As esports grows, so does the number of people looking for a career in the industry. However, it can be very difficult to find a job, and hard to know where to start. The need for people with diverse talents increases as the industry continues to grow, but it’s not always obvious how to get in.
For those planning a career in esports, we've prepared a series of interviews with esports insiders. From how they found their jobs, what they needed to succeed, to who they are as people, we want to bring you their stories. We're delighted to introduce our next interviewee in the ‘Meet the esports insiders’ series, the Team Lead for LCK’s Social Media team, Lee Sang-ho.
Please introduce yourself to the public.
My name is Lee Sang-ho, and I’m currently the team lead of the LCK Social Media team. The LCK social media team is in charge of planning and executing various promotions and events for the fans both in Korea and worldwide.
What did you do prior to working in your current job, and how did you transition into your current role?
I actually moved jobs quite often. I think I was pretty lucky with my first job; I started working for OGN in 2016. Ever since my days as a student, I loved gaming and esports, so after I graduated from college, I worked towards finding a career in the gaming industry.
2016 was the so-called “Golden Era of OGN”, as I was there since the inauguration and the end of Overwatch APEX. I of course worked with the LCK at the time, as well as other esports leagues such as Heroes of the Storm.
After OGN, I worked for a company called EJN, and it’s a company that essentially lays the bridge between streamers and the viewers. After that, I worked for PUBG [Krafton] Studios as a freelancer, until 2019, where I got a call from a producer in the LCK that I worked with for a long time. I joined the LCK in February of 2019, and have been working for the LCK since. Currently, I’m working with LCK’s master agency, Prain Global Sportizen, in their esports department.
How was your job different back then from your current job?
I was a freelancer at the time, and I was managing the Facebook and Youtube channels. With the Youtube channel, I was part of planning and making the videos themselves, and the process included making thumbnails for the videos. Because I was a freelancer, I also worked with Nexon, on games such as FIFA Online and Dungeon Fighter Online.
Are there anything you’ve prepared specifically to work in this industry?
In terms of marketing content, it’s definitely a plus if you know how to do design. I majored in industrial design in college; I studied 3D design, so while there may be things that overlap in my current work, there are also those that stray far from the things I studied. While it depends on what you may do within esports, if you currently take a lot at the variety of job openings from all the teams and companies, I do not believe that things like your level of education is important at all.
The people that we hired, as well as my peers in this industry, all don’t have any certificates and they’re still very good at their jobs. I believe that even if it’s just part-time, building your experience in this field, as well as the level of understanding that you have of this industry will greatly help. For myself, while I do have various certificates related to design, I do not believe that those correlate with what I currently do; they’re not necessary.
Can you introduce what you currently do within the LCK?
As the Team Lead for the LCK Social Media team, I’m in charge of running all of LCK’s social media channels. This includes: Facebook, Instagram, LCK Global Twitter, Tik Tok, and the LCK Youtube channels. I believe that LCK’s social media channels are the closest forms of communication with the fans, so my team and I are in charge of delivering important information, as well as various forms promotion.
I think that LCK’s a very unique league within LoL Esports, where they have a dedicated fan base in Korea as well as internationally. What are some of the differences between the two communities?
It’s a topic that I feel I need to be very careful to talk about. While I believe that fans who are unconditionally critical of the players’ gameplay exist in both communities, I believe that there’s a key difference in how they treat the fans. I think that in the international community there are more fans that cheer for teams across the board. There are more international fans that love the ‘underdog story’, so there are more fans that cheer for those teams that are lower in the standings.
Whether it’s about the players’ level of performance or in their gameplay, Korean fans tend to be more aggressive; I think this serves as a positive on many different levels.
There are also cultural differences, where there are a lot of memes that come from the Western culture that a lot of Korean fans may not understand sometimes. In this regard, I receive a lot of help from our LCK Global social media strategist, Genie. Not only is she from the States, she’s also very knowledgeable in this regard, so I receive a lot of help from her.
Can you tell me more about your team, and how you divide up the work?
Including Genie and the person who recently joined our team, our team is made of six people. Because the number of socials we’re managing has increased, the amount of work has increased significantly as well, so we recently hired some new people. While the channels that we manage have their own unique characteristics, because of how our team operates, we do specifically divide our work up. From the various announcements that we have to make, the fan events that we plan, to making various important decisions, it’s a group effort that comes from internal discussions.
In my seven years of experience, I believe that my current team’s work atmosphere is the most liberal one I’ve been a part of. I try to shape it that way as well.
When I interviewed Genie earlier this year, she told me that you work as if you’re a workaholic. What does your work day look like during the season and during the off-season?
I actually don’t like the word, ‘workaholic’, because that means that you can’t properly separate your work life from your personal one. Especially in this day and age, I believe that it’s important to be able to separate the two.
However, during the season, because there’s so much work, it’s hard to separate the two. Wednesdays to Sundays are match days, and even if there aren’t matches on Mondays & Tuesdays, we still have work such as planning content and meetings. Our social team works with various other departments as well, and since a lot of them work Mondays to Fridays, we have to work on Mon-Tues to avoid collision of work hours.
In terms of my daily schedule, I come to LoL Park at 4 p.m. to start my work, and finish around 1-2 hours after the matches end. Our team is the last people to leave LoL Park. As for myself, because I have more responsibilities than others, I either finish up the rest of my work when I get home, or play some games if I’m free.
I usually wake up around 10 a.m. to either have meetings with other departments or do some work before I make my way to LoL Park. This is why I emphasized earlier that I don’t usually have time to enjoy my personal life during the season.
This is my schedule during the Spring and Summer splits, which is around three to four months of the year. During the gaps that we have between the splits and international events and during the off-season is when my team takes some time off. We usually announce when we’re going on break on our socials. This is not to say that we don’t do any work during then, but we do have a lot more free time compared to during the season.
The Youtube thumbnails are always something that the LCK communities talk about. Where do you get the inspiration to create such fun thumbnails, and what’s the creative process like?
I started making Youtube thumbnails in 2019, and it did not come naturally. There were a lot of fans looking for where the original ideas came from, to the point where people were even comparing thumbnails to the youtube channel of former pro player ‘Pray’.
While I did create thumbnails on my own since my OGN days, I now have a full team working with me for the last two years. In a way, I think this is something that I excel at, but nowadays, our team all discuss ideas, to the point where I’m actually not working on the thumbnails starting this Summer split. Some of my team members that wanted to make them are taking turns making them. While I do make the final call, every one of us are part of the creative process.
In a way, I feel that my work is connected to my expansive list of hobbies, such as science, stocks, business, and even making things. I also start my day off reading the news, so I tend to reflect a lot of the current societal issues to the thumbnails. Of course, there’s a line that I cannot cross, but I also like to parody a lot of popular movies, or receive inspiration from my hobbies.
Now that you mention how you parody a lot of current societal issues, there was the slap incident between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the Oscars. Personally, I was hoping I’d see a thumbnail parodying that incident as well.
The personal standard that I have for which incidents I can and cannot parody in a thumbnail is clear. No matter who’s at fault, I still consider the slap incident to be assault, so it was hard for me to parody it. I do realize that there are international fans that find it humorous, but I tend to use only the winning team in the thumbnails. While it’s important for fans to find the thumbnails to be funny, it’s also on me if someone feels offended by them.
Although I try to stick to my standards, there have been times when they became a controversial topic in the community. From a personal perspective, there have been times when false rumors have been spread from the thumbnails. Even so, because I made them, I’m the one to blame for causing misunderstandings. If there are any fans that were hurt, I’d like to take this chance to apologize.
You decided to make the players bald in your recent thumbnails. How come?
Some of the comments asked if the editor’s bald or not, but unfortunately for them, I have a lot of hair [laughter]. When I photoshopped players’ faces onto bald champions like Lee Sin or Ryze, the fan response was very positive. Even some of the players’ responses were positive as well. Because of this, we later had to create grounds to make them bald, such as photoshopping Gwen cutting the players’ hair off with her scissor [laughter].
Thankfully, even the Korean casters mentioned it on broadcast, by saying things like “Player A’s going to get his head shaved tonight” [laughter]. I feel that the whole bald thing found its place within the list of LCK memes, so I see it as a win.
However, some players even said they’re going to sue[?] you…
I always say this, but if I do receive lawsuit papers from them, it’s going to have my name on them, right? I see it as merchandise that’s custom made for me [laughter]. It’s going to have the player’s name and signature on it, so it’ll be awesome.
Can you introduce some of your favorite thumbnails?
This one is from 2019. At the time, Jin Air Green Wings couldn’t win a single game throughout the regular split, until the very end, where they finally managed to win a match. That storyline was very emotional, so I used a Jin Air airplane to say that they finally took off and won.
Because I worked in this scene for quite a while, I don’t have a particular team nor player that I’m a fan of. Nor do I think I should be a fan of a certain team/player. I’m not a part of a certain team, so not only do I have to remain neutral, I’m a fan of the LCK as a league, so I’m not a fan of a certain team/player.
Whenever I watch a team on a losing streak, I see the players frustrated and angry. I can’t help myself but to empathize for them because it feels really bad watching them so stressed out because of losing. When Jin Air finally won their first game so late in that season, I couldn’t help myself but to cheer for them. Some Jin air players even cried when they won, so I wanted to express the fact that they’re taking off to higher heights. I feel that I’ve done a better job than I anticipated, so this is one I remember quite vividly.
This next thumbnail is a continuation of Jin Air’s storyline back then. Jin Air had to play in the relegation tournament later that season, and they managed to stay within the LCK, so I used a Jin Air plane that safely landed to reflect that. I like how the storyline continued, so this is also one that I like.
This next one’s from the 2019 Spring Finals. During the 2019 Spring split, ‘Bang’ came to line up for SKT T1 [T1]’s entrance on April Fool’s Day. I wanted to express the successful transition of the new generation of the bot laner. If you look closely, the two Ezreal models are different; the updated champion model is on top of Teddy, while the old one’s on top of Bang. Both of these players are known for being good with Ezreal, so I think that was a nice touch. It also reflected LCK’s vision of the league at the time, so this one’s very memorable.
I try to express a lot of the storylines within the LCK, and if you look closely, there are a lot of easter eggs I hide in the thumbnails as well. You might overlook them at first glance, but there are fans that closely look at them and find them as well. Through these easter eggs, I also have a lot of fun communicating with the fans.
This last one is when T1 went undefeated this Spring split. I feel that such a record won’t be broken for some time, so I felt it was meaningful to point that record out like this this way.
What do you think is the most important factor in your current work?
Not only is the passion for the game and esports very important, but the attitude you have for content and media is also very important. I think people who consume a lot of media content will excel at this job. Not only do you need to follow the current trends, but you need to also step up and be willing to create your own trend. My team and I are very serious when it comes to media content, and I think this common attribute is why we work so well together.
When do you feel the most satisfied in your line of work?
It’s a bit different when it comes to the actual work itself and the company atmosphere. Right now, I’ve been the team lead for just over a year and a half. In the past, I’ve been both a freelancer and a part of a team at a company. In terms of the company side, I feel the most satisfied when my team and I learn and grow from our mistakes. Whenever my team points out things that I didn’t think of, or when we just discuss great opinions about something, I feel satisfied to see everyone grow so much in such a short amount of time.
In terms of the actual work itself, because we’re in a position closest to the fans, the positive response that we get from the various promotions, thumbnails, and even when LCK is just mentioned a lot is when I’m satisfied. I feel that all the creators and the marketing people would especially agree with me on this.
On the flip side, I feel disappointed when false rumors that come from unknown sources are spread within the community. Because there are a lot of companies that work together to operate the LCK, there are times when I can’t provide proper explanations. It’s emotionally draining to go through such times, but that’s something I have to bear as the team lead for LCK’s social team. Times like these also provide footing to learn how to communicate better with the fans, so it’s not all that bad.
When are things the toughest while working?
I felt that pressure of needing to do a good job all the time, because this is my first time in a leadership position and working in a team setting that’s very liberal. I was really stressed out about this, but looking back on it, it helped me grow. My team also improved and grew through such tough times, so ultimately, it was a win.
What would you say is the biggest thing you learned as a team lead?
My team provides a lot of fresh ideas that stems from their youth. I’d say that learning how my conclusions to things aren’t always the answer is the biggest thing I’ve learned, and I think those in various managerial positions would agree with me as well.
What are some of the things you want to achieve while working in the esports scene?
In the past, I wanted to make my name known in the industry. However, I think this is a goal of my younger self: I just want to create great LCK content with my incredible team. To take that goal one step further, I want the LCK to become more global-friendly, be more accommodating to international fans, and help grow it to be the trend-leading league not just in LoL Esports, but in esports as a whole.
If you had to give some advice to those aspiring to become like you, what would they be?
If you feel the urge to work in the industry because you’re a fan of a certain team or player, then I recommend that you give it one more thought. I’m not saying that’s bad, but I’ve seen a lot of people quit just because it’s not what they expected. You need to want something extra, like the work setting that you want to work in or a vision that you want to achieve. Gaming and esports are two completely different fields, so that’s also something you need to think about as well.
Nowadays, there are ways to gain work experience in esports at an early age. I urge you to experience a lot of things in life, then really contemplate your career.
Lastly, is there anything you want to say to the LCK fans, as well as to the readers of this interview?
Esports can only mature and find its way to sports because of the fans. Leagues and players can only exist if there are fans. I want to thank all the fans who make the communication a lot more fun. We’re preparing some tasty content for the future, so I hope you'll be able to deliciously enjoy the content that we make.
Lastly, I also want to thank the fans and the players for the positive response to the thumbnails, and my apologies go out to the players as well for making them look the way they do in them.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports