Whether it’s in the pro scene or simply in solo queue ranks, mentality is one of the most important traits for a LoL user. And especially for a pro gamer, mentality is something crucial that directly relates to the team’s victory. That’s why numerous coaches in this scene take mental care very seriously. A lot of the players these days are sent for psychology counseling in their free time. Some coaches even study psychology themselves to become better at players’ mental care.
Regardless of the way, these players that make their debut at such a young age naturally gains a more solid mentality as they grow older and experience. However, there are those individuals that are simply born with a strong mentality.
Kiin is emotionally consistent. That’s his strength. He is mentally strong. Once, our mid and bottom lane were completely dominated for about 20 games in a row during scrims. That’s when he said, “I can’t do this anymore.” His mentality is that solid. - source: Kookmin Ilbo
About a month ago, this quote from a Korean pro-gaming official heated up the Korean LoL community. When thinking of those mentally gifted players, Afreeca Freecs’ top laner Kim “Kiin” Gi-in is always on the list. However, losing 20 in a row in scrims is something different. He and his team also had to go through a tough situation where they had to struggle to avoid a possible relegation. It's still quite surprising to see a team that qualified for the 2018 Worlds Quarterfinals finish on 8th place in the following split.
Watching an official match highlight filled with Kiin's super plays on a match Afreeca lost was something new. But like they say, LoL is a team game and this prominent top laner sometimes had to accept frustrating defeats. So, we sat with Kiin to hear about his thoughts on this Spring.
How have you been during the preseason?
I met my friends and been playing other games. I’ve been playing Auto Chess quite a lot. Also, I’m live streaming often on Afreeca TV.
You were very busy last year participating in numerous international tournaments. Regardless of the results, do you prefer those kinds of tight schedules?
Personally, I like a more flexible and less busy schedule. If I fix a specific time for each schedule, I feel that I'm tied down. In general, I like it to be flexible. Well, I’m not sure if I can improve from that since I’ve never been on a ‘flexible’ schedule during my career. (laughs)
Did you watch the LCK Spring Playoffs during your break? As a top laner, what kind of thoughts came to your mind?
I watched the playoffs as a normal fan. I simply thought, ‘oh, that team is good at that’ those sort of things. I didn’t specifically focus on the top lane itself. I just watched which kind of champions they use. There was nothing too special since the picks weren’t that surprising. The solo kills that came from the top lane didn’t impact the game that much. And, as a top laner, it is kind of frustrating but you know… I just have to accept it.
I heard that you are good friends with Teddy, Ruler, and PawN. How did you guys become friends?
Teddy once visited our gaming house when I was performing for Ever8 Winners. I became friends with Ruler during the Asian Games. Whenever I’m live streaming, they message me to play duo queues with them. In case of PawN, at first, I didn’t know him that much. But I got to know him as we played duos. I think we’re a good match inside the game.
People say that Kiin’s current situation is quite similar to Teddy’s last year since Teddy was also an ace for a team that was low in the standings. But look at him now, he has lifted an LCK trophy! How did you feel?
Yeah, my situation is quite similar to Teddy’s. However, I couldn’t win the title last year. We came in a close second place in Spring. I was frustrated since I also had the chance to lift an LCK trophy. After Teddy won the Finals, he texted me and said “Hey Kiin, I won the finals! Give me a compliment!” I couldn’t answer since I felt jealous. (laughs)
What is the difference between your scrims and solo queues?
In scrims, I have to talk a lot with my teammates. If I make a mistake and die, I get feedback right away so I have to give it my utmost. On the other hand, in solo queues, I die a lot. It almost seems like I’m inting if you compare it to my scrims. (laughs) I use new picks in scrims after practicing in solo queues.
So, what is the difference in your plays when you're on a 4/0/1 KDA and 0/4/1?
I don’t really care about the KDA. It’s more important on how much you widen the level and item difference. However, when you’re simply having quite a tough time in the early game… You just have to sustain and rely on your teammates.
How did you decide to play as a top laner? Are you satisfied with that decision?
I just started LoL as a top laner. I had no specific thoughts… I just naturally wanted to play top. I’m satisfied with performing as a top laner. But sometimes I do think, ‘wouldn’t it be more comfortable if I played as mid?’. I did play as a mid laner in my amateur days.
You’ve performed a lot as a mid laner in official matches. Your laning was also pretty good. Is this a result of your hard work in solo queue?
I do play mid lane quite often in solo queue. That’s why I didn’t feel that much pressure on changing my role.
You were on marksmen champs such as Vayne, Lucian and also had to play bruisers as well. Isn’t it sometimes pressuring to use such a vast champion pool?
When I first performed on mid lane, I did feel pressured. I sometimes had doubts on performing well in top lane again. However, different to my expectations, it was quite fun. I once used Vayne in mid lane and carried that game. After winning a game like that, I realized that it was really fun and I felt relieved.
Some say that Afreeca Freecs is a ‘Kiin one-man’ team. What are your thoughts on this?
LoL is a team game. That’s why I think being told as a one-man team is something that carries a very negative meaning for a team. Well, in order to win, your team has to do well in general. And of course, Afreeca Freecs was able to win because the whole team did well.
Sometimes, the game ends before you can try anything.
Yeah, sometimes you can’t do anything… In this case, I just keep calm and carry on to the next match.
On the other hand, when you scale pretty well in the game, you seemed to play very safely.
In order to win in LoL, if you play well, you have to maintain that till the end. When the player that got a lot of kills suddenly collapses, the game might just end. That’s why I try to play safer. If you can win without overplaying, then you should simply do that.
Whenever you make a super play, you seemed pretty calm in your personal screen in the LCK.
I don’t feel anything special after I make a super play. I just don’t feel anything at that point. (laughs) All I do is simply make calls with my teammates. I’m usually not that emotional when I did something well. I have a laid-back personality as well.
Anyone can fall into a losing streak and sometimes people flame their teammates. What are your thoughts on blaming inside the game?
When I’m on a losing streak in scrims, I do sometimes suffer a mental breakdown. But you know, you can’t do anything about it. You should just do better. And, especially as a pro, you shouldn’t blame someone else. When you start blaming, that trust with your team shatters. Also, if you blame your teammates, you get some negative feedback from your coaching staff.
Then, have you ever asked someone to perform in such way?
When we hear something negative during feedback, I sometimes ask but in a playful way. I don’t want others to feel bad.
You seem to almost never become angry. What happens when you’re angry?
I usually don’t lose my temper even if I’m very angry. I keep it to myself. I’ve never expressed my anger on someone in Afreeca Freecs. If I’m really angry, I simply don’t talk.
Your Akali against Kingzone DragonX was exceptional. However, although your absolute performance, you lost. What came up to your mind at then?
I didn’t really focus on my plays. I was frustrated on that loss since the only wrong decision we made impacted the game so much.
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Your head coach said that Kiin has improved a lot after going to the Asian Games. What kind of changes did you feel after performing as a Korean international team member?
I didn’t have any emotional changes. I learned a lot alongside the veteran players in the Asian Games. That’s why I think I did have some improvements inside the game.
Last year, you performed in numerous international tournaments. Is it different compared to the LCK?
Yes. The first international tournament was Rift Rivals. I remember that loud roar from the fans when I performed really well on Darius. It was such a fun and exciting experience. From that point on, I’ve been thinking very positively about going to international tournaments. I’d like to participate in more if I get the chance.
Wasn’t it nervous performing in such a big stage oversee?
At first, I was very nervous. Whenever you go against a foreign team, it carries a meaning of representing your country as well. That’s why international tournaments are very important. However, after I used the noise-canceling headphones on stage, I felt relieved. Those headphones were really good. (laughs)
Which international tournament would you like to again?
The Worlds. Last year, I wanted to at least a make it to the semis but it was frustrating because we were eliminated so early. If I get another chance, I’d like to go further then the semis.
A former Afreeca Freecs staff said, “If Summit was in a different team last year, he would have performed well. However, he couldn’t because there was Kiin.” Did the presence of Summit help you improve?
When I first went to Afreeca, I was so bad. However, I improved a lot by practicing 1 on 1s with Summit. I think I was lucky. It’s good to see him perform well these days. He still has that stable and consistent playstyle.
To what extent do you think you can improve as a pro gamer?
Last year, I relied a lot on my older players in the team. This year, those players left the team and a lot of younger players came in. I think as the year passes, I’ll naturally get a more professional mind.
With the Spring Split coming to an end, the 2019 season is almost halfway through. What were your goals for this year?
I wanted to finish at least on 5th place in Spring but it just didn’t work. Now that I have a month before the Summer Split, I’ll prepare well and display better performance in front of the fans.