For Kim “River” Dong-woo, the year 2022 was a busy year. He moved from PSG Talon, a team that was at the top of PCS, to Dignitas, an underdog in the LCS. Adapting to a new environment would have been difficult for him — playing in a different country, in a different language, with new players all around him. And then, he had to do it all over again in a new team in Golden Guardians.
Even so, River brought more energy to the Golden Guardians game, as their games became much more lively with River ganking the lanes. Although their journey this year was concluded after their playoffs lower-bracket loss against Counter Logic Gaming, they had a glimpse of hope for a better next year.
After their season was over, River joined in on Discord with Inven Global to talk about his year at the LCS.
Unfortunately, you didn’t make it further into the playoffs and failed to reach Worlds. How was your year in the LCS?
I know that many people say that the LCS is a league where players go to rest before they retire, but I completely disagree with that. LCS is a very high-level league, so players need to work hard to do well here. I think it’ll be really good if I just adapt well.
What was your goal as you joined the LCS?
The first thing was to play well here. As a more specific goal, it was to reach Worlds, but it’s regretful that I wasn’t able to make it.
You said that the LCS is a high-level league. How different is it from the PCS?
The LCS is clearly better than the PCS. I think there are many good players here in the LCS. However, there are some areas that the LCS lacks, such as solo queue environment or scrims.
How do you think PSG Talon would do if they played in the LCS?
Since PSG is a famous brand, so it should be really good. As for how they’d do — when I was in PSG, we won most of the games when we scrimmed LCS teams in international tournaments. According to that experience, I think PSG would do quite well here.
What were the bests and worsts about this year?
The best was that Riot and the teams support the players a lot. A LOT. The teams pay a lot of attention to the players, and they manage and support us well. The worst was that I didn’t get good enough results.
Who helped you the most this year in the LCS?
Dignitas manager Toby Kwon helped me a lot. He was my roommate since I first joined Dignitas, and we still are roommates. Since my English isn’t good enough yet, he helped me with many things. It was a big help adapting to the environment.
The results for the Lock-in and spring at Dignitas were alright, but you tumbled in the summer. What happened?
I think the new meta with the durability patch was big. Also, we had a change in the roster, so the team synergy got worse. But to make things simple, I just think that our performance as a whole got much worse compared to the spring season.
Anyways, you started at Dignitas and then moved to Golden Guardians in the middle of the season.
One day, the general manager at Dignitas told me that Golden Guardians wanted me. He told me to think it through for one day… You know, one day is a very short period of time. So I thought it through, over and over again. At first, I said that I didn’t want to go, but GGS made me think that they really wanted me, so I decided to move.
One of the reasons was that GGS was higher in the standings, and it seemed that they could make it to the playoffs without much trouble. On the other hand, I felt a bit pressured since I thought I needed to do really well alongside completely new players.
Since you moved to GGS, many people said that GGS’ games became much more lively. What change do you think you brought to the team?
The original jungler for GGS liked to farm, but I enjoy ganking. The style is completely different. I believe I was able to aid the laners snowball through my ganks, and that made it more convenient for the team to carry on with the game plan.
You used to be at the top the whole time in PSG Talon, but this year, you were eliminated early. Were you shocked at any level?
When I first came to the LCS, I already thought that it would be difficult to finish near the top, so it wasn’t that shocking for me. What’s more was that my communication level isn’t very high since my English isn’t that good, and I moved teams in the middle of a season. In a way, my first year was full of unfavorable variables for me. It’s just because I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t very shocking, but I always want to go up.
You’ve played in Japan, Taiwan, and now in NA. Isn’t it difficult having to learn a new language all the time?
When I went to Japan, I knew a bit of basic Japanese, so it didn’t take that long to learn, but it got way harder when I went to Taiwan since I didn’t know Chinese at all, and Chinese is a very difficult language to learn in the first place. That was really hard.
Moving to the LCS, I had an English tutor when I was in Dignitas. At the moment, I’m just studying personally, little by little. I’m planning to study hard during the break. Anyways, right now, I understand most of whatever is said in-game, but I’m still struggling a bit with everyday English. Olleh helps me out with team life.
Do you think moving to the LCS was a good choice?
Back when I was in PSG, everyone thought that we had to win no matter what. When we lost one game, the atmosphere got really tense. It’s better to have that pressure off of my shoulders now. Also, since the LCS is a higher league than PCS, I think I made a good choice coming here.
The LCS will finish this weekend in Chicago. You’ve faced them all several times — C9, 100T, EG — who do you think will win the championship?
I don’t know why, but C9 have been beating everyone in the playoffs. Although C9 have been winning, I think 100 Thieves will win the championship. They’re the strongest.
You’ll be returning to Korea for your break. What do you want to do the most?
I don’t really have much that I want to do, but I really want to have Korean food. Jajangmyeon(Noodles in black bean sauce). [Laughs] I’ll be studying English and working out.
What do you think you have to improve the most during the break?
My first priority should be language. I need to study English more. Also, the solo queue environment in NA is really bad, so I think I should practice solo queue in Korea more.
Any last comments?
I’m sorry for not getting good enough results this year. I’ll work hard so that I can play better and get better results next year.