Philly, We Are on a Mission

Tyler Demogenes/Blizzard Entertainment

I am human.

Sometimes, in game, I can make it look like I am not.

I do things very fast, yes. I work well with my team, yes. I make lots of plays, yes.

But I am a regular person, like you.

One difference between us, though, is that maybe you did not think you could win MVP of the Overwatch League this year. But I thought that. Still a regular person. Just thought I could win MVP. But I did not.

This … this is O.K.

But it still makes me a bit sad. Because, like I said, I am human.

Only a bit sad, though. Because the MVP award is nice. But you know what’s even more nice? Being a WORLD CHAMPION. That’s why I play the game. I mean … just say it out loud. What sounds better? Most valuable player? Or world champion?

EZ answer.

Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

So that is my objective right now. My team (the Philadelphia Fusion) and I are on a mission — one we nearly fulfilled in 2018, when we lost to the London Spitfire in the Grand Finals. That feels like a long, long time ago. It still makes me sad to think about, though. I am human.

I had only moved to America from South Korea the year before, when I was 18, and 2018 was, of course, the first year of the OWL. Our team had players from all over the world — Israel, France, Russia, Sweden, South Korea, Finland, Canada, England and Spain. It was truly a unique challenge to communicate with everyone. But it makes you a better player, which was the reason I had to come to the U.S. in the first place. You’ve got to make up for your lack of comms with solid plays in game. You’ve got to dance the dance … the dance of Overwatch. And good Overwatch is a language that every player can understand, no matter where you’re from.

That’s what we did. But in the end, we lost to a very good London team. These things happen, I understand. This year, our team is quite different. Some of the teammates I had in 2018 are gone. But I will be friends with many of them forever.

When I think of that team, I remember how it started. Right before the OWL launched, I was with FaZe Clan, playing Overwatch in North America in the Contenders league. And a few teammates and I were contacted by someone starting the Philly team. They made offers to myself, ShaDowBurn and Joemeister.

But I also had opportunities with other teams.

I didn’t know much about these cities, or what their teams might look like, really. It was a tricky decision. But my friends, Joemeister and ShaDowBurn — I knew I wanted to be with them. So I went with them to Philly. We started this journey together. But they aren’t on the team anymore. We are a different team. We are a better team. I miss my friends, but I really believe that.

The MVP award is nice. But you know what’s even more nice? Being a WORLD CHAMPION.

We will show it, too. This year’s playoffs are different due to COVID-19. But we are ready for the challenge. We are in South Korea, now, getting ready for our match against the Shanghai Dragons. I think it’s a bit … magical, you could say, that this journey has taken me to where mine began.

I grew up in Daejeon. It’s a large city in central South Korea. My mom is a kindergarten teacher, and my dad is a sort of … priest. I’m not exactly sure how to translate what he does into English. But he is a follower of Won Buddhism. They were both out of the home often. My mom taught at a different school from the one I went to, so I’d go to visit her at work all the time when I was done with class. When I was in first grade, I remember going to see her and there were these computers that other teachers or staff would use. They didn’t really look like much to me. Just stuff old people used.

But some of the teaching assistants would play StarCraft after class. And as soon as I saw that, I was hooked on those computers. I don’t know what it was exactly. Something about the speed at which they moved the mouse across the screen, and all the control of the units in the game the player had — I just wanted to be a part of it. As a kid I had never seen anything like that.

When I got my chance to start playing, though, I wasn’t very good. But I knew two things.

I hated being bad.

And I hated to lose.

So I committed myself to gaming as I got older. I’d play all sorts of games — RTS, FPS, MOBA, but I didn’t play them like the other kids. They played them for fun. But I played them like I had to be the best player ever. And for many games, of course, I never got there. But I acted like I thought I could.

As a professional now, this attitude is helpful. But as a 10-year-old, it makes your parents a bit concerned. We had many fights about the time I was spending in front of a screen. I’m sure lots of parents fight like that now with their own kids. But my parents, a teacher and a priest, were not the fastest to come around to the idea of their little boy wanting to be a professional gamer. There was one fight when I was a bit older — a teenager — when they got so upset with me that they made me leave the house for a little bit. Just a few hours. They could understand what I was doing — what kid doesn’t love games? But they couldn’t understand why I was … addicted is the wrong word … maybe we should say passionate?

Maybe I was also just stubborn. One thing I know for sure is that I loved to compete. And not just in gaming.

I was a pretty good speedskater in elementary school.

I bet you didn’t see that coming. ;)

Yes, Carpe, the speedskater. Do they have a world championships in speedskating? Maybe in another life I would be writing this about the speedskating world championships. That would be cool.

But, yes, my parents put me into speedskating because it was something physical for me to do — to get me away from the screen. I did it for about two years. It was a thrill. The speed is awesome. When you’re going that fast on the ice, you feel weightless. It’s unlike anything I have ever experienced. The sport was unique, yes, but the competition was still the same as it was in gaming. You win, or you lose. Nothing else matters, really. When I didn’t win … I would feel a pain inside me just like I did when I had a mouse and keyboard in front of me. The sensation was no different.

I knew then that competition was everything for me.

Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

So when I first tried Overwatch, after it came out in 2016, I saw an opportunity to compete. At first, I was terrible. But the next day, I got better. And the day after that, I got a little bit better. And the day after, the same thing. After it had been out for a while, I was getting ready to graduate from high school. All my friends were planning their lives … getting ready for college and all that. But me? I was getting better at Overwatch. One day at a time.

And I got pretty good. Good enough that I started to see a path to a career. There were teams popping up all over the world that were playing in leagues that paid real money. I just had to convince my parents.

So I literally grabbed my mom by the arm one day and took her over to my screen. And then I showed her how many hundreds of thousands of people were playing Overwatch. Then I took her to the competitive leaderboard and I scrolled allllllllllllllll the way up to the top and showed her the No. 1 spot.

Me. Carpe. No. 1 in the world at Overwatch.

She was a little bit more convinced after that.

Eventually, I got the opportunity to move to America and join Selfless Gaming. For my parents, the fact that I was going to a foreign country to try to have a career meant a lot. It validated my ambition. I wouldn’t be back here — in my home country, with a chance to win a championship — without my parents.

So, yes, they didn’t always approve of my gaming. But this weekend they’ll be watching their son in the Grand Finals.

They are the biggest Carpe fans.

We have to give it everything we have, for all those that came before.

South Korea is my home, forever. But Philly? Philly is my city now. And we started on this journey, from the beginning, together. I remember 2018 — how much it hurt to lose. And I remember, too, all the players who have come and gone, and how they’ve all contributed to our success.

So this chance here … we have to take it. We have to give it everything we have, for all those that came before.

We know Shanghai is tough. They are the best team in Asia, for sure. But we are Philly. We have the best players and the hardest working coaches. Fleta — the player who won the MVP award — is on Shanghai. I thought, if we had played his team this year, maybe the voting would have gone another way. But we didn’t.

Now we do. But there is no unfinished business between us — don’t be silly. He is a great player and a deserving MVP.

Will I give an extra 10% if I see him out there? To make some people think about the way they voted?

I mean ... maybe.

Like I said, I am human. :)

Go, Philly.