I just want to sponsor them, help the
community grow, and do all kinds of things. I really hope to sponsor
gamers and help them experience the fortune that I have for the past
You can find out more about Fatal1ty and keep track of his winning on