Being a pro gamer is still rather uncommon, so many prejudices towards it remain. One of them is that if a pro gamer starts dating, their career plummets. Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong and first-generation buff girl Maeng Sol-ji were the first couple to break that stereotype. For all their cheesy expressions towards each other, their synergy has been undeniable and they became the couple to overcome these stereotypes as Ambition won the 2017 World Championship
I met the two at a cafe near their home. They were a model couple: Ambition enjoyed both a successful career and a happy marriage, and Sol-ji was his most loyal and faithful supporter.
Hello! It’s the first time you two are being interviewed together! Could you say hello to the fans?
Ambition: Hello, I was pro LoL player Ambition, better known Kang Chan-bab now and now streamer Ambition.
Sol-ji: I’m Maeng Sol-ji, who works at Twitch, better known as Kang Chan-bab’s wife.
You wouldn’t be able to even go out because of the coronavirus. How have you two been lately?
Ambition: Everything’s similar for me. I’m trying to have more free time now because I want to stay healthy. I don’t stream as much as before, but I do so consistently. Although the duration is shorter, I stream more often. I also wanted to get more hobbies so I’ve been looking for interesting things. At the moment, I like watching TV on the sofa the most.
Sol-ji: I’ve been doing my best to work, but many events were canceled due to the coronavirus. It’s unfortunate, but I get to take care of my husband more at home.
Ambition: She works as if she’s out even when she’s home. I often see her working until dawn. She's got busier because of the brand we recently launched, MBTN. But even though she’s so busy, she seems happy. When there’s a lot to do, she doesn’t even eat. It’s a relief that she’s naturally healthy. If it were me, I would have felt dizziness right away. She doesn’t even understand when I’m whithering from sickness.
Sol-ji: I often worry about Ambition, since he feels physical and mental pressure from streaming for long.
"I didn’t know at all what to do on a first date. Back then, my closest friend was Flame. So I asked him."
Since you mentioned it, you launched MBTN. How did it happen?
Sol-ji: [Laughs] It’s a long story. Ambition doesn’t go buy his own clothes, but he is really interested in brands. He’s fussy in that way, so we came up with the idea of making his own clothes. At first, I discussed it with my friends so that I can make him good clothes. During our discussions, someone pointed out that if we’re going to make quality clothes, it would be better if anyone can wear them and everyone agreed. It’d also be cool if he had his own brand, so that’s how we started the whole thing.
Ambition: We tried to promote our brand in advertisements so it looks more official. Sol-ji was good at making goods from before, but since we were starting a brand, she approached it seriously.
Sol-ji: Since he’s the ambassador of the brand, I wanted to express his image more and the values he prioritizes. The designer puts in a lot of effort in that way as well. This season’s design was minimal, but there will be many different ones going forward. We prepared for the long game in many ways.
Ambition: The design started with words or phrases related to me, places like Seoul, where I was born in, or the quote from when I was inducted into the hall of fame.
You must feel regret not being able to go outside.
Sol-ji: The people who go around a lot are really having a hard time. I feel sorry. But for us… We’ve been doing similarly as before. We’re both kind of "outsiders" and enjoy being home. It’s not that inconvenient, although it is a bit uncomfortable when working.
Ambition: We’re both passive, but since we've been at home for so long, I've been thinking we should go out somewhere. We’ve been staying at home with the coronavirus as an excuse. We’ve become couch potatoes, just doing what we should do.
I’d like to go back to the old days. How did you two first meet? There were a few interviews that discussed this, but I’d like to hear it again.
Ambition: It was about when I was solo killed by Faker. I was the one who talked to her first, with a small excuse to start a conversation. And then, there was this positive emotion, and before we knew it, we were dating.
Sol-ji: I can elaborate. When I first started being a “buff girl”, I made a post on Inven.
Ambition: If it’s that detailed, I’ll be embarrassed.
"It was about when I was solo killed by Faker. I was the one who talked to her first, with a small excuse to start a conversation."
Sol-ji: I’m going to give specifics. [Laughs] Back then, “buff girl” was really new to everyone. Some fans posted, “What’s buff girl? Is it because you look similar to Baron?” So to explain to the people who are curious, I wrote how I was picked and how I was planning to work.
Ambition: At that time, she was just a normal person, so I thought she could be hurt by the comments. So I messaged her with that as an excuse.
Sol-ji: The message he sent me was, “Buff girl nim, fighting!” or something like that. [Laughs]
Ambition: It’s a valid excuse, right? What I didn’t know was that Sol-ji’s mentality was as solid as a rock. She wasn’t hurt at all.
Sol-ji: I was actually thinking that the readers’ reactions were fun. I thought them saying that I look like Baron was that I gave a good impression. Obviously, I didn’t like excessive personal attacks, but it wasn’t hard at all. Still, I felt thankful to Ambition that he sent me a message like that. I felt that he understood what I thought.
Was it the first time someone sent you a message, cheering for you like that?
Ambition: It should have been.
Sol-ji: There were… [Laughs] A lot of people cheered for me, but since I was interested in him, it was more touching. Ambition was cool, right? He was a star mid laner and back then was when CJ Frost and Blaze were hot.
Ambition: Sol-ji was a fan of CloudTemplar and Shy.
Sol-ji: My ideal guy was you, honey. [Laughs]
Ambition: That’s what she always says. [Laughs]
Sol-ji: Anyways, it was a timely message and we got to talking for a long time. You know, when you have such a long conversation, there’s that time when you ask for each other’s numbers right? It was about that time, and he suddenly said, “Wait about 30 minutes. I have to play solo queue.” I was like, "What the…?" It was a fun situation. He was a gamer to the bone.
"He suddenly said, 'Wait about 30 minutes. I have to play solo queue.' I was like, 'What the…?' It was a fun situation. He was a gamer to the bone."
I heard that Ambition just grabbed your hand and said let’s go watch a movie.
Ambition: Who leaked that?
Sol-ji: You said that yourself in a stream.
Ambition: It was literally my first date ever. I didn’t know at all what to do on a first date. Back then, my closest friend was Flame. So I asked him. What he said was: “Of course you have to hold her hand! A boy and girl, dating. You have to hold her hand. And you should end with a simple hug.” I was convinced and made detailed plans for the first date. I thought I should hold her hand at the movies. That was the plan, but we were in a very crowded underground complex in Bupyeong so she was holding onto my sleeve.
Sol-ji: It was extremely crowded, so I thought we would fall apart.
Ambition: In such a situation… I can just grab her hand, right? But I couldn’t. I was blaming myself that I wasn’t able to simply reach out even in such a good chance. And eventually, I held her hand at the movies.
"I was shouting like crazy and slapping my own face. I was wishing that this wasn’t a dream."
Sol-ji: It was about when I started thinking, "Is he not going to touch me at all?" And then he just grabbed my hand out of nowhere in the middle of the movie. It was a bit frustrating, and he said, “I should have held it a while ago. I was dumb.”
Ambition: I was going to hug her, as Flame said… But that was really impossible for me. I planned it all, to hug her just before we went home, but I really couldn’t.
Sol-ji: Anyways, that was our first official date.
If it weren’t for Flame, it could have been a lot slower.
Sol-ji: That’s why I’m so thankful to him. It seems that he gave a lot of advice to Ambition while we were dating.
Ambition: He did give a lot of advice, but it was mostly worthless.
Sol-ji: To me, they weren’t worthless. I’m thankful.
Alright, after that, time passed. Can you tell me how you proposed?
Sol-ji: I told him in advance the essential conditions of a proposal. I said that I’d like the proposal to be at a restaurant with yellow lighting and candles, with a wine glass filled with soda.
Ambition: It was cramming education. But it was really convenient since she told me everything she wanted in detail. I was able to find a great place.
"But marriage is like an everlasting promise. I wanted to do something like a vow… So I just expressed it with my pinky. It’s better than fist-bumping, right?"
Sol-ji: I was quite sure that he would propose that day. We did talk about getting married and it was an anniversary. He gave me a hand-written letter and then held out his fist. I thought, "Does he have something more to give me?" But suddenly, he raised his pinky and said, “Wanna marry me?” [Laughs]
Ambition: In my defense, it was kind of embarrassing after I gave her the letter. It felt like I needed to do something more. But marriage is like an everlasting promise. I wanted to do something like a vow… So I just expressed it with my pinky. It’s better than fist-bumping, right?
Sol-ji: If we make a pinky-promise, we really need to keep it. Oddly, it felt really good. It was genuine and a great little memory.
Dating wouldn’t have been easy. What was the hardest?
Ambition: It was a struggle. It was the most difficult when I was active as a player. In a way, one of the reasons that Sol-ji started working was that it was hard to just wait for me at home.
Sol-ji: That was one of the reasons to go public with our relationship. We wanted to have it known in a good way, rather than our relationship being publicized negatively. Back then, a lot more people saw pro gamers dating as a negative thing. We both disagreed with that, so we wanted to break the prejudice. We wanted to set a good example of being a great pro gamer even when dating.
So I was extremely happy when Ambition won Worlds. I was shouting like crazy and slapping my own face. I was wishing that this wasn’t a dream. Since SK Telecom T1 had been strong against Samsung Galaxy on the big stage for so long, I was nervous until the last game.
Let’s try a simple activity now. You have to answer together. First, what was the first movie you watched together?
Sol-ji: Ob… I don’t remember well. I have no idea why we watched that back then.
Ambition: The newest movie back then was “Oblivion” and “Fists of Legend”. I thought it would be slightly better to watch “Oblivion” than “Fists of Legend” on a first date. [Laughs]
The first food you ate together?
Where was your first kiss?
Ambition: Room cafe.
Sol-ji: … Cafe.
Ambition: Why are you answering late?
Sol-ji: It was a bit vague for me. It was a kiss, but to say it was our first kiss, it was rather one-sided. [Laughs] I was thinking if there was a more romantic and official first kiss place. At the room cafe, I jumped on him.
If you were born again, would it be this person again?
Ambition: Of course! I already pinky promised.
Sol-ji: We’ve been watching an anime in a different world. If we were to be born again in a different world after we die, we promised that we would pick the same world, or… the same server.
What’s the most you can give each other?
Sol-ji: My life.
Ambition: I was about to say my heart. That’s what I always say.
What do you want to do after this interview?
How’s the rank within the house?
Ambition: It’s as all the fans would think.
Sol-ji: Ambition’s the main wage-earner, so he’s at the top.
Sol-ji: I may have a strong voice, but all important decisions go through him. So he’s the head…?
Ambition: This is so misleading. The only reason I decide things is that she has a very hard time making her mind. I’m also indecisive sometimes, and at those times, we try to make each other decide.
Sol-ji: [Laughs] Honestly, how it is at home… I guess I might be a bit higher?
Ambition: I’m good with that. I want to be below.
Let’s get back to the interview now. (To Sol-ji) What would be a good mindset to have when dating a pro gamer — or being married to one?
Sol-ji: I wouldn’t recommend dating a pro gamer. There’s not much time to be together and there’s almost nothing that could be done with my will. It would be a hard time if anybody's impatient like me.
The most important mindset to have is not to struggle to be happy right away. Considering his fruits as your happiness would make you comfortable. If someone I love achieves something he wants, I am, of course, happy. Dreaming about that person’s success together would make the wait less difficult.
After getting married, it feels more stable than when dating. The best mindset to have after marriage would be thinking that you’re “raising” your husband. Observe him grow, take care of him… Whatever it is, if someone concentrates on one thing and is trying to reach the top, they really only have their eyes on their goal. They often miss other things around them. Rather than expecting a lot from that person, if you can take care and comfort them, it would be good synergy.
"Before, I had a personality like fire. That personality often had bad influences on my gaming career. A lot of that was relieved by Sol-ji."
(To Ambition) As a pro gamer who’s always busy, how could you give faith to one person and love them for long?
Ambition: You have to be responsible. It’s impossible to keep a sound mentality all the time. I cried all the time. Whenever I had a hard time, Sol-ji would help me, and with her help, I'd stand up whenever I fell.
There’s too much tied to Worlds as a LoL pro gamer. If they slip at that period of time, it’s really damaging. What’s more is that a pro gamer’s career is really short. They tend to hurry more and more while preparing for the next season. So it becomes hard to spend time with their beloveds. What I did was spend all the time besides practicing or participating in competitions with Sol-ji. She also tried to fit herself in my time schedule. Our dating was a struggle in that regard, so I’m really thankful to her.
I didn’t really have any other interests, so I can’t give advice outside of that. All I had was time for gaming and time for Sol-ji.
Sol-ji: After I found out his personality, my mind was at ease. But time is necessary to gain full faith since faith is based on data. The way he showed and proved it made me trust him 100 percent.
"I really hated that prejudice towards pro gamers and dating. I thought if I don’t play well, Sol-ji would be criticized together with me, so I gained more responsibility and worked harder than ever."
One of the reasons that many people really blessed your marriage was that even when you were dating, Ambition’s maintained, or rather improved, his form. It was a great example to break prejudice. How was that possible?
Sol-ji: Frankly, it was all Ambition. He hustled a lot. I wasn’t that much different from others. I could have been even more cold-hearted. When I was simply tired of waiting, I wasn’t able to accept all of what he said. On the other hand, Ambition was someone who had a clear goal, a man with… ambition. All I did was just support him, and I don’t think there would be anything more that I could've done. It was all him. Everything he accomplished came from his tenacity and hustle.
Ambition: Those who are really close to me, who know me before and after I was dating Sol-ji, know that my personality changed a lot. Before, I had a personality like fire. That personality often had bad influences on my gaming career. A lot of that was relieved by Sol-ji. Her role was big in that way as those around me and I both know.
Also, I really hated that prejudice towards pro gamers and dating. I thought if I don’t play well, Sol-ji would be criticized together with me, so I gained more responsibility and worked harder than ever. It was a good stimulation that I should do well no matter what.
Sol-ji: Nowadays, it’s not that bad, about pro gamers and dating. There are more examples of winning Worlds after getting married. I get to think they might also have thought the same things and the same way we did.
Ambition: You can make everything not matter through self-control and effort. Nowadays, a lot of players have girlfriends or lovers. Some step further to getting married while keeping their careers. When I see that, I feel good. I’m proud of myself that I was the one who did that first and laid the groundwork. [Laughs]
Have there been any pro players that asked you for advice on dating or marriage?
Sol-ji: Why none?
Ambition: Well, first of all, there aren’t many people that talk to me. I think they find it difficult.
There could be people who consider pro gamers good to date or good to marry. What can you say to them, Sol-ji?
Sol-ji: Pro gamers are really great to date. No one else can feel the joy of the one I love winning in a match. I was thrilled whenever Ambition played on stage. I can really empathize with these people. However, if you only see that side and decide to date a pro gamer, it’ll be really difficult. Pro gamers really struggle a lot to get that victory. You have to love them enough to understand and support everything they do, whether it’s dating or getting married.
It’s hard for pro gamers to date, but they’re all energetic young people. Any advice from Ambition to the junior pro players?
Ambition: Whatever it is, you have to succeed as a pro gamer, so you need to be confident in yourself. Confidence that dating won’t affect your performance at all. If you have that confidence, I believe you could be another good example of dating as a pro gamer. Even if you’re not confident, I don’t think I could tell you not to date. That love could be more important in your life than your career.
If you want to be successful as a pro gamer and succeed in your love life at the same time, ask yourself if you’re capable of doing both. If you have doubts, ask yourself again if you’re ready and try simulating what would happen in your head. How you would plan your time, if it would affect your practice time, if your lover would understand, etc. I didn’t think this deep until I started dating her, but everyone’s different.
Sol-ji: After all, pro gamers also seek happiness in their lives. It’s important to choose a way that’ll make them happy. Whether it’s just love life, gaming, or going for both. Looking at the big picture, think of what it would mean in life.
Now, for the last question. Anything you’d like to tell each other through this interview?
Ambition: Right here, in front of her? [Laughs] I’ve always said I love Sol-ji at the end of interviews, and it’s the same today. I love you, and… Ummm… You’re really pretty today.
Sol-ji: [ROFL] Oh my god, this is kind of embarrassing. He doesn’t say that I’m pretty often, so I kind of scolded him. Now he says it here. When you asked me what’s the most I can give him, I answered, my life. The reason I said that was really simple. If it weren’t for Ambition, I wouldn’t have been living such a happy life. I grew a lot mentally and learned a lot as well. I’d like to thank him and tell him that I really respect him. I love you, and… You look fabulous today.
Ambition: No, I don’t…
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.