At QuakeCon 2016, we were lucky to sit down and interview Dennis “Thresh” Fong who has been known for his great achievements as both a competitive gamer in titles such as Quake, Quake II, and QuakeWorld. He has also been known for his adventures that have lead him into working in gaming social media such as the once famed VoIP client XFire, the ever-extremely-popular, Raptr.com gaming service and his newest project Plays.tv that acts as the Instagram for gamers.
As one of the most intriguing and controlling players in Quake history, Dennis “Thresh” Fong revolutionized what it was like to be a control based player in Quake, and even push players to their limits. He was and is also known for his standard in using the WASD keyboard standard for movement. In 1997 Thresh revealed how good he is, how good he can be, and how great he will be always remembered for as he continues on in gaming as well as business. His greatness is deserved as he has now become the second inductee into the Esports Hall of Fame. You can see his induction video below as well as our one on one interview with him about his vision as an eSports gamer and a businessman.
Dustin: Your achievements in the pro-league, before pro-leagues existed, have been a really important thing as for me as a gamer in the competitive edge. One thing I did notice is, I had to go back and read because I didn’t realize your joint-adventures continued post Quake. What really, cuz I know you did XFire and I know you’ve done Raptr, I actually use Raptr, it’s a really cool service. Do you foresee Raptr continuing to grow towards not just social media integration, but even further out than that beyond Twitch, Daily Motion, and other services?
Thresh: Yea, I mean, with Raptr, what we’re focused on right now is our new service called Plays.tv. Actually, ever product and company I started was to solve my own personal frustrations as a gamer – most of the time. Y’know, I always felt that PC gaming, the community was kind of neglected by the developers. Not so much anymore, Steam’s obviously much, much better than it used to be, but we built stuff for me basically. Plays.tv is basically like an Instagram for gamers. Where you know, most people, I feel like live streaming is so much work.
I don’t think I would have ever really live streamed, but I would have used a service like Plays.tv to share cool moments while I was playing.
Dustin: Like getting that triple kill or team wipe?
Thresh: And to make it really easy to do that. So a lot of people don’t know Plays.tv for all the top games like League, Counter Strike, DotA, and Rocket League. It automatically records every kill, death, assist, triple kill, whatever key objective, and creates clips for you that are already pre-edited. Not only can you go back and watch your play and see what you did wrong, or if you did great, you can share it. From like doing something cool in a game to sharing it at the end of a game takes less than 10 seconds.
Dustin: That’s going to be one thing I’m pretty sure of us here that game know that perspective of. I do a little bit of PlayStation 4 gaming, I do a little PC, I do a little Xbox Gaming also.
Thresh: It’s like the Xbox auto-capture.
Dustin: One thing,we know there has been some hardships. Can you discuss some of those hardships? I know XFire was one of them since it got shut down. Can you discuss that?
Thresh: So that had nothing to do with me, actually. So I started XFire in 2004, MTV/Viacom bought in 2006. This is the hayday of Xfire, when it was the most popular kind of social communication tool.
Dustin: I used it when I played World of Warcraft
Thresh: Exactly. Sold it in 2006, I left in 2007. The XFire that you know that is around today, the XFire that has been around for 8 years, had nothing to do with the original team. I heard it was shut down, but it had nothing to do with me. I believe they were doing some tournament related stuff with it.
Dustin: I probably stopped using it around 2008, I probably actually Uninstalled it by then. I was probably already using the Steam overlay by then.
Thresh: But XFire, we invented overlays, we invented buddy lists where you could see what your friend are playing, invented joining your friends in a game with a click. We are proud on all the stuff we created and invented. But, since basically 2007, certainly by 2008, none of the original team that built the thing, had anything to do with it anymore. So that’s probably why it started declining after we all left.
Dustin: Once the content updates, not so much content, but the hotfixes for the integration tools I noticed a lot of people stopped using XFire. It just kind of died all of the sudden, it wasn’t over time, but it was almost instantly.
Thesh: But yea, that had nothing to do with me. *starts laughing*
Dustin: I figured I would ask that, because I know that was one thing you were involved with, but I honestly didn’t have a lot of time to research into that.
Thresh: Yea, nope, I was involved in creating it obviously. And it got bought, and then we all left.
Dustin: With a perspective of pro gaming. I know it started with you. It is truly even recognized, you started it all. How do you feel where it’s gone to this point? Where it’s gotten to these big leagues like ESL, Twitch.TV leagues that just pop up, Call of Duty pro leagues; how do you feel about what you started? This overall giant empire of pro gaming.
Thresh: Yea, I mean, as I said, I always dreamed it would be as big as it is now. But I always thought it was inevitable. There was never a moment where I was like this thing isn’t going to happen. I actually thought, it’s just a matter of time. It’s still incredible to see what’s happened in the past 3-4-5 years; we’ve really seen it grow. Personally, I think a lot of the credit goes to Riot because they invest very heavily into production values of building a story. Because you know, when I follow most professional sports, it’s like the arch of the entire season, and the trials and the tribulations that the team or your team experiences through it; and the individual players and their struggles; and triumphs. That’s what makes sports: sports.
But eSports for a long time, was like “Oh there’s a tournament here, and there’s a random tournament here, and another one here.” Like, it’s not necessarily the same players that attend each one. So like, who’s the legitimate champion when someone – the guy who couldn’t make it out to Denmark or something. But where as with Riot, it’s like, all the teams are pretty much all the same teams through almost an entire season. They have splits. Y’know, they spend a lot of money. I think it was like last year, I think they spent $100 million dollars on eSports. A $100 million dollars.
Dustin: That’s just mind blowing.
Thresh: Yea, it’s mind blowing, but if you look at the production value, it’s just like professional sports. They have directors, producers, analysts, dozens of people, like, just like a NFL broadcast practically. So yea, it’s come a long ways. It’s pretty cool to have been apart of it when it was growing.
Dustin: Especially with the LAN-Parties I know you’ve attended. I mean, that’s, how many years hooked like how they were and now the fact it could be online or in person.
Thresh: I mean, I was playing online too. I mean, that’s when I first started playing online gaming was online. It wasn’t actually networked. DOOM was one of the first you could be online. It was kind of what got me hooked in the first place.
Dustin: That’s what got a lot of us started. One thing I’ve noticed that’s really important with gaming, I know, we were talking before the interview started about games in general. With titles like Overwatch, stuff like that, you’re seeing people literally binge on it. Especially because of matches going anywhere between two minutes, to twenty minutes, to thirty minutes. With people who are binge gaming, not on just PC, but also on consoles what would you say to these people that are actually practicing? What advice would you give to actual pro-teams that are younger, if you had to give them a number one tip on time framing?
Thresh: I would definitely all gamers, really, take more breaks. I remember very distinctly my parents would tell me it all the time and I would not do it. I mean, I think the chances of listening to that advice is close to zero, honestly. This is what I found in almost all aspects of life, particularly when it comes sports and eSports. There is something to be said about natural talent, and natural talent to me is a combination of, not just like intuitive. Like there is certain people who are more intuitive, and learn; and improve better than others. There is like uber competitive.
Dustin: You see players now. I’ve watched several like OpTic_Nadeshot, I don’t know if you who OpTic_Nadeshot is. I’ve watched him and some of their coaches, I know like football players, they will sit there and watch what they did wrong.
Thresh: Like that, everyone should do. What I’m saying is actually, eSports is not that different from professional sports in the sense that there is very few people that have the talent to become a pro. Just because you love games, doesn’t mean you can be a pro or that you’re good enough. What I have found is, there are certain people that are pro level gamers that are good at almost any game that they put their minds too, right? It’s not necessarily because of the way they practiced. They just have something. Just like Michael Jordan had something special, Tiger Woods had something special. These top players just have something, the way that you view the game is different, the way that you improve their game subconsciously it’s at a different level than most people.
Dustin: It’s like yours, I know you were real strategic, I know I watched a lot of your gameplay. Growing up we didn’t have YouTube and stuff like that. I know when I was learning to play Quake, I didn’t learn till around the time YouTube started coming up. Then you saw gamers starting to post on there. I remember seeing several of your gameplay’s and you would starve your opponent. I noticed that was your tactic. You would starve, hit and run, and keep them starving for anything. ‘Cus you would take damage, grab a health pack, grab a rocket launcher, go grab pistol if you had to. I noticed that was your specialty was starvation of an enemy player and keeping them hurting the entire time.
Thresh: Yea, my play style was, y’know, was basically a control based play style. Y’know the thing that I had, more players have today, but what I focused on was not necesarily just control, but you know, people used to call it “Thresh ESP.”
Dustin: I’ve actually heard that term before *Laughing with Thresh*
Thresh: I didn’t coin it, someone else did. I have very strong ability to predict what my opponents are thinking, doing, and feeling. That was actually natural. Like, something I actually didn’t practice consciously. It’s just – I could feel it. I actually believe everyone in this world has some kind of super power. Something that they are just innately, naturally really really good at. Then something about games in general. Like some people just have really really strong empathy or they are really organized or whatever. Everybody has something. Mine happens to be that and it translates really well to gaming.
Dustin: Your talent seems not just to be gaming, but also seems business and outreach not just with business, but even gamers.
Thresh: But if you think about that, it’s my super power. I learned it, I figured out when I was younger – I could see and feel things through other peoples eyes without consciously without spending brain cells trying to figure it out. When I talk to you, I’m not thinking what you are thinking, but I can kind of. Just, it happen naturally. So it translates to gaming, because I’m like ‘if I were in his shoes, what would I be thinking, doing, and feeling? Am I starting to crack?’
It’s all happening in real time without thought. It’s just intuition. It translates into business as well because, if you’re trying to partner with somebody, what do they care about? If you’re trying to talk to users – what do users care about?
Dustin: It’s like what you said with Raptr. It’s like that deal. It was personal frustrations, but it linked with everybody that games. You’re definitely one of those, you seem like one of those that like with how Smite does spring, summer, winter, and a lot of their teams stay together.
Thresh: Yea. Like DotA2, those super teams form, then they disband. I don’t care who wins DotA2 to be honest. It’s a huge prize. The money that doesn’t make me watch this stuff.
Dustin: It’s the pride?
Thresh: It’s the people. The personalities. That’s what ultimately matters, right? DotA2 I can’t keep track of, who’s who, who is what – it feels very mercenary to me. I personally think it does eSports a disservice.
Dustin: Before we finish, I definately want to thank you for everything you’ve done, not just for casual gamers that play competitively, but for everything that you’ve really built, not just the pro, but even interactivity through Raptr, through xfire when you were apart of that. It’s an amazing thing that you’ve accomplished and helped us gamers be able to do. So thank you so much for that.
Thresh: Thank you, that’s very kind of you.
I want to give a very big thank you to Kevil Kelly of ESL and eslgaming.com for the opportunity of letting us meet with “Thresh”. We also want to thank Dennis Fong for his time spent to sit down outside of his extremely busy schedule so that we could interview him.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.