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Internet heroes: 

Meet Dennis Fong, the world’s first pro gamer

Dennis Fong Pro Gamer

Dennis Fong leaves fellow gamers quaking in their boots

Today, the best gamers on games such as League of Legends expect to walk away with million-dollar prizes – but it wasn’t always that way. One gamer, Dennis Fong, changed all that – when he took up a challenge laid down by Quake creator John Carmack, and walked away with the keys to Carmack’s Ferrari.

 I never thought I’d own a Ferrari – let alone become a pro gamer 
“It all seems so far away,” Fong says today. “I never thought I’d own a Ferrari – let alone become a pro gamer.” 
It was June 21, 1997 – Fong shot the flamboyant lead programmer of Quake 13 times, and walked away with the keys to a classic Ferrari 328 GTS.

Fong remembers that he could see the car in the monitor screen as he played, “It hit me that I could win the car – that I was going to win it.”

Fong’s win came at the time when internet video was – just – making gaming a spectator sport. You can still see some of his wins on YouTube now, such as his annihilation of early rival Billox under his pro gaming moniker ‘Thresh’, thoughtfully posted below in grainy, game-o-vision. You get the idea anyway. He was quite good at Quake

Fong went on to co-create the Xfire gaming instant messaging service in 2002 under the banner of Ultimate Arena and sell it four years later (actually three years after the first official Xfire release) to Viacom for $102 million. A further four years later, MTV Networks (a subsidiary of Viacom) sold Xfire off to Titan Gaming for – we’re assured – considerably less than Fong originally sold it for. Handy at gaming and business savvy, too…

Fong now owns Raptr, a gaming network with 18 million members, “Raptr was created to really make gaming easier for people.  There are so many different tools we all use for chatting, VOIP, livestreaming, etc and there was a need to bring that all together into one app.  The same goes for your respective friends lists, which are unfortunately fragmented across different platforms; Raptr unifies all of them into one buddy list.”

Fong hung up his pro gaming boots long ago – it’s an industry where people peak at 25 – but he’s now brokering deals between companies such as Steam and Gamespot, and watching his hobby blossom into the one that will define this century. Fong, though, is still “hardcore”.

“One of the more recent things that has surprised me is the shift back to PC gaming.  We’ve seen the hype of Facebook and mobile games but the online PC gaming industry continues to be as strong as ever.”

Unlike in Fong’s heyday, there’s big money to be made from ‘esports’ these days. If you fancy a career change (bear in mind that conventional wisdom says you’ll need to be under-25 to stand a chance) then check out just how much today’s pro gamers are taking home for their efforts in esportsearnings.com’s top 100 list. It’s worth noting those ‘% of total’ figures to spot a potential gap in the market…

Photo: Acey Harper/Getty

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