Making A Killing At Quake

Who says videogames are a waste of time? Dennis (Thresh) Fong, 22, is the Michael Jordan of the first-person shooter Quake, with more than $100,000 in prize winnings and endorsements from Microsoft. And with brothers Lyle, 25, and Bryant, 20, he's raised $11 million for gamers.com, which launches this week as the first games portal. Smart and personable, Fong spoke with NEWSWEEK's N'Gai Croal at his offices in downtown Berkeley.

CROAL: How do your parents feel about your making a career out of games?
FONG: While they didn't necessarily love the fact that we quit school to form a company, they did love the fact that we, as brothers, were doing it together. Our parents were rather skeptical at first about how big this games thing could get. But after I brought home the Ferrari, they knew there was something there.

What was it like speaking before Bill Gates at the European Technology Roundtable?
I didn't go there to pitch my product. I went because these 700 CEOs don't know how big games are. The next generation of consoles--the Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, the Nintendo Dolphin, even X-Box [Microsoft's rumored console machine]--are going to completely revolutionize the Internet. A lot of these consoles are actually WebTV, network computer, home entertainment system and ultimate game machine all in one. I'd like to have asked Gates about X-Box, but he arrived 20 minutes before my speech and left right after his.

Can a portal for videogames really succeed?
Everybody plays videogames. The CEO of eBay plays a lot of Quake and Tomb Raider. The CEO of Zip2.com plays a lot of Quake; I used to play with him. There are actually a lot of so-called closet gamers; at night and after work, they're playing, but no one else really knows about it.

Were you surprised that no one had done something like this?
When I tell people that we're launching the world's first games portal, they go, "You must be kidding." Our hope is that we'll bring together developers, publishers, fan sites, casual gamers and hard-core gamers all under one roof. Everyone here plays. That's our advantage--we are the target demographic.

What's your secret to winning at Quake?
There are a lot of sound cues. If my opponent picks up certain items, it tells me where he is. Say my opponent walks into a room. I'm visualizing him walking in, picking up the weapon. On his way out, I'm waiting at the doorway and I fire a rocket two seconds before he even rounds the corner. A lot of people rely strictly on aim, but everybody has their bad aim days. So even if I'm having a bad day, I can still pull out a win. That's why I've never lost a tournament.

What else are you working on?
Pamela Omidyar [wife of eBay CEO Pierre Omidyar] contacted me because she wants to develop this game for young cancer patients where kids can actually visualize fighting and killing cancer cells. She's got a bunch of Stanford doctors and child oncologists involved, and she asked me to be their game adviser, using some of the contacts I have in the industry. We want it to be a learning experience. But first and foremost, it should be fun and cool to play, to help the kids to get their mind off the pain.

Making A Killing At Quake | News