Last week, another player that made his mark in the history of League of Legends left the scene. This player had his debut at Worlds 2013 and became a world champion in 2014. He was called the world’s best player in his position, and it seemed like the future of his career would be stable.
However, his time in the LCK was not long. After about a year and a half, he moved to the LPL in 2015. The first team he played in was M3, along with Bae “dade” Eo-jin, but they found little success. He was hit with much criticism, as his team was struggling within the lower ranks. After playing in M3, he moved to RNG with Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong.
At RNG, he quickly made his way up again. The hot prospects of China, MLXG and Xiaohu, had hit peak performance and had fantastic synergy with Mata’s macro. He wasn’t able to collect many championships, but 2016 was the year where proved that his performance was still sharp.
This is the story of Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok. He had good results in Korea and China, but struggled in Echo Fox. Many fans may be disappointed at his decision, but his performance during his active years will be recalled far after his departure.
“I’m sorry for not being able to tell the fans in advance. I’m thankful to the Korean fans because they all still remember me after all the years I played in foreign leagues. After playing in Echo Fox last year, I decided to retire. I thought of maybe playing for another year but since our team didn’t have good results, I thought that it would be hard to find another team. There was an offer from an LCK team, but I decided to retire because I thought I wouldn’t be able to play with the same mindset I had when I first started.”
Even though his prowess wasn’t at its prime, there always were teams that wanted Looper; his experience would be a valuable asset to any team. However, Looper was determined to retire. He didn’t want to be ashamed of being a ‘professional gamer’.
“I didn’t think of returning to the LCK. I thought that the players who return to the LCK were admirable. They’re giving up the big salary and returning for a challenge. But I’m quite old now, and it was time to come back to reality. Most of all, my interest in gaming isn’t like before. If I returned to the LCK in this condition, I would have only disappointed the fans. I’m a professional gamer; I need to be worthy of that title.”
After Looper spoke his assertion, he paused for a while. He seemed to recall his years in foreign leagues. The three years he spent out of Korea may be something to envy for some people, but it may not have been all roses and sunshine for Looper. When he broke out of his silence, his face was quite bright.
“Of course there were hard times. But I was happy. I made many different friends, experienced different cultures and languages. It’s a blessing to be able to just feel how other countries are. It was a new experience for me; something that I may not experience again in my lifetime. I’ll never forget it.
When I first went to China, I already missed Korea because the food was different. In US, I was quite lonely because I was the only Korean there. Still, looking back at that time, the memories are golden. I remember the time a friend who doesn’t drink emptied a whole bottle of soju, saying he was sorry for the team’s results. I also remember a teammate walking around naked (Laughs).”
Still, it seemed that his time in the LCK was the most exciting for him. He spoke of his time in Korea, from stories at Worlds to the warm consolation of his parents who had been opposed to him playing games. Looper was known as a rather quiet person, but talked about everything.
“I want to speak of my career as ‘short but meaningful’. Within my career, I still remember the moment of my debut. I had my debut at Worlds 2013. I’m not a very ballsy type; I must have been very nervous. I was eliminated in no time (Laughs).
I also remember when I played Singed. I used to be a Singed main. Frankly, when we won Worlds 2014, I was pretty sure that we’d win. I thought our team was in a higher tier than the opponent. And I want to explain a small misunderstanding there. Many fans think that we played Singed-Rengar-Talon-Twitch-Thresh because we wanted to get skins. That time, Pawn said he made a mistake because there was a fly on the monitor. We really didn’t pick randomly. (Laughs) You know, if we win Worlds, our lives change. We can’t just pick anything. We need to do our best.
Winning Worlds was a good experience, but one of the most memorable parts of my career was something my parents told me. Before I became a pro gamer, I played games -- a lot. I went to PC cafes to play games even when the KSAT was near. Of course I was scolded by my parents a lot and I argued a lot with them as well. I have a little sister and she always tattled on my parents whenever she saw me playing games. Anyways, after winning Worlds, I was just resting my eyes gazing out at nothing. My father saw that and he said that it seemed like I was looking at him and that he was sorry for scolding me all the time.”
Looper may have reached the top as a player, but being human, he was not devoid of regrets within his career. When asked if he had any regrets, his answer was quite simple. To Looper, his Echo Fox career was too short with sub-par results. As he spoke of his regrets, he touched upon some stories he experienced in each region.
“It’s regretful that I only stayed in LA. I could have gone to other parts of the country. It’s not that I want to do something special, but I want to go to New York once. Also my English probably would have reached native speaker level if I stayed for another year. I’m not kidding. I always thought that I was pretty good at English; my exam results were always good. Then again, I just remembered that at Worlds 2013, I humiliated myself by not being able to speak any English back then.
I can never forget Echo Fox’s team house. It’s at Beverly Hills and since it’s a very rich neighborhood, there were pools and spas so I went nearly every day. In China, there are so many fans starting from the airport. Even at the hotels, it’s hard to even get to my room because there are so many people at the entrance. It felt like I became an idol (Laughs). It was a fun experience.
As a pro gamer, I feel bad about the US community’s comments and it’s regretful that I didn’t get MVP at Worlds 2014. I played really well in Game 2; we had a 5v5 teamfight and only I survived. Before Worlds, there was a time where I became the sole survivor and destroyed the Nexus alone against Najin Shield. The fans were shouting my name and cheering so loudly (Laughs).
Some fans from US community say that my good performance was because of Mata. I want to say that I was good too; please remember me too. Especially since most of the teleports were used by my decision. Nowadays, everyone is good, but still, it could be something I can boast about because I was once the best in my career.”
Listening to him talking, it was a wonder how he kept so quiet during his career. He seemed to have pride in his profession, so we asked the ultimate question: one about other players and teams. As it could be his last interview, and since he’s retiring, we were hoping for the most honest answer.
“My dream team was and always will be the members we won Worlds with. We were the best that year, so we won. I’m kind of soft-hearted so I was really sad when we had to part. I may have gone abroad because I was partially angry. I think if we all stayed together, maybe we would always have been the favorites. I’m not really comparing our team to the current teams, but I think we made the frame for the macro game that teams nowadays are good at. We put a lot of effort into lighting up the jungle and putting up wards in specific places, and my Teleport was the best ‘at that time’.
My rival… hmmm… I think Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong. When I first got to the LCK finals, we lost 0-3 to SKT T1. That was really stimulating for me. At that time, I got the top laner KDA award, but seeing him raising the championship trophy, I was furious inside (Laughs). I was also very jealous when I saw others win championships. As for a foreign player, I would say “Gogoing” from OMG. If OMG reached the finals at Worlds 2014, I would have had a hard time. I’m retiring because I don’t have that kind of competitive spirit anymore.
As for teams, Samsung Blue was my rival. We kept on losing against them that year but we won at Worlds. If we didn’t lose all those matches against them beforehand, we probably wouldn’t have been able to beat them at Worlds. It’s really important as a professional to have good motivation.”
Looper spoke of serious business at the last moment of the interview. It was time to say goodbye to the many pro successors and fans. As of this interview, Looper will be leaving the esports scene for good. He said that he doesn’t remember ever talking so much during his pro gaming career and he thanked the fans who would look back at the past and remember him.
“When I was young, my dream was to earn a lot of money and play games all day. But experiencing that, it’s not what I expected. Now, I’m attending college and taking a math class; oddly enough, it’s fun. Maybe if I didn’t play games, I could have gone to Seoul University -- maybe in the college of medicine? (Laughs) Still, I don’t regret being a pro gamer. It’s something to be proud of in my life. I’m also quite proud of being the very best player at one point of my career.
I don’t watch all the matches since I’ve retired but I think Khan is the best top laner nowadays. I thought that he was really good back in 2014 when he was in Prime Optimus. They started the “demolish meta” and the only high-ranked team that scrimmed against them was us. So we learned the “demolish meta” and also learned how to play against it. That’s why we were able to get good results. I think he has the potential to become the best top laner on all fronts.
To those who dream of becoming a pro gamer: I think being a pro gamer has a good outlook. I hope you pursue your dream and make it come true. There have been many issues in the pro gaming scene recently. I hope you become an earnest pro gamer. Don’t think that you only need to be good at playing the game, but try to become good at everything else and still be really good at the game to set a good example for fans.
Lastly, I’d like to say thank you to the fans. It will be hard to see you again in the esports scene, but I was really happy during my career. I hope you remember that there once was a player called “Looper”. You always cheered me on, so it’s my turn to cheer you on; I hope all goes well in your life. Thank you.”