Eager to speak to him again, we met up with Untara. A 24-year-old who, alongside his genuinity, has an undeniable wit. Contrary to our hopes, we were unable to talk to Untara after the interview; he was so entertaining that we wanted just a bit more time with him.
Untara is your average Joe. Although he falls and makes mistakes often, he endures the pain and gets back up. For every good day he has, more difficult days follow. Untara is a professional player who resides in the norm. Pro players live a unique lifestyle, but when on stage, not everyone receives the same intensity of the spotlight. It made me think that perhaps they were not so different from us.
However, Untara isn’t a completely average joe. Despite his young age, Untara has full control of the direction his life is headed - a feat that few can claim to have accomplished at age 24.
"After I uploaded my post, I went to bed to lay down... That was when I started to cry."
"It was when my contract had expired. When the news came out, I wrote a post on my personal social media account. I wrote that my contract was done, and I was looking for a new team. I had written the statement on my laptop. After I uploaded my post, I went to bed to lay down... That was when I started to cry. I cried a lot."
"There were a lot of mixed emotions. Maybe it was due to writing it at home, but I felt extremely humbled. I didn’t feel this way when I left CJ... this was the first time ever I had felt like this. During the 20 days of the transfer season, I couldn’t sleep. Even at SKT’s farewell party, I couldn’t get much rest. I was nervous about everything. Every time I would try to close my eyes, the thought of uncertainty spread. Whether it was about the transfer season or what had happened in 2018."
"To be honest, I am afraid to rest."
"Before news spread about me leaving SKT, I knew a month prior. Back then, I was drowning in worry. I wondered how I would be rated during the transfer season... to be completely honest, I was scared. This was because, even if I had played at Worlds, there was not a single time when I played during the Summer Split. I have nothing to show for in 2018."
"I did get contacted by other teams. Top LCK teams and overseas teams reached out. I got contacted by China, Taiwan, and Turkey. I wasn’t able to communicate with NA teams too much because my English is sub-par (laughs). The best offer was from China. I knew beforehand that my profile was not the best, but their offer was just cruel. Hence, I thought 'Damn... let’s just rest.'"
"Not only do I want to stay in Korea longer but I also don’t want to go overseas with my current rating. It wouldn’t matter if I went overseas with a good record. Going overseas now just feels forced. Theoretically, I could earn a lot of money in a year overseas. However, I realized going would essentially mean I would play for a year and have nowhere to go. Granted, if I played extremely well, I could gain even more attention. It just feels like a risky all-in. Get the money and that’s it..."
"To be honest, I am afraid to rest. This was why I was in such a predicament. I was conflicted with two ideas. First is ‘All I have left in my career is to earn money’. The second ‘It is not about the money. I want to improve and achieve something great.’. In the end, I ultimately decided to take a break during the Spring Split. I have taken a break before (laughs)."
"Once the Summer Split had begun, I felt a sense of irrelevancy."
"During the Spring of 2018, the head coach gave me opportunities to play. Unfortunately, I was unable to show Kkoma the skill required to become a starting top laner. I think that was when I lost his trust. Once the Summer Split had begun, I felt almost irrelevant."
"Because our results in Summer were not great, I thought to myself 'Maybe I’ll get a chance to play now?’ Regardless of the situation, I was not involved in scrims. I got immense stress from all places."
"I was very disappointed. I think my past performances had negatively affected everything. I felt a sense of emptiness when I was not put up for Worlds entry. I had some expectations because I did a lot for my team in 2017. After 2017, I told myself ‘Let’s try again’ and worked hard in 2018. But, it was just unfair to be cut off from playing in the Summer of 2018 because of my performance in Spring. There was really nothing that went well in 2018 (laughs)"
"I feel sorry that I could not live up to my expectations."
"When I was on the team, I never understood. Leaving the team, I realize why. The same goes for the head coach and coach. SKT as a team has such a high ceiling of expectation. SKT is a hard team to be in. If you lose, of course, you get cursed at. If you win without playing perfectly, you also get cursed at. I believe everyone on the team experiences a lot of hardship."
"Looking back at it now, the coaching staff wasn’t bad by any means. They were just cold. It was just at that moment, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by them"
"I feel sorry that I could not live up to my expectations. It is true that the team gave me an opportunity to shine in Spring. This might come off as a bit strange, but I also felt sorry to Thal. He had to perform out of the blue. Thal did not have time to prepare. He got cursed at, and it must have been difficult for him"
"But when you deliberate over this and that, it is almost impossible to play well."
"I pay attention to the community a lot (laughs). After our matches, I always look back at our games via Twitch. Whenever I die, people would start calling me names and cursing at me. At the time, they called me ‘Restaurant Untara’ because I kept feeding. At first, it was kind of funny. But as time passed, it got worse. I was under a lot of stress because I was overwhelmed by expectations. Even if practice went well in early Spring, there is no guarantee it would persist. Game results and scrim results... I was shaken to the bone when all the criticisms overlapped with each other."
"Once I start shaking, I begin to worry about everything. You need to clear your mind when you play. But when you deliberate over this and that, it is almost impossible to play well. When you play, despite the risk and challenge, you need to keep going. However, I think I was too overwhelmed by fear. I only wanted to play safe. I’d like to think the problems I was facing were similar to most...if not all LCK players."
"In the end, the team winning is what truly matters."
"I really gave it my all (laughs). It felt like forever since I had gotten the opportunity to play, and the qualifier stage is crucial. I was determined more than ever before. Ultimately, we lost 2:3. I had a lot of regrets."
"I did feel a tad worn out because I was only playing Ornn (laughs). I wanted to play a carry champion. In practice, there were a lot of instances when we did well. Regardless, we had a consistently higher win rate when I played tanks. I believe Kkoma realized it was overall better for the team. He asked for us to pick our top laner in the first two picks and told me to try my best to hold out. I did exactly that. In the end, the team winning is what truly matters."
"I tend to play carry champions in my solo queue games. I always had a fondness for champions who beat the crap out of opponents like Jayce. This is the same for every top laner. Who would want to get beaten up? Champions like Ornn - I never play in solo queue."
"I am friends with all the new SKT members... I hope they don’t miss their opportunity to shine and do well. Truly."
"I am close with Khan. He likes me a lot (laughs). Hmm... how do I explain this. To Khan, I congratulated him. In 2018, there was not a single time when SKT was able to beat Kingzone. Maybe this is why the SKT fans did not want Khan to join the team. Since he has joined SKT, I really want to see him pop off - by picking an aggressive top laner. I am curious to see how funneling the top lane would look like. Khan is talented enough to be funneled. When you think of top lane for SKT, the word that would cross your mind was always ‘tank’."
"I want to tell Khan to ignore what other people say. SKT is an extremely popular team. With immense popularity, there are even greater obstacles. The moment you join SKT, you’ll know exactly what I mean from the community. There will be a lot of raw criticism, but the most imperative factor is not to get swayed by it. Once you let them get to your head, the little things that did not bother you before become bigger than they seem."
"'Except for Crazy and Mata, I am friends with all the new SKT members. Although I was not personally able to, I hope they don’t miss their opportunity to shine and do well. Truly"
“The image of Faker isn’t a lie. At first, I also thought that him reading books was fake.”
“Faker is so fascinating, even watching him perform right next to me. That guy has to also be good at solo queue streams since almost every game he plays is posted on YouTube. If he underperforms, that game goes straight on YouTube with a pungent title on it. He’s really a great person since he can deal with all of that. His mentality is second to none. He clearly has self-discipline… He deserves to be paid a lot. Actually, he should be paid more. Faker is a person that only spends time resting and playing games at home during his vacation.”
“The image of Faker isn’t a lie. At first, I also thought that him reading books was fake. As a matter of fact, he really read books before going to sleep. I’ve seen him for a year and he does that every single time. Well, if it’s just a month I wouldn’t be this sure, but a year…? If I’m a bit tired, I don’t take a shower for my live stream. However, if Faker has to stream, he takes care of his appearance right away. Although he’s the same age as me, I can’t help but respect what he does.”
“I do have a shot. If I can improve on my weaknesses, I believe I can play well as a pro still.”
“This is my second time off from competitive gaming. At my first rest, I was so eager so I practiced even more than my pro days. It’s difficult to do that alone, but I did. That was my first time hearing the nickname “solo queue monster”. I had 3 accounts near the top 10. That’s why numerous gaming organizations thought, ‘who is this guy’ and started to have a positive interest in me. Among the teams, I chose SKT. To be honest, I’m not as eager right now compared to then.”
“While playing games, you someday hit a wall. Sometimes you just get stuck in Diamond 1 - Master tier. Then you’ll soon feel that you lost your competitiveness. However, I currently don’t feel like that. I am sometimes on Challenger tier and I do play alongside pro gamers during solo queue. I think that ‘I’m still good, but I just lack that 2%’. I do have a shot. If I can improve on my weaknesses, I believe I can play well as a pro still.”
“I can’t give up being a pro. I didn’t leave SKT when I was at the summit; I simply left because I was bad. It would feel so bad if I retire because I didn’t perform well. I do want to at least win the LCK title once. That’s why I personally feel frustrated when thinking back on the 2017 Summer Finals.”
“I wasn’t good with champions such as Ryze, Irelia. The opponent knew that those picks were for mid.”
“The thing I regret most from 2018 was my champion pool. Faker knew how to play on almost every champion; he has such a wide pool. That’s why Irelia was banned during the qualifiers. The opponent only used ban cards on Faker. The Irelia ban wasn’t on me.”
“When you see Griffin these days, they use a lot of flex picks such as Jayce and Viktor. Even their ADC can use those kinds of champions. However, during my time in SKT, I couldn’t swap picks for my team. I wasn’t good with champions such as Ryze and Irelia. The opponent knew that those picks were only for mid. That’s why we were at a disadvantage in the draft phase. I was so sorry towards my team. I have to get more competitive with my champion pool. I’m going to watch the LCK for this Spring since I’d be left out if I don’t know the meta.”
“If I can improve on three things: my solo queue rank, my evaluation as a pro, and champion pool, I think someday I’ll get a chance to bounce back. It’s really important to show my competitiveness. Notably, I have to have good evaluations from pro gamers in solo queue; it actually had quite a big effect. If I can’t improve on those three things, it’s quite obvious that a team won’t want me. Then, I’ll understand and really consider becoming a full-time streamer. Still, if I do fulfill my goals, I hope gaming organizations will think positively of me. (laughs)”
“I’m ready to hear all the criticism and blame once I get the chance to perform in official tournaments again. I don’t have anything more to be afraid of. I’m confident I won’t shake.
“I also thought that I was being a burden to my mom.”
“I’ve started to live alone and it’s quite tough. I cooked my own meals for about a week. I did try my best by doing groceries and cooking meat. However, I realized that it’s not just about eating. I have to clean up after eating and then there’s the trash. This wasn’t an easy thing to deal with. That’s why I mostly buy my food these days. (laughs)”
“After leaving the team, I stayed at my parents’ for about 10 days. I felt so comfortable. It wasn’t a pro gamer’s life, it was more like the life of an unemployed young man in his 20s. My computer was right next to my bed so I’d lay down while waiting for solo queues. If I kept on living like this, I knew what would happen in my future. I would most likely gain weight and not even play games that seriously. I felt anxious right away.”
“I also thought that I was being a burden to my mom. I came out only to eat and then went back in to play games. I’d soon just go to sleep after that and I didn’t enjoy this kind of life. I started living alone since I thought it would be better to be more independent.”
“Although I wasn’t like this in the past (laughs), now I feel more relieved when I live my life like a pro gamer. Currently, I wake up at 12 and sleep at 4 AM. However, when I was at my parents’, it just didn’t work.”
“I am thought of as a fun person, but I’m quite silent when I’m home. I made every decision in my life alone. It was like that when I went to China during my pro career and it was pretty much the same when I negotiated with Korean teams. Rather than talking with my parents about it, I only told the results to them. They fully believed in me and gave me support.”
“I feel somewhat pressured about the fun image of me that people expect on my stream.”
“Although I prioritize being a pro more, it doesn’t mean that I won’t be focusing on streaming. By the way, I feel somewhat pressured about the fun image of me that people expect on my stream. Because of the expectations, I am rather pressured. Since I’m a human being, I become frustrated and silent when the game doesn’t work as planned. My live streams are fun and interesting but it’s simply a broadcast that displays myself, Untara, as a pro gamer. Watch with comfort.”
“Despite the fact that I’ve left my team, I still received a lot of presents. Fans told me “congratulations” by giving donations and personal messages; I felt so thankful. I really wanted to say this in this interview. Thank you very much. I hope you guys will still love me in the future and stay tuned for more.”