Tiger. Jordan. Hawk. Wendel?

As TV warms to pro video-game leagues, the top stars are emerging as big brands

Photograph for TIME by Matthew Gilson

Professional video gamer Johnathan Wendel in his house in Kansas City, Kan.

Professional video gamer Jonathan (Fatal1ty) Wendel likes comparing himself to Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Tony Hawk. Wendel doesn't have a 350-yd. drive or a turnaround jumper, but he has dominated the PC-gaming field, winning 12 championships and collecting more than $500,000 in prize money and well over $1 million beyond that in sponsor deals. To prepare for big matches, Wendel says, he imports sparring partners from as far away as Finland, avoids alcohol and caffeine and runs a couple of miles a day. "Fitness is crucial," he says. "It's all about who has the most stamina and can think faster."

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