Professional eSports, while playing to win is the number one priority, also seeks to provide various visual, outside-of-match amusements through unexpected ceremonies or performances. Korean Baseball League’s charity matches have bench clearing brawls such as chicken fight games, and NBA or MLB also has events such as rookie hazing.
During the final round of ZOTAC Cup Masters: Starcraft Remastered 2, an event competition held in Los Angles, California on December 4th, a certain performance by a Korean player Hong-gyu “Larva” Lim arose a big issue.
Playing against a Chinese player Luo Xian, more commonly known as “Legend”, Lim started off the first game by killing a Drone, and on the second game he put his foot on the desk and pressed the keyboard with his toe. For the final game, he showed performances such as switching the left and the right hands and pretending to take a nap mid-game. Despite the performances he went 3:0 and won the final stage to become the champion.
After the match, big controversies arose from different online communities and SNS’s. Some stated that ‘there’s no problem because he was not stopped by the organizers of the competition and it was an event match,’ whereas others were furious that ‘it can be taken as a big ridicule to the other player and is unsportsmanlike.’
In order for one to show such entertaining presentation, there are lots of risks to be aware of. There is a high possibility of losing, as one’s game progress would not be as fast as the opponent’s. Considering that in professional matches a split second of no progress or mistake can lead to losing, there is really no reason to do any sort of showy performance.
Now that the final stage is over and the controversy over the performance has died out a bit, a curiosity arose. Why did Lim, when nobody forced or told him to, try such performances? Fortunately, Inven was able to meet up with Lim, who is in the middle of this big issue, through an official from ZOTAC – the sponsor of the event.
When asked about the performance, he said that he behaved in such ways in hopes to make Starcraft more popular – as both a fan who enjoys the game and a player who made it to the finals at a world-wide competition.
*t/n – Questions asked by the original interviewer was indicated as Q (black) and the answers from Lim were indicated as A.
Q : You were invited to the ZOTAC Cup, and have just gotten back to Korea today. How was your experience?
A : I am grateful to have been invited to the event, and thanks to the crew at the event I was well taken care of. Unlike Korean competitions where I don’t get to interact with foreign players, ZOTAC Cup is a global event taking place in different cities around the world and I got to meet a lot of foreign players. I thought that was pretty interesting.
I played games with other players at the event, and a day before the event we also had a birthday party for one of the other players. Players shared feedback after playing with one another too. I got close with many foreign players from this opportunity.
ZOTAC Cup Event – ZOTAC Cup is an online-based global event founded in 2006, and covers many different games for competition. The final stage matches take place in different countries around the world, and for this year the site was Los Angeles, California. An event show match that invites the professional players were also held. Hong-gyu “Larva” Lim was invited to the event match this year.
Q : Lots of articles and analysis came up online after your performance, and many of them pointed out that there were some communication errors during the event match.
A : As I was preparing for such performance I did tell the staff beforehand. I asked them if it would be okay for me to do such eventful performances mid-game. However, I was not specific about what kind of performances – such as playing with my foot, etc. Those were all spontaneous decisions.
If the performance itself was problematic, they would not have taken a close-up, and I think they would have tried to warn or stop me in any way during the game. I did not think it would be problematic, because it was an eventful competition.
Q : I’m curious of whether you are someone who enjoys performances. Also, why ZOTAC Cup, specifically?
A : I don’t enjoy performance itself outside of the game, but I can always do it if needed. Whether you are a professional gamer or a BJ,* I think you must be able to do anything to make your fans laugh. There is also the fact that Starcraft is getting further and further away from the center of gaming industry. There is not as much issue involved with the game so there are only a few competitions, and not enough topics to talk about as when the game was at its prime time. It is an era where more than just players’ skills matter. I think the overall skillfulness of the players are already on the rise, and we need something interesting from outside the game – that’s why I decided to show those performances.
*t/n – BJ is another term for streamer, used widely in Korea.
Q : From your reflective comments, it seems like you have your own philosophy about performances. What are your thoughts?
A : I personally watch UFC a lot. Although it’s the most important to have skills and to win and all, but I think players who show those fun performances are really cool. I’m a huge fan of Conor McGregor actually, and he amuses his fans with many fun performances on top of his amazing plays.
While it is an event match, it’s still not fun to lose. I do them at my own risk. The comments that say my performances are too much, are some things that I need to just take in, and if there is any competition in the future that allows performances I plan to show more for my fans.
Q : I am also curious about how you are as a person. Not every person can just do performances because he or she wants to. If one’s embarrassed or scared of others’ comments, it’s impossible to do things like that.
A : I am a showman in person too. I love getting attention and making my friends laugh. I think that’s one of the the main reasons why I can work as a BJ (laughs). As a professional gamer, I didn’t have much opportunity to show performances, but I did go up on stage for performance with the first-string players once. I think it’s the first time as a second-string player.
Q : How would you feel if your opponent did something similar?
A : I don’t think it will matter. As long as it is to amuse the viewers, I don’t think there is a problem. However, for me I would actually be a bit triggered and become more eager to win. I’ll probably want to make a comeback both skill and performance-wise.
Q : Did you ever contact Luo Xian after the game?
A : I learned about the controversy over the performance later and realized that there were many fans who found them uncomfortable and disrespectful, so I reached out to him and tried to apologize personally. But he refused to accept my apology and even posted on his SNS. I didn’t receive any contact from him after that.
Q : How were your fans’ reactions after ZOTAC Cup?
A : A lot better than I expected. My YouTube subscribers went up by about ten thousand. Of course there were negative reactions, especially things like a letter full of swear words that I received from this one Chinese fan.
I do agree that the performance may have been too much. But the event took place in America, and as it says “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” – I thought it was very acceptable in America. The casters actually loved it and the comments were in favor of it as well.
The atmosphere of the stadium after the game was pretty good, too. Some told me to do more of it, and a gaming gear brand Corsair made a parody out of it and posted that “The K95 RGB Platinum gives you a "leg up" on the competition.”
One thing is that, if it was an event held in Korea, I would have made a moderate performance based on the Korean culture.
Q : Now that you have returned to Korea, what are your future plans?
A : I have run personal Starcraft streams for a long time – it’s been 6 years already. For the last few days I didn’t stream because I was at the event, but I plan to continue on with my streaming. I wish there would be more Starcraft matches held, and if I can contribute to the success of the game I would be glad to do anything.
Q : Let’s change the subject, and talk about your life as a BJ. You are said to have both the humor and the skills. What do you think?
A : I think it has been a constant uptrend. Nowadays though, because Starcraft is losing its fans I think there is more preparation work I need to do. As for the skills and plays, everyone is about the same except for Young-ho “FlaSh” Lee. FlaSh is just so hard to win against, even now.
I wanted to broaden the contents of my stream so I’ve tried PUBG, but I don’t think FPS games are my thing. I’ve also tried Getting Over It, which was big until recently, and it had many views and positive comments – but still, it didn’t feel like my thing. I will try other games, but will probably stay with Starcraft (laughs).
Q : Any personal goal or wish?
A : I hope there will be more competitions and events like ZOTAC Cup where different players and gamers can participate. The fans will have fun watching the game, and I too will have the opportunity to show off not just my skills but also performances.
I think it would be fun to play against an amazing player like FlaSh in an event match and show some kind of performance. Of course, after building my skills up enough first so that I don’t ruin the game. I need to work harder so I don’t get bashed on by people (laughs).
Q : Lastly, please say something to your fans.
A : Games that are big right at the moment are good, but I hope you guys can continue to support and be interested in the older games like Starcraft so that we can have more opportunities. Also, I hope you think my performances as an effort to make this game more popular again rather than as something negative.