Many players aspire to be professional gamers, strongly believing in their skills and potential. However, in the cold professional stage, many of them sign off their careers without fully realizing their potentials. In a world where results do tell the story, relying on untapped potentials may be a luxury that most pros cannot afford. Sometimes, simply watching other fresh, up-and-coming stars constantly breaking new grounds will be enough to rethink their own career choice.
In spite of everything, there are players who have found a way to show their potential without giving up in difficult times, such as Kyungho “Smeb” Song who rebounded by overcoming the slump in the past two years. And, in the subsequent two years, he never ceased to amaze, becoming one of the highly regarded toplaners in the world.
With 2017 LCK around the corner, many iconic toplaners are gathered to decide who's the best. Inven sat down with Smeb to hear his story as he gets ready to reach new heights on the new team.
Is this your first official interview after the transfer? Please briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello, I’m Kyungho “Smeb” Song, a toplaner for KT Rolster. I’m still not used to introducing myself as KT Rolster Smeb. I’m trying to be the main vocal in my new team as well. Score and Coach Jeong are also vying for the position. [laughs]
You had a really busy year from LCK and Worlds to the KeSPA Cup and All-Star. How did you spend your free time between the hectic schedules?
For both Worlds and All-Star, I didn’t have time for touring. I’m very pleased with how All-Star went because I had so much fun. I’ve been mostly taking it easy since coming back to Korea.
How does it feel to spend time in Spain with the other All-Star teammates representing Korea?
I was worried about going to Spain with players from other teams. Most of the stories I heard were about how hard the experience was. I found comfort in the fact that Pray was going to be there and therefore the atmosphere would be fine. I was also concerned that Pray and Faker would be aloof, but they turned out to be pretty friendly. I think Faker and I have gotten a lot closer after spending some time together. Other teammates were friendly and nice, too.
How does it feel to join KT and play alongside Score whom you faced in the fateful teamfight around Baron for the Summer Championship and a ticket to Worlds?
It was awkward when we first met. I was already acquainted with the rest of my teammates, but it was my first time meeting Score. So, Head Coach tried to break the ice by bringing up that Baron fight. Now, we’ve become close enough to make jokes. In scrims, if the enemy steals Baron, Score jokes that I should have gotten the last hit. [laughs]
How’s KT’s atmosphere these days after having attended workshops and participating in the event match together?
It gets pretty intense during practice. We treat each game seriously and tell each other to win the championship this time. Other than that, I have fun with my teammates. It was a little awkward at the workshop because we had just met a couple days earlier, but we soon became close since I already knew most of them.
I’m sure you had many offers, but what made you go with KT Rolster?
First off, I wanted to play in Korea. I not only like to win Worlds but also enjoy living in Korea. Practice is important, but I think it's just as important to be with friends. I couldn’t imagine myself continuing my career without having such a life. Then I got a good offer from KT Rolster, and here I am. So far, I've only been on club teams, but KT is a corporate team. My parents were thrilled to hear the news and I like the stable environment where I can play comfortably.
My understanding is that you still keep in touch with your teammates and coaches from your IM days?
Back in IM, I spent two years with Manager Hirai going through thick and thin. I’ve learned a lot from him, and we still root for each other. I'm trying to get in touch with my IM teammates too, but only a few of them are remaining as pro gamers. Recently, my good friend TuSin joined Afreeca Freecs and I sincerely hope he does well there.
You’ve hit some rough patches since the IM days. How did you turn it around in 2015?
In the first year when I began my pro gaming career, I didn’t care if someone criticized me for poor results because I was just happy to play games as my job and it was just my first year. From the second year on though, I was pretty devastated when my efforts did not translate into good results. In hindsight, I don’t think I played well at the time.
During hard times, I regained my confidence by focusing on Solo Queue. Before I went pro, I felt confident and talented enough to not lose to anyone. Then I was set back on the professional stage, but I was able to rebound by playing Solo Queue. It seems that my understanding of the game got much deeper during that time. In 2015, I was mechanically confident with my newfound insight about the game. Fortunately, I met some awesome teammates, and was able to play my best games.
You were one of the best players in 2015, and you became a world-renowned toplaner in 2016. How were you able to grow so quickly?
I still learn a lot from watching Marin. In 2015, I grew the most as a player by facing other toplaners. I became mad when I was losing the lane but constantly strived to be a better player. In 2016, I think Marin had the biggest influence on shaping the player I am today.
Next year’s LCK top lane matchups are quite interesting with the return of Huni and Marin, whom you met at 2015 Worlds. How does it feel to face them again?
I’m personally close to both players and it’s good to see them again. I don’t think I’ll be intimidated by either player, and I’m sure I’ll put on a great match. I'm already looking forward to the competition among LCK toplaners.
I think the matchup with Marin, who was named MVP at 2015 Worlds, will be more special because I heard that it was almost a little traumatic to go against him at the time. Has that changed now that you’re this year’s best toplaner?
In 2015, completely losing to Marin made him a formidable opponent, to the point that it was traumatic, as you said. I think it’ll still be unnerving if I meet him now. What’s important is how I overcome him this season. Of course, now I have more confidence and wonder how I stack up against him now.
How do you plan to carry in the new season with the new team, teammates, and coaches?
Of course, winning the championship is the foremost goal. We have so many strong toplaners returning to LCK, and I want to stand out among them as I did in 2016.
Would you like to say anything to your ROX teammates that you've played together with?
For the past two years, we not only had good results but also had a good time. Although our results in 2016 left some to be desired, I think we gave our best. While Cry and Coach NoFe have moved on to China, there are still many ex-ROX members playing in Korea. I hope this LCK will be full of interesting games.
Any final words to the fans before we wrap up?
Since transferring to KT, I’ve been working hard not to let you down. I promise to show you good plays that meet your expectations.