Forbes: Is this Your Life or What? — Dennis Fong tells writer Gary Andrew Poole about his life as a champion gamer

-Excerpt and images courtesy of the Internet Archive and Forbes magazine, December 1, 1997

“SOMETIMES PEOPLE ASK ME for my autograph, and it’s just too strange, you know? Like, huh? You want my autograph? And then, when I’m signing it, it’s like: Am I supposed to sign it Dennis Fong or Thresh?

I was nicknamed Threshold. Like threshold of fear, threshold of pain. But then, when I went to an online game server, it wouldn’t let me fit my whole name. So, I shortened it. I mean, people used to call me Thresh anyway because Threshold is kind of a long name to type. But you know, I just shortened it to Thresh, and then like a week later, I looked it up and the definition was “to strike repeatedly.” I thought it was pretty cool.

Gaming’s a good way to vent your frustrations. If you want to kick someone’s ass because they did something to you, you can go online and blow away a whole bunch of people—have fun, start laughing, right? Oh, yeah, that’s so fun. You don’t shoot someone online and then think you’re going to actually go off and kill someone. Then I’d probably be like the most violent person in the world, you know?

The whole point of Quake is to grab a weapon and then hunt down your opponent. I usually warm up by shooting nothing. Then I’ll just jump into a game—that’s how I practice. I’m currently the best game player in the world because of natural ability. I mean, not to sound cocky or anything, but everyone has a certain plateau they can reach. Someone can play 12 to 15 hours a day, and they don’t really get any better. But me, you know, I have an inhuman ability to know my opponents’ next move.

I always know where my opponent is. And there’s no way to really outsmart that ability. I have really, really quick reflexes. Even if someone is hiding, I can hear where the shot came from and shoot back a split second later. I just pick up on things. I kind of know what the other person’s feeling. I’m always one step ahead of them. I’m good on all the levels, whereas some of the people are only good on one level. And I’m good with all the weapons. And I’m good against all styles. You know, some people are really, really aggressive, and some people are really, really defensive. I’m good against either one, and I mix mine up.

Going into E3 in Atlanta, I wasn’t really expecting to win. I didn’t want to go in expecting to win and then be disappointed, even though I was the favorite. So I said, well, as long as I place in the top four, I’ll at least get some cash. I’d still be a little bit upset with myself. But, you know, whatever.

All of the top players were there. But there wasn’t quite as much animosity as I expected. Sometimes there are people you don’t get along with online. And then you have a rift. But everyone had cleared the slate. We all started new and it was really cool. It was like one of my greatest competitors, whose name is Entropy, was interesting. I had breakfast with him several times.

The final match was pretty intense. You know, I could see the change of styles. In a semifinal match, Entropy was down. With only a few minutes left, I saw him charge recklessly. He was able to kill the guy, and he ended up winning. So when I was playing him, I was up 7 to 0 with about seven minutes left. I knew right away he would be coming after me. So I changed my style and waited for him to come. Like I would trap him in a room, and then he’d be forced—because he was down—to be the one that comes around the corner and starts shooting. But I’d be shooting at the corner, so he had nothing to do but take the first shot in the face. That’s how I ended up winning.

A kid winning a Ferrari is a pretty big deal. It doesn’t happen every day. It’s weird. I’m learning how to drive a stick shift. I’m just kind of driving the car around. I haven’t driven very far, just because I’m not totally sure of my stick skills.

Photography by William Mercer McLeod.”

-Excerpt and images courtesy of the Internet Archive and Forbes magazine, December 1, 1997

Frontline, by Thresh

Thursday, December 4, 1997

Karlgaard on Thresh Dispute — Forbes ASAP Editor Tells His Side

Wednesday, December 10, 1997

“Forbes ASAP is a national magazine covering the digital revolution — the technologies and people that make up the Internet. Its most recent issue profiles 70 different people on the cutting edge of the society and culture in the information age — everyone from Andy Grove and Bill Gates to Ted Koppel and the prime minister of Israel. They even spoke to a Nevada prostitute about the Comdex crowd.

And they also spoke with Dennis Fong, the world’s top-ranked Quake player. That’s when the trouble began.

Fong complained that his profile was an inaccurate representation of his remarks — that what he said made him come across as extremely arrogant. Additionally, because of the presentation of the article, it implied that he was the author of the piece, when in fact it was based on a taped interview, says Fong.

He addressed those concerns in his online column, Frontline .

Peter Kim, Fong’s personal manager, says he contacted Forbes ASAP, voicing their concerns about the piece. In return for his troubles, Kim says, he was sworn at, and that Karlgaard, the editor of Forbes ASAP, referred to computer gamers as a ‘generation of illiterate assholes.’

That’s not quite the way it happened, says Forbes ASAP editor Richard Karlgaard.

‘Peter Kim did not identify himself as an editor or journalist when he talked to me,’ Karlgaard tells PC Gamer. ‘He said he was ‘representing’ Dennis Fong. I thought he was a lawyer or a flack, but within seconds I surmised he wasn’t a lawyer.’

Karlgaard maintains that the introduction to the feature makes it clear that Fong’s profile was based on an interview. The introduction reads in part: ‘We assembled 17 journalists and sent them off to gather stories from a cross section of modern life in the era of the microchip and the Internet.’

(This introduction, like the Thresh profile itself, is also available online.)

‘Peter wouldn’t listen to the facts, since it blew his story,’ says Karlgaard. ‘So he kept on and on with his false accusation. He still kept on and on with it, days later, on the site. Finally, at wit’s end, I said to Peter: Your readers must be a generation of illiterate assholes if they can’t read plain text.’

Karlgaard says that it was ‘a mistake’ to lose his temper this way. But since his remarks were reported on, Karlgaard says he has been getting an earful from angry gamers.

‘I received scores of emails, most of them hostile at first; all of them perfectly reasonable and cordial when explained the facts,’ he tells us.

These emails did end up changing his opinion of Internet gamers, however.

‘Hey, these folks are blazingly smart and erudite,’ says Karlgaard. ‘I was shocked to discover that, since Peter Kim had represented them as incapable of reading and distinguishing a bylined article from a taped and edited interview.’

And as for online gaming itself, Karlgaard calls it, ‘Nothing less than the training ground for tomorrow’s leaders in business, military, education, and sports! Simulation is the key to learning. Nothing so approximates that like computer games.'”

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