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Friday, November 25, 2005

Pro gamer collects six-figure salary

Pro gamer collects six-figure salary

"Wendel's journey to the Nokia Theatre in Times Square _ where he'll face off against other individual players in a "first-person shooter" game called Painkiller and hope to win his 12th major championship _ began around the age of five, when his father gave him a Nintendo system and he first played Ikari Warriors.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usJohnathan Wendel's blue eyes stare raptly at the computer screen, his long, thin fingers gliding the mouse side to side as he moves through dark corridors of a video game where a lethal opponent lurks. Before long, seemingly without effort, he has annihilated his foe.

Time to punch out. Another hard day at work.

Welcome to the basement lair of the 24-year-old Wendel, the man known and feared by aficionados of multiplayer games across the globe as "Fatal1ty."

If you deign to think of video games as simply a childish pastime, consider this professional game player. He collects a six-figure salary, has his own brand of gaming merchandise and travels the world to compete _ regarded by those in the know as one of the most gifted players of his kind.

"It's fun to play games for a living," says Wendel. "Getting up every day is very easy."

If professional video gamers have a knight-errant, Fatal1ty is he.

As gaming leagues have developed and small fortunes are made in what has become a multibillion-dollar business, this lanky blond has become the face of what fans refuse to classify as anything other than a sport.

"I'm doing something no one else has ever done before," Wendel said during a break from practice for the Cyberathlete Professional League World Tour Grand Finals that begin Sunday in New York, where first place would win him a $150,000 check. "I'm kind of a pioneer."

In social status terms, some may consider video gaming to be in a class with professional poker or competitive eating.

But Wendel is among those who hope to see it become as American as, well, baseball.

That idea horrifies some, as Angel Munoz found when he launched the Cyberathlete Professional League _ the first organization of its kind _ eight years ago.

Munoz quit investment banking to follow his dream. He thought the league a great idea but couldn't seem to even persuade his wife.

"She said, 'This is why you quit investment banking? To do this crazy thing?'" he recalled. "I couldn't convince even the gamers."" [more]

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