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.

If you don’t play StarCraft in Korea, you’re basically a loner.

[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.

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.

[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.

Do one thing well and get good at it.

[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.