It’s not uncommon to see promising players in the Minor League failing to transfer that performance to the Major League after a call-up. If that particular player didn’t quite perform well in the Minor League, there’s even less of a chance for him to do well in the big league. However, there are a select few star players who show their true colors on the big stage.
The same can be said for esports in which players looking to become pros do extremely well in ranked, only to disappear into obscurity after fumbling performances in tournaments. Countless top ranking players dream of becoming esports icons like Daigo Umehara, BoxeR, and Faker, but most of them never reach the pinnacle.
Yet here’s someone who serves as an exception to this trend. Though he placed first for the Competitive Play Season 2 in Overwatch, he didn’t get his day in the sun while he scraped by in secondary leagues. Then on May 16th, the same day as his birthday, he played a successful debut match after reverse-sweeping the opponent in the premier league. His name is none other than Hyeon “Effect” Kim.
After being picked up as a secondary DPS by EnVyUs, Effect has been an engine that lead the team to a win streak in APEX Season 3. Inven was able to catch up with him at the team house for an interview.
Though he looked a bit tired from the late night scrims following a 3-0 victory, Effect was beaming with happiness throughout the interview as he told his story.
*This interview was conducted on May 24th KST, the following day after the match between EnVyUs and Rhinos Gaming Wings.
▣ EnVyUs Effect’s flashy premier league debut
Q. It’s very nice to meet you. Please briefly introduce yourself to the readers.
Hello, I’ve been mostly known as a Tracer main who played in amateur and secondary leagues. I now play on EnVyUs in the premier league.
Q. Your premier league debut was dramatic, to say the least. It was not only on your birthday, but it was also a reverse sweep after dropping two games.
I’ve always had high expectations for premier leagues. After joining EnVyUs and with my birthday coinciding with the debut match, I had a feeling that the day would go down as a legend if we won. My mind was solely focused on winning.
Q. In fact, there were many instances in which you clutch-saved the team from unfavorable circumstances. Some may go as far as to say you single-handedly carried the game.
I don’t think I carried by myself. We all played well. I never thought that we were losing when we were down a couple games. It was more like, “we could win this if we came back to our senses.” It turns out that everyone else on the team thought the same thing.
I learned that Overwatch has many mental aspects because I get to focus on getting a read on opposing players’ psychology as I play Tracer. Each player has a pattern, and I can see that as Tracer. After winning Round 3, I got the sense that Meta Athena was tilting and that they didn’t play to their full potential. I guess they were too afraid to get reverse swept, which is a shame.
I wish to face them again in the upper brackets when they’re in their element.
Q. EnVyUs has historically been a team that emphasizes solid fundamentals with heavy-hitting plays, but the teamplay tempo has become a lot quicker after you joined. Any thoughts?
My team often tailors their strategy for me. I used to feel that my plays were suppressed when I played on Korean teams. My old teammates often requested that I stay with the team whenever I got picked off while out and about. Foreign teams tend to encourage my disruption of the enemy backline even if I die sometimes. I think EnVyUs brings out my full potential.
I’m aware that this could turn into a bad habit because strong teams can exploit it by picking me off repeatedly. I believe there’s definitely a time to work as a team. That said, I guess I could get away with doing my own thing unless I’m facing top teams like Lunatic-Hai.
▣ Only plays Tracer? “Didn’t have a chance to showcase other heroes.”
Q. You’ve been exclusively playing Tracer on EnVyUs. Are there any other heroes you’re thinking about playing?
I’d like to keep playing Tracer because I’m producing good results with her. Of course, I’ll change when there’s a counter. I’ve gotten first place in Competitive Play as McCree and second as Genji. I’m also working hard to practice other heroes, so I can be ready when Tracer is no longer viable.
The reason I’m only playing Tracer is because she works. Since the enemy can’t respond to my Tracer, I’ll use that to my full advantage before they come up with a solution. [laughs]
Q. Many people point out that your Tracer plays differently than other players’ do. How would you describe your Tracer playstyle?
You can think of my Tracer as a completely different hero than other players’. I’ve worked on her by myself quite extensively to arrive at my current style. I guess I tend to focus on drawing aggro rather than bursting an enemy down with raw firepower like other Tracer mains do.
I often sneak into the backline to disrupt the enemy’s vision, which helps my team pressure the opponent. I can usually find an opening to secure kills when the enemy team is in disarray. To sum up, my playstyle is to support the team by drawing aggro and to get kills when the time is right.
▲ Though he plays as a stepping stone for the team, he knows how to get kills.
Q. You’ve been exceptionally skilled at getting the most with Pulse Bomb, like scoring 2-3 kills when the team is losing a control point, or picking off essential targets. Any secrets?
Actually, it’s not easy to stick a Pulse Bomb on offense heroes whose bodies are small. It’s more a DPS’s fault for not dodging the bomb than it is a good Tracer play.
That’s why I look for easier targets like tanks and turrets and try to limit the opponent’s movement by throwing it near highly dangerous enemies. It’s still much better to stick it on them though.
Once I throw a Pulse Bomb, enemy players can no longer give me their full attention and move in a predictable way to avoid the bomb. That’s when I go in for the kill. I also sometimes hide out and throw a bomb in the enemy’s predicted path to get it stuck.
All in all, it’s best to use it on bulky tanks with big hitboxes. I mostly targeted Reinhardt in the match against Rhinos. The opponent can’t help but be always a bit paranoid after sticking enough bombs to enemy tanks. I’m bluffing to the enemy Zarya that, “If you don’t time your barrier right, your Reinhardt is going down.” I can limit the enemy’s play by constantly reminding them of this fact.
▲ Prioritizing tanks instead of avoiding them is truly thinking outside the box.
▣ From the decision to go pro to joining EnVyUs
Q. How did your family respond to your pursuit of pro gaming?
I majored in music, and my parents were pretty against it when I first told them that I’ll quit college to become a pro gamer. I still kept trying to change their minds by persuasion and showing them my plays.
I’m sure many people can’t come out to pursue pro gaming because of family expectations and school. My advice would be to say it upfront! Isn’t it worth it to quit school? Uh… Maybe I’m relying too much from my experience? [laughs] Anyway, I hope the gaming market will grow so that people don’t have to worry about these things.
Q. What are some challenges you have faced in secondary leagues?
Communities are visceral in attacking and mocking players, especially in Korea. It goes beyond performance and borders on personal attacks.
I felt very sad to see that the community’s trending post was about criticizing Lunatic-Hai’s Esca. It’s not like players don’t read these posts, you know. How much pressure would they feel reading these posts when they give their best?
For me personally, I was bashed pretty hard when I didn’t perform well in secondary leagues. It was so bad that I thought about quitting pro to become a streamer. Things are okay now that I’m playing well in the premier league, but they’ll instantly say I’m overrated as soon as I show poor plays. I ask earnestly that you refrain from that kind of behavior.
Pro gamers are people, too. I hope that communities think twice before posting something derogatory. To all my fellow pro gamers, hang in there.
Q. I heard that there were many offers from other teams before you joined Team EnVyUs. Was there any special reason you chose EnVyUs?
It seemed that I became known by many people abroad so I was offered a position by many foreign teams. Among them were EnVyUs, which would allow me to play in the first league if I joined, as I had a bit of regret for playing only in the second league...
To be honest, I wasn’t able to play the heroes I wanted to play in the previous team, and we had many losing games where we couldn’t really fight back. As we kept losing, we were underestimated, which was tough. It was like EnVyUs saved me (Laughs).
Q. I heard that you didn’t quite make it to joining Lunatic-Hai, last year’s winning team.
I did tryouts for Lunatic-Hai, but I wasn’t desperate enough back then. I didn’t get the opportunity to play as a key player in the previous team, so I didn’t feel very good about playing as the seventh man, thinking “I must play as the key player or else.” So I guess I didn’t do my best at the tryouts.
Now I feel a little bad about it. It would have been a fun experience to play in a Charge composition with the Lunatic-Hai members… But I don’t regret my decision. I chose a team that is more fun, and gives me the opportunity to broaden my perspective. It’s really great to live a foreign lifestyle with my teammates, and it feels as if I got better with a broader perspective by leaving Korea to see the world.
Q. As you’ve continued to play well in EnVyUs, there has been criticism about how your previous team, Meta, couldn’t bring out your full potentials. How do you feel about that?
Actually, Meta didn’t have much choice. Back then when I was leaving the team, they were using the 3 tank meta, where it was hard to outplay with Tracer. And I didn’t really have the aptitude for playing Zarya. I was used to playing Tracer, a hero that should avoid getting hit by enemies, then I had to play a sub-tank, who was supposed to get hit, which caused confusion for me. Also, having not enough practice didn’t really help in improving my tanking abilities.
Many fans are criticizing Meta, saying “Why did you let Effect go?” but I also enjoyed playing in that team back then, so I hope no one is too harsh with them. In truth, I was sorry that there wasn’t much I did for the team back when I was in Meta Bellum, but now that they made it to the APEX Challengers, I believe they will do well.
As for the match we had against Meta Athena, we were able to win the latter set because our opponents were mentally drained; were we to fight each other at our full potentials, it would have been more intense. If we ever get to play against them again, I’m guessing that they’ll prepare a countermeasure for my Tracer.
▣ EnVyUs, the team that gave me many opportunities
Q. What was the team atmosphere like after you joined?
First, it felt like we were all friends. We don’t hesitate to communicate when practicing, and we enjoy ourselves and laugh a lot. Of course we do get down to serious business when things don’t turn out good in games.
Q. In the last winner interview, there were talks about the communication problem. Are there any difficulties?
To be frank, I’m like a baby at EnVyUs. When everyone’s talking to me, they try to speak in the simplest English possible and they use body language to communicate. (Laughs) When there are terms that I don’t understand, they try to explain as much as they can. I’ve been studying English in this way, and Mickie reassured me by saying, “I was like that too. Things get better after a few months.”
I don’t think the language issue is an urgent matter for now. I am slowly learning.
Q. After APEX, you’ll be playing in the NA league. Is there anything you are worried about living abroad?
I want to lead a fun life. And I think EnVyUs is helping me with that. Also, I feel that being able to gain various experiences abroad enhances how good I feel about myself.
For now, I’m not afraid of going abroad. I think adapting to the new team well and getting a good result is the top priority.
Q. How are you getting practice within the new team?
We are practicing by scrimming, from at least 4 hours to 8 hours a day. Team abilities and potentials have been improving, and I believe that once we reach our full potential, we will be able to win. The only thing we need right now is more time, and EnVyUs will be powerful once time passes.
Q. Lui has joined your team as sub-DPS. Many fans are wondering about his potential.
He joined the team as Genji and Tracer, but I’ve taken that position… So now, he’s practicing for the Flex position.
I think he’ll be able to play more often on stage if a 3 DPS meta becomes mainstream. Like me playing as Tracer, Lui as Genji, and HarryHook as Soldier: 76. The 2 tank composition may be enough for now, but when the 3 DPS composition meta becomes mainstream, then I believe that Lui will be able to outplay on the stage.
Q. Is there anyone you are particularly close to on your team? Or have there been any interesting happenings...
I’m friends with everyone here. When someone says something funny, I join in. Nowadays, I’ve been able to understand things I hear, so I am able to react to funny things.
There was one time we were playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds at the team house, and this is a game many foreign people play. There was this foreign guy who kept swearing at me, so I lost myself and shouted, “Yankee, go home!” Everyone burst out in laughter. I mean, I said go home when EnVyUs is an NA team.
Q. In the last interview, Taimou confidently said that “I am the best DPS for I do not give commands.” If you were to compare yourself with Taimou, what would you say?
Taimou plays hitscan DPS, and I play skirmish-type DPS, so our positions are different and I don’t think I’d be able to pull it off if I was told to play Taimou’s role. I’m used to playing Tracer and DPS where aiming is of utmost importance doesn’t work well for me. But also, I don’t know for sure. Maybe I might be able to play that position better than I expect.
Q. Many Korean players, including Kaiser who recently joined Cloud9, are joining western teams. Is there any advice you’d like to give to these Korean players?
You must read the contract terms thoroughly. If you get stuck with the wrong contract when abroad, you could endanger your pro gaming career, so take care reading the contract terms.
And learning English is a must. When I first joined EnVyUs, I thought I could pull it off, but honestly, it’s hard.
Other than that, all you need is to adapt to living with non-Korean teams. For example, EnVyUs is cheerful team so it was ok, but I heard that there are many teams that are really quiet. If the whole team atmosphere is quiet, then there’s less conversation, and it gets harder to adapt to the new team… So it’s best to find out what the team atmosphere is like or what’s going on inside the team before signing the contract.
Q. Now all you have left is the match against the BK Stars. How are you preparing for it?
For now, I’m trying to integrate as I keep scrimming with the team. I’m focusing on communicating with my team in English and developing our teamwork. We’re also preparing long term for upcoming tournaments in the NA region.
▣ More chances for defense heroes, please! Games told by Effect
Q. We had a balance patch along with the 1 year anniversary event. What do you think metas will be like in the future?
I still think the Charge composition with 2 tanks will be mainstream. Soldier:76’s DPS did get nerfed but he is a hero that people choose to play because it is possible to get good positions and continue dealing stable damage. It’s not because his DPS was overwhelmingly powerful. Soldier:76 is still a good hero to play.
However, there’s no countermeasure for heroes with good mobility like Genji or Tracer. Even if there were one, it’d be limited to stopping them from running away with Sombra’s EMP, but that’s all. These two have been powerful heroes since before, then got less limelight during the 3 tank meta, then they started to go wild when Ana got nerfed. I am guessing they’ll get nerfed soon….
But still, even if they do get nerfed, I hope they are not completely nerfed and are just “properly adjusted”. In fact, if Tracer gets nerfed, I’ll be jobless… (Laughs) So instead of nerfs, I think it’s better to buff defense heroes, such as Torbjörn and Bastion.
Q. Since we got talking about defense heroes, what is your take on Hanzo, who is also a defense hero? He got buffed, too.
Well, many might disagree with me, but I think Hanzo is a good hero in his own way. But people won’t believe that. There are many players who are great at playing Hanzo, but once Hanzo is picked, they are usually told off and bullied into playing something else so they don’t even get a chance to show their abilities. It should be Blizzard who changes all that, so that people can be trusted when playing a defense hero.
Q. Is there any hobby you have besides playing Overwatch?
First, I like listening to music, and I tend to relieve the stress I get from playing Overwatch by playing other games.
Q. Since we are talking about stress, I heard that you got stressed by aim-botting players from late Season 2 to Season 3.
Yes, at the time I thought Overwatch was done for. It was really bad, especially in late Season 2, and that was when I was placed 1st in the rankings. I had one more match to play until 1st place, but we had 3 aim-bots on our side, and 3 aim-bots on the enemy’s side. We were able to win against aim-bots with more aim-bots, but it was really stressful for me.
But I think it got better ever since Blizzard banned any aim-botting players, although I do see them once in awhile…
Still, I think Korean competitives are better because on other servers even people high up in the rankings only play what they want to play, making it tough. There are many people who only play Mercy in the top 500 ranking on a server, but at least we don’t have that in the Korean server, which my teammates like.
Q. You know Korean server is still plagued with boosting, feeding, and verbal abuse?
You shouldn’t participate in account sharing and boosting on a good conscience. I’m a little bummed that there’s no real way to root it out. These people need to be stopped, and I hope Blizzard will find a way.
A player who suddenly changes a most played character with an 80-90% win rate is a glaringly obvious case of account boosting. I have a feeling there’s a mechanism to screen this behavior. Boosting causes people to steamroll through opponents and makes for a bad new player experience, ultimately ruining the game. I get pretty mad whenever I hear this kind of news.
Things aren’t too bad in the highest tiers of Competitive as far as verbal abuse is concerned. We see each other often when we queue for a match and take extra caution not to personally offend them. For lower tiers, I hear people fight all the time, and it needs to be addressed.
LoL was known for toxicity before, but now that players get chat restricted whenever they swear in-game, it has become more pleasant. I don’t know why we don’t have that in Overwatch.
▣ A gamer, streamer, and weeb
Q. The representatives for World Cup are not yet nominated. Don’t you want to be a part of it?
It would be nice, but I am considered a good player with Tracer only, so I am not sure. I’ll surely do my best if I am nominated.
To appeal myself, I am also good with other heroes but just didn’t have a chance to show them. I haven’t seen anyone who can surpass me when I am playing Tracer.
Q. You have some fame as a streamer who chases after scripters with Tracer in your personal stream. Will you continue your stream at some point in time?
EnVyUs has a contract with Twitch, so I’ll re-start the stream starting from June.
As a matter of fact, I am wondering whether I need to speak in either Korean or English when I start the stream, as there will be both Korean and international audiences. I guess that I will do the streaming mainly in Korean for the many Korean fans who watched the stream since the beginning. I offer my apologies to international fans in advance.
Q. There have been discussions among fans about if you are a weeb, as you often listen to Japanese music during the streams.
I do not like anime. I was majoring in Music when I was in a college, and have enjoyed listening to music as well. It just turned out to become a pro player for my love towards games.
I tend to like Japanese music and Jazz, and I accidentally listened to a vocaloid called Hatsune Miku. Korean songs tend to have a somewhat similar theme, but vocaloid songs have different types of songs and lyrics, and I liked how free and varied they are. I even saved the photo of the character as my social media profile.
So as far as being a weeb, well, yes I am. But, you have no right to label me in that way if you like games. You should be confident in your likes.
Of course, I don’t force others to listen to the songs. Most of them suit my tastes, but I’m not sure of the other people. If you are curious about what Miku songs are playing in my stream, send me an email and I’ll reply promptly.
▣ Effect’s goal: becoming Faker of Overwatch
Q. Overwatch Contenders will begin in NA and Europe. What are your thoughts about it?
Really good. In fact, I was worried that Overwatch is just a game that works well in South Korea but not in overseas countries, as I heard a number of news about teams disbanding.
I believe that teams like C9, NRG, or Misfits will advance to the top-tier, and I would like to have a match with them. Although it would be difficult to win against Korean teams, I am not worried about NA teams aside from the ones I mentioned before. I was told by teammates that the NA players’ skills are slightly inferior, so I suppose that EnVyUs will surely be one of Top 3 when the NA league begins.
Q. Do you have any player in mind that you want to have a match against?
I wanted to have a match with sayaplayer when we were in the 2nd Division. It is quite difficult to play while keeping an eye on the opponent’s aiming as Tracer, and if you’re against someone like sayaplayer, you’ll quickly get killed when you let your guard down. Even though we managed to win on Day 1 since the opponent team faltered a bit, I would like to have a proper match with them later.
I was told that Terrence “SoOn” Tarlier of Rogue is good as well, and Jongryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park marked me quite well during the practice game. It would be a great match to have if I ever have a chance.
In fact, I want to have a match with all players. The thoughts I had while watching players in the 1st Division when I was still in the 2nd Division was that they are really good and I need to play like that when I enter the 1st Division. Now, it seems that there isn’t that much difference between them and me. This sort of disappointed me a little bit. Nonetheless, I will prepare for the matches without any carelessness.
Q. What is your goal as a pro player?
To win in any league. It would be good to be remembered by fans at least, even if we don’t claim any victories - I’d like to be a player like Faker, whose fans will follow to whichever game he will be playing. A player that leaves a significant impression when people are talking about Overwatch would be the best.
I am willing to become a gamer who communicates by streaming as well.
The priority is to adjust myself into the team atmosphere, and win the first season of Overwatch Contenders in the long run. We have lots of times ahead, so we don’t need to rush.
Q. How far do you think EnVyUs will advance in the APEX season this year?
Frankly speaking, I thought the farthest we would get is just the quarterfinals. It was quite strange winning the game even though I couldn’t communicate in English and was playing my own game as a result.
If I can awaken myself and have better communication with my team, I believe that victory in this season can possibly be achieved.
Q. Please say a few last words to the fans.
Thank you guys who have been waiting since the 2nd Division or the personal stream. There may be some people who saw me for the first time in this league, and I will do my best to not disappoint you as a DPS of EnVyUs.