FATALITY'S STORY begins at home in suburban Kansas City. Like most kids, he kept out of his parents' hair by playing the usual console video games (Nintendo, Sega) that keep Dad from seeing his football game or Mom from the latest episode of her evening soap (or vice versa; we're not aiming for sexism here). He received his first game at age five (Ikari Warriors on Nintendo), and it was the beginning of a collection that eventually grew to 120 or so video games. He chalks it up to boredom. "Gaming was just something I did with my friends," he remembers. "We had nothing else to do. We were bored half to death."

So far, it was a very typical childhood. When Fatal1ty was 13, his parents split up, and he ended up living with Mom. Around this time, Fatal1ty also managed to become quite good at billiards (Dad owned a pool hall), the first indication that he would excel at pretty much anything that ­required precision hand/eye coordination. But Mom wasn't too thrilled about pool, and when she didn't allow him to compete in the junior nationals of pool when he was 13, he never forgot about it.

Mom disapproved of his addiction to gaming as well, though that same year of the pool nationals Fatal1ty found a way to get himself to an NBA Jam console tournament, which, of course, he won (in addition to placing second and fourth in two other games he had never even played before the competition). The next year, he ditched the console in favor of PC gaming due to its superior graphics. His first game was a first-person shooter game called Castle Wolfenstein 3D, one of the earliest games to appear in the genre. A year later, Quake emerged, complete with a soundtrack by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor (Fatal1ty's favorite artist).

Tournaments began popping up here and there following the release of Quake, including one in Wichita, Kansas, three hours from Fatal1ty's home in Lee's Summit, Missouri. Now 15, Fatal1ty was one of the 130 gamers who entered. He cleaned up. "People were like, 'Who's this guy? Who's this kid who just dominated all of us?'?" he says. "I won $500 worth of prizes just messing around. It wasn't a big deal."

Meanwhile, he managed to become captain of the varsity tennis team at Blue Springs South High School, despite not having touched a tennis racket until he was 14. "I didn't start playing tennis until I was a freshman in high school," he says. "I broke some school records. That's my nature. I pick up things very fast."

Toward the end of high school, Fatal1ty's mom stonewalled him again, preventing him from competing in a gaming tournament with a $10,000 grand prize. For the first time, there was real money to be won, and Fatal1ty didn't compete. But it was a pivotal moment in his rise as the world's first gaming household name. "I always thought I had the talent and skill to do whatever I wanted to do, but I was never given the shot to do what I wanted to do," he says now. "I realized I had to take things into my own hands and do it myself."

After his 18th birthday, Fatal1ty moved in with Dad. Though more supportive than Mom, he also thought Fatal1ty's gaming habits were becoming unhealthy and preventing him from working a real job and going to school full-time. Fatal1ty, who at this point was working part-time and paying his own way through school, cut a deal: If he won any serious money gaming, his dad would promise to back off and let him pursue his dream. A few weeks later, he came home with $4,000 for taking third place at the 1999 Cyberathlete Professional League Frag 3 championships.