Probably one of the most storied veterans in League Champions Korea history, KT Rolster’s Ko “Score” Dong-Bin has been part of Korea’s pro League of Legends scene since 2011. With his 24th birthday approaching in two days, he’s still one of the top players of his region and widely accepted as the ace of KT Rolster, which is currently at No. 1 in the LCK’s 2016 summer season. During his five-year career, he bounced between three roles; top, AD Carry and finally to jungle. To Score, this relentless movement between roles has proven to be a great way to freshen League of Legends up for him over the course of five years, writes Inven’s Im Hye-Sung.
“If I only kept playing one position, I feel like I couldn’t have been a League pro gamer for long because I would have gotten sick of it,” he said in a 1-on-1 interview with Inven. “I think another positive effect was that I have gotten a very deep understanding of different roles, rather than shallow ones one can get in solo queue. I think those experiences are very useful to me today. I know what it feels like to be an island in top lane, and the silly mentality of an ADC crying about every single minion, so it helps me in my ganking as a jungler.”
This joy of the game is crucial to Score’s career, as he said that it’s the driving force that continues to motivate him to play one game after another.
“Knowing my personality, I would never be able to do something continuously unless it was fun,” he said. “I try hard because it’s really fun. During scrims or competitive games, I play to win, and the stress I then get after losing is immense. In order to let go some of that stress, I use ranked games. As I play and laugh, the passion comes back to me. Another facet of it could be that I don’t play any other game as well.”
Of course, the chief concern for players like Score is their ability to maintain their consistency as a pro player. We have seen many examples of older players reach their peak and either spiral downwards or stay the same. Score is doing neither by actually improving as a player, showing that he has yet to even peak. Score himself attributes his success to his meta game knowledge.
But Score is very confident in his own skill as a jungler, saying that he was “a 10 out of 10 jungler in the current meta,” due to his metagame knowledge such as sharp calls and map-reading abilities.
KT Rolster has historically had rather bad luck when it comes to LCK championships. Every time KT seems to get close, SK Telecom T1 was always there to stop them from winning the gold. Although they seem to have severely bad luck against SKT in particular, Score doesn’t really believe in jinxes. Just skill.
“I don’t have anything like a jinx,” he said. “SKT has beaten us again and again because they are the better team, not because of some kind of jinx. I always have confidence in games against SKT as well. I really want to face them and eliminate them from a tournament.”
He also added that it “felt great to see SKT struggle” in more recent games, even saying that when ESC Ever beat down SKT in a 2-1, both Score and the coach started an “impromptu first place celebratory dance party.”
As the undisputed ace player of KT Rolster, the pressure from the fans for him to perform must be immense on his shoulders. The popular meme in Korea is that KT’s “victory algorithm” shows that KT wins when Score is behind. All of this may be true, but Score’s veteran instincts don’t allow such things to affect his mentality, instead praising the play of his fellow teammates.
Score also had quite the reputation as the “cowardly” ADC for KT, as he was mostly concerned with keeping himself alive during team fights while dealing damage safely. Score said regardless of what the fans wanted to call him, a good play style is a good play style.
“What’s clear to me is that I thought I was good then,” he said. “My play style was focusing on taking down turrets so my team can win, and the team prioritized jungler pressure in top and mid lane, so I might have seemed that way.” He also joked that “(he) was perfect in team fights,” and that repeated that he was really good “just for emphasis.”
Inven asked Score whether or not he was interested in going abroad and playing for a foreign team like some of his colleagues. He maintained that he wanted to remain in KT until the end of the world championships, but did say that he was interested in transferring “with a good offer.”
The biggest problem Score seems to have is the new schedule for LCK. With games happening 6 days out of the week, he feels like the tight schedule constricts practice time, and coupled with some meta game changes, it becomes harder to remain competitive.
“There needs to be days off so players can find inspiration through ranked games and prepare new champions,” he said. “Of course the meta of the patch itself is important, but there is still need for a solid foundation of practice. Even if I hear that certain champions are good in ranked, there are LCK games too soon, and because new patches have been coming more frequently, there isn’t much time left to experiment. So naturally players tend to gravitate towards champions that are proven as strong.”