PraY has chosen to leave temporarily; during our interview on December 27th, PraY himself put an end to the rumors about him returning. PraY seemed exhausted as he opened up to speak. The funny side that we so often saw in front of the camera was nowhere to be seen and he was at a loss for words now and then when talking about his feelings during the interview.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but PraY admitted that “It feels nice to live like a decent human being now.” He had many thoughts crowding his mind, yet couldn’t easily speak of them out loud to anyone. He was afraid of having his true feelings told to his colleagues, family, and fans. However, he said that it was very hard for him to keep his turmoil to himself this year; that is why he, for the first time, told his parents about his true feelings. He was afraid that the end was close as he held back his tears alone.
What hurt him so much? He is one of the best League of Legends player, after all. Perhaps PraY felt he’d reached his limit after all this time? To be frank, I thought that it would be hard to get honest answers to any of the questions at first; he was known as a player who doesn’t open his heart that easily. Despite this, PraY was completely honest during what could turn out to be his last interview. Some of his answers were responses we’d heard in previous interviews, but the rest were new things we didn’t know.
It’s been a month since he became a free agent. Many things happened to PraY during the signing window; he was offered a great amount of money from a foreign team and talked very closely with KT Rolster. Other teams have shown interest, but PraY had no choice but turn them all down.
"I’ve already decided to take a break so I turned down all offers I got from other teams. This may be a topic of interest to the fans but I don’t know how far I can go into details just in case I might trouble KT Rolster. In fact, KT Rolster took good care of me but I was rather indecisive since I wasn’t feeling certain. They kept giving me better offers but I couldn’t tell them that I would sign the contract; I knew how much value I had as a player. I didn’t feel that they had much money left to use on me since the members of KT Rolster were already so great.
After my first negotiation with KT Rolster ended, I felt tears welling up on my way home. I still don’t know why, even though I’ve thought long and hard about it. It felt like I now had to let go of everything after rejecting the offer from KT Rolster, not just the offers I got from several other teams. It felt like there would be no further offers for me. My tears started to fall down when I was walking down the slope towards my home, as I thought that I would no longer be able to continue pro gaming -- that this is the end. I sincerely thank KT Rolster for offering to be together until the end nonetheless."
If a person asks about PraY, most people would describe him as a player with strong pride. He doesn’t like to reveal his inner thoughts and doesn’t rely on others that easily. That is why even his parents found it hard to discover what was truly on his mind. This is the first time that PraY emotionally relied on his parents because of the wound to his pride.
“I always wasn’t sure if I should show my heart when I had something on my mind. No matter how hard it was, I could just get up like a roly-poly. But it was different this time. It was hard to get over it alone and it wasn’t easy to open up. I spoke to my family about it for the first time when I thought that I had come to an end.
Frankly, I don’t know if there’s any meaning in talking about past things no matter what I say. After I was hurt by several things, wanting to rest naturally came next; my parents were heartbroken when I told them that. I can talk about it now but the team atmosphere (for Kingzone DragonX) wasn’t good back then. Also, I was having a difficult time because I thought I was the reason my team was experiencing such a slump.
I don’t have any excuse even if someone blamed me for my team’s slump. That is why I tried hard not to think about it. My teammates told me that they are sorry, which made me think about many things. I myself blamed Hojin for his inability back in my time in ROX Tigers and thought that Kuro wasn’t that good of a mid laner. League of Legends is a team-based game. So I tried hard not to get hurt by calling it a ‘business relationship'.”
This isn’t the first time PraY chose to take a break. PraY’s contract with Najin Black Sword expired on May 17th, 2014, after the NLB Spring Finals. The atmosphere around him was a bit different back then; he was 21 years at the time, and now he is 26. Leaving to take a break at the age of 21 angered him, but now, it felt like he simply let go of everything by himself.
"I took a break in 2014. Things felt different back then; I wanted to take a break before the season but I was confident in my own ability. In fact, it was more like I was released from the team, which made me angry. But I think that it’s right for me to take a step back when it comes to taking a break now. So I don’t know how long it’s going to take yet.
After the Korea Regional Finals, everything just felt confusing. I didn’t know if I could just quit like this since I was getting a high salary. I was even rather shocked at how a person could fall to the bottom in such a short time. Then I came to myself after realizing that, for what I do here, it is the ‘result’ that should be the highest priority. That is why I knew from earlier on that it would be hard for me to renew my contract.
I didn’t know I would even come to think this, but what if we defeated Afreeca Freecs back then? Would people have thought differently of us if we won against Gen.G Esports? The pressure became so great when we lost our chances to make up for it one by one. With the last chance gone, I was at a loss for words when I was with my younger teammates. I could have easily told them that they tried their best if only I played well myself..."
During his 2 years in KZ DragonX, PraY got a taste of both heaven and hell. At first, there were so many players who lined up to be with PraY; the moment PraY signed the contract, many players wanted to join the team. However, PraY quickly became exhausted in just one year; a short-lived slump flipped the world’s opinion of him.
Despite that, KZ opposed PraY’s retirement. They were even willing to make a short-term contract if PraY wanted to retire so that they could prepare for his retirement match and a ceremony for him.
“I heard from my teammates that KZ was willing to prepare a retirement match for me. Even if they didn’t truly mean it, I was still grateful. They were also nice during the contract expiration. But they didn’t need to be worried about me since I didn’t go into retirement yet.
I couldn’t go talk about this to anyone because of my pride but my parents were the first one to ask me if I found it hard to play further after my last match. I couldn’t answer them properly at the time. Then they asked me if I by any chance lost my confidence. I got angry without realizing it.
I lied to myself. They were right about me stepping back because I lost my confidence but I didn’t want to admit it. I also took the criticism from the fans rather indifferently. I did resent them sometimes but I think it was up to me to endure everything after I went out to see their negative reaction myself.”
There was one thing he didn’t say during the entire interview -- ‘I will return no matter what’. In fact, he didn’t make any promise that he would return to playing even as the interview came to a close. He didn’t want to give his fans false hope and there was no reason for him to lie. Fortunately, PraY did say that he will find a way to meet his fans again no matter what.
“As far as the question of my return, I always replied, ‘I’ll take a break during the spring split and then make it to Worlds by doing well during the summer split’. But that’s just what I desired and a good lie for my fans. I wanted to avoid answering such questions. Whenever I think about it seriously, I start to question myself - ‘Will I be able to do it again?’ I guess that’s because I’ve let go of playing League of Legends for now.
We won during the spring split; I looked for a way to comprise so that I could quit. But nowadays the opinion people have about you can change in just one or two matches. Right now, I don’t have enough time to dream about the future by consoling myself with my past. I don’t know when I will return, but I won’t dare say this is [the end] either.
Maybe it’s a great time to quit. But it was hard to keep the promise of leaving the scene while I was getting applause. I’m a person who gets greedy, and I want to do more when I got applause. Instead, I’m very sorry to my fans that I will be leaving once more like this.”
There is this subject that people always bring up when talking with players with a long gaming career -- stories about their past. PraY is one of the players with some of the most glorious moments in his past; he experienced victory in Najin Black Sword, ROX Tigers, and Kingzone DragonX (including Longzhu Gaming). He has met both happiness and regret as he struggled through victories and hardships. Included in these struggles are stories about his most valued colleague, GorillA.
“I do think that I’ve always tried hard but there’s no other time I’ve tried my best than my time in Longzhu Gaming, 2017. I practiced like a mad man. I practiced as if my life was on the line, but the results for the spring split weren’t good. That’s why I was immersed only in practicing by playing until 5 or 6 in the morning. My happiest moment would be back when I was in ROX Tigers. I was at peace in my heart and they were the perfect team for me. There are still fans who still like the past team atmosphere in ROX Tigers. Of course, there are some people who don’t like it so I don’t usually talk about it much.
I’ve played together with GorillA in two teams. He and I have played alongside each other for a long time. He is just a person I appreciate and a friend who helped me come back as a pro gamer. It’s hard to see it as a deep relationship, but he was a real colleague whom I could respect. At first, I wanted a support who felt comfortable - like a friend - but it wasn’t like that with GorillA. Looking back now though, we wouldn’t have made it as long as we did if he was comfortable like a friend.
It felt great that I could talk to him like we had a business relationship. During my time in ROX Tigers, Coach NoFe wanted us to talk to each other a lot but I didn’t see the need to because our teamwork was great without having to back then. Afterward, I wanted to know what we, the bottom duo who was always in the running, lacked.
But after joining Longzhu Gaming in 2017, I got to have many conversations with GorillA without realizing it. That’s when I realized what Coach NoFe really meant; we improved by telling each other even things that weren’t necessarily good to hear and going over what we lacked. Even though it was hard to say it directly, we discussed the direction we should be going towards a lot. After doing this, we were able to win during the summer split; it was an expected victory, and the feeling of accomplishment kicked in. It felt great thinking ‘we did it’.
But I thought that it would be hard for us to play together with this year as the last. But still, GorillA and I would talk about things every year like “let’s tell each other beforehand if any of us get to join another team” since we’ve played together a long time because that’s the way you respect each other. So I recommended Misfits to GorillA who wasn’t sure whether he should join a Korean or Western team, although I will be sorry if he comes back bald after getting stressed out a lot (Laughs). Lastly, one thing I regret is that our bot laners were underrated during our time in ROX Tigers. I feel that GorillA sacrificed himself too much for me even though he could have shone much more. I feel sorry at the same time.”
We reached the end of the interview in no time. PraY almost habitually said “I’m sorry to my fans” throughout the interview. There were a lot of messages for them as well. And he would even stop talking for a moment before he spoke these words. According to him, it was because he was choking back tears. The reason PraY gave up playing abroad and quit pro gaming was all because of his fans.
“I can’t help it even if I seemed indecisive to my fans. I really don’t know what I want. Sometimes there are fans who are worried they might only see me in 2D (Laughs). Again, I don’t know when I’ll be returning. There are fans who are angry, asking why I am taking a break and there are also fans who scold me for resting when I’m still in my youth. I sincerely thank everyone who showed me they are my fans in various ways.
But please do understand -- I’m trying to get away from League of Legends on purpose right now. But this doesn’t mean I dislike League of Legends; I still watch all tournaments and get motivated to play again. However, I find it hard to give any precise date on when I’ll be returning. It’s hard to ask my fans to wait for me, no matter how long. I don’t want to keep their hopes high but I’ll try to come back to see them in 3D no matter how I will be when that time comes.
If I decide to return, I’ll try my best to recover the chances I cast away until now. I don’t know if this will be possible but I hope you keep one thing in your mind: the reason I gave up playing abroad was because I was afraid my fans would forget about me. I want my fans to know that they are the reason I couldn’t just give up everything. Also, pro gamers find a great strength to go on when they receive heartwarming support from the fans who care for them. I really wanted to say this.”
Now all that’s left was for him to make his last confession. These were words the usual PraY wouldn’t have said. Even though he said it was just business relationships with his teammates, it didn’t seem like he meant that 100%. The second farewell will feel like a long time and a regretful moment for the fans. Regardless, PraY described this moment as ‘living like a decent human being’. Maybe it is time for the fans to understand what is in PraY’s heart.
“My old teammates contacted me. They all seemed sorry. Coach NoFe was worried that I needed to make such a decision, and Kuro even asked me to play with him in China. Of course, I refused his offer (Laughs). But he told me not to quit. GorillA was also sorry saying that this isn’t how it should have turned out. There was no one who told me to quit.
I don’t know if they just said it to make me feel better, but I appreciate it. I really like the break I’m taking at the moment. It feels like I’m actually living like a decent human being when I lay down to sleep; when I close my eyes and open them, [I think] this is how one should live. My heart was at peace. I’m trying my best to enjoy this leisure as much as I can right now. As much as I enjoy it, I’ll get refreshed so I believe there will be a time for me to pay back those who supported me.”