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Now We Are Titans

Sep 27 2019
Photo by
Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
Photo by
Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
Hyo-jong (Haksal) Kim
Vancouver Titans
Sep 27 2019

In São Paulo they have soccer fields, and in New York they have basketball courts.

But in South Korea, where I’m from, the Internet café is king.

It’s the place to be.

I grew up in Jeju-do, and there was an Internet café not too far from my house. I feel like I need to try to explain what these places are — because, to me, they’re a little bit magical.

When you walk in, the first thing you notice is the sound. Lots of keyboard clacking, maybe some laughing, and maybe you can hear the kitchen in the back. The thing about these cafés — or “PC bangs,” as they are called by many — is that nobody cares about the food or the drinks. The vibe? Doesn’t matter. Only one thing does: speed. Fast computers and fast Wi-Fi. See, Koreans are generally pretty easygoing, happy people, and we can deal with a lot. But not bad Wi-Fi or bad PC rigs. We can’t handle that. That’s a no-go.

The cafés are sort of like … an escape. You go down with a bunch of friends, set up in your booth, put your headset on and get transported to another world — even if it’s just for a few hours. The great thing about these places is that they aren’t just for gamers. There are people watching YouTube videos, doing homework, and maybe some elementary school kids just messing around after class finishes.

These places are like tiny little communities. And for gamers, they are our neighborhoods.

And back when I used to go to cafés all the time, there was one game that reigned supreme.

League of Legends.

That’s what everyone in our neighborhood was playing. It held the top spot on the café’s “most current players” list forever. Basically, PC bangs started to feel like LoL cafés.

Courtesy of Hyojong (Haksal) Kim

That’s how I discovered Piglet.

He’s a LoL player on Clutch Gaming right now, but back in 2013 he was on the SK Telecom T1 2 team that won worlds. It was a stacked roster, with Faker, Bengi, and Piglet. Piglet was my guy. He was an AD Carry like me, and I just really liked the way he moved around the map. Whenever you thought he was going to zig, he zagged. He kept you guessing as an opponent and as a viewer. That’s the thing that stuck out to me. I tried to emulate his style.

While I was spending everyday grinding away at League, I heard about this new game….

Overwatch.

There was a beta at the end of 2015, and that’s when I first got my hands on it. It was like nothing I had experienced before, but at the same time it also felt familiar. And down at the cafés I started to see more and more people playing Overwatch as the beta went on.

It connected with me, I think, because my first love was an FPS game. I played Sudden Attack a lot when I was younger, and it’s what got me into gaming. There’s something so compelling about an FPS, you know? It’s a much more intuitive experience. Like, you’re really in the action.

When Overwatch fully released, it surpassed LoL for a while as the most popular game in the cafés.

If those places love a game, then you know it’s legit.

So I began to get into it more and more, and I was getting pretty good. And people started to notice me on some Korean servers. That’s how I met Runner, a popular streamer in Korea who was building an Overwatch team for a streamers league back in 2016. Through Runner I joined the team RunAway, which is where I became the player I am today.

Those two years with RunAway were incredible. We were a small team, with no sponsors, no house — none of that stuff — and we still went to Apex finals twice in Korea. I saw how much it meant to Runner, who was our leader in and out of the game. And then we won Overwatch Contenders 2018 Season 2: Korea (the pinnacle of the Overwatch scene outside of The Overwatch League). That was when I knew we had something really special.

Last November our team signed contracts to join the Overwatch League – the professional tier of Overwatch esports. It all happened really, really fast. I knew our team had lots of talent, and I thought some of us could come play in the Overwatch League, but when we found out the Vancouver Titans wanted to sign all of us from RunAway to be Vancouver’s Overwatch League team, it was really cool.

The fact that Vancouver realized that we, as a unit, were important — and that our success came from our relationships with one another — it meant a lot to us.

We flew out to Canada and met Mr. Francesco Aquilini, the owner of the Titans and the Canucks. He took us to our first hockey game, which was crazy. That sport is insane, for real. And we also had really good pizza in Vancouver. People tell me Vancouver isn’t known for pizza … so, I don’t know … but it was really good.

So basically, Vancouver is very nice.

And now we are Titans. In the Overwatch League. Also very nice.

Our first year has been everything we’d hoped it would be. And, honestly, sort of what we knew it could be. We are good. We know we are good. It’s just that … people in North America didn’t know we were this good.

So, like, now you know, I guess.

The big arenas, the stages, the great opponents — it’s been amazing to see what the Overwatch League has been able to create in just two years. I feel very lucky to be part of it. And to represent Vancouver.

As good as this year has been … it will be wasted if we don’t finish what we started.

All year we have been the best team — I know this. We won the Stage 1 finals. But lost in the Stage 2 finals, and we’ve struggled a little bit since. Now, though, we feel like we are playing some of our best Overwatch. The meta shifts, and addition of the hero Sigma for the playoffs means that each team has had to be adaptable over the last few months.

We feel like we’ve done that. And we know we can beat San Francisco in the Grand Finals on Sunday.

They are a good team with good players and they are extremely well-coached.

But we have Stitch, the most underrated player in the league. We have JJANU, the best clutch player in the league. We have Twilight, who … well, you know Twilight. He’s the best.

And we have me, Haksal, or in Korean, 학살.

I can translate that for you.

It means “massacre.”

😉

Hyo-jong (Haksal) Kim
Vancouver Titans