Go “Score” Dong-bin, who’s been a staple in the LoL esports scene for 8 years, finally finished his 8-year long journey. He now lays rest to his title as a jungler, and prepares for his next endeavor.
On October, 2011, even before the Korean LoL esports infrastructure properly took shape, Score joined Korea’s very first LoL pro team, Startale, as their bot laner. The following year, he joined KT Rolster, which marked the actual starting point of his pro career.
Since then, Score became known as the staple star player for KT Rolster. Even when he role swapped from bot lane to jungle, the team KT Rolster stuck with him. For 7 years, whether the team was doing well or not in the standings, or even when the team was undergoing roster changes, he stood by firmly with the team.
However, Score faced a realistic problem that he couldn’t avoid. It was the compulsory military service, something that all Korean men needs to go through. Henceforth, after playing his last match in the 2019 LCK Summer, he officially announced his retirement through an interview.
On the last week of November, INVEN has caught up with Score at a studio in Gangnam, Seoul. He welcomed the reporters with his friendly smile and gesture, and with coziness in the air, the interview started with the veteran.
It’s been too long, Score. For you, this off-season must be very different than the ones before, so how are you these days?
For me, the last season was really the end, so I’ve been living the carefree life. Usually, I wouldn’t be so carefree during the off-season, so this time around, I want to really enjoy this time of the year.
Have you been up to anything special? Perhaps something that you couldn’t usually do, such as going on a long trip?
I’m not a fan of going out, so I’m just taking it easy. I’ve even been playing other games, such as Teamfight Tactics, and Monster Hunter. To be able to eat, sleep, and just hang out… Just being able to relax like this is very special.
You’re now in a spot where you can take a step back and watch the FA market unfold.
Now that I can also freely watch all the FAs join other teams, it’s relaxing and fun. It’s really exciting to read all the rumors that pop up in various websites. Since I’ve been a player until very recently, people think that I have a lot of information regarding the FA market. However, I have to directly ask others for such information, and I’ve never asked for any, so I’m just like any other speculative fan.
You’ve also streamed here and there as well.
Whenever I get bored, I stream on Twitch. I’m planning to have a regular schedule for my stream, but for now, I don’t have any concrete plans. Whenever it’s on, please come by and say hello!
Let’s get right into business. There are many people that are sad to hear the news of your retirement. Did you decide to retire because of the compulsory military service?
That’s right. I’ve looked into this issue during the last Spring split, and it looked like next year will be the Maginot Line. I’m legally not allowed to go overseas in 2020, and for a pro player, such an issue is critical, and leaves you unmotivated.
I firmly believe that I’m not retiring because I’ve gotten worse at the game. However, I do regret that I wasn’t more proactive and greedy this season.
How did the people around you react to your retirement?
Pretty much everyone said, ‘Good Work.’ I think that there isn’t much to say other than that (laughter).
You’ve spent 7 of your 8 years of your pro career with KT Rolster. Can you share the happiest moment from those years?
I think the happiest was when I was doing well in the standings. For a pro gamer, results are the most important. When the team does well, the atmosphere naturally becomes better, so I think I was the happiest during then.
Last Summer, I remember when you lifted the LCK trophy for the first time. You moved a lot of fans’ hearts when you shared your thoughts in tears.
I think I got really emotional as I was answering questions. My answers were definitely not prepared just for the victory. They derived from a collective of my thoughts that I had for a long time. Although you can say that I met my teammates through work, they’re people that I become closer than school friends, because I’m always eating and sleeping in the same space as them. However, I saw many go their separate ways in life, so the emotions built up, and to talk about it brought forth those emotions and made me cry.
On the other hand, when was the most difficult time in your career?
In a similar sense, this past season was the most difficult. Yet, it’s a season that I remember the most. Through the difficult times, my team and I have bonded well, and we’ve worked really hard. The one thing we talked the most was to never lose confidence. I knew that we had to play each game with confidence.
For KT Rolster, this year has been very tough. Whether it’s in-game, or outside the game, there were many voices of criticism.
As a team, this season has been the worst performing year for KT Rolster. However, as someone on the same team, it was disheartening to see specific members take all the blame. In the end, LoL is a team game, and it all happened because everyone didn’t play well. I felt really bad that the blame was being focused on specific members.
In your rollercoaster-like 7 years of pro career, have you never thought about going to another team.
I don’t think so. Although I did get curious about what it would feel like to play for another team, the desire to play on KT Rolster was that much bigger. That’s whyI decided to stay on the team each year. However, after my retirement, my thoughts have changed. I’ve experienced enough, so instead of staying at one spot, I want to experience different things in different environments.
You’re the franchise star player for KT Rolster. It’s rare for a player to be given such a title.
It’s a title that’s given to a player that’s been with an organization for a long time. I believe that the reason why I was able to stay with KT Rolster for so long is because of all the love from the fans that I’ve received as Score on KT Rolster. I’m really grateful. It was a great experience to be a franchise star for a team.
When you think about Score, there are also many nicknames and memes that follow you. Do you have a favorite nickname?
As a pro gamer, it was so fun and was such an honor to be called ‘The Great Jungler’. When I first heard the nickname, I felt incredibly satisfied and happy. I believe that CloudTemplar made that nickname for me, so I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for such a great title. I hope to continue to see him on the LCK casters’ desk.
Also, I really love the nickname ‘Ko Don-bin’ (A nickname that came from Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu because he couldn't pronounce Score's real name properly). It’s just really funny. After I got this nickname, Deft actually just calls me by that name from time to time (laughter).
You lived with many different pro players in your career. Is there a player that even you find to be very respectable?
Players with a lot of experience have made me feel that way. Whether it’s the members from the superteam last year, and Kim “Pray” Jong-in, there was much to learn from them, and they’re great players in so many ways.
However, there’s one player who may not have a lot of experience, but still impressed me a lot was Gwak “Bdd” Bo-seong. His mentality as a pro is very systematic, and it was incredibly impressive.
In terms of competitiveness, who do you think is the most competitive?
I think most top laners in general… it all comes down to how much a player expresses their competitive spirit, and I think that top laners are very expressive in that regard. With KT Rolster, most top laners were less expressive.
I’ve tried playing a season as a top laner, and it was very frustrating. I can win lane without the enemy jungler ganking, but I’d always find the enemy jungler ganking, not mine. When I played top, the meta didn’t favor top laners, so I had to keep a lot of the frustration to myself. However, when I played solo queue, all that pent up frustration would naturally come out (laughter).
Speaking of role swaps, you’ve role swapped 4 times in your career. I think that’s the most out of any other pros. When you switch positions, does your mentality or playstyle change a lot?
All positions in the game play a different role in the game. Mid, jungle and support needs to look at the game as a whole, and even if top and bot laners do the same, there’s a limit to how much they can do. That’s why focusing on their own gameplay is a lot more beneficial to the team.
Even when I was a bot or a top laner, I looked at the game as a whole, when they are the two roles that really need to be greedy with their gameplay. That’s why I think switching to jungle was a really great decision. Looking at the game through a bigger frame and reading the flow of it fit me really well.
This is a question that I really wanted to ask you. What does the champion, Gragas, mean to you?
To me, Gragas is a champion that holds a lot of meaning. After switching to the jungle role, it was the first champion that made me seem like a great player. It’s a champion that marked the start of my jungle career, and I personally like the champion as well.
I somehow ended up playing Gragas in my last pro game. I didn’t really have any other reason for playing him, other than the fact that I really wanted to win my last game, so I picked the best champion to do so. I thankfully won, so the fans and I both were very happy. It’s a champion that’s connected to me in so many ways.
There’s a lot of players that are good at Gragas. In your opinion, who’s your successor to being known for Gragas?
There’s actually a lot of players that are good with Gragas. In some ways, there are players that are better than me with the champion. This season, I was very impressed with Kim “Life” Jung-min’s support Gragas.
If I were to say something to Life, I hope he uses the Hillbilly skin a lot. That skin holds a special spot in my heart, and the skin reminds me of cool old farmers, so it’s great.
I think it must’ve been an incredible experience to be picked as South Korea’s representative for last year’s Asian Games.
That’s right. It had so much meaning to play on such a huge stage as a representative of South Korea, and personally, it was a great experience to play with players from different teams. Not just inside the game, but outside the game as well. For example, I don’t like to play the game, ‘Mafia’, but the younger players loved the game, so we downloaded the app to play. I’ve learned that other teams hang out like this, and I was also able to ask how their daily lives are. It was an experience that holds so much meaning.
You’re going to just let everything go for now, and watch the LCK from a spectator's point of view. Is there a specific team you’re excited about?
It definitely has to be Gen. G Esports. It’s a team that everyone’s been talking about this year. I’m also on friendly terms with the Gen.G members, so I want to support them. DragonX is also a team I’m excited about, because Deft stayed with the team. For T1, I heard that head coach Kim Jung-soo will be taking the reins, so I’m excited to see if he’ll be able to work his magic again.
It’s time to wrap up our interview. What are your future plans?
I’m currently very satisfied with my carefree life, so I’m going to get some rest, and am thinking about doing my compulsory military service next year. Although I don’t have a specific date, as long as I don’t get a change of heart, I’ll be enlisting after March. Before that, I’m not planning to enlist, unless the government tells me to do so.
I don’t have specific plans on what to do after I get out of the army. I don’t even know which career path I should take. Whatever happens, I want to come back into the LoL esports scene. I have thoughts about the potential different paths here and there, so I’ll follow through one of them. A famous webtoon writer/streamer named Lee Mal-nyeon once said, “Just try everything, and pull out of something that doesn't work for you” (laughter).
This is the last question. I personally also want to tell you that you’ve done great work, and as Score, the pro gamer, please give your final words to your fans.
Honestly, the fact that I retired hasn’t quite hit me yet, and I think it’ll really hit me when the 2020 season starts. There were many days that I regret as a pro, but even so, so many of you have cared for me, loved me, and gave me your wholehearted support, so I was very happy. Whatever I end up doing next, I want to work hard in life and keep communicating with all of you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.