Many people always argue about who LCK’s best mid laner is. Names that usually come up are Faker, Chovy, Bdd, and ShowMaker. It was often said that none of the latter three players have a single world championship, but in 2020, ShowMaker claimed the championship.
Heo “ShowMaker” Su joined DAMWON Gaming in 2017, while the team was still in Challengers Korea. From there, he took his steps higher, aiming for a higher goal each year. Much was known from after DAMWON Gaming took over the LCK in 2019, but I was curious about him before his triumph.
Coming close to KeSPA Cup, ShowMaker spared some time to talk about his younger days leading into becoming a pro gamer, the changes in the game, and the changes in the team.
How have you been after the World Championship?
I had a break after Worlds. Recently, we gathered up again and started practicing. Now I’m working hard like before.
Did much change after winning the championship?
I’m not sure -- I don’t think there’s much that has changed. I don’t really feel it. Maybe it’s because I can’t go out much because of the pandemic.
I’d like to go into how ShowMaker came to be. How did you first start playing LoL?
It was around 7th grade. I enjoyed gaming from before that. I liked Starcraft, so I watched Starcraft League a lot as well and watched a lot of games on OnGameNet. One day, they were playing League of Legends. I didn’t even know how to play LoL, but it was really fun to watch despite that I didn’t know anything about it. I convinced a friend to play it with me, and that’s how I first played the game. Soon later, the Korean server opened and it became popular throughout the school and I played with my friends.
Were you good from the beginning?
Oh, no I wasn’t [Laughs]. When I was first playing, it wasn’t that fun. I leveled my account to twenty-something and quit. But I found myself playing LoL again. LoL was really popular then. I think I was first placed in Silver.
I saw Nuclear interview you after Worlds. You had said that you didn’t want to become a pro gamer when you were young. How did you decide to become a pro gamer?
I thought it would be really tiring to be a pro gamer. I did like gaming, but I thought if gaming became my occupation and I had to play games all the time, it would be really tiring. In middle school, it was alright to play around, when I went on to high school, I had to think about my future. Well, I did still play around in my junior year [Laughs]. In my second year, I gave it a lot of thought. My friends were also thinking of what they were going to do.
At that time, I was going back and forth between Master and Diamond 1, just a person who was quite good among the casual gamers. I just played LoL for fun and only played the champions I liked. One day, when I logged onto my account, one LoL friend sent a message, asking if I was willing to participate in an amateur competition.
I knew nothing about the LoL team game at that time, so I thought it would be fun. There weren’t that many champions I could play at that time. When I started practicing “team LoL”, I met new people and learned that I need to play more champions. From that point, I started practicing other champions and looked up VODs of famous players. I hit Challenger after I started to practice other champions.
After all this process, I had a new, more positive perspective on being a pro gamer. It looked fun. It was what I could do well and something that I enjoyed doing. I had already given up studying [Laughs].
Didn’t your parents object when you first told them that you want to become a pro gamer?
When I first told my parents, they were really opposed to it. They even called me a game addict and took my mouse. At that time, I didn’t have a monitor at home. We had a computer, but no monitor. So what I did was connect the computer to a huge TV set and I played sitting on the floor, working my way to Challenger. To come to think of it, I had a really hard time hitting Challenger [Laughs].
I explained the situation, that I was one of the best players on the Korean server. I also got prize money from amateur competitions. After that, they finally allowed me to be a pro gamer. That way, I joined DAMWON Gaming in my second year of high school.
I heard that your parents often come to LoL Park to cheer you on.
They couldn’t come much because of the pandemic this year, but they came often last year. They come and watch every other game. At first, I got a bit nervous when I was aware that they were there. I tried not to pay attention to them since I thought it would affect my performance, but now, I get more concentrated when they come since I want to show them my best.
They were opposed to you becoming a pro gamer, but I think they’d be really proud of you now.
Yes. They say that they’re proud of me. I don’t go home often, but whenever I do, they give me dozens of pieces of paper for me to autograph [Laughs].
Of the many teams, how did you join DAMWON Gaming?
There was a team that I joined to enter an amateur competition, and in that team, there was a coach. The coach was Kang Tae-soo, a.k.a Travel, currently a coach of SANDBOX Gaming. While he was coaching the amateur team, he joined DAMWON Gaming, and he asked me if I wanted to try out.
There were some other offers as well, not too many. But since I was already acquainted with Travel, and since it was my first start as a pro player, I thought it would be comfortable to play where there’s someone I already know.
You said that you originally didn’t want to become a pro gamer since it looked tiring. Now that you are one, and one of the best, how is it?
There are times that the games don’t go well and I get stressed playing the game, but this job is something that a very limited pool of people can do. Talent is very important to do this occupation. I’m really grateful that I was blessed with the talent to become a pro gamer. Being able to have a job at this age itself is something that I’m very thankful for.
Moreover, there are so many fans that cheer for me when I’m down, and there are so many good people that give me words of encouragement all the time. Maybe I’m too young to know, but the fun part outweighs the hard part by a big margin.
From time to time, I think of what I’d be doing if I didn’t become a pro gamer. At this age, I’d probably be in the army with my friends [Laughs].
In the interview with Nuclear, you said that you wanted to be a civil servant.
Actually, a lot of people would sympathize. When a new school year begins, we have to write up something to introduce ourselves. One of the things we write there is what we want to become in the future. The problem was that I really didn’t have a dream job. There was nothing to write. Also, it had to be a realistic job to be not scolded by the teacher [Laughs]. So I used to write “police” or “prosecutor” like my friends did.
One day, a friend said, “Hey, let’s just become civil servants”. So I imagined the life of a civil servant -- a simple life where I could get off work at 5 PM, go home, and play games. It’s a stable job and the work-life balance was good, so it seemed like a good job. [Laughs] I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been able to become a civil servant since it’s really hard to become one nowadays.
How was Heo Su as a person, as a student?
I was just a cheerful guy that liked games. I didn’t get angry easily. I’m kind of shy around strangers, but when I get close, I talk a lot. When I made friends, I was really close with close friends and just stayed quietly around people that I wasn’t close with. I was a student that was scolded all the time by the teacher for not studying and sleeping during class [Laughs].
What other things did you besides gaming?
Besides gaming, I enjoyed watching movies or dramas. When I was younger, I liked sports as well. It’s kind of embarrassing, but my dream during elementary school was to become an athlete. I always went out to play baseball or soccer with friends. I was pretty good, but I was still little. I was short then as well, I was small and weak, but I was quick and nimble. But I would go sprawling when someone pushes me [Laughs]. I’d say I was kind of like Robben.
I used to watch a lot of sports games but after I became a pro gamer, I had to concentrate on the game, so I didn’t have the time to pay attention to other things. After becoming a pro, I just use my free time to meet up with friends. Nowadays, I just sleep when I have a break. Sleep, eat, play LoL… I think there’s only LoL in my head these days [Laughs].
The new season has started. There were a lot of changes again. What do you think of the changes?
The items were changed a lot. At first, it was really complicated and hard because there were so many new items; the images were different so I didn’t know what the items were. But after playing for a while, I got used to it. I think changing the items that way was a good call. After adapting, it’s really fun.
I always think it’s really marvelous that they make the changes. How do they come up with such ideas? The changed items make many different paths that players could take. I’m attempting many different things. I like finding new things, so this change is a positive thing for me.
How’s Katarina? You were known as a Katarina master once.
Katarina has become a lot better, so I’ve been playing her a lot in solo queue. She goes well with the items… But Katarina’s still Katarina. I’m not sure. In some games, she’s really good, I get to think that she’s playable in pro games. In the game right after that, I think this champion is just wrong. Her HP is too low.
I wasn’t actually a Katarina master, I was just a Syndra master. Rather than master, I was a one-trick. I only started playing Katarina after I hit Challenger -- after hitting Challenger, I did play Katarina a lot. But I did play other champions a lot too. Many people say that I was a Katarina master, but I think I just played her the most.
In my opinion, real “masters” play only that champ. I used to play only Syndra, but when I played Katarina, I played LeBlanc and Cassiopeia too. But to come to think of it, I might be a master… To have played such a bad champion that much [Laughs]. Even now, I can’t understand why I played such a bad champion so much.
Other than the season changes in the game, there were changes in the team.
Although there were changes, we’re trying not to lose the team identity and doing our best to show our destructive performance. Khan is an all-around top laner who’s good in both aggressive and defensive plays. I believe we could continue to do well. KkOma has a great career and has so much experience. He’s perfect for the head coach position. He’s a very good person.
As much as Nuguri and I joined DAMWON Gaming together and played together since, it would be lying if I said that I wasn’t sad and disappointed about him leaving. But pro gamers’ careers are very short. Nuguri probably gave a lot of thought until making that decision. I believe he struggled a lot in making his decision as well, so I respect his decision.
Lastly, a word to the fans who are looking forward to DAMWON Gaming’s next season?
Many fans would have worries about the roster changes. I’ll be doing my best to relieve all the worries and to reach the expectations. Please keep cheering for us!