Many professional gamers interact with each other in various ways. However, they refrain from sharing their more personal thoughts. Being a ‘professional gamer’ is a career, and teammates are coworkers. Despite popular belief, many players are actually unaware of their teammates’ personal interests.
In that regard, the relationship between Kuro and Smeb is a fascinating one. Having been teammates throughout the IM era and until the ROX Tigers era, the two came to know each other inside and out. Although they’re of different age, the two have spent a lot of time together as good friends. Even today, although the two are in different teams, the two continue to maintain their close relationship.
Setting down the mouse and keyboard, our team met up with Kuro and Smeb to share a light conversation. Naturally, the two started bantering, and the conversation dug up a lot of buried memories. What does Kuro mean to Smeb? What does Smeb mean to Kuro? Let’s dive straight in.
KT Rolster must be busy preparing for the Summer Finals. As for Afreeca Freecs, I heard it's been two and a half months since the players have gone on vacation.
Kuro: I was planning to visit Hongcheon with my friends, but we had to cancel due to Typhoon Soulik. We changed plans to rent a party room at Anyang instead.
Smeb: I went to Gapyeong with my friends.
With a bit of planning, you guys could probably go on a vacation together.
Kuro: It's hard finding time to see each other because of how busy we all are. Last year and earlier this year, we did meet up [together with GorillA].
Smeb: The three of us [Smeb, GorillA, and Kuro] met together?
Kuro: We drank together at a dark, moody place in Gangnam.
Smeb: I went to a place like that with you guys?
Kuro: The reason we have a hard time getting together is that there is always this one guy who refuses to hang out. Peanut was very outgoing, even going traveling with the coaching staff...
Smeb: The guy who always refuses to hang out... is it that hyung?
Kuro: Yea, that big guy.
I imagine you garner a lot of attention during your travels thanks to your fame. I also bet that you're popular with the ladies.
Smeb: Not when I'm hanging out with these guys.
Kuro: Look in the mirror before you speak. Who'd give the likes of you any attention...? With that said, Smeb is honestly the most popular amongst us.
Smeb: What are you getting at?
Kuro: You were very popular when I was hanging out with you. I won't make any further comments to protect your privacy. Peanut was the most popular when we were overseas.
Smeb: I'm not popular! (Laughs)
I heard both of you enjoy spending time with your families. How did you spend your time with them this time around?
Kuro: I do spend a lot of time with my family. I often travel and eat out with them. As a matter of fact, my little sister did my makeup today for the interview! As for my big brother, we often go shopping, visit the theatre, or drink.
Smeb: I also enjoy spending time with my family. But this year, I didn't have enough time. Because unlike last year, we had to practice a lot.
Kuro: I also give my younger sister allowance.
Smeb: You're acting proud for giving a $20 allowance? I remember giving some money to my older brother. He's got a job now, so I no longer need to.
Kuro: I give her at least $50...
I remember talking to you guys about drinking habits in the past. I recall hearing that Smeb likes to take off his shirt when drinking.
Kuro: When Smeb drinks, he takes off his shirt. I remember drinking with him at a karaoke... he got red-faced and took his shirt off.
Smeb: I took my shirt off to make things more exciting.
Kuro: How is that exciting in any way?
Smeb: Are you talking about the day we went out drinking with TusiN?
Kuro: I thought you didn't remember? You seem to recall it pretty well.
Smeb: I don't remember when, but I remember how it went down.
Kuro: We mainly drink when we meet. I'm kind of curious now. Who could drink more? You or Peanut? Peanut always says to himself that he can drink a lot.
Smeb: Don't even bring up alcohol when speaking to me. None of you can drink as much as I can.
Kuro: Even with that said, Smeb isn't much of a drinker himself. He gets drunk really easily.
Smeb: It's because I'm always the only one who continues to drink. The rest of you all step down before getting drunk.
Kuro: Let me clarify. We do drink together. It's just that Smeb gets drunk really, really easily.
Smeb: Kuro shouldn't be talking about something that he's terrible at. PraY is probably the only one that has a high alcohol tolerance. However, he doesn't enjoy drinking, so we don't have a lot of opportunities to drink with him.
Since you guys enjoy drinking together, you must know each other really well, inside and out.
Kuro: This isn't related to drinking, but Smeb has a temper.
Smeb: I do?
Kuro: I remember Smeb often scolded Peanut.
Smeb: Long time ago, I didn't care. However, as I gained more and more career experience, I came to learn that some things can't be ignored and that there is a line that shouldn't be crossed. I can't believe Kuro is describing that as "scolding." (Laughs) Since both Peanut and I are professional gamers, it's more like I'm giving him advice, not scolding him.
I heard Smeb also gives a lot of relationship advice.
Kuro: Smeb corrupted a lot of the younger players.
Smeb: Hey, they're at an age where they should see girls. I simply made them men.
Kuro: I haven't met a lot of girls myself, so I'm not in a position to give dating advice. However, when I talk to the younger players, I can really feel that they're just kids. First of all, the players on my team say whatever they want without filtering. (Laughs) It's actually fun for me.
Talking about advice made me recall a time where Smeb and Reignover got into a fight while eating chicken. It was long ago, during the IM era. The two were bantering and joking with each other before it escalated into a fight. They apologized and made up in the end.
Smeb: Well, I don't hold grudges. I try my best to live like that.
Kuro: He's right. Smeb doesn't hold anything against anyone. He was always a really good person. That's why he's a good friend.
You guys don't seem to hold back with each other. (Laughs) Maybe that's why you two have so many fans. I'm also aware that both of you do a lot of fan service. You've even sung a song for the fans, right?
Kuro: Smeb sang a song for the fans? That's some incredible fan service.
Smeb: I have?
Kuro: Oh yeah, I remember! It wasn't even a request, you just randomly decided to sing.
Smeb: I don't remember it clearly, but I sang because it was that fan's birthday.
Kuro: He must've been really happy that he locked in for 1st place. But then again, you'd probably do anything at that point.
Smeb: Although I don't do anything special for the fans, I try my best to remember the names of the fans who visit the venue. For example, someone sent me a mail saying that he's planning a trip to the Philippines. I remembered him and asked how his trip was when he came to the venue.
Kuro: I'm similar to Smeb in that regard. In addition to remembering the fans' names, when they send me a gift -- such as clothes -- I post pictures of me wearing it online. The fans know me and my interests so well that none of the gifts are bad.
Smeb: I receive a lot of snacks as gifts... there's too many for me to eat them all. To make matters worse, my teammates don't like snacking either.
Kuro: Pawn doesn't eat much?
Smeb: Oh yeah, Pawn eats a lot.
Let's have you rate each other's performance this split.
Kuro: Smeb did well this split. His Kennen especially; it was like a work of art.
Smeb: Of course.
Kuro: You can't point out a single bad play Smeb made this split -- because there are far too many to choose from.
Smeb: You know what, let me rate Kuro, too. First of all, Kuro, you're rooting for KT to win this split, right?
Kuro: Our Smeb did so well this split.
Smeb: Kuro is really good -- at getting carried. That's his biggest strength. It would've been really fun to face Afreeca Freecs in the Summer Finals.
I can't even imagine how the banter between you two would've gone if Afreeca Freecs made it to the Finals.
Kuro: In every official interview, I always say that the series between KT Rolster and Afreeca Freecs will be a fun match. But in truth, it won't be. It would be too onesided.
Smeb: If we were preparing to face Afreeca, we won't even be practicing right now. The entire KT lineup would go on a vacation.
Kuro: We would've gone on a LONGER vacation.
Smeb: You are rooting for us in the Finals, right?
Kuro: Don't state the obvious. Of course, I am.
Does GorillA also enjoy banter?
Smeb: Both Kuro and GorillA aren't human. Don't waste your time with them.
Kuro: Can't you tell by just looking at him? GorillA gets easily upset if he doesn't get what he wants. It's difficult, trying to satisfy him. I don't whine like he does.
Smeb: Actually, they're both the same. They'd fight, then go shopping together the very next day.
Kuro: Once, we all agreed to not give each other birthday gifts. But GorillA said he wanted to and bought me a wallet.
Smeb: What did you do for him in return?
Kuro: I was really thinking hard about his needs, but he has everything. So I'm holding back until I can figure it out. A while back, GorillA and I planned to watch a movie at a place in Yongsan. But unfortunately, my team called me back to the house, so I had to cancel my appointment with him. We fought because of that. It's really tiresome.
Smeb: That's why you guys are best friends.
Kuro: How are we best friends? Listen, I'm his hyung. I don't know why GorillA calls PraY hyung, but not me.
I heard that you two enjoy going to karaoke together. How well can you sing?
Kuro: My singing is better than you'd expect.
Smeb: Have you improved?
Kuro: I used to be terrible at singing. I got better at it as I started hanging out with Smeb. I didn't improve because of Smeb, but because I started going to the karaoke with him. Frankly speaking, Smeb isn't that great of a singer himself. He can't even hit the high notes... he's listenable...
Smeb: Both of us don't sing well, but we know how to enjoy our time at the karaoke.
Kuro: We aren't tone-deaf, for sure.
Smeb: Kuro is okay. Sometimes he's super annoying [when he sings], but I don't want to judge him.
Have you guys gone traveling with your current teammates? You two have great personalities, so you must've easily befriended them.
Smeb: Honestly speaking, it's rare for professional gamers to go traveling together. We live with each other, and in turn, see each other every day. So during vacation, we take a break away from each other. Simply put, my teammates are like coworkers or business partners. I'm close with Kuro because we hit our peak together, and because we have matching personalities.
Kuro: Personality is really important when forming a bond. All members on the [old ROX] team had good personalities, and that's why our relationship is still ongoing even after the team disbanded. I'm not saying that I don't have a good relationship with my current teammates; they're all really nice too -- though I don't know if they're right in the head. They do treat me with respect [as I am the oldest player in the team]. (Laughs) I was always a well-mannered, respectful player.
Smeb: He's right. He was a good person from the start. Though I felt that it was odd at times, he was so nice that he often let the younger players do whatever they wanted.
Kuro: That wasn't just my problem. All the older players were too nice. That's why Smeb acted as the drill sergeant that kept the younger players in check. During the old ROX era, whenever Peanut crossed the line, Smeb jumped in and made sure he behaved. But honestly, Smeb himself also acted out quite often. (Laughs) That's where head coach NoFe would step in.
Smeb: No matter the team, it's impossible to have zero conflict. That's why it's important that there is a person that acts as the mediator to keep everyone in check. Our team is built of veteran players, so we rarely engage in conflict. Also, as team captain, I do a good job of mediating.
Kuro: That last part... you're saying that with your own mouth?
Do you guys often talk about in-game subjects as well? Normally, between two friends, people rarely discuss their career or job experience in detail.
Kuro: I tell him good job from time to time. When he loses, I feel sad for him. Nothing more than that.
Smeb: When Kuro lost to Griffin, I cheered him up.
Kuro: We have a chatroom with all the members of the old ROX. When we [Afreeca Freecs] defeated Kingzone DragonX in the playoffs, I was extremely careful with what I said in that chatroom. A joke is only funny if everyone laughs. It's a world of competition, and we're all professionals, so we don't make jokes that can scratch at one another's pride. I didn't even give a word of encouragement to the KZ players, because I know them far too well -- they would've gotten even more depressed. I'm letting them be. I believe that time is the only medicine.
Smeb: I remember the time when we [KT Rolster] were preparing to face Hanwha Life Esports. It was advantageous for KZ if we lost. On the other hand, it was advantageous for Afreeca Freecs if we won. I remember the members of old ROX bantering, wishing each others' win/loss.
How do you think it'd be if you guys switched teams?
Smeb: Honestly, I would've had a hard time in Afreeca Freecs. (Laughs) That team is famous for having strict schedules.
Kuro: When talking to my old teammates, I can really tell which teams are strict and which aren't. I think I would've had an easy time adapting to KT Rolster. No matter how experienced the players are, arguments always come up in every team. It's actually weird to have no arguments whatsoever. Young people of different backgrounds are living together under one roof -- how could there be no issues? Living with other players makes you come to realize and accept the differences.
Smeb: That's why it's important for the senior players to help and lead the younger players.
Kuro: In my team, there are a lot of rookies and even high school students. Watching them is really cute, actually. They have no clue about world affairs -- they've just become a part of society, after all. They ask me a lot of questions, and it's really cute and funny.
Smeb: The younger players on my team also ask me a lot of questions -- asking me for counseling. In those times, as team captain, I put them on the correct path and give them advice accordingly. But frankly speaking, our team's desire to win is so strong that we simply tell each other, "let's win no matter what it takes."
Watching the younger, rookie players must remind you of the old times.
Kuro: My teammates sometimes show me VODs of my old plays. When I see them, I feel like I was a baby back then. I think the younger players find it strange and cool seeing my old self. I was also surprised, myself; I realized how great my skin was back then.
Smeb: My look changed since back then. I became chubbier, and I like my current self more. I didn't change too drastically though. It's what's inside that's really changed over time.
Kuro: Ever since the IM era, Smeb and I have always had an emotional connection.
Smeb: He's right. Back then, we used to talk to each other about our hardships. We honestly already knew what those hardships were, but we still listened to each other. (Laughs)
Is it easy communicating with the younger players? I feel that they would perceive everything differently from you guys.
Kuro: Some of them are really young, so they do sometimes perceive things in an odd way. When I spot them doing something wrong, I scold them.
Smeb: I have an easy time. The coaching staff does a great job of keeping all the players in check, so everyone is well-mannered and in line.
Kuro: If you say it like that, what does that make me?
Smeb: That's your team to worry about, not mine. Our team is fine. (Laughs) You've been a professional player for a long time, you should've figured things out by now.
Kuro: I tend to talk without filtering. That's why I was often scolded by head coach NoFe or GorillA. Now, I have an easier time controlling what I say, but back then, GorillA really nagged me. He was a player that really paid attention and cared for his teammates. He set the player standards within the team.
Smeb: Yeah, and Kuro was just a really strange person.
Kuro: As team captain, I control my teammates like an old nagger. (Laughs)
Smeb: Team captains often run into those kinds of situations - where they have to nag, that is. For example, there were times where the younger players didn't greet the head coach when he came to visit. That's when I scold them. I'm pretty sure they don't do it on purpose... but when I point out the wrongdoings, I become a nagger.
I often hear solo queue stories where amateur players often engage in arguments with the veteran players. Have you two also experienced that?
Kuro: Of course.
Smeb: Not at all. I play really well in solo queue, so I never run into those problems. I never fight with anyone.
Kuro: So your tier is?
Smeb: I'm Challenger.
Kuro: You're Challenger? Oh wow. You really pushed yourself, didn't you?
Smeb: How about you?
Kuro: You see, our team's players rarely have time to play solo queue...
Smeb: Let's just move on to the next question. For Kuro.
Kuro: Weren't you in the Master tier?
Smeb: The others guys kept making fun of my rank, so I went full tryhard.
I'm guessing it's not rare for a new player to have had argued and fought with an existing professional player before in solo queue.
Smeb: That's why when a new player joins our team, I ask him if there is a professional player that he doesn't like. I carefully persuade him to tell me the truth... When he says that he doesn't like 'ChunBongPark' (Smeb's Summoner Name), I buy him a tasty treat and win his heart.
Kuro: Our players also talk about solo queue when someone new joins. Some of the new players admit that they really despised meeting a certain player in solo queue. Before being placed on the same team, Kramer and Spirit fought in solo queue so often that they had each other muted. When they met each other on Afreeca Freecs, they were both amazed and embarrassed. There were many cases like that long time ago, but nowadays, players who aspire to become pros are very careful with how they act.
When professional players who are good friends meet each other in solo queue, many entertaining highlights are captured. The two of you have really good chemistry, right?
Kuro: Smeb is so awful that I don't want to meet him in solo queue.
Smeb: First off, Kuro's rank is so low that we can't even meet each other in a game anyway. I really want him to climb so that I can see and judge his plays.
Kuro: I'm being honest when I say that I have no time to play solo queue. Long ago, Smeb was really bad.
Smeb: I remember when I was playing with PraY in solo queue. I then sensed something strange from the midlane. Believe it or not, it was Kuro.
Kuro: I remember that game! I carried!
Smeb: Whatever. I carried in the late game with Renekton. PraY was 1-12 on Twitch. He was playing with a Malphite support. Although I knew it was PraY, it made me question who he really was. (Laughs)
I heard that when 3 or more old ROX members get together in a solo queue match, they lose.
Kuro: When we get together, we end up playing for fun.
Smeb: I seriously want nothing to do with Kuro's lane.
Kuro: Smeb and PraY are the main culprits, unlike Peanut and GorillA, who always play seriously. Smeb and PraY always just play for fun. They need to be reported. (Laughs)
The role you two fill seems really important for the development of esports. You need to be a role model for the younger players.
Smeb: Here's my take; professional gamers are generally young, so they have issues living a social life. It's on us, the veteran players, to set them on the correct path.
Kuro: We're in a way, stagnant water? We've been in the scene for too long, we need to go.
Smeb: Why are you saying "we?" I think it only applies to you.
Kuro: You began your career half a year before I did.
Smeb: I know. But still.
Kuro: You're rotting water compared to me.
Smeb: You, GorillA, and PraY... You're all old.
Kuro: They're still at it though. Score does really well, too. Most of all the old players qualified for the playoffs. They're not bad at all.
Now that I think about it, Kuro is the only member of the old ROX that hasn't won a title.
Kuro: I mean, a KeSPA Cup title can't really compare to an LCK title...
Smeb: You act like you've won a KeSPA Cup before. Oh wait, you have, right...? Oops, nevermind, sorry. (Laughs) I won't bring up that memory again. I really forgot. (In the 2016 KeSPA Cup, Cry played in place of Kuro.)
Kuro: I'm not really sad about that. I had a great time messing around during the break. (Laughs)
Why don't you guys buy each other a gift if the other wins a tournament?
Kuro: I promised Smeb that I'll buy him brand clothing if he wins. Not something too expensive though...
Smeb: Brand clothing is something expensive though, isn't it?
Kuro: Not as expensive as you think.
Smeb: What was I thinking?
Kuro: Something under $1,000.
Smeb: I have nothing I desire from Kuro. I just wish he'd live a healthy life.
Kuro: Fine, I'll expect something from you instead, then.
Smeb: If I win, I'll consider buying Kuro a gift.
Kuro: I don't care about receiving a gift. Just win the Finals.
Smeb: I'll do something for you, for sure.
Through this interview, I came to realize that you guys have been a part of the LoL esports scene for a really long time. How much longer do you think you'll remain in the scene for?
Kuro: Until I'm too old to compete. I want to gather career experience until 30, then do my military service.
Smeb: I want to stop when I become too tired to compete. I want to represent my country as a professional gamer [in the Olympics and Asian Games] at some point, too. Not being selected [in the Asian Games] this year actually helped me; it made me become more motivated.
Kuro: Although it was unfortunate that I wasn't selected to represent my country this time, all the players selected [for the Asian Games] this time around are all very skilled and have impressive careers. I'll be rooting for them. However, in 4 years, I'll be 29 years old... I'll do my best to keep up.
Smeb: That's a good mindset. If you consistently try your best, an opportunity will always show itself.
Both of you probably have different goals in life. As best friends, how about you give each other a word of encouragement.
Kuro: It might cause goosebumps... so let's hear from the younger player, Smeb first.
Smeb: I really wish for you to do well. I'll make sure to win the Summer Finals. I hope that both of our teams will meet each other at the World Championship. And also, will you really play until you're 30 years old? I really want us to play together for a long time, so keep up!
Kuro: You must be exhausted from all the practice. I really hope that you win. I want to meet you at the Worlds Finals. Let's do our best in our given teams.
Lastly, what is Smeb to you, Kuro? Also, what is Kuro to Smeb?
Kuro: Smeb? A younger brother. A close friend. I think our relationship will last a long time. It's kind of disgusting thinking about hanging out with him as a grandpa, so I hope that we maintain this good relationship until we're middle-aged.
Smeb: As a fellow professional gamer that's been with me for a fair amount of time, I really hope that Kuro will stay in the scene for a long time. I'll do my best to maintain this relationship until he leaves for his military service. It's not too far from now, is it?
Kuro: It's pretty far off still.
Smeb: I'm just joking. He's a really good hyung and a friend. We're close enough to joke around like this. It's hard making a close friend like this as a professional gamer, so I really want both of us to continue to do well.
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