It's been about a year since we've last met and spoken with LCS's OpTic Gaming's bot laner, Arrow. It feels we meet up annually to share a good meal and share an honest conversation - there seems to be nothing that Arrow loves more than eating and having a nice chat. The weather was nice, and the food that was placed in-between us was astoundingly good. Our conversation went on for two and a half hours before we were forced to say our goodbyes.
Waving his glamorous hair, Arrow joined us wearing a happy expression, and we had tons of questions to ask him.
Arrow: Was it Kevin Hart? I watched his standup comedy show on Netflix, and it was hilarious.
You've been watching foreign comedy shows?
I enjoy watching comedy shows. Also, new episodes of Game of Thrones are out, so I have to catch up on that series. I haven't even watched season 7 yet.
I'm so jealous that you have an entire season of GoT left to watch. Anyway, how have you been?
I gave up on working out during the Spring split... but since it's the offseason, I should get back to it. 100T's manager, Joseph, and Ryu live near my home back in LA, so we've been eating and working out together. We often cooked and ate chicken breast and steak, and I was in charge of making steamed or fried eggs to go with them. If I didn't come to visit Korea, I'd probably be hanging out with them right about now.
I've been keeping up with my healthy lifestyle here in Korea. I went for a 30-minute run and lifted weights this morning. Professional gamers and regular office workers have a different circadian rhythm. I play games at night, so I have a lot of free time during the day.
And I do see my friends at night, and currently, I'm trying different games during my stay here.
Everyone has been playing that game back in America. When I tell people that I don't play Auto Chess, they become surprised, asking me 'how can you not play this game?' When I say, "isn't it just another RNG-based game like Hearthstone?" they respond by stating that it's more of a "positioning game."
I play Apex Legends. I enjoy FPS games, and I prefer Apex over Fortnite - even over PUBG, actually. I have a friend who plays PUBG, so I tried playing the game again with him - but it was hard because I got so used to the Apex Legends' mechanics. I used to be Grandmaster on PUBG you know.
What do you do when you hang out with your friends during the nighttime?
My friends don't like drinking, but they still do once in a while. I'm not too fond of drinking either.
Then what do you do when you hang out?
I go to karaoke. I also go out to eat with Ssumday, Ryu, and Joseph in Korea town. And pretty recently, I hung out with Crown - we'd eat, watch a movie, then go karaoke, in no particular order. I'm not the type of person to go clubbing or anything of that sort. I've not seen Crown go clubbing, either... I saw him stay in his room and watch every season of Game of Thrones in just 3-4 weeks.
What kind of a person is Crown?
He's a unique, approachable guy. He's the type of person that you want to be good friends with.
How's your English?
It's subtly getting better. Once, back when I was on Phoenix1, I remember watching a movie with other players, and I barely understood a word from it. But now, I'm at the point where I can understand nearly everything. I've been living in the US for 3 years now after all. I may not understand absolutely everything, but I use subtitles and context clues to help myself understand.
Now that I think about it, you did speak good English during your MVP interview quite far back.
That was two years ago. Time goes by really fast, doesn't it?
I always think to myself, when I play games or go on with my daily life, I say whatever I want, however I want. But during interviews, I always get very nervous, whether it's an English or a Korean interview. And when I get nervous, I can't think of the right words to say.
How is it playing with Crown? Are you guys still trying to mesh?
When I'm playing with Crown, I sometimes think, "why is he playing like that?" But after a brief analysis, I figure out why. "Oh, he's playing like that because he's expecting his jungler to help him in 'X' location." But as a gamer that's a part of a professional team, you need to communicate with your team about your situation.
It's a bit different in the LCK because each and every player on a team inspects and analyzes his teammates' lane situation and the general flow of the game. That's how they practice. They think to themselves, "I should roam to help 'X' out," or "our mid laner is about to die, I should go cover for him." In NA, however, that isn't common practice. That's why you need to constantly feed your teammates information. So I advise Crown, "hey, you made that play because you expected help there, right? You should tell us next time so we don't make a mistake."
Did it take you a long time for you to understand that yourself?
When I joined Phoenix1, I had an easier time because I had Ryu as my teammate. He came from Europe, so he was experienced in playing with foreign players.
Top-tier teams know. If a mid laner seems to be in a situation where he needs help, 9 times out of 10, his teammates already read the situation and are already on their way to help. In my opinion, I think the ability to read the flow of the game is what differentiates the top teams from the bottom teams. A problem could be solved in many different ways, but there is always an optimal solution. In order to find that optimal solution, you need to constantly communicate with your team.
Do you emphasize the need to 'communicate more' to your team?
This season was a bit regretful. For example, I believed that Lissandra pairs well with a strong AD jungler and that her magic damage is strong enough for her to be the sole AP champion in a team composition. I should've been more vocal about my opinions.
Next time, when I feel a strategy or pick is good for the team, I'll more boldly tell my teammates what I think.
How was the Spring split?
I expected our team to make the playoffs. We kept slipping and falling near the end of the split. We just needed to beat the Golden Guardians once. But we faltered. In addition, against the Golden Guardians, I played Kog'Maw, which was my decision to pick and play him - I should've done better. I ended up playing Kog'Maw instead of Ashe because of my own doubts.
But even that is a results-based analysis, right?
That's why starting next split, I'm going to be more vocal with my opinions. I wasn't able to more strongly assert what's on my mind.
How was the team atmosphere post-split?
The players and coaches realized that we made a lot of small mistakes that eventually added up. We weren't the most efficient with our practice, either.
Did you watch the LCK Finals?
I was there at the venue. I sat in the SKT seats. When watching the 1st set, it felt a bit strange. Although Griffin was winning, they failed to pressure SKT during their push. I wondered if the Griffin players were nervous.
The Taliyah-Pantheon bot lane is a global composition that requires a lot of practice to pull off. In the games, Griffin couldn't take good advantage of their global ultimates - the second drake should've been Griffin's. They pretty much played a 'YOLO' composition that required them to finish the game in the early stages. When they lost that drake, however, the flow of the game started turning against them.
Did you expect that SKT would win after watching the first set?
Both games 2 and 3 weren't as 'close' as the first one. It was unfortunate. Had Griffin not played 'YOLO' picks... They're a very capable team, I feel they could've done better had they played a more 'orthodox' composition.
Do you think the Griffin players were mentally thrown off after the first game?
I'm not sure about the first game, but the second game most likely have. In game 2, Chovy died, a lot. In addition, he played against the one and only Faker.
Not only is Faker a good player, but he has a lot of experience playing on the big stage. If you take a watch his solo queue games, you can tell that he is able to read the enemy players' every move. He's famous for his phrase, "he's dead," before the actual kill happens after all. Faker can read the emotion of his opposing laner.
Chovy wasn't very experienced, whereas Faker is a seasoned veteran who's won 6 different LCK titles. Imagine the two meeting on stage. Faker would be able to read him like a book. He punished every mistake that Chovy made.
During the early parts of the split, Griffin seemed invincible.
They were very strong. The Finals was very unfortunate. But they're still a team that I'm excited to follow next split. Don't you think they'll use their recent defeat to fuel their passion for the next split?
I'm just hoping that the defeat doesn't end up becoming a trauma for them.
As a former KT player... Score... he reached the Finals so often, but always failed to win a title... but he still played well all throughout his career, right? Let's just hope that the Griffin players aren't traumatized!
Now that you mention it, what's your opinion on the current state of KT?
You can never predict what'll happen in the future. I really didn't expect KT to play in the relegation matches. I considered going to their matches to root for them, but I felt that would pressure the team... that they'd think I'm there to mock them.
This time, though, I think I'll watch their games!
(This interview was conducted before the 2019 LCK Summer Promotion.)
Don't you think KT would do alright?
I don't think they'll get relegated. KT is a team with a lot of experience. I spoke with KaKAO quite a while ago. He said that he'll "destroy KT at the promotions." He was in the challenger series team, APK. I told him that "okay. I'll definitely come to watch your games if you make it to the promotions." Unfortunately, APK lost and failed to reach the promotions. The LCK storyline would've been amazing if KaKAO was to face KT in the relegations, right? I could've rooted for both teams!
What's your work out routine? Any interesting episodes?
I'd sometimes skip going to the gym.
If I really didn't want to work out, I had to make sure that I didn't mention it to Ryu. We'd look at each other and wait for the other to say, "should we skip gym today?" first. (Laughs) This was usually the case when we had worked out excessively on a previous day. But I still try my best to go to the gym as often as possible.
Did you ever miss Korean food?
Pork tripe. In LA's Korea Town, there is a beef tripe restaurant, but there aren't any that serve pork tripe.
Is that why you told me that you want pork tripe for lunch earlier today?
Yeah. Unfortunately, restaurants that serve pork tripe don't open this early in the day... but I really want it. That savory flavor... it's unforgettable.
Well then, what was your favorite go-to Korean food in LA?
I honestly expected the Korean food in NA to taste different to that of, well, where it's originally from, Korea. But they tasted the same - delicious. But then, Korean food in America is very expensive. The Uber ride to the restaurant is expensive, too - not to mention the expensive price of soju and the fact that you have to pay a tip.
What kind of snacks do you prefer?
I'm the type that doesn't really eat a lot of snacks... and when I do, I tend to avoid potato chips.
My favorite type of snack is sour candy!
What interests you nowadays?
Life? The last time we interviewed you, you said that death fascinated you.
I've been watching a lot of American shows, and they made me think. I watched a show where an African American boy was scouted by a football coach from Beverly Hills. A Caucasian kid then came up to him and asked, "which gang are you from?" just because he was a black kid from a poor neighborhood. In time, he couldn't handle the stress and wanted out of the team. The coach then persuaded him to stay. The entire show is basically about the players from a football team settling their differences and bonding as one.
If someone acted rude towards me, I'd hate to see that person again. When I watched that show, I thought to myself: "can I ever become an enduring person like that?" It's completely normal for you to hate someone, but I realized that a team with internal conflict can become better by having the players settling the differences and forgiving each other. Our team isn't facing that kind of problem, but it's good to keep something like that in mind. I always avoided fighting - and always wanted to avoid the person that I had trouble with. "Should I apologize first? Would that be okay?"
I'm learning a lot about life through TV shows.
Do you not think about death anymore?
You can't avoid death. (Laughs) It's more fun to learn about life than death.
Do you have any guiding principle in life?
Principle? Not really... hmm... I guess "don't harm others, don't sin, and don't give a grudge for others to hold against you."
I'm not a sensitive person. Even if someone is late to an appointment, even if someone says something rude, I let it slide. Put badly, I guess you can say I'm a softie.
I said this in a previous interview, but there was a game where my top laner died in a 2 vs. 1 situation. I think my top laner was TrAce at the time? I was really angry at him and asked him how he lost that fight. He simply replied, "things can happen." Now that I think about it, what he said was a great reply.
There are some people who are extremely competitive. You seem different.
Oh no, I am a competitive player. I think to first teach the others, and if the team doesn't improve, I work to improve myself. Sometimes, I do get angry in the process.
The LCS had a very close Finals.
Honestly, I didn't expect TL to lose the first and second games. TL is a very solid team - they're very tough. The match ended up being very entertaining with a reverse sweep. Although TL won as I had expected, I had my doubts when they were down two games. It's easy for you to lose focus after losing 2 games in a row like that.
Do you think TL's key to victory was their ability to focus?
In a way, yes. Their ability to remain focused and their strong mental strength.
Do you think they'll perform well at MSI?
SKT is strong... Europe's G2 is strong... Especially G2, they seem different from the other teams. TL is strong with traditional compositions, but G2 is something else... but I really want NA to perform well this year. As for the LPL, I'm not too sure how well they'll do.
I kind of just want to see SKT sweep everyone this MSI.
The LCK feels different when watching it from another continent, right?
Back when I was in the LCK, I always complained, "stop winning everything SKT!" (Laughs) Now, whenever SKT underperforms, I feel bad inside. I want them to do better this time. Teddy is great, by the way.
Which ranged champions for the bot lane would you recommend this time around?
If you want to climb, Kalista will make it easy. It's hard to completely predict the full damage output of Hail of Blades.
How will you spend your remaining days here in Korea?
I don't think I'll go traveling... I'll probably just walk around town and go sightseeing. A mix of working out, playing solo queue, and resting.
Two fans asked you about this... have you ever considered the idea of returning to the LCK?
Even if I wanted to, it won't be easy. Looking for a team would be difficult, and I have my military service to worry about. I won't be able to delay it much further. When I'm working in America, however, there are regulations that allow me to delay my service.
The mandatory military service seems like Korean players' kryptonite. By the way, there is a message from a fan. "I'm rooting for you every season! Thank you for always streaming when you can! I'll continue to root for you!"
I think I know who sent that. Thank you!
What do you think will happen next split?
Let's go to the playoffs...!
What kind of personal improvement are you working on?
Nothing changes if I just improve on my own. I want to practice with my support more. I'm going to constantly ask my support to practice with me.
What is the biggest difference between the LCS and the LCK? As a player that has played in both regions.
The LCS is a place where you can solo carry. It's still hard to pull off, but if you play perfectly and confidently, you definitely can. In addition, you have a lot of time to spare for yourself, for self-development. That's important for a professional gamer.
However, the downside is that you can start to lose your game senses. I feel that if I don't watch the other regions' games or other renowned players' solo queue games, I could lose my ability to keep track and follow the meta.
What kind of player do you want to become?
I actually began my career because of Doublelift. I admired his plays on Vayne and Graves back in the day. I practiced watching his plays. When I became pro, however, I started to think that Doublelift wasn't that outstanding.
Now that I'm living and playing in America, I began to realize, again, just how great Doublelift is as a player. He's able to perfectly balance work and personal life. Aside from maybe one time in his career, Doublelift has always been consistent - even despite being pretty old. I feel that he's completely opposite to me - he's confident and vigorous. I used to think, "where does his confidence come from?" Now I feel that his confidence is what fuels him.
So in a way, he's your role model.
Yeah. I didn't want to acknowledge that because he's my competition. "Okay, he's the best and he also takes really good care of his personal life." I feel that I need to best him to receive acknowledgment myself - even if just for one split.
How did you become a professional gamer?
I liked video games as a student... I liked games since I was about... six years old? When I was eight, I only watched others play. I remember watching my uncle whenever he played StarCraft. Then, when I started attending school, I began playing StarCraft myself. In middle school, I played Sudden Attack and Chaos. But I wanted to be a good son; I believed that not listening to my mother would make me a bad person. That's why I started focusing more on my studies. But I was still good at Sudden Attack - I even played in a small tournament!
I began playing League of Legends during my senior year of high school. At first, my interest in the game wasn't big, but those around me... well, made me become more interested in it. My friends kept insisting that I play with them. Then I started playing ranked games. My first placement was gold? platinum? I told my friends that I was 12-3, and they told me that I had a great placement series - saying that I was lucky. But I knew that it wasn't just luck.
I then fell in love with the game. I don't think my mom ever knew. Whenever she went out to work early in the morning, I would get up and play a game of solo queue. That's how much I loved the game.
So... you became that bad son you didn't want to become...!
I didn't study, and I skipped late-night school studies. At the time, my teacher was pretty cool about it. On a day where there was a storm, he said, "I hope Dong-hyun get hit by a PC bang sign!" Instead of preventing me from playing games, it felt like he just wanted me to do what I wanted to do. Then one day, a friend jokingly told me, "hey, at the rate of how much you're playing... are you trying to go pro?" I replied with a yes, and he saw it as farfetched; he said that if I can become a professional gamer, he can become a celebrity. And look at where I am now. I'm a pro gamer! (Laughs)
Did that friend become a celebrity?
Nope! (Laughs) Sometime later, I got accepted into a college far from home. I wasn't very social and my classes weren't fun, so I often skipped class. At that time, I didn't like drinking. It wasn't fun. So I often skipped class and went to a PC bang.
My mom was a faithful Christian at the time. I didn't want to disappoint her, so when I went to PC bangs, I told her that I'm actually going to my friend's church. Then one day, someone contacted me through the LoL client. It was Xenics. They asked me if I wanted to go pro. My mom wasn't aware of any of this - she probably saw me as a good student and a good Christian.
Did your mother ever catch you?
One day, my mom came to check up on me at my friend's church. She asked the pastor where I am, and he replied with a "he hasn't been coming. It's been a couple of months." My mom was shocked. My friend was at the church at that time, and he tried to convince my mom. "Dong-hyun is really good at video games. Coaches from professional teams are trying to pick him up for their teams." He then came to the PC bang where I was at and told me about the situation.
When I returned home, the atmosphere felt different. For about 2 weeks, my mom didn't speak a word to me. Anyway, I received an offer from a team, so I had to make a decision. I convinced my mom that I could become a professional gamer. And honestly speaking, I didn't know what the future held for me. I basically went YOLO.
That's how I joined Xenics - although the team disbanded not too long after. I was then able to join KT, and that's how I began my career!
How did you and your mother make up?
I think she started rooting for me after I joined KT... although it wasn't much, I understand her. She must've been shocked to hear from her son, who was so good with his academics, to suddenly play a ton of games and even ask if he can play it professionally.
She was disappointed... but when I started earning a salary, and when she realized that I'm playing for KT, the largest telephone company in Korea, she began acknowledging me.
How's the friend who convinced your mother?
He's doing well. He's the friend that I mentioned, the one that plays PUBG.
If it wasn't for him, it might've been hard to convince your mom.
It's true. I tend to avoid trouble, as I said before, so I probably wouldn't have been able to handle it alone.
Did you expect yourself to play abroad in the beginning?
During my final year as a KT player, I witnessed a lot of LCK players moving to teams overseas. It looked fun, and I was definitely open to the idea. I studied a lot of English as well.
When did you start watching Doublelift?
When I began playing League. I watched Doublelift playing Vayne, and I wanted to become like him.
Didn't you also have a run-in with Bang?
When I was playing solo queue, a summoner named 'Joonsikjjang123' sent me a message, telling me to accept his head coach's friend request. A friend that closely follows esports then told me that 'Joonsikjjang123' was Bang.
It's time to start wrapping up the interview. What is your goal this year?
Qualify for the World Championship. It's my biggest goal, but it won't be easy. So I want to keep it small for now and say that my goal will be to qualify for the gauntlet.
You must feel restless... I didn't know your situation with the military was that bad.
If I don't get a green card, I won't be able to delay my military service. Then, I'll have about a year left to play as a professional. That's why I'm trying harder and harder with each passing minute. I know that I'm not performing at my prime. I have to try even harder.
Any last words for the fans?
I was watching an interview during the LCK Finals, and Khan seemed like a very fun person. "How can he be this entertaining?" and, "How is he so well-spoken?" I thought. I want to become a person like that, too, but it's not easy changing your character. I'll probably continue to be... me.
I also want to thank my fans for always rooting for me. Sometimes, they even recognize me when I'm outside. It takes courage to say hi to me in public.
I'll do my best to become a professional player that has both a great personality and great skills.
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.