Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon came back to Korea from Misfits in the middle of the season so suddenly. As much as he had been active for such a long time from Najin, we were worried because of the news. Has it been messed up because of the contract? Did he have a big fight with his team? Many fans would also have been worried about GorillA from the news.
One hot summer day, we met GorillA at a cafe. All worries aside, it was really good to see him again. And it was quite comforting to see GorillA smiling brightly and still on his feet, doing his best for his future. We spoke for a long time, through coffee, dinner, and drinks. Let’s have a look at what GorillA had to share.
Hi! I’m so glad to see you again. When did you come back to Korea? How have you been?
Hello! I think it’s been about 11 days since I came back. I’m still confused with a lot of stuff.
Are you still jetlagged?
No, not that. For example, there’s that everyday schedule as a pro gamer; sometimes it feels like I’m working 24/7. But I’m a bit sad because it’s the first time I’m free from that life. It doesn’t matter if I play games until 5 AM… It feels that my daily routine has disappeared.
You’re right… Have you been playing other games too recently?
Rather than playing other games, I’ve been playing on my second account in the KR server. Since I haven’t played on that account for a while, it got demoted. I’ve been on a break for a while, so I need to get my performance back on track. And I sometimes play duo with Rush too. I’ve been saying hello to people that I knew on the client again in such long while. It really feels like home and it’s awesome that the internet conditions here in Korea are really good.
You suddenly returned to Korea. Aren’t people worried about you?
The friends that I’ve been close to from high school aren’t really interested in my professional gaming career. They just say ‘you’re here already?’ when I told them I’m back. The parents are concerned a bit though. I’m close to all the ROX members’ parents… and they called my mother and asked, ‘is GorillA alright? He’s back to Korea so early’.
It’s interesting that your friends aren’t worried at all.
They did ask if my ‘mental’ is alright since I have a rather soft mentality. Personally, although the results weren’t very good, it was a lot of help for myself to improve and help others there. Although there are regrets, I think it was time worthwhile.
I see. What did you do first after returning to Korea?
I bought an air conditioner. (Laughs) My parents always say that just a fan’s enough and that since they’re in Songdo near the sea, the sea breeze is cool and they wouldn’t buy an AC. But I couldn’t stand the heat… I told my mother and bought two ACs.
Many people are really curious. What made you leave Misfits?
I can’t tell you everything in detail, but I can say that we parted ways on good terms, smiling, with no feelings harmed. I believe there were things we both learned. Of course, I had a choice to stay at Misfits, but for my future and to improve myself, I can say it was my decision to come back to Korea.
Still, you should have many regrets. How do you feel?
I feel relieved but sorry at the same time. I haven’t ever had this long of a break during the season. I had some worries as well. I’m quite old, so I don’t have much time left to be a pro player… I still want to be a player next year. Now I’m concerned about how I can stay as a player or if I can find a team to play in.
The LCK has changed a lot as well. Teams discovered many outstanding rookies. It may make you feel pressured as a veteran.
All the teams improved and became younger, and teams think that the older players are less cost-efficient. When I decided to leave Misfits, the coaching staff told me that they’re worried about my next year. Fortunately, foreign teams seem to still approve of my career. However, they also mentioned that my career could be diminished because of the negative results at Misfits. They told me to contact them if my new team doesn’t approve of my career because of the underwhelming results at Misfits; that they can explain everything GorillA has done to contribute to the team. They promised to help me in that way.
That would be great help. The image is really important in this scene.
So I told them that I would buy a decent meal if they were to come to Korea.
Misfits often made short videos or content for GorillA. It should be regretful for you to leave all that as well.
The Korean teams don’t do those little things much when they’re busy, but the foreign teams always have cameramen following around, and there’s always a convenient area to take pictures. So it’s really free to make enjoyable content. I didn’t refuse any requests from the content team either. I thought that this is how it’s done there, so I did my best to help. I was pretty close to the content team because of that.
I always carried around cash for emergencies. On the day that it was confirmed that I’ll return to Korea, I told the staff I’ll be buying dinner, but when I tried to pay, the coaching staff held me back and didn’t let me pay. I really wanted to buy dinner for them. Even at the bar we went to the day before I came back, I gathered about ten people so that I can buy them drinks, but they didn’t let me pay again. The gave me letters as well, which I still have. I didn’t want to cry, but it was really sad. Life is long… I think it was a good experience. It’s something I can do since I’m a pro gamer.
Yeah, I did cry. An interesting thing happened at the airport. A Korean person recognized me at the airport. He asked me if I’m going to Korea, but I couldn’t tell him details, so I just said that I got a vacation during the season. What was really interesting is that I met that person when I came to Europe at the start of the summer. So I met him at the start and end of my EU summer. My situation was completely different in the two times we met so it felt really awkward for me. I was a bit ashamed too. Now if that person reads this article, he would know. (Laughs)
Who were you the closest with in Misfits? Who do you think you’ll miss the most?
Among the players, I think I’ll miss Hans Sama the most. We were lane buddies, we exercised together, and he followed me close calling me ‘hyung’. Actually, I’ll miss everybody, because I was close with all of them. They’re the first players and coaching staff I’ve been with abroad. I’ll be missing them a lot.
You should keep in touch with them then. You parted on good terms, so they might contact you for other things.
That’s possible. Maybe they could call me to come as a coach.
If they ask you to be a coach, what will you do?
I still want to be a player. I think I’ll be able to try to become a coach after I’m back from the army, but I don’t think I’ll be able to return as a player after the army. And I don’t want to do that either. So what I want to do is stay as a player as long as I can.
Who were you the closest with while you were in EU?
It was Mowgli. With the other players, I wasn’t able to meet up with much. IgNar, Trick, Pirean, Dreams… As for Mowgli, I was close to him since I was in Korea, and when I told him that I’m going to Europe, he said let’s hang out. Whenever I had time off, I met up with Mowgli and Jiizuke and had good meals.
Mowgli would miss you as well.
He did. He said, ‘Hyung, wait for me back in Korea. I’ll be there soon.’
You shouldn’t say spoilers…
(Laughs) We still keep in touch. Mowgli is close to other players as well, so he’ll be alright.
Is there anything that’s regretful that you weren’t able to do in Europe?
When it was confirmed that I was leaving the team, everyone told me to travel. I was in Germany, and I had an EU visa, so I would be able to go around several places without much trouble. But since I’m rather shy and I thought my English isn’t good enough yet. The coaching staff told me my English is decent, but I’m a bit like that.
I see… You’ll probably regret it though.
Before I go to the army, I really want to travel, while I’m making money. Whether it’s for vacation or joining another team.
Are there any regrets regarding the game or team life?
I thought I should have been a bit greedier. In the teams that I was in Korea, it was alright to be considerate. There were strong personalities in the team and it was good for the team if I became like the buffer between the players.
In Misfits, since I don’t know the tendencies of foreigners, I just tried to become a ‘good guy’ to everybody. So the coaching staff even advised me not to be too nice. Looking back, I think I may have needed to be a bit more toxic. I thought that maybe I should have appealed my thoughts more and shown more leadership.
It was mostly because of the language. For example, if I say ‘why did you do that?’ in Korean, it could be just a question - not criticizing or blaming. But when I said that in English, I was worried it might come off the wrong way. I was worried that someone could be hurt or offended because of the words or phrases I used. If I were to be abroad next year, I’ll make sure I fix that.
It could have helped yourself or the team if you talked more.
Yes. It’s really easy to give opinions through my experience in Korean. And it was really difficult when I get emotional in situations where there are grudges or when I feel something’s unfair. It felt like I was about to cry of anger because of the language barrier. To avoid that, I always tried to take a step back, rather than to take the bull by its horns. I would think ‘this would be enough’ and step back. That’s what’s regretful and something I’m sorry to the team about.
The team wouldn’t have wanted you to be like that.
No. So if I get another chance, I want to improve that. So while I’m not working, I talked a lot with Rush, who streams in English. We agreed to stream duo while studying English, living close in Seoul. We might become lazy and lose the professional mindset if we do things alone, so we’ll be helping each other. Exercising, studying English, playing duos. I’m thankful. I don’t know how my future would be like, but if I learn English, I’d be able to do something.
Now to think of it, Rush spoiled(?) you going to Korea in his stream.
I had been talking with Rush for a while about the worries I had that I mentioned earlier, but didn’t confirm that I was going back to Korea with the team. On the day that Rush said on stream that I was going back to Korea, the mental coach of the team was coming to Berlin. I needed to discuss that with my mental coach first.
After the stream, Rush contacted me, saying that he made a mistake sending me his stream link. When I checked, it became bigger after he tried to make up for his mistake. I thought ‘oh, no’. On the next day, the team sent me a message to ask if I’m really leaving, if it’s confirmed. In a way, I made my decision quicker because of Rush.
The team may have misunderstood.
Yeah. They may have grudges. Anyways, Rush trying to make up for his mistakes was… Whew…
Have you been following the LCK recently? It’s chaotic. What do you think?
This is a lot more fun if you’re not involved, but if you are, you would be in a nervous wreck. But you know, several players agree with me, but if I watch a match live, oddly, I get sleepy. LEC plays Bo1s so it’s easy and fun to watch. I try to watch the LCK for my future, but I tend to fall asleep during the break between matches. So I try to watch them straight after midnight.
When I watch the recent matches, it feels that all of them are really good. Since everyone’s good, it seems that compositions that can pick fights seem better and better. All teams are smart and have good macro; wouldn’t the team that fights better win? Usually, the teams that have a better ‘tool’ to pick fights would win, like the recent Hanwha Life Esports vs DAMWON Gaming match. I have fun watching, and I learn a lot as well.
There are many star rookies now as well. Do you feel the next generation coming?
The next generation has already come. But I still see all the players that are good for such a long time like Khan. Joker is quite an old player as well. I also believe that with age, your mechanics wear off. Taking a step further, with age, there are two problems. Mechanics, and getting biased in the game style. It becomes harder to think out of the box from the old play styles. As a support player, I think it’s more important to get rid of those fixed thoughts than having better mechanics.
I personally used to think ‘why should we fight?’ when it’s not a valid fighting situation, but in that situation, the EU players often think it’s better to fight it off and end it. Looking at those diverse styles, I was able to break off my fixed thoughts a bit. In that matter, I think the LCK is changing a lot as well. I think it’s important for old players to get rid of their biases.
Have you met your LCK friends? You're close to all of them.
We just say we should meet up in words, but when we actually try to meet up, I live too far away… My schedule is so irregular so when I play games is completely different from the players’. I would have excuses to not be able to play. And I live so far away; if I go out to meet somebody, I don’t have time to play any games, so I wasn’t able to meet many people. Just for some interviews or people who live close. I’m still going to go to LoL Park soon. Maybe this Sunday.
Your old duo mate, PraY is having a hard time recently.
Even when I was in Misfits, I talked often with PraY. PraY really keeps things on the inside even when he’s really struggling. Last year, PraY and I was criticized very often. What I really felt sorry about was that PraY felt a lot of pressure that he needed to show something in games. It felt good seeing him play well with Lucian; it seemed like he recovered a lot of confidence. He’ll be showing good performance afterward as well.
People would have had high expectations for PraY, so he must have felt a lot of pressure.
Of course. He’s a legendary player.
Now, for some questions from fans. Who’s the worst trash talker in the LEC?
Upset. I was really surprised. He looks nice. It’s not that he has a bad personality, but he often kids around. When the game is paused in the middle of the game, we sometimes chat in-game and Upset’s chats are really explicit. He’s really interesting.
There still are many fans that relate you to PraY. Have you ever thought of getting back together as a duo?
Would that be possible before we retire? I’ve played with PraY for such a long time, all teams would know our style. We could pair up for a random exhibition match or get together to coach the same team. That would be possible… But PraY and I both don’t have much time left in our careers as a player. I’d like to say yes for the fans, but many issues make it difficult. I’m not trying to say that I would dread playing with him. (Laughs) We’re close.
Some people say that Misfits weren’t successful because GorillA has been used to playing with PraY for such a long time and Misfits wasn’t ready for that. What do you think about that?
I’ve put in a lot of effort trying to fit my champions and styles according to what other laners want. And I think I’ve shown good performance in games that we won. I tried to fit myself in many ways, but there were situations where the synergy wasn’t visible as a team. So I didn’t stick to my style and tried to match myself to what my teammates asked for as much as I could.
Is there anything that you’re interested in aside from games?
Exercise. I started exercising because I needed to work on my fitness and that I had a complex that I have a big face and narrow shoulders. I wanted to improve that so I started to exercise. Another thing is that there aren’t many ways to relieve my stress in Europe. I didn’t make a girlfriend or play other games. Just sleeping during vacations. What’s more is that all stores are closed on Sundays in Germany. There aren’t many places to relieve stress, but there’s even less because of that. So I started exercising to relieve my stress.
Also, I usually tend to care a lot about other players when I live in a team house. Even when it’s not necessary. I just want to help out. It’s just my style; I feel pressured that I need to help, so during vacation, there are times that I want to be really alone, not thinking about anybody else. I would watch movies alone or go to stores where I’m a regular to relieve my stress.
Now I do see that you’ve lost a lot of weight. Did you do a lot of aerobic exercises?
I lost weight naturally in Germany. I didn’t eat late-night, no rice, and not much alcohol either. I get allergic reactions on my skin when I drink. I can get medicine for that in Korea when I have to drink, but in Germany, that’s difficult. But recently, I felt that beer is really delicious. Maybe because I’ve aged? Alcohol tastes good. (Laughs)
How would you evaluate the level of play in LEC?
It would be hard to evaluate the league since my team was placed 9th, but personally, if the top three teams of LEC, LPL, LCS, and LCK play against each other, G2 would be around the top in that clash. Fnatic and Splyce are really good as well, but I have a bit more doubts about them.
Now back to my questions. What are your plans from now on? Long or short.
In the short term… If a team or LCK calls me in any way, I would study the league more. I’ll be living in Seoul soon with Rush, so I’ll be able to go anywhere. For now, I’ll just take care of myself and study English for what comes up in the future.
You seem to be considering going back to a foreign league where they speak English. Are you considering joining an LCK team?
Of course. Wherever there’s a path, I would go. Whether it’s NA, EU or Korea. I’m always open to possibilities.
What about China?
China… Would I be able to speak Chinese within a year? I can say that I’m able to speak English a bit… If I went to China this year, I may have gone next year. Of course, if they call me, it’s good. But I would be questioning myself that I wouldn’t be able to show all that I have in that situation. (Laughs)
You’ve mentioned ‘age’ several times today. You’ve been through a lot up to now. How do you feel?
I think time really flies. From when I was the youngest player in Najin to this age. It’s kind of sad. I look back at the old days often recently; memories tend to look better over time. I feel that I can’t give up after all that I’ve been through. I want to try as much as I can. I still can’t believe that this time has come for me… But it’s not too hard to accept. I wouldn’t deny anything and I just think I should do my best in whatever I can do until the end.
What’s really impressive is that you’ve been active for so long without making any trouble in this small scene.
My motto is ‘keep a clean image in this scene’. Many people like coach Park Jung-suk and others advised me that the scene is really small and that I should do my best in it. Now that my time is coming close to an end, I tend to think about my future often. All I’ve learned is gaming. It wouldn’t make sense to do something else after this career. I want to find a job in this scene after I finish my military service.
Aren’t you afraid about the future to come?
Not really. Who would have known I would come all this way? I think I was really fortunate to have become a pro gamer. I concentrated on gaming so much that I wasn’t even able to have a proper ‘college life’. From making that decision, I think I was really lucky to have actually become a pro gamer. I sometimes think what would I have done if I wasn’t able to become a pro gamer.
It’s really fortunate that I’ve even made it this far… Why would I be worried about the future? Obviously, my income would be different from myself now and myself in the future, but if I can do something I really love in the future, I would be thankful.
It seems that you’re very conscious of the limit of your career. Is there anything you’d like to do in the future?
Yes. Everyone knows that there’s not much left in my pro gaming career. I know, fans know, everybody knows. Every player’s goal would be the same, but something I would really like to achieve would be winning Worlds. I’ve accomplished a lot, but I’ve never won Worlds before. That’s something I really want to accomplish.
Aside from gaming… I recently met up with Ggoong. We talked about gathering the ‘Najin family’ with Save and Watch. It doesn’t matter if it means I have to go to Busan, I want to meet up with them.
Those are memorable names. Lastly, would you like to say a word to the readers?
To the EU fans: I really want to thank you for making me feel so welcome. Although this season was full of regrets, I’m always open to possibilities; I’d like to meet you again if I have a chance. I’ll do my best to improve in the remaining 4 months of this year so that I can grab a good chance again.
Many fans would be worried about my age… I think it’s just the way life works. All things that start come to an end. But I’m not upset or shocked by that. I’m doing really well right now. Fortunately, I still have fun playing games, and I think there’s still a lot to learn. I’ll be preparing well so that I can return on stage. Don’t worry too much about me and cheer for me.
A managing editor who can do more things than you think.