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How Heavy Kevy, Fool, and Fatal1ty showed me the light - and then showed me the door.


FOR A WHILE, I had expectations and dreams. I started my writing career at an early age, so I was almost always the youngest guy in the newsroom. Like an up-and-coming athlete, I was a prospect - a little raw, maybe, but with enough promise that people would usually say things like, "You'll go places, kid." I never went anywhere. Well, I went to Dallas, but that's about it.

Recently, I turned 30 and abandoned the idea of becoming the next Joseph Heller and started thinking about becoming the next Bazooka Joe - I could, you know, maybe start penning those comic strips that are wrapped around bubble gum. That seems like solid work. The truth is, when I take stock of my life, it seems a little sad. I figured I'd be married by this point; instead, I recently ended a serious three-year relationship. I thought I'd own a spectacular home on a beach somewhere, but in reality, I rent an apartment, and you have to walk down an alley and past two dumpsters to get there. I thought I'd have a dog (I have an obese cat) and that I'd be famous (nope) and mature (definitely not).

This is my version of a midlife crisis.

I realize that all of this means I won't live very long, but, as my father was fond of saying, "Que sera, sera." However, there is a positive side: All this self-evaluation has led to a sort of epiphany. I've figured out a way to get my act together - to get back on track and point myself toward something meaningful. Sure it's a little cliché to have a midlife crisis and then snap out of it with some grand discovery, but wait until you hear my idea. Ready?

Video games.

I know. Pure genius.

I've decided to become a professional gamer. As it turns out, this is an actual vocation, the digital equivalent of competitive eating. In Japan, professional gaming leagues are a big deal - the matches or contests or whatever they're called are broadcast on TV. Here in the States, the concept of professional gaming is beginning to catch on. The Championship Gaming Series, for instance, which was launched earlier this year by DirectTV, now has six franchises, ­including the Carolina Core and the LA Complexity. Plus, gaming legend Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel has signed on as the league's official spokesperson, and he will also do the league's color commentary. That's just like getting Michael Jordan to sit in the booth for NBA games … only, uh, different. What's best of all, though, is that the Championship Gaming Series has promised to give away more than $1 million in prizes during the inaugural season. I could really use $1 mil. And how hard could the competition be? For the most part, the league is dominated by teenagers and 20-somethings. Did any of them set the Ms. Pac-Man high score at my grandfather's bar? No. No, they didn't.

In fact, I was something of a gamer during my youth. It's been a while since I've played regularly, but it has to be just like riding a bike, right? As a kid, I was weak and small. But with a controller in my hand, I was a giant, capable of smashing my opponents at will. I was exceptional at sports games, particularly football. No one could throw the 100-yard pass in Tecmo Super Bowl the way I could. Unfortunately, no one plays Tecmo Super Bowl anymore. Instead of returning to that, I'll have to engage the competition through Madden, the industry standard for football games. The goal is to train for a few months by playing online and against my friends. Then I'll enter the EA Sports Madden Challenge (the annual tournament that crowns the game's champion), win the $100,000 first-place prize, and restart my life.

This is the diary of my journey.

Week One
In order to have a sound mind, you need a sound body. I decide to train like Rocky - I go running for the first time in 12 years. I run five miles. It doesn't go well. I start the run on a Tuesday morning. I'm not sure what time I finish - Thursday afternoon, maybe? And instead of drinking raw eggs, I scramble them with cheese. They are delicious. I don't play any games, though. You have to work up to these things.

Week Two
A lot of gamers hone their skills online. Here's the problem: I can't figure out how to connect my next-generation console to the Internet. I've bought the necessary wires and such at a store, and I'm following the instructions, but it's not working. Is it a bad sign that as you're trying to launch a professional gaming career, you find you're not bright enough to use the hardware? Wait, don't answer that.

Week Three
For motivation, I tape a picture of Ayan Tariq to my TV. He won last year's Madden Challenge. His handle - the nickname he's called by other gamers - is Fool. Yes, he's a … I feel like I should be able to make a joke here, but nothing comes to mind. Too bad he doesn't have a name I could easily lampoon. If this were a battle of wits, he would have already bested me. Not good.