Making it to the Top : An Interview with Professional eSports Player, Kevin Park
By Dan Manning
Filed under Interviews
What does it take to become an elite e-sports player in one of the most competitive gaming regions in the world? Our team finds out in an interview with Kevin Park, a Korean Warcraft 3 gamer that was once ranked among the top players.
[StatXP]: When & how did you first start getting interested in video games?
[KP]: Warcraft was the first game I ever played seriously. Before that, I played console games like PlayStation 1 and Nintendo 64. PC-wise, I also played a lot of StarCraft.
If you don’t play StarCraft in Korea, you’re basically a loner. I remember, after company happy hours, we would all go to a PC cafe and play StarCraft 1 together.
[StatXP]: What games did you play professionally?
[KP]: Warcraft 3. I started playing Warcraft 3 in 2002 when it first came out. I really got into it back in high school and the hobby carried on in college.
E-sports was already a big thing in Korea, and I decided that I wanted to take my hobby to the next level. But, at that time, e-sports didn’t have as much infrastructure [as it does now]. The only way to get recognized was to be in the top 100 of the ladder. I eventually became #48, and you get “contacted” once you get in the top #50.
I was introduced to KESPA (Korea e-Sports Association). KESPA had a first tier & second tier Warcraft 3 league. I started at the second tier where I was playing against other semi-professional players. It was hard to get to the first tier - those guys were just crazy. You have to spend the whole day playing to overcome them.
Overall, it was really fun. I really enjoyed it.
[StatXP]: Is anyone else in your family involved in e-sports?
[KP]:They all enjoy playing games, including my dad. Everyone plays games.
[StatXP]: Can you briefly describe Warcraft 3 for anyone who doesn’t know exactly what it is?
[KP]: Warcraft 3 is a real time strategy game where there are 4 different races. You choose which race to play and you come up with strategies to beat your opponent. [There are 20 different maps, and you always start each game from square zero: no buildings and no troops, but then you build up your forces until one person destroys the other.]
It requires a lot of “API” (or clicks per minute).
[StatXP]: How well did you end up doing in the KESPA (Korea e-Sports Association) League?
[KP]: I was recruited as an individual. Being recruited gave me accessibility into tournaments. I won a couple of tournaments (by reaching the quarterfinals) – which got you at least $1,000 or so. I made at least $20,000 over the time I was playing professionally.
[StatXP]: Did you have a unique play style or something that set you apart from others?
[KP]: I only played Human [1 of the 4 races in Warcraft 3] - instead of going more broad like other players that usually had 2 races that they could play well.
[StatXP]: How were you able to make it to the top 50 in the first place?
[KP]: I practiced on my own. Internet connection was not that good back then, so there was a lot of single play. I would practice almost every day, up to 5-6 hours per day the month before a tournament.
I also practiced against some of the top tier players. Instead of playing with random people - we only played against the best players [there was a separate communication channel to coordinate matches for top players].
[StatXP]: What is your favorite memory from being a professional player?
[KP]: When I finally reached rank 50 in Asia - I took a screenshot of that.
[StatXP]: What life lessons did you learn from your playing experience?
[KP]: It was a really good hobby - I could have done something else like drinking or doing drugs. But I think it’s a good hobby compared to other alternatives.
[StatXP]: In your experience, how has e-sports changed over time?
[KP]: It’s growing, it’s a $100B industry right now. It’s going to take another form. It already has changed since I was playing – at an unbelievable scale.
US and Korean military are recruiting gamers to control drones. It’s going to really change, a lot of things. I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be – especially with VR coming.
[StatXP]: If you could give advice to someone just starting out on a journey to become a professional e-sports player, what advice would you give them?
[KP]: Focus on one game. There’s so many games and they keep changing. Do one thing well and get good at it.