There are times when you fail to recognize the treasure in front of you. You only realize the true value of such a treasure after much time has passed, and you tell yourself, “If I only knew back then”. Lee “LokeN” Dong-wook, a bot laner who found success in the LPL after his fair share of struggles, is one of those treasured players in LoL еsports.
After winning the 2015 LoL KesPA Cup and IEM Season 10 as a bot laner for a Challengers Korea team, there was much hype behind LokeN before he headed to China, but he never became a truly top player. But today, he’s returned as an LPL champion and a bot laner who proudly represents the league.
Inven had a chance to catch up with LokeN to talk about his relationship with Kim “Clid” Tae-min, Kim “Khan” Dong-ha, and Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang, his journey from struggling with failures to heading to the 2020 LoL World Championships, and his resolution on proving himself on “the biggest stage of them all”.
It’s been four whole years since you’ve greeted the Korean fans. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to after JDG punched their ticket to Worlds?
After the finals, I was given a little bit of vacation time. I’ve been doing shoots related to Worlds since then, and started playing solo queue two days ago. We haven’t started scrimming again yet, but judging by my form in solo queue, I think I’m doing quite alright.
After winning the KesPA Cup with ESC Ever, you spent another year in Korea, then headed to the LPL. Why did you decide to head to China back then?
It’s always nice to be doing something with the people that you get along with. At the time, I was friends with Clid, and he told me that he wants to play with me. Doinb also told me that he wanted to be on the same team as me, so I headed to China. I had a lot of fun back with them back then. Including Khan, there were a total of seven Korean people in both the player and the coaching staff. Because of them, I had a swell time adjusting.
From Doinb, Clid, to even Khan on the same team, there must be a lot of fun stories with the team. Can you share some?
I think I’d need permission from them to reveal any stories. To be honest, we’re all gamers so most of it was just playing other games. A lot of our fun memories come from just playing Warcraft and PUBG together. We were a rowdy bunch.
How has your time in the LPL been different from when you were in Korea? Can you tell us some of the positives of playing in the LPL?
I definitely had my fair share of trouble adjusting to the LPL at first. In the LCK, the overall macro revolved around being perfect, so the teams tried their best to not give any leeway to their opponents. However, in the LPL, while teams gave in-game opportunities to others, they also challenged those opportunities. It was hard to adjust to such gameplay, because there were many instances where I thought, “The jungler must be looking to gank”. At the time, I thought that it was just a playstyle that defined LPL as a region. However, the current meta is all about getting early leads, so the aforementioned playstyle is better.
In the five years you’ve been in the LPL, has there been a player/industry insider that you’ve grown to like or respect? Can you tell us the reason why?
Hmm… I really put a lot of thought into this, but I really can’t choose one person. Everyone has been so kind and treated me well, so that’s why I’m able to do my job under such a comfortable environment. If even one person from all the people I worked with have not been there, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
"My synergy with LvMao is indescribably good. Whenever I’ve produced good results, LvMao has always been with me."
This year, you’ve reached your peak in your career by not only getting on the 2020 LPL Summer 2nd All-Pro team, but you’ll also be playing at Worlds. If you had to rate yourself, how confident are you on an individual level?
My team played in both finals of the 2020 season this year and even won in Spring. I gained a huge confidence boost due to our results throughout the split. As long as I don’t doubt myself, I’m confident I can beat everyone.
Worlds is a tournament that every player dreams of playing in. As a participant on such a grand stage, what kind of performance do you want to put on for the fans?
In 2018 and 2019, I kept losing 2-3 in the regional qualifiers to be denied the ticket to Worlds. I’m thrilled that I get to go to Worlds without having to play in the qualifiers. While this is my first time at Worlds, our team did win LPL Spring and made it to the finals in the Summer, so I believe we’re a strong team. I want to put on a performance that lives up to our strong reputation.
Can you tell the readers at home what kind of a player you are? Also, can you tell us about your lane partner, LvMao?
Hmm… I’m a bot laner that can excel above anyone else in teamfights, as long as I get out of the laning phase safely. My synergy with LvMao is indescribably good. Whenever I’ve produced good results, LvMao has always been with me. We always give each other honest feedback. I don’t know how he feels about me, but I can definitely say that without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
"If the Worlds meta is right for Aphelios, I want to play him a lot and receive an Aphelios skin."
The best bot laners from all around the world will be gathering in Shanghai for this year’s Worlds. Who are you most excited to face?
As you said, it’s a tournament where the best of the best gather, so I’m excited about every single one of them. However, if I had to choose, I’d say Ruler from Gen.G. Not only are we friends, but his current form looked very good. While I am friends with Gen.G’s bot lane, I want to beat them in a tournament as well.
Speaking of Gen.G, your former teammate, Clid, is also on Gen.G as their jungler. What kind of things will you be talking about with him?
Not only did I previously play in the regional qualifiers with Clid, but we also had our fair share of struggles together. We get to see each other at Worlds after growing, and we wouldn’t be going to Worlds without working hard. I think I’ll just be very happy to see him.
Every single players’ dream is to win Worlds. If you win Worlds, which skin would you like to have?
I played a lot of Aphelios this year, so when it comes to that champion, I’m very confident. If the Worlds meta is right for Aphelios, I want to play him a lot and receive an Aphelios skin.
Is there anything that you’d like to say to the fans both in China and Korea, cheering for your success?
There were both tough times and good times in the LPL. My fans have been with me through thick and thin, and I’m always grateful. Also, I’ve heard that the COVID-19 pandemic has gotten worse, so please take care of yourselves and stay healthy.
Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to conclude this interview?
After many failures, I finally made it to Worlds. As this is my first time going to Worlds, I’ll make sure to put on a performance that will leave a great impression on everyone.
Striving for perfection to achieve excellence in esports