On a December day, while everything was turning into Christmas decorations, we met Gu “Imp” Seung-bin at a small cafe in Gangnam. It was to interview him as he had retired as of this year. Since Imp had been in China for long, it had been a long time since we interviewed him.
Imp appeared with a huge carrier almost as big as himself. On arrival, he told us that he nearly thought that the interview was the next day, and said that he often gets forgetful like that these days. He was in a lively mood and talkative, so the awkward moment at the start of the interview dissolved in no time.
As much as he had grown compared to 5 years ago when he left Korea, his thoughts changed a lot as well. But there still were those sharp comments where we could remember that we’re talking to Imp.
Hello, it seems like forever ago since we interviewed you in Korea.
It’s been such a long time having an interview like this in Korea, so I’m kind of scared. (Laughs) Hi, it’s Gu “Imp” Seung-bin.
We heard that you came to Korea around mid-December. How have you been?
I came on the 13th, and spent some time in my hometown. I just arrived in Seoul today because I had things to do. Actually, I was taking my time, thinking the interview was tomorrow, but I found out it was today so I ran here without even leaving my stuff at where I’m staying.
It’s really good to see you, but it’s regretful that you’re here for a retirement interview. Have you been thinking about retiring for a long time?
I thought that I was bad at self-management, so I felt that my prowess and stamina decline. That was when I first thought of retiring. I think that was around 2017 or 18. And there were a few other issues in 2018 that made me think more [about retirement].
I was going to retire if I didn’t find a team after the season, but JD Gaming reached out so I was able to play 1 more year. I still always had the thought that this was my last year. It’s really regretful that we weren’t able to make it to Worlds. We lost to iG at the Gauntlet… I really wanted to go, you know.
Since you started the season knowing it’s your last one, it must have been more meaningful and even more regretful.
As I told you earlier, I wasn’t a player that has good self-management. I played around a lot and didn’t care much about my fitness or injuries. But this year was a year that I can say that I did well. I put in a lot of effort and did my best. Some people may call me a ‘has-been’, but I gained confidence that I would become better again if I continue being a pro gamer.
There was some time before you got on the starting roster at JD Gaming. How was the situation?
I’m a bit careful to talk about that because it’s about the team. My performance wasn’t like before and the situation wasn’t right. I can’t discuss it in detail, but looking back, I think I wasn’t flexible enough.
So I feel sorry to my teammates. If I were a person that was considerate, it would have been better. After experiencing different things, my personality changed. I try to think more during games or feedback rather than getting mad.
You seem to have grown over this year. That might make your decision to retire more regretful.
Although I became confident that I’ll become better again, I was also scared. I thought, ‘What if I don’t? What if I’m remembered as a worse player than now in the future?’ There were health issues as well. Since I was a pro gamer for 8 years, my wrist wasn’t that well. I got a shot a few days ago at the hospital. They told me that it needs constant care. All these thoughts came together with the situation, and I didn’t change my mind to retire.
When you went through all those situations, didn’t you think that you want to come back to Korea?
I thought it would be the same anywhere. I didn’t think that it would be more comfortable if I came back to Korea. After adapting to China, it felt more comfortable. As for the language… Since my Korean isn’t that good either… (Laughs) It wasn’t much of an issue. I even got accustomed to the Chinese style hot pot more than the Korean one. If I have a hot pot here, the scent is too weak now.
On the other hand, several Korean players came to Korea after playing in the LPL.
I was sad that there were fewer people to play with, but I hoped they do well in Korea. If they didn’t do well or get criticized, I felt bad as well. But I think they all did well, and they all are doing well.
When you told other people you were retiring, how did they react? If it was me, I would have tried to convince you not to.
Everyone told me to play for longer, or become a coach. I’m really thankful to Homme. I was with him in JD Gaming this year and he was so nice to me. I don't think I was a good person to him though… I’d like to say thank you to him through this interview.
Do you have any thoughts about heading to a coaching role? Mata went to RNG as head coach.
Well… If a good opportunity comes, I would think positively about it, but for now, I want to take a break. Mata was always good at such a role, I thought he would be able to go anywhere any time. He has a good eye for the game. But you know, he would still be a great player if he kept playing.
You debuted in 2012 and played as a pro player for 8 years. When was the happiest moment in your 8-year career?
I remember the early days. I was really good back then. 2012 was my debut and I remember that I really put in a lot of effort. I just played games like a madman every day… One day, I found myself as a top tier pro gamer.
2014 was a season that I won Worlds, but it was also a very difficult time for me. When we met our brother team, Samsung Galaxy Blue in official matches, we lost. It was very pressuring. Blue’s ADC was Deft back then. I even started thinking, ‘If I switched with Deft, would SSG White win? Do my teammates think that?’ I made myself miserable with these thoughts.
My first season in the LPL, 2015 was the year I was most confident and was the year my prowess peaked. I was so confident that I thought I wouldn’t lose. I think that was my prime, in terms of prowess. Some people might think otherwise since I wasn’t that good at Worlds, but that was a different issue. My mentality wasn’t good and I was disturbed very easily during games so that appeared often. That was something I should have fixed.
People mostly remember you with auto-attack ADCs which are stronger in the late game. Especially Twitch. Which champion is your favorite?
I like Kog’Maw the most, and as you said, Twitch as well. Kog’Maw and Twitch were both very cute, but the illustrations changed and the cuteness went away. I’m not very good at hitting skillshots. I don’t have the talent for playing mobile or FPS games. So I preferred auto-attack based ADCs, but in the recent meta, that kind of champion isn’t very viable anymore.
We heard that you were a big help to Kanavi in the recent issue regarding him and Griffin. Did you come across it naturally as a teammate?
As soon as I saw him, I told him to talk to a lawyer and revise the whole contract. Since I’ve been around for long, I felt how he got there when I saw his face. Those players have that look: ‘I know nothing and I just came here’.
When Kanavi came, he was at my age when I first came to China. Maybe that’s why I felt I had to look after him more. Also, he’s a really good player but who would be responsible if things go wrong because of such issues? This doesn’t mean that I helped him actively or do something for him. I just listened to him, gave him advice, and that’s it. It’s a relief that everything ended up for the best.
Now, it’s time to say goodbye. What are you planning to do from now on?
I think I’ll be streaming for a while, probably on a Chinese platform. I also have to go to the army (Laughs). I don’t have specific plans yet, I’ll be thinking about it while taking a break.
How about a last message to all the fans and teammates that have been cheering for you?
I really don’t know what to say. I had a very long professional gaming career. I don’t think there are any Korean players that have played longer than I have. Thank you to all the people who cheered for me for 8 years.
I’m thankful to everybody, starting from the MVP teammates where I started, and JDG where it all ended. Even LGD during the middle. There are so many people that I’m thankful to. Now that it’s over, what I did bad comes to memory more. I hope they all do well wherever they are. Being happy is the best. I’ll be saying farewell as a pro gamer here. I hope I’ll get to see you again. Thank you.