QuakeCon 2016 certainly had it all. Warning, there are LOTS of pictures.
Endless gameplay for hours and hours each day!
Outstanding hardware that many gamers can only dream of having while others are super lucky to own them! Let’s not forget the amazing towers that were custom built!
And… C + 2 got to meet with the mega fantastic Dennis “Thresh” Fong who is not only a legend in the QUAKE franchise but also considered by many to be the first true professional gamer. During his playing days, he was featured across mainstream media including the front page of a Wall Street Journal article and earned over $100,000 a year in endorsements, all unprecedented at the time. His prowess at QUAKE and DOOM also popularized the now-standard WASD keyboard control scheme for the first person shooter genre.
Thresh is known for his deliberate, control-based playstyle, where he would typically starve opponents of resources rather than rely on pure aim. His style of play led him to numerous victories, such as the Red Annihilation Quake tournament in Dallas, where his first place prize was a custom modified Ferrari 328 GTS.
After retiring from competitive QUAKE, Thresh founded GX Media, which built the popular web portal gamers.com, and also co-founded Xfire, an online gaming instant message client that was acquired by Viacom in 2006 for $102 million. He is currently the CEO of the gameplay sharing service plays.tv and Raptr, Inc., a gaming focused software development company.
Seated among other journalists and bloggers, C + 2 was granted the opportunity to meet with Dennis “Thresh” Fong who is the second gamer to enter the Esports Hall of Fame with an induction ceremony at QuakeCon® 2016.
C + 2: Do you have any advice for women who want to pursue professional gaming?
Thresh: I don’t view any difference between women and men in terms of eSports which is why I think it’s so cool. Unlike most professional sports such as basketball for example, you’d have to be a certain height otherwise it’s going to be incredibly difficult to make it as a pro. Whereas in Esports there’s nothing to stop you. One of my good friends and teammates back when I was competing was paralyzed from the waist down but he could still be an amazing gamer. So to me, Esports is the great equalizer which is why I always thought for many years it would be inevitable for it to become something really big. There’s also the fact that many of the games played are mostly free like League of Legends, and you don’t need a $3,000 PC to get good performance as a player. And because I’ve known some incredible female gamers even back in the day when I was competing, I truly believe there should be no difference between a male or female in gaming because it takes place in a virtual world open to everybody.
C + 2: With a perspective of pro gaming, it’s said you were the one who started it all. How do you feel where it’s gone to this point such as ESL, Twitch, Youtube gaming celebrities?
Thresh: I always dreamed it would be as big as it is now. There was never a moment where I thought, “This is not going to happen, ever.” Still, it’s incredible to see what’s happened in just the past 4-5 years. We’ve seen it grow so much, but personally when I view it, I think a lot of the credit goes to Riot Games because they invest very heavily into production values. Esports for a long time would be a tournament here, and another random tournament there, yet not even the same players attend each one. But whereas with Riot all the teams are pretty much the same teams for almost an entire season. Riot spent almost $100 million last year just on Esports. And like professional sports they have directors, producers, analysts, and dozens of others behind the scenes who are broadcasting the events. It’s all definitely come a long way since when I started.
C + 2: Since the landscape of gaming has changed dramatically the past few years as you’ve mentioned, lots of people look up to you now as a role model in professional gaming. But was there anyone you looked up to during your journey?
Thresh: No, because my venture into professional gaming happened on accident. I didn’t aspire to be a pro gamer due to the fact that there literally was no such thing at the time. For me it was the right place at the right time. What kicked off my career really was when the Wall Street Journal wrote a story on me and it ended up on the front page in 1996. The very next day I started getting calls from CEOs of companies related to gaming who wanted to sponsor me. Within six months from that article coming out I was making $100,000 a year.
C + 2: Would you consider something Esports coaching?
Thresh: I’ve mentored a lot of people in Esports. It’s also how I stay connected with the community. Remember Johnathan Wendel aka Fatal1ty? I mentored him and we’re still very good friends. I feel that lots of Esports fans today don’t truly understand what it means to be a “pro”. I always approached it with a sense of responsibility, even hiring an agent in the 90s to help me sell sponsorships, to deal with media respectfully, and being on time to any and all events. All of that was super critical because that was part of my brand as Thresh. However, today a lot of kids getting into Esports don’t treat it with the amount of respect and responsibility as they should. This is why I branched out into multiple areas to help keep my brand strong. For me it was never about the money, it was about being able to reach others and share my point of view in games. I’ve read about kids and pros who criticize and trash talk others who are streaming their gameplay. All of that negativity is going to come back at them someday.
C + 2: What was it that got you into Esports and then into the competitive scene?
Thresh: I was in Junior High living at home playing games as most kids do. I did start to realize at some point that… I never really lost at playing (laughs). Even when I won one of John Carmack’s Ferrari’s I didn’t know how to drive a stick! I never aspired to be a pro gamer, it just fell in my lap. But I was old enough to treat pro gaming with respect.
C + 2: How do you feel about gamers using prescription drugs or energy drinks to increase concentration and reduce fatigue while gaming?
Thresh: Well, when games require a lot of concentration I’d never get tired. Maybe I’m different. I honestly don’t understand why people need to be drinking caffeine to play games. If you’re super competitive and want to win, why would you start feeling tired in a match? I think today most realize they need to eat, exercise and get sleep. At the same when you think about the age group of people in Esports they tend to be younger and don’t really listen to what adults tell you to do. You can’t necessarily teach people why to sit properly and tell them it’s important until later in life they start to feel pain. If I could travel back in time to give myself advice I’d definitely mention ergonomics because I started getting carpel tunnel which is very, very hard to reverse. So I would have told myself to take a proper break between every hour. When you’re in the zone you just want to keep playing. Sadly one of the contributing factors that led to my retirement from professional gaming was pain due to poor posture and such.
C + 2: Is there anything you specifically like or don’t like about Esports?
Thresh: Today I prefer the way League of Legends operates Esports compared to say… Valve. I like following through an entire narrative through a whole season. I don’t have to figure out which teams are playing and which aren’t. CounterStrike Go for example is great fun, but I can’t keep track of all their events. With League of Legends I get to know who won, if they’re going to compete in world championships and it’s the same team going all the way through. You get insights on the teams, who they are, what they do, their personalities and so on, much like in professional sports. With Overwatch, I’m hopeful Blizzard will go in a similar direction versus Valve which would probably say, “You want an event, then go run an event!” To me that doesn’t feel like Esports, that feels more like tournament. Even when it comes to prizes, winning the money doesn’t make me interesting in watching the games, it’s the people and their passion for the game.
C + 2: What would you tell the young people of today who aspire to pursue professional gaming the way you have?
Thresh: Don’t give up school, because just like in real sports, most people don’t make it. And unlike pro sports where if you make it, you make it with millions of dollars. Esports isn’t quite there yet. It’s tough. Stay in school, pursue what you love but have a backup plan in case it doesn’t work out.
C + 2 thanks Kevin Kelly, Manager of Content and Communications ESL for arranging the interview and to Dennis “Thresh” Fong for sharing his insights on Esports.
About the Esports Hall of Fame:
The Esports Hall of Fame is dedicated to preserving the rich history of competitive video games. Our goal is to honor the legacy and to tell the stories of the players and people who have made great contributions to Esports. Inductees will be selected through a nomination and voting process overseen by experts within each game community. www.esportshall.com
ESL is the world’s largest Esports company, leading the industry across the world’s most popular video games with numerous online and offline competitions. It operates high-profile, branded international and national leagues and tournaments such as the Intel® Extreme Masters, ESL One, ESL National Championships and other top tier stadium-based events, as well as grassroots amateur cups, leagues and matchmaking systems. ESL covers a broad field of services in gaming technology, event management, advertising and television production, fully catering to the needs of the Esports ecosystem. With offices in North America, Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Spain, China, Australia, and partners in many other countries, it has a truly global footprint. www.eslgaming.com