To a professional player, winning means everything. If a player is happy and smiling, it's most likely because he just won a game. On the contrary, players who are struggling to win often lack that happiness; that's how LirA seemed when we met for this interview.
LirA is on his third year in NA, and as we spoke he opened up about his regrets, frustration, and disappointment regarding his stay in America. The interview felt heavy, as LirA revealed the mix of emotions he's been feeling.
The following is our interview with Clutch Gaming's jungler, LirA.
Why do you think Clutch Gaming is struggling so much?
I really don't know. Back in the LCK, during the nights before a big match, I'd feel confident that 'my team and I can win' before falling asleep. But here in the LCS, I don't receive that kind of feeling at all. Maybe we're lacking the basics.
Piglet told me before that Clutch Gaming's scrim results are usually really good, but the team struggles to translate that performance on to the stage.
So recently, I even completely changed my jungle pathing. During practice, everyone plays really aggressively and actively look for fights. But on stage, everyone plays extremely careful and avoids fighting.
We found the direction that we want to play in, a certain playstyle that we had agreed to play, so all we have to do now is perfect it... but continuously losing during that process is taking its toll on me.
We're practicing well but aren't able to show that on stage. Who's going to acknowledge us for that?
You were the sole Korean player with Clutch Gaming last split. This time, however, there are three Korean players on CG. How's the communication?
After a game, everyone's feedback is fair and legitimate. In-game, everyone speaks English, so having three Korean players can actually be a minus. Huni's English is really good, but as for me and Piglet, we have difficulties fluently communicating in English.
There are some Koreans that have difficulties listening to and understanding English spoken by someone specific. As for myself, I have trouble understanding my mid laner. Everyone has a different English accent, and it has a big effect on communication.
Our practice always goes well. Our scrim games are completely different from our games on stage. I truly believe that we're a great team, but we always fail to show that during our matches. I've been a professional player for 6 years. I'm able to adapt to any kind of jungle playstyle in 1 hour. Everyone else on the team is also just as talented. However, our games always go south.
What our team needs the most right now is a victory. Winning brings confidence and motivation to continue winning.
Out of all the players on Clutch Gaming, whose skill fluctuates the most?
Aside from our bot lane, everyone else. I feel that our skills drop a level when we play on stage. I don't know why we're so afraid to make plays during a match.
Before the season began, my mindset was "let's get carried by my ADC and top laner." When we were 2-4, I felt like I was suffering from depression. When we lost two more games afterward, I actually felt less stressed.
Now that I think about it, I think we were too prideful. What's the point of performing well at home if you can't perform well on stage as a professional player? With clenched teeth, we need to improve.
You've been playing in NA for 3 years now. What did you like the most about your stay here?
The weather. However, it's been raining a lot recently.
I heard that if you start living far from your home town, you develop a wider, broader view of things. I find that saying to be true. I've experienced living in a foreign country, I feel that I can do anything when I return to Korea.
Many players still acknowledge you as a really strong jungler. You have a lot to prove.
I really like that I'm still respected by other players. Back when I was in Korea, I was so confident in my own abilities that I saw every other player as someone that I need to beat. But here in NA, the culture is a bit different. "You're my competition, but you're also my business partner," is how it feels here. Since I've been here for three years now, NA players come up to me first and say hello. Also, a lot of them started calling me by my real name, 'Tae-yu', instead of LirA.
I have to prove myself. I really do believe that I'm still a good player, but nowadays, I wonder. "Is it time for me to retire?" I saw the 'average age in the LCK' article on Inven Global. Looking at the article, I realized just how old I am. When I look at a young jungler like Tarzan playing, I still feel that I can beat him. But I'm continuously losing, and I worry that I'll lose the respect that I have.
I feel that I'm more a veteran player than a 'pop off' player. And if I'm to follow my heart, I honestly just want to return to the LCK, practice and compete like crazy, get results, then do my mandatory military service. I hate losing. I came to NA not for the money, but for the thought of easily qualifying for Worlds. But it was the contrary, it was even more difficult.
There isn't a team like Griffin here. There are individuals that are just simply good. An unexpected explosion of potential is very unlikely to happen. That's why you don't see a bottom tier team just suddenly pop off and become a top-tier team.
Do you have anything you want to say to your fans?
If I do have a fan somewhere, I want to meet him or her before I retire, buy him lunch, and then ask why he's a fan.