Another year down, and Jeong “Impact” Eon-young continues his journey as a pro gamer. Finishing his ninth year as a pro player, sixth year in the LCS, and third year in Team Liquid, Impact moved onto a new team. Joining Evil Geniuses, Impact mentioned that he’ll be doing his best as if it would be his last year as a player.
Impact was taking a long break back in Korea after Worlds, spending time with friends and family. Before he headed back to LA to join his team, I wanted to grab him for a chat. When I arrived at his building, Impact greeted me with a wide smile, and we had a nice conversation, looked back at 2020, and talked about retirement.
We’re back here again, with our rather annual interview. How have you been? You’ve been back in Korea since Worlds, right?
Yes. I met friends, my girlfriend, played games, but I didn’t play games that much this time. I rarely used the computer. I did watch the rest of Worlds and other tournaments, but I didn’t play it myself much. Since I watched people play a lot, I know all the changes. Even if I was on a break and didn’t play, my hand just went to LoL and turned on streams. I have no other interests. That’s how I have been. The situation isn’t very positive, so there wasn’t anything special.
I’d like to look back at the year 2020. Team Liquid didn’t do that well in Spring, but jumped to 1st place in the regular season in Summer, and concluded the playoffs in 3rd place. What happened?
At first, there was the visa issue with Broxah, and we were losing, so everyone was kind of depressed. Bad stuff piled on top of each other and we were caught in a vicious cycle. That was unfortunate for us.
In the summer, the playoffs were so regretful. We lost all the matches 2-3 — if we just had taken one more step, we would have won. Anyways, losing is losing so I don’t want to give any excuses. There’s nothing to be said since we lost to a better team.
"No one remembers a pro gamer unless they’re the champion."
Some people say 3rd place is still good, but I don’t want to say that and it’s not much of a consolation. I didn’t do well. No one remembers a pro gamer unless they’re the champion. Who remembers the 3rd place team? I came 3rd when I was in Xenics Storm, and no one remembers that, right? [Laughs] A pro gamer is an occupation that has to prove oneself through results — 3rd place doesn’t quite work out. It was fortunate that we were able to make Worlds though.
How was Worlds? To me, Group A was so close.
Like always, we screwed up the first round. NA teams usually screw up the first round and show up in the second… It was the same this time. Losing to Machi Esports was critical. If we had beaten them, three teams would have had a tiebreaker and maybe we would have reached the knockout stage…
When we beat Suning, I said that we won already from the draft. I picked Malphite while they had Jayce-Graves-Twisted Fate, and Twisted Fate was the only AP. As a matter of fact, it’s not one AP — it’s kind of 0.5 AP. That was the reason I thought we had already won.
Did you watch all the games after you were eliminated?
Yeah. When I played against Suning, I knew Bin was really good. I felt that his laning was really smart — he doesn’t use his skills meaninglessly and is good at the mind game. Many people fixate on his mechanics, but in my opinion, Bin’s real strength comes from his intelligence. I did cross the line by not putting up a single ward until 5 minutes, though. [Laughs]
Bin played Fleet Footwork on Jayce. Jayce players don’t use Fleet Footwork — they almost always pick Conqueror. When playing Conqueror on Jayce, it’s difficult to use the hammer form against Malphite. Jayce could get one-combo’ed after giving up too many hits to Malphite’s Q. But by using Fleet Footwork, he was able to maintain his HP, which gave him more mana to play around and he pushed me in, poking. Even after he died to a gank, he didn’t stumble.
Fleet Footwork Jayce was something others didn’t attempt. Everyone knows Bin as a mechanical god. I wanted to say that he’s a really smart player as well.
What did you think about the Fiora pentakill? It’s like a dream come true to all top laners around the world.
I’ve also had a pentakill in my career… But it was at an All-Stars game. It’s really difficult for a top laner to get a pentakill. With a champion like Fiora, it’s actually possible, since she can deal damage continuously. If it’s Jayce, one round of skills and that’s it. When I saw him get the pentakill, I wasn’t too surprised. Bin is an amazing player, so I just thought, “he’s really good as expected”.
Then would you pick Bin if I asked you who was the most impressive player?
For me, it was ShowMaker. In the finals, ShowMaker was the best player. When he played Orianna, DAMWON Gaming almost lost that game, but his Orianna carried the team in the dragon fight. There are many players that could play Orianna well, but to be that decisive and active like ShowMaker was… It’s a rare talent.
Throughout Worlds, I was really surprised by ShowMaker and Canyon. They made me think that I want to see them play scrims or whatever from behind them, at their team house. I want to hear their shotcalls, what they say or discuss when they play. Obviously, I wouldn’t have the chance. [Laughs]
Well, kkOma joined DAMWON Gaming, so maybe it would be possible for you. Are you planning to visit him at DAMWON’s team house?
KkOma hasn’t contacted me since he got married. [Laughs] I know it should be me who contacts first… Since Poohmandu is also there, I might visit them one day.
After Worlds, you left Team Liquid and joined another team. Did your contract expire?
Yeah. My contract was over and TL wanted to try Alphari. So I said that I’ll go to another team and we parted ways very amicably. We parted nicely.
I’m assuming that you would have gotten a lot of offers as a free agent, but you picked Evil Geniuses. What was the reason?
I thought they were the best among the teams I considered. You know, a lot of people retired recently. It looks as if the old ROX members gathered up and decided to retire altogether — I don’t know if they did or not, but I was really surprised that they did. I thought Kuro and Smeb would still play.
However, seeing them retire made me more energized. I’m probably the last player that’s left among those who debuted in 2012. I’ll be playing next year thinking that it’s my last year. I’m not implying that I’ll retire after next year, though. I chose Evil Geniuses because of this. It felt that I could fully devote myself to gaming in this team. They approached me sincerely and showed that they really wanted me.
"I don’t care about the money. I want victory."
Many people have been saying that joining the LCS is to go on vacation while getting paid a lot. In my case, I went to NA before anybody headed this way — at first, my salary was really small as well. That was my start in NA, so I don’t care about the money. I want victory. As much as the team trusted me, I want to repay them for the trust.
You were with Team Liquid for three years. It must have been hard to leave. Were there no regrets?
I originally wanted to play about a year or two in Team Liquid. Obviously, it’s regretful, but it was inevitable. There are a lot of good memories and I had fun there. The people were good, and there were a lot of positive things because I was in Team Liquid.
When I looked up an old interview of yours, you had said that you stayed in NA because you achieved nothing while being there. At this point, you now have four championships.
That doesn’t really mean anything now. Although I won many championships, at this point, it means nothing. A player’s value is decided by what they can show now and what they can show in the future. Past is the past, and you shouldn’t dwell on it. Even if I won Worlds, that’s far in the past. What I want is to be called a player that’s consistently good. The number of championships I won in the past doesn’t matter.
"What I want is to be called a player that’s consistently good. The number of championships I won in the past doesn’t matter."
Even if I win the championship, that’s only for that season. When the next season starts, it all starts again from 0. Obviously, the salary could rise, but that’s not everything. At this point, even if my salary was reduced to half, I don’t think my happiness would decrease.
It’s been six years since you went to NA. What’s changed the most?
I would say that my personality changed. When I was in Korea, I had a fiery personality. I didn’t like it even when I missed one CS — I got angry and loud when I did, but I changed a lot now. Cain helped me a lot and taught me to ease my anger. I learned that getting mad doesn’t fix anything. I don’t think this changed because I was in NA; over the six years, I’ve changed and matured.
Frankly, I don’t know if I changed a lot. Even if I changed a lot, changes probably came gradually, little by little, so I don’t feel it that much. Other than my personality, I’d have to say my hairstyle changed the most. [Laughs] And the way I talk. When I got on a cab from Incheon airport, the cab driver asked me if I was a Korean American because of the way I spoke in Korean.
There have been several players and coaches who returned to the LCK over the past few years. Do you ever think of returning to the LCK? That you want to play in the LCK again some day?
I don’t think I do. It would probably be fun to play in the LCK, but more than that, I want to reach Worlds with the LCS and beat an LCK team at Worlds. That way, I could prove myself. More than playing in the LCK, I want to beat them by staying in the LCS and improving our performances. Still, the thought of going back to an LCK team sounds fun… But who would take a fossil like me? [Laughs]
"The thought of going back to an LCK team sounds fun… But who would take a fossil like me?"
What do you think the biggest attraction for the LCS is?
In the old days, the biggest attractions were mistakes. Players would die while attempting to get the Rift Herald, Shelly gets a double kill, they get executed by turrets… [Laughs] There used to be mistakes that shouldn’t be seen in a professional scene. Currently, the LCS aims for playing macro more.
Personally, I wish it was more aggressive. Most of the teams have trouble snowballing from the early game, even though it’s harder to snowball late in the game. LPL teams are completely different. Their support comes to top lane at Lv.2, bot laner gives up all the CS and moves to join the fight. This happens because they know there will be a fight.
This also goes for solo queue. The NA solo queue has a lot of problems. I maintained around 3rd to 10th this year. But even though I was ranked that high, it didn’t feel like proper practice and it wasn’t fun. As I played in the Chinese solo queue at Worlds and KR solo queue here, it was really fun. That really felt like LoL. In that matter, it feels that CoreJJ is really doing a good job, holding all those in-houses. It worked out well. I wanted to take part, so I checked the ping from Korea — it was 200, so I gave up. [Laughs]
As you said earlier, there were a lot of players that retired this year, and you said that you’ll be playing thinking that the next year is the last year. How long do you think you’ll be playing?
Three years? I think I’ll be playing for at least three more years. There aren’t enough fun things in life to retire yet. Personally, November and December are the most boring months for me, since there’s nothing after Worlds. I might be a workaholic, but I’ve been living like this since I was 18 years old. Solo queue is good, yes, but it’s like practicing soccer alone with a ball and a goal. It helps improve myself, but it’s not fun.
Anyways, my retirement… I’ll probably retire when I think I’m not good enough. As long as my performance allows me, I want to play as long as possible. On the other hand, if I were to get married and have kids, things could change. In that case, if I had something in my life that I have to concentrate on more than playing — I’ll retire if I can’t completely concentrate on LoL.
In that case, your consistency would drive you for a long time. What would your goal be for next year?
Since I changed teams, I need to prove myself again. I have to show what I’m worth. (Like always, you would want to win the championship, right?) Well, rather than that, I want to show Team Liquid that I’m still really good. I’ll crush them. [Laughs] I’m not trying to diss them or anything. I hope we both do well.
"I want to show Team Liquid that I’m still really good. I’ll crush them."
Any last comments?
Next year would be the same. Everyone says that they’ll try to win the championship — it’s cliche, but it means that all the players are so passionate to win the championship. It’s the same for me. I want to win the championship and prove my value.