ByuN, Samsung, and why I love esports.

I’ve started to follow professional Starcraft 2 after a long hiatus called League of Legends. It’s almost like I’ve been called upon by the Blizzard gods, as per my genetic code as a Korean compels me so. I’ve been avoiding Hearthstone and World of Warcraft like the plague, so I guess it was a matter of time.

My main focus has been on the GSL in Korea, and man oh man, was it fun to follow. Not only because the over-the-top mechanics from various pros, but because of the story that was Byun.

As a brief primer, this is a guy who didn’t have much success in Starcraft 1, had a better career in Starcraft 2, which was then setback due to the “intentional loss” fiasco during 2011’s ESV (Byun atually changed his name into the Korean phrase for “I’m sorry” for some time), disappeared from pro play for 3 years, but then had sporadic Twitch streams in the meanwhile, which then led to rampant speculation whether or not he decided to retire.

Now he has returned out of nowhere like a comet in 2016 to earn the title of the “strongest Terran in Legacy of the Void,” and then win the 2016 Hot6 GSL season 2 championships as a player not affiliated with any major pro gaming team.

Not much is known about his time off, and he only addressed his disappearance in the context of not wishing to talk about it. As the spotlight was on him though, I went out to learn more about this man, his play style, his mentality, and his wrist. My god, his wrist.

ByuN managed to defy all odds and expectations with his amazing performance and dedication to his craft. He easily made himself a sensation over the course of one championship, and now with the ability to play at Blizzcon, he commands the attention of every pro Starcraft 2 player in the world.

During all of this, there was another team that left the world shocked with its recent performance in League Champions Korea; Samsung Galaxy’s take down of the LCK summer split’s second place KT Rolster in the finals of the regional gauntlet.

Almost every major publication and pundit in Korea chose KT as the favorites going into the finals, and how couldn’t they? KT looked stronger than ever. They created an upset themselves against previous LCK kings SK Telecom T1 and still dragged the finals of the LCK summer split to a nail-biting five games against the ROX Tigers. In comparison, Samsung had looked quite weak in getting knocked out of the summer split playoffs by KT. 

But they did it. Samsung took down KT after an amazing 3-2 series, and they got onto the stage of the gauntlet and did what true champions do after winning.

They all cried.

That’s why I watch esports. Heck, that’s why I watch professional wrestling. How could one not fall in love with such a classic underdog story? Human beings are innately emotional creatures. We resonate with stories, and with other people. We can crunch numbers, compare statistics, even make sound logical predictions about who will win what.

But what ultimately moves us, what ultimately compels us to continue to watch is just that. Human drama. The story of an unexpected champion. The story of the underdog.

At this point, Blizzcon will be “How far will Byun go: The tournament” and the League of Legends world championships might as well be “Can Samsung prove themselves 2: The Reckoning” for me.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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