League of Legends

[Interview] SSG Crown: "After Worlds, I was considering the idea of retiring."

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The day of the interview with Crown from Samsung Galaxy was a rather cold day. The offseason holiday had just ended, and all the players were now starting to go back to their gaming houses. Having scheduled an interview with Coach Edgar as well, we decided to all meet at Gongdeok Station. Already having all the drinks ordered and the seats ready, Crown seemed to make it on time.

Originally, we planned on focusing the questions towards the World Championships. However overlooking his very calm and relaxed facial expressions, we got a bit greedy with the questions. If it isn’t at this moment, when will there be another time to hear what Crown is thinking? Without having strict criteria to commence the interview, we decided it would be more entertaining and fun to let the interview flow naturally. Of course, after the interview, it will be a pain to organize everything to its respective place.



This was how this interview was put together. Unlike the light coming from his competitiveness, Crown was rather relaxed. At the same time, he was just an ordinary young man with anxiety. Crown looked like a person who has just started his journey into becoming an adult. From his profession as a pro gamer in the World Championships to his undecided future, Crown’s interview responses have been written down below without any changes

▲ Samsung Galaxy Crown

¤ It's been a while, how have you been?

As it's the only time of the year to take a break, I went to 'Jeju Island' to empty my mind and catch up on some personal matters. To be honest, though, I barely toured the area; I just stayed inside the pension near the beach throughout my entire visit. It's also winter, so there wasn't too much to see. But I was still satisfied with the fact that I was able to spend some time alone.

 
¤ It must be difficult to visit your family during an ongoing season.

Daegu city is pretty far from the teamhouse... Also, I rarely visit my hometown, so I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with my family. Unless a break I receive is fairly long, I rarely leave the teamhouse.


¤ What do you usually do when you're at the teamhouse during a break?

Just until last year, I practiced even during my breaks. However, things have changed now. I now go shopping and even go drinking alone... it was actually very recent where I went out to drink by myself for the very first time. My teammates don't really enjoy drinking, so I went to a bar that I've never been to before, alone, and shared conversations with the bartender there. I think going out to drink by yourself is great when you're bored. 




¤ Are you playing other games as well? I believe CuVee mentioned before that he plays quite a number of different games. 

I don't play any games outside of League of Legends. I also have no interest in mobile games... I just can't get myself to become interested in playing other games.




¤ Now that I think about it, one of your teammates is married. That is a pretty rare sight in the esports scene. Is Ambition different to the rest of the players? Does it make you jealous in any way?

I haven't really thought much about it because I'm always around him. Sometimes, I even forget the fact that he's a married man. I do feel jealous time to time towards couples when I watch couple-related or family-related TV shows, but I never got that feeling from Ambition. Maybe it's because I've rarely seen him and his wife together in one place. 




¤ There are a lot of videos about you on Youtube. You've become well-known for watching whatever you want, such as revealing videos. Is that your "real" self? Or is it a stream personality?

I enjoy browsing Youtube even when I'm not streaming. Also, I'm not "specifically" looking for those kinds of videos, but rather, I become surprised when running into them. As I continue to browse, I find "fun" videos that I enjoy... the videos become better and better as I continue to watch them... they're fun.



I don't really take care of my public image. I always preferred showing fans my true self. I mean, of course, there are still boundaries... (Laughs) I mean, it's natural for boys, right? This is the "natural" me.



¤ Okay, let's start talking about Worlds now. While on the plane to China, what kind of thoughts were you having?

The only thought I had at first, was to get out of my slump. I was aware of the decline in my performance, so I wanted - more than anything - to get out of my slump. 


¤ Before the actual tournament, were you expecting you and your team to reach the heights that you guys have during Worlds 2017? Maybe, you weren't expecting to win the entire thing, but how about reaching the Finals?

My level of confidence kept rising throughout the duration of the tournament. At first, I only had the mindset of, "let's try our best." However, when we lost to RNG during our 2nd game at Worlds, I was mentally shaken.

Despite having such a mindset, I was helpless during those games and couldn't do anything. The results of that game started affecting my plays for the following one as well. That's when I changed my mindset to just enjoy the tournament and have fun. That's how I started playing better.


¤ What are your methods? To grab ahold of yourself during hardships.


There's nothing special, really. The people around me give me support, and I thoroughly think through a difficult situation to find mental stability. I ask myself questions such as, "what should I do next?" 


¤ In your opinion, who has the weakest mindset in the team?

If you ask that same question to the 4 other members of SSG, they'll all point fingers towards me. (Laughs) Excluding me, Ruler probably has the weakest mindset. I think most players who play in a DPS-oriented role[ADC or Midlaner] share this problem. 

Also, there isn't a player with exceptionally "strong" mentality. Everyone in the team is susceptible to mental instability, and when that happens, the rest of us come to support him. 


¤ A lot of gamers believe that Ambition guides the team through those difficult times. 

Ambition himself is a timid-natured person, so he's not really the type of guy to keep everyone in check. But he has a tremendous amount of experience on playing internationally, so he's not easily shaken. 

When he sees me mentally distraught on stage, he comes by and taps me on my shoulders without saying a word. He's an extremely nice and warm person. 

Ambition doesn't actively take care of the team, but when someone is truly having a hard time, he comes to help.


¤ Ambition has a ton of memes. Does he not care about them?

At first, he was very sensitive about it. Now, I think he's enjoying them. He's not bothered by it, but he's not proud of it either. 


¤ At the Finals of the 2017 World Championship, SSG beat SKT with a score of 3-0. Last year, you guys lost to that same team, 2-3. Did this year's Finals remind you of last year?

It's weird but... not a single thought of last year came to mind while I was playing this year. (Laughs)


¤ How is the team atmosphere?

It's pretty good right now. During an ongoing season, however, the atmosphere fluctuates. When it's really bad, no one says a word. The entire teamhouse becomes silent. (Laughs)


¤ On the team, is there a player that is unaffected by the "bad" atmosphere that you mentioned? For example, CuVee looks like a type of person that would rarely get angry.

There isn't a player like that in our team. We may not look like it, but all of us are extremely competitive, and therefore, although we don't show it, we're very often angry at something. As for CuVee, he doesn't show his feelings openly, but rather, keeps it to himself.

People like CuVee become extremely scary when they get angry. I've never seen him get really angry before, but I've seen him being upset from time to time.


¤ During a previous interview that took place last year, you've mentioned how you weren't satisfied with your own performance. Now, you've won the World Champion title. Are you satisfied with how you are, now?

Being completely honest here, after Worlds, I was considering the idea of retiring because I was not satisfied with my own performance. Despite winning... how do I put this... it didn't feel like I deserved it? It didn't feel like I had won with my own skills. My team had won, but I have lost. I can't describe how I felt, and to be honest, I don't know what made me think that way. It felt as if the team had won the game for me. This might come to you as "Crown having too high of a standard," or "being too greedy with his performance. " I'm aware of it as well. 

When rewatching the video of our team's victory at Worlds, my performance did reflect the best that I can be. But I wasn't satisfied. As these thoughts continued to linger in my head, I started getting the idea to just drop everything and quit.

After considering the idea of quitting for a while, I decided to play for at least another year. In Jeju, I made up my mind, that I will play at least another year, and if I'm still not satisfied at the end of that year, I'll retire. 

I made this promise to myself so that I won't mentally collapse if my slump happens to come back again.



¤ I think you're way too hard on yourself. Most people who saw you play on stage acknowledged and admired your performance.

I think so too. Those around me tell me the same thing, that I beat myself too hard. But I still feel the same way... I don't think there's anyone that can advise me on this problem. The only real advice that they can give me is, "Just do your best." There's no one that can set me on the correct path, and I can't either. And I think that's why I've been so hard on myself.

But being hard on myself wasn't enough. So I tried taking long breaks, and it was a good start. There were many opportunities that came naturally to take breaks and relax now that I realized it. No one told me about it before, so I had to figure everything out myself. 


¤ Esports, now, has grown into something completely different from back then. In general, new players might have a hard time adapting to the scene, especially since they haven't experienced the growth of it themselves... Not too far back, I did an interview with coach Ssong. He mentioned that when he eventually retires from coaching, he'd like to be a mentor for professional gamers. The problem that you are facing now, it could most likely be a step that appeared as a result of the growth of esports. You'll need to overcome this to grow further as a player. Anyways, can you tell me about the recent KeSPA Cup tournament?

This might sound harsh, but I couldn't take the tournament too seriously. We were all drained because of Worlds... we didn't have the energy necessary to focus on the KeSPA Cup. I didn't completely sleep on it, I actually tried my best to prepare for it. But it was too hard on us. The timing of the tournament wasn't favorable.

I don't really think I should be saying things like this during an interview, as it can get a lot of people to misunderstand...


¤ Do you often browse online forums?

Once in a while. There are good things that come from it, but bad things as well. 

Every person has a different view on things. For example, a fan may interpret a questionable play that you made in a wrong way. Normally, I wouldn't pay attention to such comments, I usually ignore them all. But when I fell into a slump, I couldn't just ignore them.

I felt like I was being cornered by their words. Saying things such as "Crown is washed up," or "he should retire." On normal days, you'd ignore these comments. But when you hear these things while you're in a slump, you actually start believing in what they're saying. It's actually very dangerous for a player. I'm fine now, but at the time... it wasn't too great of an experience.


¤ Looking back at the past year, how was it? How hard did you try to become what you're now?

It's the same every year. I feel like I didn't try enough. I sometimes think to myself that my standards are way too high. Maybe, it's just in my blood to never become satisfied with myself. I don't practice to overcome a rival player, I practice to overcome myself.


¤ That probably applies to most other players as well - never being satisfied with one's self and striving to become better. Going back to Worlds, was there a specific team or player that left an impression on you?

Not really. The entire tournament was a fight between me and myself. So I didn't pay too much attention to the individuals of the other teams.


¤ Are all the players back from their vacation and are at the team house?

Aside from the players that are attending All-Star, yes, they're all back, practicing again.


¤ As a midlaner in Korea, isn't it difficult to be voted for All-Stars [due to Faker's popularity]? Were you disappointed that you weren't able to attend the event?

Being honest here, I didn't want to go at all. (Laughs) During Worlds, when I was flying to China, I was so exhausted that I just wanted to drop everything and quit. I always wanted to visit somewhere far away for vacation to clear my head a little bit, like Hawaii or Europe. But when I returned to Korea, the busy schedules kept me from doing such things. 



¤ Now that I think about it, had you gone to All-Star, you wouldn't have had any breaks at all. 

If I had gone to All-Star, I wouldn't have renewed my contract... I'm just kidding (Laughs)... It's a joke. 

I may want to attend the event next year. But this year, I was way too exhausted.


¤ Looking at the LCK players, I think their vacation periods are way too short. As for the LCS, the league is extremely busy during an ongoing split, but outside of that, the players get a decent amount of free time. 

It's probably the same for all sports. Once you start making results, you become busier. It's fun at times, but it also drains you.


¤ You said that you considered retiring because you weren't satisfied with your performance. Is that it? Were there any other reasons?

Because I was too exhausted? I think that's the biggest one. Since we're at the top now, I feel the pressure of having to maintain this position. At times, I also felt that no matter how much effort I put in, there were no improvements. My head was filled with the thoughts of "resting".


¤ So you're saying that you've felt your limits... Do you think you're a player of natural talent? Or are you a player that builds himself through effort and practice?

I think I'm a little bit of both. Every person is different. Someone could be born with a stat of 100, but 100 might be their limit. On the other hand, someone could be born with a stat of 0, but with enough practice, he could realize that his limits are beyond 200. How fast a player grows and improves is also different between players. 

Anyways, in my case, I think I have a bit of natural talent, but I need to put in as much effort as well.


¤ As a player, do you think you improved at a fast pace?

I'm not too sure. When I was practicing to become a StarCraft pro, I joined a team as a rookie within only 1 year. I also felt like I was improving at a fast pace. But as I joined the team, like I've wanted, it felt like I stopped improving. 

For League of Legends, I finished 'Season 2' as a Gold player. In 'Season 3', I hit Diamond 1, 99LP.


¤ From the look of things, it doesn't feel like you were slow at all. And this question might be off-topic, but have you ever considered the idea of joining a team overseas?

Recently, yes. I also have intentions of going to either NA or EU if I fail to become satisfied with my own performance during the next season - taking the opportunity to learn English and remotivate myself. Up until now, I was never satisfied with myself, but it might be different this year. I want to "try and experience" playing overseas, it's just curiosity and nothing more. 


¤ Was there a League of Legends player that motivated you to become a pro? A player that either intrigued you or was a role model for you.

In League, no.

I joined the esports scene through StarCraft, and I dreamed of becoming a pro by watching a SC player. As for League players, I only see them as rivals, nothing more.



¤ Can you tell me who that player is?

Lee Jaedong. At the time, he was very cool. After witnessing his plays, I was motivated to try even harder for myself. I chose the best of the best as my very first role model, so no other player really caught my attention.


¤ Let’s talk about the ‘pro gamer’ title. Did you dream of becoming a professional gamer from an early age?

I didn’t dream of becoming a pro player when I was young. When I was young, the title ‘pro gamer’ was very obscure. At the time when I was young, I was just a kid who loved to play games. I played games that I could easily enjoy by myself at the time. I didn’t play any games that were competitive. That’s how I lived. I went to school and played games during my free time while not studying.

All of a sudden, me and my friend got into Starcraft. I was fairly confident in my skills with Starcraft, but my classmate would easily beat me. When I lost, I said “What? I lost?” and wanted to do anything possible in order to beat my friend. I started to study the game. After 1 week of constantly practicing, I was able to barely beat my friend. At the moment when I beat my friend, a spark kindled inside of me. The feeling of winning was amazing. The sense of accomplishment had slowly started to manifestate inside of my head.


¤ If at the time you didn’t have the classmate to compete with, will you have not become a pro gamer that you are today (laughs)?

I think so (laughs). Afterwards, I feel in love with Starcraft. I started to watch game broadcasts, and I saw Lee Jaedong’s plays. I thought his plays were really cool. I started thinking 'I have nothing going for me right now. I am playing games because of the sheer joy of it. Could I ever get to a place like him?'. After this moment, I started dreaming of becoming a professional gamer.


¤ Were your parents unhappy about this?

Of course at first, my parents didn’t like it one bit. I even fought with my parents. I am sorry now that I fought with my parents in the past, but at that time I couldn’t hold it in. It is fine now since they acknowledge what I do. The path to a pro Starcraft player was a match between courage. When my parents heard about this, they said “If it is a matter of skill, we will allow it. If it is not a matter of skill but courage, you should stop playing.”. Because of this, I could gain my parent’s recognition and start practicing playing full time.

The problems came afterwards. When I joined a Starcraft team, everyone was hopping over to Starcraft 2. Unfortunately for me, Starcraft 2 didn’t match well for me. Because of this, I started to lose motivation as well. I was really wondering what I was doing whilst sipping on some soju. Come to think of it, I was 18 then (laughs).


¤ Are you allowed to do that (laughs)?

My older friends told me 'The moments when you drink soju is the most sad’. Looking back at it now, I know it was bad but at the time I just did it cause I could. Eventually, I quit trying to be a pro gamer and hung with my 1994~1996 year friends. We played games together during late at night and did online karaoke. I think it was 2011 at the time?

¤ How did you start League?

At first, I didn’t know why people played League. It was so boring for me so I uninstalled it. Eventually, I had nothing else to do so I started playing again. At the time, I was playing NCSoft’s Blade and Soul. However, my computer was not good enough to run it. I think I played around 20 hours worth until my computer exploded (laughs).



¤ If the computer didn’t explode, would we have never seen you (laughs)?

If my computer didn’t explode, I assume I would have kept playing Blade and Soul (laughs)? I was doing well in raids as well. After my computer exploded, I said “god damn it” and started to play League. At first, League was so boring. The more I got to play the game, the more I enjoyed the game.


¤ In retrospect, you had a lot of fortunes. The one friend that gave you the thirst for winning, and the computer that exploded. Are you satisfied with your job right now?

Of course. I am very satisfied with my job and proud of it.


¤ If you were to quit as a pro gamer, what job would you do?

Uh at this moment... pojangmacha (Korean drinking restaurant) (laughs)? I actually thought of this a few days ago. I was thinking what I would do if I quit and pojangmacha came up. I really liked the street food I ate when I was young. Yakitori (Grilled chicken) or spicy rice cakes. Could reminisce drinking the warm soup. This is why I also thought about opening a small shop.


¤ We have asked this question to a lot of pro gamers, but this is the first time with a response like yours.

I don’t really have much to say. It just sounds really fun. Well, I’m just saying I am thinking about it at this moment. Things might change in the future. I usually don’t think about what I am going to do. This idea just came to me at the spur of the moment.


¤ It seems like 20 year old pro gamers do not have much thought about what they are going to do. It also seems like when players reach the mid 20’s, they start to think about their future. I guess you can start thinking about it with CuVee (laughs).

Uh... I think it might be better on my own. I think I will be more comfortable doing it by myself (laughs). I also think it will be more free to meet people along the way.


¤ You have been a professional player for 5 years since Starcraft to League. It has been somewhat known that being a professional gamer is not an easy job. In what aspects were the hardest for you? Is there any tips you could give to any aspiring pro gamers out there?

It is always hard. Always (laughs). I don’t think there was ever a moment when it was not tough as a pro gamer. For any tips to people who are aspiring to become a pro player...I want to say “give it up”.


(laughs)

There is a 30 year old friend I have now that I met while I was playing Starcraft. I learned Starcraft from him. I guess I could say at the time I was his young apprentice? There were a lot of instances where people would learn either from a master/teacher or from their clan. I told my older friend that I was going to go pro, and he told me I had a long way to go. He said I should just let it go. Although he said those things, I insisted I wouldn’t quit and kept learning from him.

I should have listened to him... But the path was too enticing...


¤ Aren’t you going to get scolded by your coach (laughs)?

It is okay. I think I have nothing to lose anymore. I can talk freely. However, I’m the type of person that would insist on doing something even if someone tells me to stop. It is a good thing to be tenacious. I am still doing what I do, and I can’t see the end of it. I aim to keep playing till I am satisfied with myself by the end of the year. However, I really don’t know how it will all end up. My definition of my ‘end’ is when I am satisfied with myself.



¤ Are there any pro player that you are close to?

I was close with Duke but after he went to China, our contacts became quite rare. My relationships with other players are so and so as well. Although I think it will be good for players with the same role to meet up and drink together, I don’t think we would really talk much to each other even if we did.

For example in solo queue when I meet PraY, we have so much fun together playing the game. We spam emotes and dance together. However when we meet in person, we are just like “oh Hello” (laughs). It is just unfortunate that there is no opportunity for outside team players to get close to one another. Only a pro gamer will understand another pro gamer’s feelings right? In Starcraft, the amatuer players will join together and play together. There is a bond between Starcraft players. Because League of Legends is such a team based game, I guess there is no room for this kind of thing.


¤ Your personality seems very outgoing.

I have been hard on myself, rather extremely, so I didn't have any leisurely time then, like I do now. After changing my mindset to "enjoy" my time playing, that part of me has been coming back.


¤ Is there any member on the team that drinks?

Uh in the team... CoreJJ would be the one? To be honest, I don’t really like alcohol as well.


¤ If this is so, why did you drink soju back then?

It was just good at the time. Doesn’t everyone like to drink at that age? Still, I didn’t do anything necessarily bad growing up. I lived a very mundane and honest life.


¤ How is Coach Edgar doing? Does it feel good to see him overlook you?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Coach Edgar always has a lot in mind, just like me.


¤ If you had to describe Coach Edgar in a few words, what would it be?

Hmm... It is so hard to describe him in just a few words. Maybe him saying “I really don’t like that” when I get tilted. But other than that, I think he is a very thankful person. Sometimes I think that If it wasen’t for Coach Edgar, I wouldn’t be here at this moment right now. From time to time, I really enjoy being with him. Comprehensively, he is a very difficult person. Because of the age difference, it is hard to get really close with him. I am just grateful everyday for Coach Edgar.


¤ An hour has already passed. It almost feels like we have been talking without context. So far, we have discussed your goal for next year, the World Championships, and your personal stories. We have to slowly wrap up this interview. What would be the best way t wrap up this interview... Oh! What did you think of Jeju?

I should have went to Hawaii, but we didn’t have enough time. I heard it is pretty good, but I never had a chance to go.


¤ I haven’t went either.

I heard it is good (laughs). I really need to go there. Since I couldn’t go this year, I am aiming to go next year. But because I put a new goal for myself, I think everything will go well for me.


¤ Hmm... the last question. I’m not sure what to ask. I’ll try to figure out something. Wouldn’t a cliche ending be too boring?

Oh, I was worried if there was going to be a difficult question for the last one. Thank god. I am just glad that we got to discuss a lot today.


¤ It was enjoyable for us as well. When you go back to your gaming house, could you recommend the other players for our interviews in the future?

Okay (laughs). However since they are all lazy, I don’t know if they will actually do the interviews.

 


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