When I met Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong, I assumed it would be for a fairly light interview to talk about the upcoming 2022 LCK Summer Split. The spring split would have to be discussed, at least for how the interview was planned, but in the end it didn't work out that way. As it turned out, the 2022 LCK Spring Split left a strong impression on Bdd’s pro gaming career, and not in a good way.
Bdd is a veteran. He's had his ups and downs as a pro gamer. He’s been to the top of the LCK, and he’s also been to the relegation match, something a pro LoL player would want to avoid by any means. That might be probably why it didn’t seem like spring was the most challenging season for him, despite being 8th overall and failing to reach the playoffs.
“I was traded from Gen.G to Nongshim RedForce, and you can't really feel good about being traded, right? I felt a bit skeptical, and since our results weren’t good, it was a very tough time for me. I’ve always thought of myself as a competitive mid laner, but that went away. I doubted myself, I got stressed, and lost confidence — it was a vicious cycle.
"Actually, I’ve thought from before that people didn’t recognize my performance as much as I play. I think it’s partially the web communities’ influence. I used not to read anything from those communities, but since the pandemic struck, there weren’t any ways to communicate with fans, so I started reading them. I was also curious about what they thought too.
"But once I began, I couldn’t stop. Even when there are negative comments, I think, ‘What the heck is he saying?’ and then I recheck it the next day. I keep reading those comments when my mind is telling me not to. That’s when I start to get convinced. I think that’s what’s the scariest about it. To make it worse, my results were bad, so I kept falling. Last spring was the split that I doubted myself the most.”
Although spring nothing more than a memory now, Bdd’s worries are yet to fade, although there were some positive changes. He gained motivation and the faith that his worries would be resolved. He mentioned the fans as his driving force, telling us he gained a lot of energy from the fans he met at the offline fan meet held last month.
“At first, I had no idea how I could overcome this situation. Should I talk with a consultant? Or ask for advice from people around me? But I thought that if I did, I would keep drowning in this hole, so I decided to overcome it myself, thinking that time would solve everything. As a matter of fact, time DID solve everything in the past.
"Time passed that way, and one day, I had a chance to meet up with fans, in person. It was such a long time since I did that last. It was really fun, and it felt like living again. You know, I’m really good at remembering faces and names. There was a fan that I saw 4 years ago, and I met that person again at the fan meet. That was really fun.
"This was a great motivation for me. I didn’t know how to stand up before, but now, I can see the path. I was able to get back on my feet, thanks to the fans.”
Aside from Bdd’s 'slump', Nongshim RedForce’s preparation for the summer season went to plan. The team atmosphere was great as always, and he mentioned that scrim results were clearly better than spring.
At the beginning of 2022, Nongshim RedForce drew a lot of attention with the stacked roster which featured the likes of Canna, Dread, Bdd, Ghost, and Effort, but ended the Split with an underwhelming 8th-place finish. They aimed for a strong top side and a stable bot duo, but what came out was an inconsistent top side and a weak bot.
What made it worse was the 7-match losing streak they endured, along with some positive COVID tests, which saw them play out a month of losses. While they were able to stop their losing streak after exactly one month of defeats, the team quickly fell off once more with another 5-match losing streak. While looking back at spring, however, Bdd chose to praise his teammates.
“What was really good about my teammates and the coaching staff was that even if we were in that long losing streak, no one spoiled the mood, and no one distrusted each other. Even if we didn’t win, we just said, let’s prepare for the next match well. For me, it usually takes time to get friendly with people I don’t know well, but it feels as if I’ve been with my teammates for 2 years. Everyone is so kind and caring.
"I didn’t feel any pressure since I thought they were all great players. However, the problem was that my pride as a pro player fell extremely low. If I’m able to meet the fans at LoL Park again and win again, I’ll get to recover that, right? I haven’t quite recovered yet, so I want to do that in the summer.
"Our scrim results are indeed better than spring, and we keep on improving. Our biggest issue was that all five players didn’t see the same angle. We’ve been focusing on that part the most. Personally, I’ve been working hard to think calmly and to always maintain my cool.”
We also talked about Irean and Coco, with Irean having taken over the head coach position. While he had experience coaching abroad, it was Irean's first time coaching in the LCK, although he does have experience winning the domestic championship, as well as having been to Worlds.
As for Coco, he was on the same team as Bdd when they were playing for CJ Entus. Back in the day, Coco was the starting mid laner, and Bdd was just a trainee. To Bdd, Coco used to be a respectful player that was out of reach, but now he has become a trustworthy coach that can read Bdd’s mind.
“I met Irean for the first time as he joined our team. Since he’s never coached an LCK team, I didn’t know anything about him. He’s really passionate, he always tries to communicate, and he looks after the players a lot. Irean is kind of like GorillA, from my perspective. GorillA was so nice; he kind of “overcared” for us. [Laughs] In that way, Irean pays attention closely to in-game stuff. I’ve been receiving so much positive energy from him.
"Not many people think that players practice harder abroad than Korea, so I was slightly concerned that the practice might get loose, but we have to show up earlier now. Originally, we had to show up by 1 PM, but now, we need to appear at noon, play a game of solo queue before we start scrimming. That was unexpected. It’s a bit hard when it’s the day after our day off, but it’s mostly better. It gets me focused more on scrims.
"As for Coco, I’ve seen how he is from before, right by his side. Back when he was a player, I thought he had a very strong personality, but now, he’s really flexible. Also, he really reads my mind, whether it’s in-game or out of the game — he recognizes what I’m discontent about and reads out what I’m thinking.
"In the game, there are timings and situations where I have to push strongly in mid lane, but there are times when I can’t. If I just let that pass, it feels uncomfortable, but if Coco brings it up and talks about it, I can play more comfortably in the next game. It feels like he literally reads my mind.”
The summer split is right around the corner. Bdd said that he wants Nongshim RedForce to become a team that can have more precise teamwork and that he wants to make plays precisely tailored to each situation. He also mentioned that his realistic goal is to reach the playoffs — if the team’s in a good form, he’ll be aiming for higher places.
“All teams are probably thinking the same thing. I want to play as T1 does — make precise plays tailored to each situation. I hope our team becomes a team like that. In that matter, my realistic goal for the summer is to reach the playoffs. If our form is good in that process, we might even be able to aim for the championship as well.
"Oh right, personally, I want to reach higher than KT Rolster. I don’t remember if it was Rascal or Life — he teased me for ending up in 8th place. I’ll take KT Rolster down very soon. [Laughs]
"All pros probably feel the same. The biggest motivation is always the fans, and we’re only here because they support us. I felt that more than ever at the recent fan meet. I think I almost forgot about that since it had been so long since I met them. I’m always so grateful.
"You should be disappointed because we didn’t do well in spring, but I’m quite sure that we’ll be better in the summer. I’ll work hard so that we can get good results and reach the World Championship. Please keep cheering for us. Thank you!”