Meet the world’s first pro gamer: He played ‘Quake’ against a teenaged Elon Musk and now uses AI to flag toxic players

Meet the world’s first pro gamer: He played ‘Quake’ against a teenaged Elon Musk and now uses AI to flag toxic players
via Akshon Esports (left), Vox (right)
Bryan Ke
August 1, 2023
Meet Dennis “Thresh” Fong, commonly regarded as the world’s first professional gamer.
His beginnings: Fong was born in Hong Kong in 1977. At 11 years old, he moved to Los Altos, California, where he soon discovered a love for gaming. He started playing Id Software’s first-person shooter games “Doom” and “Quake” when he was 16 years old.
Online games: Speaking to Fast Company in June 2017, Fong, who is known in the gaming community as “Thresh,” admitted that he was not a fan of single-player games back then and had a preference for online games.
At the time, dial-up connections, which involved using a public telephone network to connect to the internet, were the norm.
What drew me was, for the first time, you could play against a live person, in real time, online. This is before MMOs [massively multiplayer online games]. You used dial-up modems to call each other,” the 46-year-old retired gamer told Fast Company.
Two icons meet: Speaking to First Person Origins in 2020, Fong shared that he met SpaceX founder Elon Musk online while playing “Quake.” Fong described Musk as an “OG” and “legit” gamer and said that he would see Musk play “Quake” almost every day back then.
Fong noted that Musk would often play using the username Zip2, which was also the name of the billionaire’s now-defunct company that he founded in 1995.
His gaming career: Fong slowly became more renowned in the gaming world. In 1996, when Fong was 19 years old, a Wall Street Journal reporter wrote about him, effectively putting him on the map.
The teen gamer quickly received calls from Earthlink and Hasbro, who offered him consulting deals and sponsorships. In 1997, he earned $150,000 in sponsorships and winnings and won tournaments such as the Microsoft-sponsored Red Annihilation Quake Tournament at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) convention in Atlanta. He was notably given “Quake” co-creator John Carmack’s red Ferrari 328GTS convertible as his prize.
Fong would then go on to become world champion of the games “Doom 2” and “Quake 2.”
Years later, he was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “first professional videogamer” in history. In 2016, he was inducted into the ESL (Electronic Sports League) Hall of Fame.
Where he is now: Fong retired from professional gaming at the age of 22 to venture into business, starting several companies such as GX Media and Raptr. He is also known as the co-founder of Xfire, a social networking and instant messaging site for gamers, as well as the co-founder of Lithium Technologies, a social customer relationship management company.
Fong now runs a company he co-founded with Kun Gao and George Ng called GGWP. The company incorporates artificial intelligence to help moderate online games by identifying disruptive player behavior.
“GGWP uses AI to automatically detect, triage, respond to, and prioritize incidents across chat, player behavior, cheating, and even Discord, and also have active Reddit monitoring of game subreddits to track sentiment and trends of toxicity-related posts for each game,” Fong explained in a LinkedIn post last year.

 
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