League of Legends

An Honest Conversation with CG Huni: How Did He Become a Professional Gamer?

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Korean players who are playing abroad often come back to Korea for vacation during the offseason. It's a great opportunity for journalists like myself to interview the players during this time to get honest responses. 

LCS's Clutch Gaming's top laner, Huni, was a player that I really wanted to personally meet. Not only did he seem like a skilled player, but he seemed to carry a fun personality as well. Solely looking at the expressions in his eyes told me that he's not your average person. And as expected of him, Huni had already made a couple of guest appearances on different League of Legends related shows during the short amount of time that he's stayed in Korea. 

After getting in contact with Huni, our team thoroughly considered how we should conduct our interview with him. We could've gone with the standard, formal format or a more interactive interview, something more fitting for the likes of Huni. But in the end, we let Huni decide. On the 7th of April, we met Huni at LoL Park, Seoul, without any "interview preparations" and decided to simply share a conversation with him. 



It's nice seeing you again. How have you been?

It's only been about a week since I've arrived here.

How's the jetlag?
Pretty bad. (Laughs) Flying is terrifying. My body doesn't function properly for at least a week whenever I fly. I've been exercising recently.

Why is it that whenever a Korean import comes back to Korea, they work out?
I guess it's because we're more at ease... it's kind of hard to implement workout in your schedule when you're a professional player. That's why we go at it during the offseason. I played some soccer today. 

Soccer? Do you like soccer?
I really like soccer, but it's a bit unfortunate that I'm not good at it. If only my soccer skills were on the level of my League skills.

It's probably very difficult for professional players to find a good balance between work and what they enjoy. However, a handful of NA players seem to pack incredible bodies!
Yeah, they're no joke. Hauntzer especially...

▲ Can you get any bigger Hauntzer?


GoldenGlue, too. 
In NA, players have more time to focus on their personal life. In that aspect, NA is better. That's why so many players are built. They keep on adding weights... 

How about you? 
No... I just kept on eating. American food is irresistible. I only began playing soccer because I'm in Korea now...

Anyways, why did you come to LoL Park today?
SKT is a former team of mine, so I came to cheer for them. The game should be very entertaining to watch.
 
Did you meet the SKT players in the locker room?
Not today. The last time I came here, I did. 

It must've been nice seeing them after so long.
It was great. But aside from Faker, all my old SKT teammates have left to another team... It was nice seeing Faker again, though. I met Peanut separately, too. 

How did it feel seeing the new SKT lineup?
There are so many new faces. It felt very strange. For example, players like Bang and Wolf, players that I expected to see whenever I think of 'SKT', were now gone. But, I still meet them often, I'm even watching today's match with Bang. I'll be doing a fan meeting with him soon.

It must feel nice seeing your old fans again.
Of course. That's why I decided to do a fan meeting, even though I didn't plan for it at first. I hung out at Hongdae recently with LirA, and a lot of people recognized me. 

Do people recognize you in NA as well when you're outside?
Not really... Sometimes, Korean tourists do. The US has a bigger population, but I think the number of esports fans there is smaller when compared to Korea. Maybe, more people in Korea recognize me because there are more gamers here. I think that's the case.

What kind of person were you when you were younger? I remember seeing a picture of your father, he looks just like you!
I enjoyed playing games ever since I was young. I started playing StarCraft when I was 5.

▲ Believe it or not, the man in the red shirt is Huni's father.


StarCraft at the age of 5? Really?
Incredible, right? I remember watching the tutorials and building Archons - just to admire them. I wasn't really good though, I was happy when I beat the AI. 

Was StarCraft your very first video game?
Not the first. I think my first game was... Crazy Arcade?

Mine was a DOS game, haha.
When I started attending elementary school, I was considered a good StarCraft player. We were all kids, so no one was actually "really" good. But I kept on beating my schoolmates, and victory tasted sweet. (Laughs)

What race did you play?
I played whatever. I guess random.

Did StarCraft play a large part in you eventually becoming a professional esports player?
Yes. StarCraft showed me how sweet a victory could be. It made me dream of becoming a pro gamer. When I played StarCraft, I often went to a PC Bang with my dad. 

Your father must enjoy playing games.
He really liked StarCraft. So whenever we'd go to a PC Bang, my dad and I would 1 vs. 1. Even though I always lost, I loved strategizing and thinking, "how can I beat him? What should I do?" 

It's amazing to think that your father is also a gamer. 
And he's good, too. Oh yeah, and my uncle was planning to become a professional player as well. I guess it's in the genes. My dad has two brothers, and they're all very talented gamers. 

Do you have a brother?
I do.

Is he also a talented gamer?
I'm not too sure. He's studying abroad in the US, and I found out that there are high school esports tournaments over there. I heard he competed in some of them. There is an esports club at my brother's school, and he's apparently the president of that club. 

It must be in the genes.
(Laughs)

So did you eventually beat your father in StarCraft?
Yeah, I did. I think back when I was in the 5th grade? I still remember that day - it was a very happy, memorable moment. That feeling you get when you finally achieve something that you've been working so hard for. It was awesome. 

You know, maybe, your father let you win on purpose.
No! That's not true! I beat him with my own skills! (Laughs) Maybe it's better I don't think about it.


When did you start playing League?
I went over to a friend's house, and my friend was playing some weird game. It was back when Ahri was first released. The game wasn't too popular back then, so only a handful of people knew about it. 

The graphics were pretty bad back then, huh?
Yeah. Ziggs was my first champion. Then, I played nothing but Shen until level 27.

Why Shen?
Shen jungle, to be specific. He was so fun to play back then. Anyways, when I was watching my friend play, he told me that I should try the game. I did, and it was very fun. As soon as I got back home, I installed League immediately. 

If it wasn't for that friend, you might've never become a professional League player, huh?
Maybe. I had a lot of things that I wanted to become when I grow up. I was in a band in middle school, and I was quite the mathematician. I loved math.

Did you play other games aside from League of Legends and StarCraft?
I also played Sudden Attack. I went back and forth joining different high-tier clans. (Laughs) I think one of my biggest strengths as a gamer is that I always actively look for ways to improve. When I first started playing League, I was a bronze player. Then, within 6 months, I climbed to diamond.

You're a fast learner.
When I was climbing, I only played Akali top. Then, I started realizing that mastering just one champion wasn't quite enough to put me at the top. That's when I started expanding my champion pool.

When did you start realizing that you have a talent for this game?
When I reached diamond. "It can't be this easy to climb," I thought. When I got myself into the top 100 on the ladder, I thought to myself, "if I'm top 100, it can't be too farfetched that I could go pro, right?"

So you didn't climb to become a pro.
Although becoming a professional gamer was always a dream of mine, it took me a while before I went all in on that idea. During my high school years, I told my dad that I wanted to become a pro gamer. My dad then made me a deal. "Go win an official tournament, then you can do whatever you want." I then immediately prepared for the KeG tournament and won. That's when my parents started giving me full support. 

Your father seems like a very cool person.
I think so, too. I'm going to do the same thing with my kids when I get older. "Go win something. Show me the trophy."

When did you reach challenger for the first time?
It's been such a long time... hm... I think season 4. I reached challenger again in season 5. I think it was back in 2015 when I was a trainee for Samsung.

How did Samsung approach you?
Coach Homme messaged me on the LoL client. That was how teams scouted and contacted players back then - I'm not too sure about how teams pick up new talent nowadays. When Homme contacted me, I was at about 1100 LP, which was very high. I was 3rd on the ladder, and at the time, the 1st and 2nd place was 'hide on bush' and Faker respectively. I had a lot of respect for Faker - it was insanely difficult for me to get to even 3rd place! And in a way, it felt great knowing that actually, there was only 1 person who was above me on the ladder. (Laughs)

How did your training go? Was it difficult adjusting?
Everything felt awesome in the beginning. I didn't go to school, and I was able to focus on what I love - gaming. Playing solo queue was very fun back then, too. I gave it my all, thinking, "let's keep working hard until they make me start in a match." But in the end, I missed all my opportunities. I was too young. Although I had plenty of opportunities to play in the LCK, I didn't meet the age requirement to compete. 

Did that make you consider the idea of going to Europe? Or did you simply head to Europe because Fnatic's offer was really good?
It was both. I didn't want to just stay in Korea. Ever since I was young, I was always curious about living abroad. And in addition, Fnatic is a very renowned team. I told myself, "as long as I play well, everything will work out," and decided to go to Europe.

That was a very big decision for a young man to make. How did your parents react when you told them that?
They had no choice. I did my part of my dad's deal, remember? (Laughs) What's done is done. But jokes aside, they were quite upset. I was a high school student already planning to work abroad! When I have my own kids, I think I'll feel the same way as my parents did. But my parents were still happy that I was doing what I loved. I told and persuaded them that going to Europe was a big opportunity for me. 


Your family was so supportive of you.
My parents wanted me to do what I wanted to do. Well, in the beginning, I often fought with my dad. I was good with my studies, so he wanted me to continue with school, especially since I liked math so much.

How do they feel about your career choice now?
They love it. They're fully supportive. They're happy. I'm making money, so my family is more at ease now. 

Do you thank them for having been so supportive?
Not really. I beat my dad in his own game, remember? (Laughs) Had I failed to deliver my part of the deal, I guess I wouldn't have had a choice. 

Do you still stay in touch with the friend that introduced you to League of Legends?
No.

Why not?
Now that you mention it, I wonder how he's doing. I still have his contact information.

Going back to the conversation about you joining Fnatic... How was your time there?
I almost cried as soon as I landed in Europe. My English was really bad! I couldn't speak a word. If my math grades were A+, my English grades were the opposite. It was a good thing that Reignover was there to interpret for me. I had this mindset: "English is something that I can learn. There are so many people that can speak it around the World!" But even with this mindset, it wasn't easy learning the language.
For the first 3 months of my stay, I felt that there was no one in the world who had it harder than me. But I was still happy that I was able to do what I love the most, so I never gave up. I was finally fulfilling a long-time dream of mine, so I couldn't just let go of it. 

Were you lonely during your stay?
Yes. I didn't like the food either. I'm quite sensitive to what I eat... the only thing that kept me going was winning.

▲ The hangry and lonely Huni.


But now, it feels like you have the best English out of all the Korean imports. 
I'm probably top 4 in that regard. Reignover is good, too. It's now my fourth year playing in NA... 

How long did it take you to fluently communicate with your teammates in English?
Six months. When Summer split began, I was speaking quite well. Although I stuttered often, it took me exactly 6 months to be able to speak what's on my mind. I think the ability to learn another language is also ingrained in my genes - my brother can speak Chinese and English.

Have you ever considered going to China?
Nope. If I play for just another year, I become a resident NA player. And besides, California has the best weather; I want to live there. Things are a bit expensive though... I guess that means I just have to earn more. Anyways, my goal is to eventually settle in America. My brother currently lives in the US too, and I'm paying for his school tuition. The schools are great, they even have esports tournaments! 

Did you make a lot of friends in the US?
Bang, Impact, CoreJJ, LirA, Piglet... thanks to them, I don't feel lonely. All my long-time friends are in Korea though. When I get a chance, I want to invite all of them to America. I bought a place recently, and I want them to visit me. 

Did you make any foreigner friends? Aside from fellow pro players.
I didn't. I enjoy gaming so much that whenever I secure free time, I simply stay home and play other games. Auto Chess, PUBG, Apex Legends... you name it. Additionally, I don't like going out to drink. I mean, I do enjoy drinking, but I prefer drinking alone at home. Playing Auto Chess with a beer in hand... that's what I call a proper vacation. 

How's life in the CG gaming house? Is it any different to the other NA teams that you've been in?
All the NA teams operate similarly. But each organization provides a different environment and have different staff. It requires a bit of adjusting in the beginning, but most of it is the same. 

This might be a hard question to answer, but how was Spring split?
Very difficult. I really tried my best... there were a lot of missed opportunities to make things better. We lost so many games that time just flew by. The split shouldn't have ended like how it did...

As a vigorous player, the outcome of the split must've scratched your pride.
I don't think I played too terribly... But as a team, we really underperformed. This split is also my very first split in which I failed to qualify for the playoffs. It really hurt my ego. 

LirA once mentioned in an interview that he has a hard time understanding his mid laner's accent. 
Damonte is French-Canadian. He doesn't speak LA English. 

Do you also have trouble understanding his accent?
I lived in Europe for quite some time, so I understand everything. I can understand the British accent, too!

Can you speak in British accent? In a sexy way perhaps?
Only when I'm in the UK. Even here in Korea, when you visit a region that speaks in a different dialect, you start speaking like them after some time. It's kind of like that when I visit the UK.

Have you been keeping up with the LCK while you were staying in NA?
I mainly paid attention to picks & bans, and just watched the highlights. I didn't have time to watch every single game. But sometimes, when I watch an interesting highlight, I end up watching the whole game. 

Your former teammate, Faker, have you been watching his games, too?
He seems to be back in form. It was great seeing him climb out of his slump.

Have you been watching Griffin's games?
Although they struggled near the end of the split, it was always fun watching their games. The five of them [starting lineup] play like robots, and they're all really feisty. When watching their games, I couldn't help but watch in awe. Even when a player ends up making a mistake, the entire Griffin squad skillfully, articulately formulate a plan to put themselves back in the game. 

Have you ever thought of returning to the LCK when watching an exciting team such as Griffin play?
Nope! I want to continue to play as a NA player. (Laughs) Whenever I did an interview, I always spoke open-mindedly. I really want to finish that four-year requirement to become a resident player. 


During Worlds, which region are you going to root for? NA or Korea?
Korea, of course! (Laughs) I think it'll depend on which players are playing. If a player that I'm close to is playing for NA, then I'll probably cheer for NA. 

Switching the subject, how's the current meta for you?
Right now, the meta allows for many different kinds of picks and playstyles. Currently, the games are more about what a player is good at, and not about "following" the meta. 

How's the situation with Clutch Gaming? Do you think the team will be at a better spot next split?
Honestly speaking, I'm not sure. We'll have to practice more. Everyone understands what the problem is, and we're attempting many different things to fix it. Spring went badly for us, so we'll have to focus on finding a way to make things better. 

Do you often hang out with Bang?
Everyday? (Laughs) We meet at least once a week. We came to Korea together, too. He's the closest friend I have in NA. 

We're meeting Bang for lunch and an interview soon. 
Cool. Should I come, too? You're paying for the food, right?

Now, tell us a fun episode that you had in Clutch Gaming.
Our team goes out to play soccer in-between scrims to cool our heads. It's really fun. Our team manager and the players... whatever outdoor activity that we do, it's fun. Maybe it's because the weather is so nice over there. 

You mentioned that you're not good at soccer. Are you honestly?
Comparing my soccer skills to LoL skills... I'm about bronze 3 in soccer. Wait, actually, I'd say I'm about silver 5.

In your personal and honest opinion, how much longer do you think you'll play as a pro?
Until I go to the army. For as long as I can.

What do you want to do after you retire?
I have a lot of things I want to become. If I retire and have a lot of free time, I want to get a flying license. As I said, I'm terrified of flying, so what's better than learning to fly to overcome that fear?

Tell us more about what you want to become.
Well, being a pilot is one, and I think it'd be fun to become a commentator. Whether in English or Korean.

Why not commentate in NA, then fly your personal aircraft to Korea to commentate there?
Maybe interpret, too. (Laughs) Don't you think it'd be entertaining if I translate/interpret for the LCK?


You have many different talents, so I bet you have a wide array of things you want to become. Well, if you get a flying license, are you going to buy your own personal plane?
Yeah! That's another dream of mine.

A light aircraft?
Nah, a really big one. A380. I think it sells for around $400 million? I suppose I should change my goal to saving up $400 million, first. Guess I'm heading to Vegas!

You'll need to win the lottery for that. 
You know lotteries are taxed. About half of your winning, actually. 

Why not establish your own gaming organization if you win the lottery?
That'd be fun. Maybe if we were in the past, I could have. But currently, it's extremely expensive to run your own organization. 

What kind of a professional player does Huni want to be remembered as?
I've always wanted to become "the best Korean import." But I'm not too sure if that's straight up my goal now. There seems to be a rumor going about that I have the best English out of all the imports. I'm going to continue to work hard. And to answer your question, I want to be remembered as "a bright player that's always filled with positivity."

Having played in many different regions, you have fans spread across the globe! 
Yeah... (Laughs) 

It's time to close out the interview. What do you want to say to your fans from around the world?
It's been a long time since I've talked to you guys. To my European fans, thank you for still rooting for me. I've only played in Europe for about a year, but you guys are still cheering me on. As for my Korean fans, I know and feel that you guys are still rooting for me. And lastly, I want to thank my NA fans for coming to watch my games in the LCS!

You know, there's still a lot of time left before your vacation ends. What're you planning to do?
I'm going to play soccer.

I guess you're going to lose some weight in the process.
Nah, I eat just as much as I work out. I can't help it.


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