When I was younger, I thought that I was a really mature person for my age. That all changed after I moved to America and started to learn a lot of important life lessons.
In 2014, I started playing competitive League of Legends in the LCK with a team called Bigfile Miracle.
I was living in a cramped, two-room apartment consisting of a living room and one communal bedroom; there were 13 people all living under one roof. All of the 10 players, including myself, slept in the house, sharing a single bathroom and shower.
In Korea, it gets really hot over the summer and there wasn’t really any air conditioning in the apartment – I think there was a unit, but it certainly wasn’t big or powerful enough to cover the whole room.
Needless to say, we didn’t get paid much.
I spent a year with Bigfile Miracle and got paid the equivalent of $7000 as my annual salary. Our basic expenses – like food – weren’t covered either. Instead of earning money, I was falling further and further into the red just to feed myself.
I am pretty sure that during that time, all of the players’ parents had to send money to ensure that we could at least afford food to eat.
No one on the team could really cook so we had to go out and order food every day. Fried chicken is actually really expensive, so we couldn’t afford it unless it was a special, celebratory meal. Instead, the basic, go-to meal was rice, some kind of soup, basically the cheapest food that we could get.
My life consisted of playing the game and that was pretty much it.
After a year of playing together in those conditions, we were relegated from the LCK.
The trouble then was finding sponsors. It became really hard to maintain the team. Khan, Corejj and I were thinking of forming a team together, but any hopes of that quickly disappeared.
In the end, I chose the route of playing internationally because fortunately, I knew French and English.
At the time, Maknoon was playing for a team called Team Fusion in the NA Challenger Series and was trying to get another Korean player to join him. He saw me playing lots of Korean solo queue and since I was already high challenger and importantly, I also spoke English, they brought me over to America to join the team.
Because of the conditions I’d been used to in Korea, when I first joined Team Fusion in LA, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
We had a really big house with plenty of space and an AC unit that actually worked.
Food was provided…
When I first met the other players on my team, in my mind, they didn’t realise just how good they had it.
Even though they were all League of Legends pros like me, during their down time, they’d play other games – I couldn’t believe it. For me, that was really shocking because, in Korea, you are absolutely not allowed to do that. There were a lot of cultural differences.
Things didn’t pan out exactly as I wanted. The team was unable to qualify for the NA LCS through the promotion tournament and the managements’ plan was to just disband.
I was told I had two days until I would be flown back to Korea; I needed to find a team before the Summer Split started.
I remember getting an offer from Team Dragon Knights alongside an offer from Counter Logic Gaming. Simply, I wanted to choose the team that I felt had the best chance of achieving success and going to worlds which is why, in the end, I prioritized CLG over TDK.
It was the off-season at the time so teams were looking for new players to improve their rosters, at that time CLG was looking for a new mid laner.
I had a tryout on the very same day that Team Fusion had booked for me to fly back to Korea. I played my three games real fast, closing them out as quickly as I could to make sure I didn’t miss my flight home.
I was just hoping that they would give me a good answer.
As I stepped onto the plane back to Korea, I basically had no plan for what I was going to do with my life if CLG decided not to sign me. I sat at home waiting, until, one day, HotshotGG called me and told me that I had made it onto to the team.
I planned to fly back to North America as soon as I could, excited to be a part of the CLG house. However, the day after I was told I’d been signed, CLG told me that due to a mix up of VISA issues, I would be unable to play in the NA LCS Summer Split and that I would be placed on the Counter Logic Gaming Black roster.
They later told me I could leave and find another team if I wanted to, but by then, it was the middle of the split and nobody was looking for new players anymore.
It was a pretty hard time for me, but it was another moment in which my career taught me a valuable life lesson.
At first, I would just sit and cry about the situation, but as time went on, I realized, that feeling sorry for myself is not going to change anything. Instead, I should focus on what I can change. I applied myself to solo queue again, trying to learn and improve as much as possible.
I may not have been playing on stage, but I was watching every single CLG scrim, offering feedback whilst also trying to learn from what they were doing.
Through this, I grew really close to our head coach, Tony. He was the strategic coach when I joined CLG and I would talk about the game with him extensively. It sucked not being on stage, but as time went on, my relationship with Tony grew even stronger and eventually, my positive attitude paid off.
I made my NA LCS debut with CLG in the opening week of the 2016 Spring Split. By mid-April, I was an NA LCS champion.
Throughout all of my visa issues, I am so thankful that CLG stuck with me, giving me the opportunity to prove myself and develop as a player.
My career in League of Legends has taught me so many life lessons. During my time with Counter Logic Gaming, in particular, I haven’t just grown as a player, but also as a person.
Image Credit: Counter Logic Gaming & Riot Games