Lee “Hojin” Ho-Jin was part of the ROX Tigers team that finished runner-up to SK Telecom T1 in last year’s League of Legends World Championship.
This year, he returned to worlds — but not as a player. Hojin has retired and has been working with Riot Games Korea. He hosted a Facebook Live video during the group stages in San Francisco, and Slingshot’s Andrew Kim had the chance to talk to him (in Korean and translated to English) about life after his playing career.
Andrew Kim: You mentioned earlier that you weren’t here as a part of the ROX Tigers, but for a Facebook Live event. Could you go more into detail about why you’re here?
Lee “Hojin” Ho-Jin: A lot of fans have the wrong idea, but I’m not working with the team at all, and I’m here in order to host the Facebook Live event headed by Riot Games Korea. I’m simply here because they were kind enough to give me the opportunity.
AK: What does the Facebook Live event entail as the host for it?
LHJ: It’s mostly interviews with the players. They’re all conducted shortly in order to avoid getting in the way of the players’ schedules, and I also show some behind the scenes moments Live for the fans as well.
AK: Why do you think Riot Korea chose you specifically to host the Facebook Live?
LHJ: I think it’s because I was a professional gamer in the past, came to the worlds stage, and although I am no longer a pro player I still am the most active in League of Legends. I don’t know all the details why though. (Laughs)
AK: As you quit your professional gaming career, you became a streamer for AfreecaTV. Were you concerned at all for your career shift?
LHJ: I was of course concerned, but I was able to be a little relieved because I was a streamer before my debut as a pro gamer, albeit a short career as one. The nerves were there, but not as much when I first started to stream.
AK: You command a large audience with your streams. Why do you think your fans like your content specifically?
LHJ: I think one of the largest reasons why my fans enjoy my broadcasts is because I run a clean show. I swear less, and try to be the “well mannered summoner” for my streams. Lately though I’ve been streaming without break, so with the stress some foul language found it’s way back into my vocabulary, and I’m trying to return to my old persona.
AK: Did you get to spend time with your old team at all?
LHJ: Originally I was planning to do so, but the nature of my work means I have to remain neutral, since the interviews will be with players other than the ROX Tigers, such as SKT’s and Samsung’s squads. I’m also concerned that I might make some mistakes while talking to the Tigers and maybe even talk about other teams with them. To that end, I haven’t even had a meal with them and I’m working hard to keep it that way. I’m still close with them, but that makes me even more careful.
AK: As a previous member of the ROX Tigers, how did you feel when they finally won the LCK 2016 summer split?
LHJ: At first a lot of people came into my stream and told me that it was a good thing I left the Tigers since (Han “Peanut” Wang-Ho) was doing so well, but I didn’t let it bother me that much. Seeing my old team doing well is always a good thing, so I wasn’t particularly salty, but I was a little jealous knowing that they finally won the LCK without me as a part of them. I was actually at the stadium and saw them lift the trophy, and a lot of thoughts I can’t put into words went through my head.
AK: Did you have a player that you were especially close to during your time on the ROX Tigers’ roster?
LHJ: I was close to all of the players since I was very good at socializing with them, but if I had to choose one I would say I’m closest to is (Lee “Kuro” Seo-Haeng). During my rather short professional career, I’ve always had him as the mid laner, for about a year and a half. He has been with me since the beginning and until the end of my career, so I think we have a special bond.
AK: A lot of Western fans don’t know the details of why you decided to retire. Could you explain it more in detail?
LHJ: It’s not easy to explain it simply, but first off the lifestyle of a professional gamer was a lot more brutal than I thought, and the pressure of needing to win was too big. Those two are the biggest reasons, and thirdly, the team situation wasn’t that great last year with some internal issues, and I started to think whether or not I could keep doing this. With that and other issues, I decided to retire.
AK: Kuro also mentioned some internal issues with the sponsor. Could you explain more about it?
LHJ: I don’t know the exact details about what was going on behind the scenes. As players we are still very thankful towards the head coach, because we focused only on the games and left everything other than that in his hands. In the end everything worked out well, actually much better than some of us feared. At the time I wasn’t able to thank the head coach directly since I was still a player and there’s still the dynamic between player and head coach that makes that difficult, but I want to thank him.
AK: Do you think a Korean squad will win worlds this year? Which one do you think will win?
LHJ: At first I thought that because there will be three Korean teams, and since they’re all very good, they all had a chance to win. But now that I’m here the teams are much closer than last year. The wild card teams in particular are really playing well, I can’t be 100 percent certain but I do hope a Korean team wins.
AK: Is there a Korean team that you’re cheering for in particular?
LHJ: Personally I’d like to say that I’m cheering for the ROX Tigers, but I am also somewhat close to all the players that made it to worlds. So I’m not going to say that obviously I’m pulling for my old team, and instead that I hope all the teams perform well. I’ve been here last year so I kind of understand what they must be going through and I can see some teams having a rough time.I just want everyone to play their best and place well.
AK: Your career as a pro, as you’ve pointed out, is very short. Yet you’ve been placed second in the LCK and even made it to worlds. What is your secret to success?
LHJ: There is a secret. I personally think that we placed second last year at worlds, but I didn’t think that we were actually the second best team in the world skill wise, and I still think this. My only positive trait is that I know how to enjoy the game, since games exist to be enjoyed. In a competitive environment, my teammates were also stressed due to pressure and I think I was able to care for them very well. I think I worked hard as the oldest player and team coach to create an amicable team environment.
AK: Finally I want to ask where we’re going to see Hojin next?
LHJ: This is the first time I’m doing an interview like this so this would be the first time me saying this, I always thought after I retired and I started to stream, there’s a corner where I watch professional games with the fans of my stream, and whenever I watch those games, that maybe I quit too early. That I wanted to give it another shot and that I want to be on that stage again. That feeling is even stronger now that I’ve come to see worlds. I don’t know what exactly is in store for me in the future. As a streamer, my success in that was my No. 1 priority, but I want to try professional gaming again, so a lot of things aren’t resolved.
Cover photo by Andrew Kim