After the conclusion of the last season, when Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho declared that he’d be taking a break, many fans were surprised. Still considered one of the best top laners in the LCS, the news that he couldn't find a team was shocking. Inven Global had the chance to catch up with Ssumday, who returned to Korea early after the season ended, to hear about his current situation.
How have you been?
I came back to Korea and have been taking it easy, not doing anything special. I'm planning to return to the United States around the first week of January.
When did you come to Korea?
Around September. We were eliminated way too early. [Laughs]
Did you watch Worlds?
I watched almost all the matches. I enjoyed watching Adam getting a lot of spotlight in the Play-Ins, and NRG reaching the quarterfinals was impressive. From the knockout stage, the Chinese teams looked strong, but seeing T1 beating all of them and winning the championship was cool.
What do you think as you watched Adam play well with GODS?
I think it's impressive. He has his own character, and that's important. His champion pool is unique. While playing meta champions that others excel at is crucial, it's impressive that he showed his own style that resonates in the pro scene — it can be challenging from the opponent's perspective. Maybe the coaching staff might not like it since it's difficult to provide guidance because the player knows much more. You need to be careful in the draft, but from a viewer's perspective, it's certainly interesting.
Zeus won Worlds. Considering his young age, he seems like a player similar to when you debuted. What do you think?
I used to think that way too. However, my debut results weren’t as good as his. Now, all there’s left for Zeus is to walk the paved path ahead of him. Winning the Asian Games was envy-inducing, but it's evidence of his hard work behind the scenes.
You went to Evil Geniuses in the spring and then returned to 100 Thieves. How did that happen?
Originally, I was supposed to be with EG for two years, but the team fell apart. After hearing that EG couldn't maintain the roster any longer, we each had to find a new team.
You left 100 Thieves after being inducted into the Hall of Fame. How was it going back?
[Laughs] It was a bit awkward. Even when my position was ambiguous in the middle of the season, I was grateful that they called me back. From 100T's perspective, the mid and top positions suddenly became vacant, so it seemed like a win-win situation for both of us, although the results weren’t very good.
After the season, you tweeted that you weren’t able to find a team.
The LCS is not in a good situation right now. It has been reduced from 10 teams to 8, and these teams seemed to focus more on building a roster for the future rather than winning now. So, I thought it would be best to take a break.
I haven’t decided on my future at the moment. I can stream, or become a coach. I might even find another job after finishing my military service. But for now, I’ll be back in the U.S. and stream for a while, see how things go in the summer, and then make a decision.
So for now, it’s a break, but do you mean it could even become your retirement?
If there's no team that wants me, it might happen. Being a pro gamer is not something I can do just because I want to — it depends on realistic opportunities.
I didn’t expect it to be such a difficult time for you.
From my perspective, there are aspects that feel unfair. I don't think my personal performance was bad. It feels like a force majeure.
I agree. The league itself was downsized. Have you ever thought of after retirement?
I've been in the pro scene for more than 10 years, and each year wasn’t easy. It occurred to me once in a while, but recently, I’ve been thinking about after retirement much more. I’ve been playing in this scene because I love gaming, and I haven’t found many other things that I enjoy yet. I’ll need to find something I like.
It's a bit scary to be forgotten, considering that being a pro gamer attracted a lot of attention. That's why I was thinking of focusing on streaming, but then I heard that Twitch is leaving Korea. I really don’t know what I should do afterward.
On the other hand, what do you think you would have become if you didn’t become a pro gamer?
I probably would have lived a normal life. I wasn’t exactly a great student, so I probably wouldn’t have been able to go to a good university. Since my dad works in the semiconductor industry, I guess I would have followed his path.
Have you ever regretted becoming a pro gamer?
I have never regretted it. When I first took the challenge, I thought it was a path that regular people don’t get to take, so I believed there would be a lot to learn even if I didn’t succeed. I’ve been maintaining a pro gaming career for quite a long time, and I’ve seen how teams and players make their debut and disappear. In that regard, I’m extremely lucky. All of the attention, love, and support I received over my career is something that I wouldn’t have gotten with a normal life, so I’m very grateful.
How do you think the LCS would be with eight teams?
I haven't seen a league with 8 teams before, so it's unusual. Maybe they’ll increase the number of matches? I hope it becomes more competitive as the number of teams has decreased. It could lead to leveling up the playing field.
Is there a team you think will do well?
I think the teams that performed well last season will probably do well. Teams like C9 and NRG, the latter only changed the support. I think these two teams will do well.
You mentioned the possibility of going to the military. Olleh has just returned to the LCS after completing military service. What are your thoughts?
I think it's remarkable. He’s older than I am, and after having one and a half years away from pro play, jumping back into this battlefield with passion is truly impressive.
If you go to the military, do you think you would attempt to come back as a player?
If there’s a team that wants me, it would be great. But realistically, I need to see if there will be a team that would take me. Two years is an incredibly long time for a pro gamer. Even after just a single season break, people require the players to prove themselves again.
After two years, I could be a completely different person. In the best-case scenario, I’d be so grateful and happy. But you always have to consider the worst too, so I’m not sure, as the LCS and the LoL scene changes so rapidly.
So it’ll be streaming for a while. Any specific plans?
Until January, I’ll enjoy the break a bit longer and then return to the U.S. afterward to stream. I'll try to maintain my skills so that they don't get rusty, and I'll see how things go after the spring. I heard that the game will undergo significant changes next season. It seems to be happening in Champion's Queue already. I'll have to work hard.
Any last comments to close the interview?
It's winter, so it's cold, but I hope you all take care not to catch a cold. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I wish everyone happiness.