Q: Having been on a Worlds-winning team, what do you think is different among NA teams that holds them back internationally?
In my opinion, I think NA teams (compared to Korea) lack motivation or desire to win. It may be different depending on the person, but from my point of view, if you look at the NA region as a whole it lacks the competitiveness. Even if you look at the soloq, there are more people in Korea who play ranked even though the population of Korea is vastly smaller than NA. Maybe it’s that there aren’t as many people who like League of Legends, but I don’t think people here have that dire desire to win. I also think because there are many other career paths for gamers other than being a professional player, they don’t feel as desperate. I’m sure there are people who truly feel desperate, but for many, it’s not. In Korea, there’s no other viable career path for gamers since most people need to go to college to get a good job, but to be a professional gamer you need to give that up. Now, if you fail as a professional gamer there’s a huge risk. You end up making a living through part-time jobs, working at factories, etc. In most cases, it’s really difficult since the situation is different for people in NA vs. Korea.
Prior to playing SKT, when I was playing for Xenics Storm, I didn’t have an official salary for a year. People say how can you keep playing without making money for a year, but back then I was 17 and I really, really wanted to be a pro gamer after watching Starcraft pros. I finally seized the opportunity and played in tournaments - even though I had to go through position changes from jungle to support. I was that desperate to just win. I didn’t care about money, just win. I think you need that desperate mindset to succeed and win.
Q: A lot of LCS teams right now have large rosters, or are changing their lineups pretty often. C9 is relatively stable. Is that something you guys strive for? Do you think it’s more beneficial?
I don’t think it’s a good idea to switch rosters unless the player has problems fitting into the team lifestyle or is absolutely lacking in talent. Because players can grow - you shouldn’t look at the short-term like 3-4 months but evaluate after at least a year. Even if you look at LCK, Jin Air’s Sohwan and Teddy, and Samsung’s Ruler - all started from the LCK Challenger Series and reached their true potential today. Jin Air’s Sohwan didn’t even play as a starting player for the past two years, but he started to play as a starter only recently and played super well. If you look at cases like this, you shouldn’t switch players quickly if you see that this player has talent and is trying hard enough. Especially, League is a team game so even if one player plays bad the game is not over yet. So it’s good to learn as a team as a whole, rather than switching out a player after 3-4 months. The new player would need to learn the whole team communication from scratch, etc. So personally I think you should evaluate a player at least after a year.
Q: What is C9’s biggest challenge this split?
I think we play pretty well, even if you just look at this week, we improved a lot from the last, especially macro-play and understanding our objectives. Our problem is usually overconfidence and losing motivation because we often think if we keep playing like this we can go to worlds. But our goal is more than just going to the worlds - we want to at least make it to the semifinals of worlds. Last year, we only made it to the quarterfinals and thus NA as a whole only made it to quarterfinals. Because of that, we are trying to just focus on improving our plays, instead of worrying too much about the performances of other teams.