The "Gear" turns no more: GorillA on his career, from Tigers to SANDBOX, and his future

As someone who’s been dubbed the ‘Gear’ in LoL esports, Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyun was the player that bridged his teammates together in creating a single performing unit. Many consider him to be the true supporting character in esports. On Dec. 9, the ‘Gear’ stopped turning, as he announced his retirement via his social media.

 

But there’s more to Gorilla than just being the support. Is the nickname, the “Gear”, what he thought of himself as well?


 

 

“Hello, I’m no longer known as GorillA, but just as Kang Beom-hyun. Due to COVID-19, this Winter seems much colder than previous years. I hope everyone’s doing well.”

 

Daily Life

“My family home is in Songdo, Incheon, and due to how far it is from Seoul, I recently moved to a home near the old GE Tigers team house. Because I’m playing in a new environment, things are very hectic, and I can’t focus on the game. You never know how life will pan out, because I never thought I’d be moving back here. 

 

It hasn’t been long since I moved out to live on my own, and as expected, it’s not easy. Whenever I lived in team houses, we had a housekeeper who’d clean and cook for us, and since I’m so used to such a lifestyle, it’s not easy to do all of it on my own.

 

For now, I don’t have a set pattern in my daily life. I bought a bunch of furniture from IKEA, and after building all of it, my body was aching everywhere. I also just got the internet set up at my new place. Due to the pandemic shutting down gyms, I feel that I’ve become even more lethargic [laughs]. Once I start playing more games and stream daily, I think I’ll have more of a daily routine.

 

However, there are things I still do daily. The first thing I do when I wake up is check my stocks. It’s kind of a small investment. Afterwards, I do my recycling, and have been catching some KeSPA Cup games. It’s a very fresh and fun lifestyle. Now that I’ve somewhat settled into this new place, I’m excited to see how my life will pan out until next January. The goal is to work hard and live life to its fullest.

 

There is slight uneasiness about the future as well. I have a tendency to get anxious and nervous about the future, to the point where others worry about me. I tried to change that part about me, but I think it’s just a personality thing. I’m very sensitive about it, so I get stressed out really easily. Looking at my bank balance already makes me feel anxious. While I did make more money compared to others my age, time continues to flow. I just stepped into the real world."

 

Consolation and Relief

"I recently wrote my retirement letter. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so knowing that it was the last time that I’d be talking to the community as a pro gamer, I wanted it to be perfect. Rather than being sad about my retirement, I just wanted to write it the best I could, so it was hard to gather my thoughts. I pondered on whether or not I chose the right words, and had regrets on not reading books regularly. Thankfully, I had a lot of help in finishing that letter. 

 

After posting that letter, a huge bag of emotions caught up to me, so I ended up crying for an hour. There were a lot of people that were cheering me on, and since it was so late in the night, I was a bit more emotional than usual.

 

A lot of western fans and the people I worked with while overseas sent me cheerful messages as well. Seeing their words made me think, “Wow, there are people overseas that haven’t forgotten about me and kept supporting me.” The words from the people I worked with proved that I worked hard in life. 

 

Even though I didn’t do well in Europe, the staff and the CEO of Misfits replied to my retirement letter as well. My tenure in Europe may not have gone the way I wanted, but I worked really hard, so seeing them reply gave me a huge sense of relief."

The Decision

"My competitive drive was always there. Even until the very end. However, I couldn’t produce results, so I started to doubt my own gameplay. I also noticed that my multitasking abilities were starting to falter as well. I was able to look at the game as a whole to make the right in-game calls and make the right plays, but that became harder with time. I first contemplated retirement when I was on Misfits, but I really wanted to end my career in Korea. That’s why I worked harder when I was with SANDBOX.

 

I started contemplating again in September. My team continued to stay in the lower half of the standings, so I lost confidence. Near the end of the Summer split this year, I remember talking to YamatoCannon about some of my worries. It wasn’t exactly about retirement, but due to the mandatory military service, I didn’t know how much time I had left in my career. I stayed up until 5 a.m. that night.

 

I still remember what Yamato said to me. He said that I am what inspires him every morning, because since the Summer split may be my very last split, he wanted it to shine the brightest it could. While he’s my head coach, to hear words like that from someone that was younger… It made me feel very grateful. Honestly, at first, I didn’t know why I was put in such an experimental position, as it was my first time having a western head coach in Korea. However, looking back on it now, it was a very meaningful experience, and I’m very grateful and lucky to have worked with him.

 

I remember my teammates saying to me, “We’re very sorry that we only left you bad memories so far”, and wanted to start fresh. It was not like I was low on the solo queue ladder, so people around me told me to give it one more try. However, I knew that the moment I contemplated retirement, the same set of troubles and worries will catch up to me next year. I knew that if the time came to enlist in the military during the season, I had to spend a lot of time and energy in delaying it, so with the potential of not being able to completely focus on the game, I decided to retire."

 

The Leader

"I had a huge sense of responsibility in taking care of my teammates. While the general public may think that a pro gamer just needs to be good at the game, it’s a profession that’s always exposed to the mass media. As a pro gamer, I always believed that you need to have great character, so I wanted to teach my teammates that doing everything the right way will make them great pro gamers. It all started with me taking care of myself well, in the hopes of my younger teammates a thing or two on what it really means to be a great pro gamer.

 

Being the captain of the team came with its own set of troubles. I was never part of a huge organization until SANDBOX, and as the leader of a team, you come across a lot of information. I was always the first one to hear about the troubles that the organization faced, and it was very difficult, because after returning to a Korean team, my highest priority was to find a team with security."

The Good Guy

"There wasn’t any pressure in having the image of being the “Good Guy”. However, there was a little bit of regret. You know those players that people think of as always being angry? They’re just good at expressing their emotions, and I believe that it all stems from their competitive drive. I believe that the players who think outside of their boxes, or in other words, a bit crazy, are the ones that are really good at the game. The thought of, “What if I was a bit crazy? Would I have been a better player…?” That’s the bit of regret I have. Even though I have a career that many strive to achieve, I always wonder if I could’ve been better.


I also felt the same when I looked at Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong’s career. He created the whole “roaming support” meta, so I hoped that I would be able to think innovatively as well. I was quite jealous of him. Nowadays, I think that Cho “BeryL” Geon-hee is really good. I wondered if I played like him in my prime. Every top player has their own flaws to a certain extent, and my flaws came from being indistinctive."

 

The Protagonist and the Supporting Character

"The reason why I left Najin Shield all those years ago was because I wanted to produce better results. Rather than becoming the protagonist, I just wanted to be more proactive, but perhaps that is what makes you become one. Looking back, I think I was the most vocal when I was with the Tigers. I did everything I could to never lose, so I think that’s when I was in my prime. I was like a fighter.

 

After some time passed, I started to produce results, so I think that I became somewhat complacent. I don’t like how it happened. Sometimes, I needed to really vocalize my opinions to my teammates, but I slowly became dull over time. While I was on GE, I was very bold in my engages and utilizing other lanes as well, but before I knew it, I was playing Tahm Kench to just go even: I put other lanes before mine. I had to stand my ground on things, but I didn’t. I’m not saying that I underperformed due to being selfless; I just became weaker on a personal level.

 

On SANDBOX, watching the mid laner, Kim “Dove” Jae-yeon, made me feel really bad. I think that he’s a great player, and has what it takes to rise to the top. However, he’s too used to putting others before himself, so I always told him to be more proactive. I don’t know if he was like this prior to me joining the team, but I hope that he expresses his anger, utilizes his resources to the fullest, and expresses his emotions more."

Emotional Consumption

"I wasn’t burnt out from the game. Even now, I could play LoL for 10 hours straight. However, I’m burnt out emotionally. Living in team houses meant that I’m always in conflict. I was getting older, while my teammates were getting younger… I hit a point where I felt distant. Whether it was during feedback, there was this feeling where fundamental aspects weren’t being kept in order. Exhaustion came from my relationships.

 

Toward the end of my player days, I became very honest with my emotions. I was a person that was used to suppressing everything, but I became someone that spoke out everything I wanted to. I was the type of person to just cry if I felt victimized. There were a lot of nights with tears falling down my face, as I was never able to speak out on the hard truth.

 

2018 was the hardest year of my career. Kim “PraY” Jong-in was named MVP after winning the Spring split that year, and I felt that we did very well in our research and execution in the bot lane. However, after losing in the MSI that quickly followed our championship victory, I felt very down. Even when I did say that I wasn’t concerned with the negative reactions from the community, there’s no way I’d be completely unconcerned. Rift Rivals followed shortly afterwards, and I was really struggling emotionally. While my opponents did play better than my team, I felt like I was crumbling by my own hands. The bag of mixed emotions was quite different from when we played against SKT.

 

During my pro days, my sports psychologist asked me what my hobbies were, and my answer was always, “I don’t have one”. I was at my happiest when I was watching videos on my off days. I was emotionally burnt out, so I treasured the time I spent by myself. That’s how I was growing up into an adult."

The other “GorillA”, Kang Beom-hyun.

"I want to do something. Anything. I plan to continue my career in esports, even after my military service. Whether it’s through my own stream or through official esports broadcasts, I’ll continue to show my face to the public in 2021.

 

I watched a lot of PraY’s streams. I think I’m more suited for official broadcasts rather than entertainment. Whatever may come my way, I want to try many different things. While there is that fear of uncertainty in not being able to find my momentum or my concept, I’ll work hard in finding my niche.

 

After my military service, I’m hoping to transition into a coaching role. I’m going to keep up with all the league matches. As someone watching the games from a third-person perspective, I feel that there’d be a lot of things I can teach.

 

I do my best in trying to remember each and every one of my fans. Whether you’re someone who came to watch the games frequently, once, or even never, you’re all very valuable. I’m just a guy that played games in a game room. That’s why I’ll be forever grateful. Thank you.

 

Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyun."

A linchpin is a fastener used to prevent a wheel or other part from sliding off the axle upon which it is riding. When used in a figurative sense, a person who proves himself to be the core member to an organization and their goals is best compared to a linchpin. A linchpin may be small in size, but its existence is irreplaceable.

 

A linchpin is a key component in making an analog clock tick away in the flow of time. The pro gamer, GorillA, was a supporting character in LoL esports, who was mostly silent and tried not to stand out, but was strong and irreplaceable.

 

Gorilla wasn’t just any gear. He was the “Linchpin”.

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