Gamers tend to be a competitive bunch. Yes, there are games where competition isn’t the focus (such as in an RPG, though you could make the argument for speedrunning as competition). Yes, there are even multiplayer games that have no competitive elements. But for the most part, video games tend to attract people with competitive spirits. But think about this: you might be good, but are you good enough to compete with gamers worldwide?
Over the last decade, games that pit players against other players have evolved into a new sort of culture. Some call it competitive gaming, others call it eSports, but regardless of the name, one truth remains: some players are just so insanely skilled that it almost feels superhuman. Join me as I traverse the history of competitive gaming and touch on some of the most influential competitive gamers from around the world.
Billy Mitchell [Arcade Games]
Between the late 1970s and middle 1980s, video game culture lived through what we now call the Golden Age of Arcade Video Games. Nowadays, we think of video games as programs we launch on our computers or discs that we insert into a gaming console, but back then games were mostly enjoyed in the confines of an arcade room.
Many consider Billy Mitchell to be the greatest arcade game player of all time. He was the first to achieve a perfect score in Pac-Man, and he held the highest score on the original Donkey Kong for nearly 25 years. But perhaps his most revered accomplishment was reaching a score of 25 million points in Centipede.
If ever there was an arcade game wizard, he would be Billy Mitchell. His passion for the genre and his dedication to perfection inspired thousands of other players to play well, improve, and rank high in arcade rooms across the world.
Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel [FPS Games]
Fatal1ty is most known for his performance in first-person shooter games, particularly Quake III Arena, Unreal Tournament 2003, and Painkiller. Though he has competed in team-based FPS games – Counter-Strike and Call of Duty – his best performances have been in the realm of one-versus-one deathmatch.
Throughout his professional gaming career, Fatal1ty won approximately $500,000 USD from all of the tournament and competition events he participated in. His post-career achievements include starting a company, Fatal1ty Inc., and partnering with producers of gaming peripherals to create motherboards, sound cards, mice, headphones, and more.
Due to his accomplishments, Fatal1ty is widely regarded as the world’s first true professional gamer. At various points, he achieved the number one competitive rank in as many as five different games. It would be impossible to talk about the history of world-class competitive gaming without mentioning Fata1lty.
Lee “Flash” Young Ho [Starcraft Series]
Flash is a Korean professional Starcraft player who has dominated tournaments with his impressive Terran play. His strengths include powerful defensive setups, clever decision making, perfect management of resources, and precise control of individual armies on the battlefield. He has held the longest #1 ranking streak in the KeSPA Ranking system since Boxer and Nada, two other world-class Starcraft players before him.
Over the course of his Starcraft: Brood War career, Flash earned in excess of $400,000 USD from tournament winnings alone. That doesn’t come as a surprise once you learn that he’s held a 70% win-rate against all three races (vs. Terran, vs. Protoss, and vs. Zerg). He continues to play as Terran in Starcraft 2.
Ben “Merlini” Wu [Dota Series]
Dota is such a teamwork-based game that it almost feels wrong to single out one player for this list. There are so many roles, positions, and compositions in the game that it makes very little sense to pinpoint a particular player as the “best player.” The real question is, best at what? Fantastic support players may be terrible carry players, or vice versa. Some players are strong captains, others are strong followers.
So when deciding on the “best” Dota player, I decided to go with one who has the capacity to compete on a worldwide level while delivering the greatest community impact. And based on that criteria, there’s no better player to spotlight than Merlini. I’ve heard plenty of anecdotes and testimonies that attribute Merlini’s unconventional playstyle and game decisions as their reason for being interested in competitive Dota.
Furthermore, Merlini streams his Dota 2 sessions daily on Twitch, giving players all over the world a first-person perspective of his gameplay. During his games, Merlini offers running commentary on his thought process and the reasons behind his choices, ultimately acting as a coach or teacher from which newbies can learn more about the game. He’s even called upon to cast the biggest events in the world.
Daigo “The Beast” Umehara [Fighting Games]
Daigo is a Japanese competitive gamer who specializes in fighting games and is considered to be one of the best Street Fighter players in the world. In fact, Daigo gained so much renown that Japanese media preferred to refer to him as the “god of 2D fighting games.” He even has his name in the Guinness World Records for “the most successful player in major tournaments of Street Fighter.” The title is somewhat vague, but congratulations to him nonetheless.
But perhaps the most hair-raising moment in Daigo’s professional gaming career occurred in 2004 at the Evolution Championship Series. In the Loser’s bracket finals, he went up against Justin Wong (another well-known fighting game player) and made a comeback so dramatic that he earned the praise and respect of gamers all over the world. Check out the video above to see the moment for yourself.
Competitive gaming may not be as physically demanding as true sports, but there’s still something to appreciate about players who have put in so much time, dedication, and effort to becoming the best in the world. It’s tough work, and with the rise of eSports on the horizon, professional gaming may soon become a viable passion to pursue. But regardless, the players in this article have shown that perfection is both respectable and admirable.
Do you know any other world-class gamers who deserve a mention? What have been your favorite gaming moments in the history of eSports? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Image Credit: Billy Mitchell Via GamingAngels