Another interview with Fatal1ty

After having played host to Tom Cruise the night before, Leicester Square was entertaining an entirely different kind of American legend on Friday afternoon when Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel turned up to challenge the British public at Doom 3. Although his turnout might not have matched that of the Collateral premiere, Jonathan was not without challengers and several fans of pro gaming turned out to watch the master in action. The screams of the dying, punctuated by the dull thuds of shotgun blasts, certainly helped to draw the crowds in too.

With Abit as his sponsors, Johnathan has been carving a path of destruction across Europe and promoting his range of Fatal1ty branded products, such as the Fatal1ty/PWX Gaming System and the Fatal1ty Motherboard. “Abit already enjoys a lot of success with high-end gaming systems and I think it’s getting more and more important to market to gamers,” Steven Chen, Abit’s UK Sales Director, told us. It’s no secret that many PC gamers are willing to put their money where their mouths are and spend extra for more powerful machines that don’t cut corners with second-rate component. The Fatal1ty range are designed to appeal to this choosy but very lucrative market.

Having a blast

Steven was optimistic about the public’s chances of beating Johnathan but, like many of those who turned up especially to see him in action, it was as much about the experience as the result. “Everything is possible, but I think whether you beat him or not is not that important – the most important thing is that we’re letting UK gamers play a game with the number one gamer in the world.” It’s also a mutual back-scratching arrangement, of course, Johnathan gets to raise the profile of gaming as a professional sport and Abit get a gaming figurehead to pitch their products a sassy, performance-oriented customer base. The £1000 prize on offer to anyone who could beat Fatal1ty was, of course, a moot point. Playing a similar event in LA, a hundered challengers managed a collective total of one frag against Jonathan. If a gamer came off the street and reached the total of six points (Or even lasted more than five minutes, most challengers barely managed half that) it would be one of the biggest stories ever in pro gaming.

“He’s very quick with his responses, he has reflexes like you wouldn’t believe,” said Robert Johnston,

one of the day’s many challengers. “He had very good strafing, and he’s very good at predicting where you would be. You’d comearound a corner and he’s already there, waiting. I think the only way you could beat him is to stick a five year old in there who has no preconceptions whatsoever. He’s very good at reading how people play the game, and how people *would* play the game. It’s not just how you’re playing, but him knowing what you’re going to do next.”
It’s all in the mind

Speaking to Johnathan challengers, as well as the man himself, provides an interesting insight into the the skills that are really required to become a successful FPS gamer. “Most guys can’t really match the stamina that I have. I’m very dedicated, I play games for four or five hours straight a day,” Johnathan told us, emphasising how much more important he finds it to play with people than bots. “I really don’t practise with bots at all. I practise with people all the time, whether they’re a newbie or a pro, I think you can learn something from them all.”

Of course, it’s no secret that both practice and dedication will improve your ability, but it seems the real key to becoming an FPS gaming champion is in the mind, as Johnathan explains. “Obviously, a lot of it comes down to really good hand eye co-ordination and reflexes but there’s also knowing *how* to win. I think learning in sports how to win has definitely carried over into my gaming. A lot of it is attitude.”

“I focus on an attacking game. I always have a game plan for myself when I go into a tournament and I set rules for myself, I tell myself ‘I’ll play this way, unless this happens, then I’ll play *this* way’. I never try to play too crazy. You must also learn to change, you can’t always play the same way, otherwise good players will always get you. I’m always changing my gameplan and I never do one thing, the same thing for the whole game.” As well as being disciplined and focused, Johnathan wins by simply playing smarter than his opponents, thinking ahead towards their next move and thwarting it before it’s even put into motion. It’s not just a battle of reflexes, but also of wits. “When I consider my opponent, I’m thinking about what weapon he has in his hand, where the guy’s coming from, what positions he’s going to have a disadvantage in, what spot I’ll have an advantage in. It’s like he has a bishop, and I have a queen, and I know how to attack him with that piece.” There are a dozen factors to consider at once and, much as people might consider FPSs as ‘twitch-gaming’ Johnathan reckons success rests in the mind.

“It’s definitely like chess. I’m making moves and you’ve got to be making moves to counter me. If you’re not, I’ll beat you.”

The Master’s Voice

Johnathan was lucky to receive support for his pro-gaming career from his family and friends. “They support me of course, at first they were very skeptical, and they were like ‘This is crazy,’ but after winning more money than I could’ve made in a year they were like ‘Oh… okay!'” Nevertheless, his advice to young, CPL champion wannabes is not to squander their education: “If you’re still young, you’re still in school, then obviously that comes first. Playing sports is very good to enhance your mental game and to teach you how to win. At night time, play computer games, of course, with your friends, go to local LAN parties, if you get a chance, go to one of the major events and have a blast. Those events are unbelievable fun, having two or three thousand guys at a LAN party, it’s an insane amount of fun, everyone’s eating pizza, it’s a great guys night out.”

Also, team-based shooters, such as CS and BF1942, don’t rate so highly with him, at least not when it comes to the progaming stakes. “I love playing them but I don’t think you can make a living out of playing those games, if you want to make a living from playing computer games you have to play one on one games. I won $25,000 three weeks ago at Quakecon and the guys playing the team tournament who came first only got $2,000 each. One vs one is where the money is at.” It’s also the purest, most gladiatorial of the FPS experiences. “One on one is definitely awesome, it’s very easy for spectators to watch and understand what’s going on, it’s like a boxing match.” Johnathan’s tour is set to continue through Europe and culminates in Russia at the ABIT Open Cup 2004 in Moscow on

September 12th.