Today’s Feature, May 11-12, 2007: Fatal1ty

January 18, 2008 at 6:18 pm (Today's Feature)

For anyone that has heard their parents say, “Stop wasting your time playing videos games!”…tell them to call John Wendel’s parents. After all, when your son is the single greatest video gamer of all time, a little playing around never hurt. Wendel first got interested in Nintendo, when he was a kid. He’d play when the weather was bad, or he was bored or when friends came over, just to hang out. Early on however, he realized that he was not only good at video games, he was unbeatable. Still, beating all the kids in the neighborhood hardly means you can make a living playing video games. And years ago, pre-internet, no one ever thought video games to be more then just recreational entertainment. However, with the popularity of the internet, video gaming became interactive; allowing you to compete against people not only around the corner but around the world. This is how Wendel’s alias Fatal1ty (yes, spelled with a 1) became more recognizable then your most famous professional sports star. Ironic, since Wendel is being called the Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and any other iconic sports figure you can think of. Let’s take it a step further. We can easily call him the Ralph Lauren of the gaming world, since he owns his own line of gaming apparel. Or we can call him the Picasso of the gaming worlds, since he is reshaping the modern gaming world and into the next generation of graphic art. Throw in the next John Madden as well, since he has recently signed on as spokesperson and commentator of Championship Gaming Series. When the corporate world needs to find out what gamers want, they call Wendel first. After all only in his twenties, the Fatal1ty brand has already made more money then an average person will see in a lifetime. Wendel has, and easily can, rake in six figures for a single tournament. He’s been featured on MTV’s True Life, Time Magazine (as a feature and a correspondent), every single gaming magazine possible and of course the television deal with Direct TV (Championship Gaming Series). With such credentials and success, Wendel is one of the most humble, down to Earth individuals PensEyeView has come across. When asked about his success, earnings and championships, he doesn’t brag, but simply states facts, which to anyone else would be grounds for boasting. He still hangs out with his high school friends in his home town of Kansas City. In his spare time he can be found playing basketball, golf and football with the same people that knew him well before the world knew him as Fatal1ty. He enters corporate meetings with the laid back approach he would take talking to an old friend but knows how to take care of business. At any gaming convention, Fatal1ty can’t go five feet without someone recognizing him and asking for his autograph. Like the true sportsman he is, he obliges (unlike other more well known athletes). If you don’t know anything about the gaming world, class is now in session. Read Fatal1ty’s XXQs to find out more.

XXQs: John “Fatal1ty” Wendel

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved with video games?

John Fatal1ty Wendel (JF): I first got started playing Nintendo when I was like 5 or 6 years old. I also started playing flight simulator games on PC, then as a teenager I got hooked on PC gaming even more because of the online capability. I found it to be more competitive and then started entering tournaments. Next thing you know eventually going pro and winning money.

PEV: When did you first turn pro and what officially declared you as a professional gamer?

JF: When I was 18 years old I entered a tournament down in Texas were all the pros go to and took fourth place, winning $4,000. Then I got ranked in the top 3 in the world, just by wining that $4,000. I took on sponsorships and became world champion in Quake 3 and became a world champion at 18.

PEV: What was the one game that brought gaming into mainstream?

JF: The one game that really did it was Quake 3. That broke out gaming and the first year as a pro I won $110,000, mainly from Quake 3.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about your success?

JF: It’s crazy…I don’t know…they can’t believe it. They really like it and support me. It is a lot of fun to make a living doing this and I love doing it.

PEV: What type of training do you do for these tournaments?

JF: I wake up in the morning and run for about 2 or 3 miles to get my stamina up for a tournament. And then I usually practice for 8 hours a day.

PEV: Your schedule is very busy, but on the rare chance you get to take a break, what can we find you doing?

JF: I play a lot of golf, basketball, pick up games of football in the winter time when there is a lot of snow. Also pick up games in so hockey in the winter as well. A lot of sports…I love playing sports. I love competing.

PEV: You seem to have quite a competitive nature.

JF: I love competing and playing sports. Any time I can compete and play sports, I’ll do it.

PEV: Music is a huge part of gaming. Musicians can even make a living off selling tracks to companies, how important is the music to a game?

JF: Well music plays a big part in gaming; it makes it better overall but when we are playing in competition you are listening to the quality of the sound, not so much as to the music. For the first person shooter games, like Quake, I need to hear where my opponent is…that is the most important thing. The X-fi sound card allows for open air and allows you to hear the sound above, below, around the corner…all the stuff that makes the game. If you can hear your opponent and hear where they are, you know if you are safe or under attack.

PEV: The graphics and art in games like Quake 3 is amazing. How has the art become so important to the games?

JF: Well, I think that the graphics are always getting better every year. I think we are still no where near where can be. Gaming is just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger and the graphics will just get better with every game.

PEV: You are obviously very competitive and play sports all the time. What do you say to people who don’t consider gaming to be a sport?

JF: Well, you have to see the kind of game I play which is a first person shooter and it is extremely like a sport. You take a game like Doom or Quake, which takes a lot of hand eye coordination, just like a sport. The only thing that kind of doesn’t make it like a sport is there is no physical contact. It doesn’t take a lot of strength or exertion, but other then that but it involves your mind and it involves thinking about your move. You have to know when to shoot just like in any other sport and your timing needs to be perfect.

PEV: How does it feel to be compared to Michael Jordan and Tiger in relation to doing for PC Gaming, what they did for their sport?

JF: Well of course it is an honor to be associated with those names, in the gaming world. I just try to win as many games as I can…I don’t know…it is a lot of pressure but I enjoy the pressure and I think that is why I do so well at tournaments. I like to be under pressure. As for being the face of gaming, I guess like all these other athletes who are the face in their sports, I just try to be as real and humble as I can and be a good role model especially for kids and help them understand the process I went through. I didn’t just sit at my computer all day. I got good grades in school, I am well rounded person, and was a well rounded kid. I didn’t get in a lot of trouble; I did my homework and did my gaming at night, just as fun. If you can just do that, you will be a really good gamer.

PEV: I think a lot of people go to know you after the MTV’s reality show, “True Life: I’m a Gamer”. What was that experience like?

JF: Well, obviously after the True Life show I became like a celebrity around the world. It was shown in so many countries; Germany, Russia, it was all translated and I immediately got recognized when I traveled over seas. Even in my home city of Kansas City I got recognized, driving around in my car and stuff. And it was really interesting, I became famous for playing video games, it was great (laughs). But you know people don’t really see how hard work and training I do and people just think, [Oh, you just play games, you don’t really do much all day…you’re just a slacker…] but really there is a lot of work that goes into it. The guys who play games professionally and make a living gaming are very serious and like any other sport if you can’t make it in the first year, you got to start another job. If you can’t make the cut you have to go to the real world, just like any other sport. There is a high turnover rate in the pros.

PEV: Like Tiger and Michael, you have your own clothing line. Tell us about the Fatal1ty clothing line?

JF: Well right now Fatal1ty brand, the lifestyle brand for gaming, we have some clothing right now but we are working with companies to get more clothes out there globally.But it is something that we have been working on and is something that I think will be really cool to do.

PEV: What was it like when you had to face large corporate companies who were interested in getting involved with the gaming industry?

JF: Well, the thing is, I get along with everyone really. I talk to them the same way I would talk to my friends. I mean, of course there is business going on and you have to discuss things in a business manner but for most things I just try to be myself and that we offer good things for our companies. I just talk to them and they see what I’m doing and they really like seeing how much exposure there is and what I am trying to do for gaming all around. That is how I’ve been able to get a lot of my deals; just by being myself and real and I haven’t really had to do anything but be myself.

PEV: How many championships do you currently hold and does this make you more of a target at the tournaments?

JF: Oh yeah, it does. I’ve won 12 major world championships and I’ve been champion at 5 different games. As a target, of course I’m a target; I mean everyone is gunning for me. For me it’s pretty tough but I like the pressure and competing and I like winning every time. I mean losing sucks and for me I learn as much as I can from losing and I try to do that. If you don’t learn from you loses then you’ll never become better.

PEV: With all the competition, has there been a lot of trash talking between the players?

JF: There sometimes is, but not from me. I only spoken before a match has happened twice and I won both times but usually I don’t talk about that kind of stuff. This one time in New York, I called out my shot and won $150,000. I said I was going to win 4 in a row and then I did. So it felt pretty good. And then there was a time back in 2002 I had this one rival and people said he was the best guy in the world and then I beat him 14 to -1.

PEV: Wow! 14 to -1, that is a pretty good beating?

JF: I was pretty mad at the time (laughs). I wasn’t mad at him, he is a real nice guy but the people that were his friends and were backing him up or part of his entourage, I really didn’t like them and was mainly doing it to destroy them…not him personally.

PEV: You’ve traveled all over the world. What are the best cities for gaming?

JF: The best city for gaming…I would say in America the south is probably one of the biggest places because of hype around Quake and QuakeCon. For overseas probably Sweden and Jonkoping, also Germany, Seoul, those are the real big ones right now…China as well.

PEV: Being the most famous gamer in the world, do you have any crazy run-ins with fans?

JF: Well, it’s funny I mean just from playing video games and from being on MTV you get a kind of celebrity status in a lot of ways. But my fans are great.

PEV: Which company do you think puts out the best gaming product?

JF: It really just depends on what kind of person you are. I’d say if you were just trying to have fun and relax and are a casual gamer; the Wii is a really good gaming system to be playing now. But if you are trying to be more professional I would say more towards the XBox 360 for console. But I play all on PC because PC offers the most talent and competition for gaming right now. PC is really the ultimate for competing.

PEV: How does it make you feel when you see people waiting outside stores for hours to get game systems? That is a pretty good sign that gaming is here to stay.

JF: Oh definitely, I mean gaming is a global sport. I mean not all video games are a sport but I believe that first person shooter games are a sport. I think first person shooting gaming is more like a sport because of the hand eye coordination and it is really like an art. It is something special. Not everyone can do it. You can’t just move the controller left or hit “A” and something is going to happen, there is a lot more going on then that. But you look at soccer as a global sport, and every country has soccer teams…but I believe that gaming is bigger the soccer and you are going to see a lot more competition through gaming them you would through any other mainstream sport.

PEV: So, what is next for Fatal1ty?

JF: Right now I have been working as the spokesperson for Championship Gaming Series on Direct TV, channel 101. I’ve been doing color commentary and a TV host with them. I talk about the matches and give in put like how the player won, what they did or could have done. Also, still working on building the Fatal1ty brand. We’re working on launching a head set pretty soon; the Fatal1ty Creative Headset later this year, and we already have our professional Fatal1ty Laser Mouse out at some retail stores. And the Fatal1ty Professional Keyboard, the one I use in competitions. Other then that just doing interviews and traveling and bringing gaming to the mainstream.

PEV: I have to admit, it’s a pretty good gig you have.

JF: Yeah (laughs) I have to admit, I mean I make a living playing video games and traveling. I travel the world basically saying “Gaming is good” and letting everyone know about how much fun gaming can be and I just really love what I do. I think anyone that plays games knows what I am talking about. To find out more about Fatal1ty, check out: http://www.Fatal1ty.com

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