Interview by Kim Hong Jae
There was a boy. The boy was called a genius as he made his pro debut. He raised his team to victory in its darkest moments. Many fans were enticed by his games, and the boy soon became the greatest superstar and stayed like that.
Nobody expected him to lose when he played, and the boy always seemed to be at his prime. Maybe he used to be too good. Although he always played well, haters who remembered only his prime grew. And suddenly, he announced his retirement to everyone’s surprise.
‘The Ultimate Weapon’ Flash, one of the most iconic pro gamers, has announced that he would retire. There is always an end to every story, but the news of Flash’s retirement still seems alien to the ears. While he hasn’t been that insurmountable wall from SCBW, Flash had still been a consistent player in SC2.
Flash, the veteran progamer with 9 years under his belt, the champion who never stopped fighting, is now leaving us. We wanted to hear Flash’s story behind his retirement.
December 1, I heard that Flash was retiring. While it is a common occurrence for players to change teams or retire during the off season, I couldn’t believe Flash was retiring. No, you’re joking, I told my colleague. Shortly after, I was speechless as I stared at the article draft that clearly stated the retirement of the Ultimate Weapon.
I am certain that Flash’s phone buzzed nonstop that day. I wasn’t sure of what to ask him, even as I was calling him to make arrangements for an interview. However, Flash greeted me with a surprising cheerfulness that I hadn’t seen from him in a while.
“I’m both refreshed and sad right now. I feel like I’ve set down a heavy load, but there’s this sadness in me as well. I keep on thinking about life at KT Rolster, which has been my home for 9 years. I don’t regret the decision, though. I think I’ve achieved most things I could do with a career as a progamer, and I think I will continue to be relevant in eSports history, if I do say so myself. (Laughs)”
“I think I started to tell people about it around the 2nd round of Proleague. I first told Coach Hery, since I’ve spent a lot of time with him since I was young. I also told my family and Rain as well. Rain’s one of the most trustworthy guys I know. I told him I really wanted to help my team win this year. Well, I failed though. I told Jaedong about it during our matches in China. He told me I should do a few more years, but he agreed when he heard my reasons. He told me I did well during the past years.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped to rest during my 9 years. My arms hurt too, and even practicing became really hard. I think I was mentally down as well. Then I suddenly had the feeling that this was the end. I had to go now, or I would lose the chance in life as well. I also wanted to try new things, so I felt this was the prime time.”
There’s the magic phrase: “but this is Flash we’re talking about.” It made every game you played, even the ones extremely one sided, look epic. In the end of SCBW, there were even fans who liked the games you lost the best. I was one of them too. I’ve never thought of it from your viewpoint until now. The fans’ expectations must have been a heavy weight.
“I didn’t have the luxury for that back in SCBW. I think of my prime time as 09-11, and I didn’t even realize I had won that many tourneys. I just kept playing and playing, and I was on top all of a sudden. I am amazed at how I did because it looks impossible now that I look back.
In my last months of SC2 though, I really felt the pressure. It wasn’t because I had a specific reason. There are always cases of players not doing well all of a sudden. I think it’s some kind of growth pain, but it did wear me down significantly.”
Flash smiled as he talked throughout the heavy theme of the interview. Before it became too grim, I decided to bring up questions of Flash’s amateur life.
“I loved Starcraft with a passion. I have a friend called Lee Hyeong Yeon, and he got second place in the national elementary school Starcraft championship. So I played a 1v1 against him and won. I used to be a random battle.net user back then, but Hyeong Yeon got me into clans and stuff and I became a progamer through the people I met from there. It took me two tries to get to the courage match finals, and my opponent was JangBi (laughs).
I got into the team as a practice partner for Pantech. After 2 months there, I kept 1st place in the team ranking matches for the next 4 months. Apparently, the older gamers said that I would not be able to perform my 100% in televised matches though.”
One of the many questions the fans asked was about Flash’s SCBW return. Many players who had achieved stardom have lost fans due to their questionable behavior on live streams and there was concern about Flash going down that road as well.
“It’s really a blank canvas right now. Nothing is settled, and I don’t have specifics. I need some time to think. If a place wants me really badly though, I will try to view it with positive eyes.
I know my fans will want me playing SCBW as well, but I’m tentative on that. I haven’t played it in 3-4 years. I know that if I do, however, I won’t do what the fans worry about. I promise that, and I know how much fans will expect of me if I go back to SCBW as well so it’s really hard to say.
Since I’ve retired, I began to meet up with old players I used to know from Brood War. I’ve met with Sea recently, and now there are rumors that I am going to stream BW(laughs). Not true, so I think I’ll lie low for a bit.”
The interview time took longer than I’ve expected. It was really fun talking to Flash, almost like catching up with an old friend. Flash told me he had one last thing he wanted to say to his fans.
“I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to achieve much in SC2, but I guarantee that I’ve tried really hard during my progamer years. I don’t think much of my private life was exposed either. Every message that the fans give me saying ‘you did well’, really goes to heart. Many fans have come on my fan café and facebook page to leave messages, and I’ve read them all. I think I’ve received so much love and I wonder how I can ever repay you guys.
I’ve met so many fans over the 9 years and I remember each and every one of you. I’ve tried to express my thanks during interviews, but I still don’t think it is enough. I’m going to take a brief rest for now, but I want to come back to the eSports scene so please cheer me on.
You guys are the motivation that kept me holding the mouse for these past years. You guys changed me from a boy who loved games into a real progamer. Thanks again.”