The Overwatch franchise team for Vancouver made their official announcement on December 1st and will be joining the Overwatch League in 2019. The team’s name is ‘Vancouver Titans’, and as many fans in the Overwatch community anticipated, the players are from RunAway, the team that swept the Overwatch Contenders KR.
It is quite significant how every member of RunAway, the team that dominated the KR Contenders, got to join the 2019 Overwatch League. As the Overwatch League and regional Contenders were systemized in 2018, it was also the first year the players from the Contenders got to officially join the League. During this period, they had to test how smoothly the process of the Contenders players joining the League would go and how the Overwatch esports ecosystem would function around both the League and Contenders.
During that process, every single member of RunAway made it to a League team, living up to their name as ‘the best regional Contenders team in KR’. This was possible not only because of the team’s capability and past performance but also because of the team’s proficient management that has kept them as a top team.
What is surprising about the situation is that their general manager was formerly a streamer who never had any previous experience in the esports front office. The manager in question is Hyun-Ah ‘Flowervin’ Lee, who led the RunAway team; under her guidance, RunAway made it to 1st place in 2018 Contenders KR. Also, she was part of the National Competition Committee for South Korea and a reliable support who has helped team South Korea win 3 times in the Overwatch World Cup. She has now led all of her RunAway players to be the first members of the Vancouver Titans.
This would make her the general manager who has displayed the most successful management ability in the current Overwatch esports. We had the chance to meet ‘mother of the Titans’ and got to talk about the team’s entrance into the Overwatch League, OWWC, Contenders, and, of course, about herself as an actual mother and wife.
We heard that you’ve recently been to Canada. Can you tell us about it?
The Vancouver Titans’ official announcement related to the team establishment was to be broadcasted live, and the CEO wanted me to be there, so I went. I went there because I was told that it would be helpful if I was with the 1st RunAway members on the broadcast.
Now you will be parted from the former RunAway members whom you have been with for a long time. How did you feel after you completed signing the contract with the Vancouver team?
At first, I was sad when I was signing the contract with Vancouver. I had regrets that I would no longer be on the stage with them. Despite the sadness, I felt relieved when the official announcement was made. Until now, the talk related to the team would go in different directions; there were many things I didn’t get to say officially. But now my players can proudly say they are the Vancouver Titans and I can also comfortably say that RunAway has gone to Vancouver.
Did you expect all of your players to make it to the Overwatch League like this?
I didn’t. But I did think that it would be great if everyone got to go all together. I also thought that I should help so that the team members can make it to the League. When we actually got an offer from the League, I asked my players if they would like to go as a team. There are cases where it is hard to make personal negotiations if you go as a team. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate well with the League team so everyone got to go all together.
There are players within the first RunAway members who you’ve been with for a long time. Will the team go as it is until the end without any individual player transferring to another team?
I think there’s trust now that we’ve been together for a long time. We would prepare for tournaments saying “let’s go to the League with everyone.” There were opportunities where individual players could go to the League in the past, although they were situations where either the team members got underrated or the contract would fall through. My players were very upset and took it pretty hard. But still, we took part in the Contenders Season 2 with the mindset that everyone should try their best until the very end.
We heard that you got offers from many League teams; what was the reason you chose Vancouver?
The first thing we need to consider from the players’ side is the salary. We would see if the League teams would approve of how much value we thought we had. Even if I liked it, we wouldn’t go if the players weren’t satisfied with their salary. That is why we chose the Vancouver team as they approved of our players’ abilities.
You’ve succeeded in many things, from winning the Contenders KR to proceeding to the League. You also made the 2nd RunAway team right away; why?
I’ve heard phrases like, ‘Leave when people are applauding’ many times. There were many happy moments during the team management but there were also difficult times. It wasn’t easy at all to manage the team all by myself when Runner had to go and serve in the military, too. I even contemplated whether I should only keep the team for the 1st members and then seek to end it well like that. However, it just seemed too wasteful to let go of the knowledge and experience RunAway has in managing a team. Esports individuals and investors around me also wanted me to keep going.
Anyway, it was Runner who made RunAway. Runner did tell me that we can stop if it’s too much. But it was also Runner’s dream to run RunAway. I wanted to protect his dream so I chose to continue the team with the 2nd members.
RunAway has earned 3 consecutive wins in the Contenders right now. Their preparation was short in comparison to other teams; how do you think you were able to get such results?
After the 1st members of RunAway made it to the League team, I did make up my mind to have the 2nd as well. But, we were in a situation where we couldn’t say anything due to the contract with the Vancouver team while we needed to change the whole team with new members… That is why our team was late in recruiting players compared to the other teams. Honestly, I didn’t have high expectations. My goal was to just ‘develop a team with great potential and eventually get good results.’ But after we got 3 wins, I had to evaluate my players again (Laughs).
Also, I think the team image did play a part. Our players would say things like they now have pride and responsibility at the thought of “we are now ‘RunAway”.
There were rumors going around that team RunAway and Flowervin know what makes good players. Are there any special standards you have when choosing your players?
It seems that the fans now regard RunAway as a clean team without any issues of boosting. We picked players that go well with RunAway’s team style based on basic things like that. Since the team name is RunAway, we tried to choose players who are good at controlling the game tempo like a ‘limitless runaway.’ If you look at Mag, one of the 2nd members of RunAway, he does game plays that no one can predict. That is what the team aims for. Other team members did play along with RunAway’s style as well.
So RunAway still keeps its own style. Then when your husband, Runner, first told you that he was establishing an Overwatch pro team, and was even going to stay in the team house, how did you feel?
At first, I thought he meant it as just a hobby. So I told him to do whatever he wants to do. If I keep him from doing what he wants just because he is married to me, Runner would be living a sorry life from his perspective. After all, he got married at the age of 26. But when Runner starts one thing, he tends to stay immersed in it. So he would let go of all other things like taking care of our child. But I had faith that he would do well until the end when he focused on one thing.
Then we came across an obstacle when he said he was going to live with the team. When I heard from other teams the team expense of living a month, I even thought that ‘we could become debtors’. But when I asked Runner and our players, they told me that their mechanical skills or team sync would improve if they stayed in a team house. I asked Runner separately if he would be responsible for the team to the end for real if he lived with them. Back then, he said that he will take responsibility for them until the end so I decided to put my faith in him. So I trusted him when I went to work for the team but he went to serve in the military.
Since Runner went to serve in the military, you had to stream and even manage your team all by yourself. Did you ever consider disbanding the team?
Of course, I did. However, there were many fans who imagined RunAway playing their roles to the very end. Our players had built up their careers until now, and it would mean they have to start all over if the team disbands. Just because Runner went to serve in the military, I thought it would be irresponsible of me if I stop everything. That is why I made up my mind that I would do everything that I can do, even if I couldn’t do as well as Runner did.
It must have been difficult to take on so many roles this year, including taking care of your baby, streaming, managing the team, and even being a National Committee member for OWWC.
The year 2018 was the year I was reborn. I have experienced new things that I knew remotely nothing about; I also played so many roles, from being a mom, CEO, manager, National Committee member, and to even being a streamer. As for becoming the National Committee member, I began doing it when I was asked and recommended by people around me.
It just feels as if I didn’t play my roles properly when I actually got to do several things. There are certain goals I had for each role, but I didn’t get to accomplish all of them. I wanted to complete at least one thing properly but I was in a situation where I couldn’t drop anything. In that way, I felt that Runner was great in the way he would stay focused on one thing and drop everything else. But still, I worked until the end with the mindset that I would do my best even if I may not be the best.
You couldn’t have done all that work all by yourself. Do you trust and rely on your co-workers or people around you to help you?
Actually, I tend to feel uncomfortable about asking favors of other people. However, this year put me in a situation where I can’t really do all that work by myself. That is why I got so much help from my video editors, team coaches, and my family. But due to my personality, I couldn’t really leave all the work to them. I would take parts of it when we needed to look at the big picture or take on parts that were crucial. I especially thought that I should take care of what my players ate by doing grocery shopping once a week.
I felt sorry that I had to ask people around me to take over my work like this. It’s not easy to work like that for me. I was sorry that my editors had to do a lot of work because of me, and I am grateful that the coaches worked hard.
You are like a mother to your team. What did you think when you saw the 1st and 2nd players of RunAway and team South Korea?
I just rooted for the teams I managed with all my heart. My mindset was that I would root for team South Korea as a citizen of South Korea as well. I think I gradually got that ‘mom’ thing when people said things like, ‘is there any GM that would root for their teams this much?’ about RunAway.
You can’t just only root for them as a GM for RunAway.
As part of my personality, I just hate looking only at what is right in front of me. Because we lost in today’s match doesn’t mean that it is the end of us. We still have the next match we have to play. When my team didn’t do great in a match, they were already in a state where they were hurt by the reactions within the Overwatch community. I felt sorry for how their self-esteem would fall due to outer reactions when they have great abilities. I didn’t see the need for me to tell them, ‘you are beyond saving,’ as well. Within RunAway, we told each other that ‘we can do it’ together. How can you only win every time? Also, you know how to win only after you have experienced defeat.
You’ve experienced victory in both Overwatch Contenders and the World Cup. What was the emotion you felt the moment your teams won?
"Yesss!! We did it!” just automatically came out of my mouth. When you watch Overwatch matches, there are moments where your hands start sweating during the last set or additional time. Then it feels like you’ve hit the jackpot when you win. I think that’s why I watch Overwatch esports. I don’t know much about other games but the last moment where you win in Overwatch esports games feels really thrilling. I try to express how nice it is when we win since I’m a streamer, I guess. Although I try to be careful nowadays since we don’t play in booths in the stadium like we used to before. I can’t just scream, ‘Wow!’ when the opponent team is watching us (Laughs).
Is there anything you regret as you’ve been in the Overwatch Contenders for so long?
I felt that everything was too focused on the Overwatch League. In order for the League to do well, the Contenders must do well so that new players can play. The number of the Contenders matches decreased, too. It was unfortunate because it seemed there was less and less support for the Contenders, too. Even Blizzard KR officials would be sorry about it. There was nothing we can do about it; talking to them doesn’t mean everything will come true. But they would fix the parts which truly seem out of place. Most of the last season’s matches were held on the weekdays. This was something inconvenient for the fans, and we were able to change the schedule to the weekends for this season.
Is there anything you would like to say to the 1st members of RunAway, who will be leaving to go live in foreign places like Canada and the U.S.?
Our 1st RunAway members always dreamed of playing in OWL. Now that they got to go play in it, I hope they do their best so that they won’t regret it. I hope there will be a day they can say that they were originally from team RunAway in the future.
What kind of team do you hope the 2nd RunAway team becomes?
Everything has changed but we still have RunAway’s knowledge and experience; I hope our players would steadily improve.
What are your thoughts when you reflect upon 2018; was it one busy year?
It was the period so many things happened and was a very hectic part of my life. But I felt great. On one hand, it meant that there are many people who are looking out for me. It was hard physically, but I was happy mentally. Only if I was 5 years younger… I felt sorry about that. My goal for next year is to just keep everything going. I want to try so that we don’t diminish the name, ‘RunAway’.
You are also a mother to a family. Is there anything you would like to say to your family?
I’m a mother and wife at home, and since I also live with my mother, I also need to play the role of a daughter. I want to be good at all of these but I feel that it’s not enough. There are parts my mother can take over for taking care of my child. But, as for streaming, I’m the only one who can do it. That is why I couldn’t keep up with the childcare. Because of that, I am upset that I can’t be better to my daughter, Chae-Ah. I may also fall behind in my role as a wife. My husband would sometimes feel upset that I couldn’t pay attention to him. But unlike Chae-Ah, Runner can do his work by himself. Also, the things I do are for my family as well.
Now, the last question. Are there any words of gratitude you have for those you wanted to thank every day?
There were many people I felt gratitude towards this year. I would like to thank my players and coaches who trusted me and followed my lead. Our fans would say things like, ‘Since we’ve finished watching the 1st episode, now we should watch the 2nd one’ when talking about RunAway. I am just grateful that they always keep their faith in us. As they put their trust in us and support us, I will try to become a GM who does her best.