A deep dive on Flash’s recent on-stream Q&A

Lee ‘Flash’ Young Ho did a Q&A session on his Afreeca stream. Andrew Kim translated the video, and I have provided notes, background and contextual information about who or what Flash is talking about for each section.

The one time Sonic nearly bought Flash

Q: Any reason for streaming?

A: No particular reason, really. Afreeca contacted me while I was thinking what I should do onwards. Honestly, I almost went to SBENU. There’s really no end to this story, but I almost did, but Afreeca sweetened the deal very well so I’m thankfully where I am. They were on the outs, but then suddenly Sonic came to me and talked as if SBENU was some kind of huge company and asked for a contract worth a lot of money, a three-year contract, and they said they would just give me that money. I was really wondering what it was.

Context: Hwang “Sonic” Hyo Jin was an instrumental figure in keeping competitive Brood War alive after KeSPA. He ran the SonicTV Starleague to let Brood War players compete. He eventually launched a shoe store known as SBENU. The store expanded and eventually sponsored League of Legends and Starcraft 2 teams. As it turned out, the company was accused of fraud, and Sonic went on the run.

Flash’s complicated feelings towards SC2

Q: Are you interested at all in playing SC2?

A: Not really. Because I have so many fans who love me who are more interested in SC1. I did get a lot of hate when I switched over as well. It was tough. Really tough. The reason why I stepped down from SC2 was because I knew I was one of the most popular players in the scene, almost to the point that I was the only one at the top. When you go to Naver, you can see the number of views on each game, and my games got like 4 times the views. When I was a player a long time ago, you could say I wasn’t the most popular player in polls, but I was consistently at the top of viewership numbers even in SC1. It was a similar story in SC2, and while I was hoping everyone on the team would do well, my performances weren’t looking great. I keep getting the views, but I started to think that I was getting in the way of my own team. It was a very complicated situation for me.

Q: When did you decide to retire?

A: I made up my mind during round two. After my 13th consecutive loss, I made up my mind to retire, but I had a sense of responsibility. KT has really taken good care of me, I thought that I would retire after I deliver a tournament victory to the team. I had that, so it’s a little disappointing.

Context: Flash’s Starcraft 2 career has been both massively overrated and underrated at different times. When he was in form, people rushed to give him the crown as the greatest player SC2 had ever seen and that he revolutionized the way the entire game was played. When he retired, people maligned his SC2 career as a waste of hype and tarnishing his reputation.

For my part, I thought he was at times an above average player that sometimes bordered on great player. At his very best he was the second or third best Terran in the world at times in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He like Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung was adversely affected by balance of the Terran race. When Terran was strong so were they. As for his builds, they were just well-executed standard builds that were sometimes more aggressive or defensive depending on the meta.

Flash reminisces about his career from 2007 to becoming “God”:

“All my real fans will know this, just how tough of a path I came through. It might look like I’ve gone down easy street in 2010 with a bunch of victories, but after I debuted, it was a tough debut by the way, on March 15 of 2007 and won on that same day in 2008 after taking down Stork. I was young at the time, so I got a really big head. I then entered a year long slump. I did well overall during that time but I couldn’t perform in individual leagues. It took me another year to get to my second victory. That was a really long time period, and I was made fun of by a lot of people. What really kick started me again was, before the NATE finals against Jaedong, when the head coaches did a separate interview and I was told that the head coach said ‘Flash has never overcome Jaedong.’ That’s when I lost it. I thought that I would beat him no matter what, but I lost. You can imagine what kind of effect that finals had on me, right? It was so tough because I lost and my pride took a hit, since Jaedong is a five-time champion and I’m only a two-time champion. After that I got my fourth title and overcame all of it when I beat FanTaSy I actually got over it with my fifth title, and I was really happy. Right when I hit my peak with a WCG gold medal, I had the feeling that I finally won. The sixth championship after that was just another win. Jaedong didn’t do anything wrong. When I retired, even when Jaedong retired, I thought I was going to cry I kept wondering why we always had to fight each other.

Context: The Brood War era from 2007 to 2012 is known as the TankBangLeeSsang era. It is named after the four elite players of the day. The Taek comes from Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong. Bang is the nickname for Song “Stork” Byung Goo. LeeSsang means the two Lees and refers to Lee Jae Dong and Lee “Flash” Young Ho. It is widely considered the most competitive era of Brood War. (The return of TaekBangLeeSsang is set to start again on Dec. 4 now that all four players have retired from Brood War.)

Because of this, Flash’s victory over his peers and the dominance he showed in team leagues and individual leagues had fans giving him multiple names. He started off as Little Monster for his initial entry into the scene, then became known as The Final Boss for his team league success. He was then dubbed the Ultimate Weapon after his near imperviousness and ended with the nickname God.

Beyond them were multiple great players. One such player is Jung “FanTaSy” Myung Hoon the second best Terran of this era and someone who could beat any of the TankBangLeeSsang so long as it wasn’t in the finals. His sole OSL victory came against Stork, who himself was notorious for losing in finals.

Flash’s relationship with Jaedong was one of the most important in Brood War. The two of them cited that the existence of the other was what forced them to never before seen heights of skill in the game. Jaedong once said in an interview that it felt like the two of them must have known each other in a previous life and they were fated to meet again in this one.

The most interesting aspect of Flash’s mindset is how he frames his rise out of his struggling early years. It seems the very idea that someone could think that Jaedong was definitively above Flash sparked insane rage and spite. Or as Jamie Vardy put it “Chat shit get banged.”

The other thing to note is that Flash specifically counts how many Championships he needs to definitively put himself above his rival.

Photo courtesy of Major League Gaming

Photo courtesy of Major League Gaming

 

Flash considers his own legacy vs BoxeR

Q: How Flash feels about being recognized in public?

A: I usually don’t like people talking about me, but after the photos, about five of them got together to talk, and I realized some are from BoxeR’s generation while others are from mine. They started to debate who was better, and although there certainly a part about BoxeR that’s untouchable, but I still felt like I did a good job in my career. I had no regrets about the path I took. Even though it was so hard, I would be a pro gamer again if I were to be born again.

Context: Lim “BoxeR” Yo Hwan is the one of the most beloved Brood War champions in history. He is also the most famous and has the broadest appeal among all the champions from Brood War. His charisma and incredible games made him a legend. His nickname is “The Emperor of Terran.” He is also responsible for making or helping establish multiple teams including SKT, Air Force ACE and SlayerS. SKT is the most dominant Korean esports team now. Air Force ACE was a military esports team that he created so Brood War players could continue to play while in military service. It eventually disbanded. SlayerS was his Starcraft 2 team and was initially successful before also disbanding.

Flash and KT employment

Q: A possible full time job with KT after retirement?

A: I didn’t get one. It was a little disappointing. When I said I was leaving, they didn’t really try to stop me either. They were disappointed, but they were mostly OK with the whole thing. That’s also because the higher ups all changed; all the people I was close with weren’t there anymore. When I talked to those people from the agency, they said things like “man we would have kept you with KT,” “you need to be in KT,” and made me feel that people really change.

Context: After Flash retired from Starcraft 2, he wasn’t sure about what type of career he was going to pursue. As he had strong feelings for KT, he wanted to continue to contribute to the team after his official playing days. As nothing ever materialized, he eventually started to play Brood War again.

Flash and the early KT Stars

Q: First impressions of Reach and other teammates?

A: A very kind older brother. When I met him for the first time, he was the team captain. He pulled me aside and taught me how to do the dishes. The first day. Of all the gamers I’ve met, he’s got the best personality. Nal_rA was pretty scary. I was really afraid of him and I got scolded by him quite often. The 13th floor room was called the ‘Nal_rA World,’ and when I was still in middle school, during his renaissance and my infancy, I had the alarm set in order to go to school. One time I couldn’t wake up because I was so tired practicing the day before, and Nal_rA got upset about that. I got chased out of the 13th floor because of that and I was so distraught over it. I then moved to YellOw’s room since he didn’t care, but he doesn’t talk at all. I think Nal_rA is regretting it now, because back then when you did well, the team kind of treated you like a celebrity. I know he doesn’t sound like a good person, but he actually is. He’s great in everything but when you’re living with him, you learn that he’s sensitive over very small things. Later it all got better, but at first I didn’t like him. Later I learned a lot about what kind of person he is and understood. As he got older, the more I liked him. There was this one time Reach got mad and told me, he’s only been mad once, he scolded me and had a sit down with me. I was in the wrong for acting out, and Reach said, ‘If you want to keep acting like this and do what you want, do it after you overcome me.’ He cooled down after that. I think he felt a little sorry. When he went to military service was when I started to do really well, and I kept joking with him, saying that ‘Hey what’s going on? I’m finally better than you,’ and made fun of him with the team. Reach is just a great older brother figure.

Context: Park ‘Reach’ Jung Suk was one of the early Protoss stars of Brood War. During a time when Protoss didn’t believe you could macro, he was the only one who did, and he made it work. He along with  Kim ”GARIMTO” Dong Soo were the first Protoss players to win the OSL and created “The Legend of the Fall.” The Legend of the Fall is the legend that a Protoss player is destined to win during Fall, usually because mapmakers made maps that were Protoss favored. Reach currently coaches the KT League of Legends team.

Kang “Nal_rA” Min was known as the Dreamer Protoss. During a time when all Protoss were losing against Zerg, he was one of the few that could win against them. His rivalry with Ma “sAviOr” Jae Yoon was known as The Holy Wars as he was the only Protoss that could play against and have some success against sAviOr.

Hong “Yellow” Jin Ho is BoxeR’s eternal rival. The Salieri to his Mozart, one of those rare rivalries where everything you do is in some way reflected onto the other. Despite having similar win percentage against each other, BoxeR is looked upon as the winner of the rivalry as BoxeR won tournaments whereas Yellow had an entire collection of silver places. He was given two nicknames: The Storm Zerg and Kong. Storm Zerg was based off of his aggressive play whereas Kong came from his height. It was quickly morphed into meaning his continued inability to win at important finals. In total, he got six MSL and OSL second places despite winning multiple special event tournaments.

This inability to win in finals lived on in future players and they became known as the Kongline. They include FanTaSy, Stork and Heo “JangBi” Yeong Moo. All three sons of the Kong eventually won a tournament, though it was only against each other.

Yellow became a poker player upon his return from the military. He played in the reality TV show the Genius and became a sensation in Korea where he then became a TV celebrity.

Screenshot

Screenshot

 

MyungSiK is an ass?

Q: Any times you were angry when on the team?

A: Not many times. About three times, I remember. About two of them were because of Myungsik. I really got along with everyone while being a team, and I’ve only ever swore to someone younger than me on the team, and both times it was to Myungsik. I won’t go into too much detail, but I do have something I dislike about Myungsik. When I deal with the older players I’m now really close with, I still toe the line. I use respectful language, and stop whatever I’m doing if it seems like I’m bothering them. Myungsik was in all reality good to me because when you’re in the KT team, no one could really touch me. Not even the coaches. Myungsik also was good to me but I saw around the time when he got into IEM, that he changed a little bit on how he treated the older players. He used to be a really good kid. I kept waiting and waiting because the atmosphere of KT was that if I didn’t say anything, no one thought they could to the new kids. So I took a day and really took it to him over something trivial.  

Context: Kim MyuNgSik Myung-Sik was a Starcraft 2 player and was in the KT team house for a time. Besides this incident, he was often cited as a toxic player that many others didn’t like. This is notable because Koreans rarely ever talk about this. The two most notable incidents include Lee Life Seung Hyun and Cho “Maru” Seong Ju. Life in GSL Group nominations chose MyuNgSik because he wanted to eliminate himself and then he chose MyuNgSik’s teammate Choi “Bomber” Ji Sung to further annoy MyuNgSik. When Bomber was asked for his reaction of being put in a group to solely spite his teammate he said he understood why. Incidentally MyuNgSik then went on to eliminate both Life and Bomber from the group.

Maru was set to play against MyuNgSik in Proleague. MyuNgSik got a near insurmountable lead, but Maru just won on every small engagement and took the game. MyuNgSik started crying out of frustration. Usually there is some level of respect, but this just made Maru’s team happier. In Maru’s post-game interview he said the game was revenge for his teammate.

MyuNgSik has now decided to be both a SC2 and Overwatch Pro. He was also one of “ByuN” Hyun Woo’s practice partners leading up to ByuN’s GSL victory.

How Flash changed Stats life.

Q: Any stories with Stats?

A: Just one. We were having food with the head coach at the table, this was right when joined us, I have this quirk that I need to see my clothes to wear since I don’t really have a lot, so I need to see like 10 available clothes but then I couldn’t do that and only saw about five. Then I realize Stats is wearing a shirt I’ve seen before. He was sitting right across me at the dinner table. So I asked, ‘Hey Stats, isn’t that my shirt?’ I think a lot of people were at the table like head coach Lee Ji-hoon. Stats back then was kind of goofy and the teammates didn’t like him. This is what he said, ‘Yeah I did’ (in a super informal language that is incredibly rude). I remember it so clearly because it came across as such a shock. As I said, even the head coach was at the table, so I had to stop myself from swearing at him, and the head coach took Stats home since all the older guys didn’t like him either. Stats was going to the same high school as I was at the time, how could we kick him off the team after he went as far to switch schools? So the team gave him another shot to work with the team. After that, Stats did a 180 and turned into a different person. He just became a better person in every way, a person that I have nothing mean to say about. It was such a change I thought he was a sociopath. That was 2008 when I was 18 with him.

Context: Kim Stats Dae Yeob was a KT protoss player in both Brood War and SC2. He was always a good contributor in Proleague and in Starcraft 2 was a level below the championship contending Protoss players for the majority of his career until 2016.

TY might be an airhead

Q: Stories about TY?

A: He’s too kind and nice to a fault. We were so surprised because he’s a guy who gets scolded by the head coach every day. He had this nasty habit of leaving old socks next to the pillow of a sleeping teammate that we couldn’t fix. That’s just how scatter-brained he is. He was in the same room as me. I’m actually really gross guys, I don’t even clean that often. I don’t usually say anything to roommates because I’m so slovenly, but he’s on a brand new level. I wake up and realize I’ve slept hugging TY’s used socks. I don’t really have any bad things to say about him he’s just so nice.

Context: Jun TY Tae Yang was a Terran player who started his pro career at the age of 12. He is now 22 years old and likely remembers more years as a pro gamer more than anything else. Despite the young age and longevity he has no individual championships.

Do what you want

Q: Stories about Action?

A: He’s great. He’s nice and good, but, as you can tell I’m super blunt, not that I have a strong personality. Action lacks a lot of self confidence. For instance, if HoeJJa says we should do something, I don’t like it when someone has no opinion about it. A lot of people followed him while I was more of a lone wolf, and Action would base everything he does on HoeJJa, like he’ll play soccer of HoeJJa was playing as well. I hate that kind of thing. I just think people should do what they will. Other than that I spent so much of a good time with him.

Context: Kim “Action” Seong Dae and Koh “HoeJJa” Kang Min were Flash’s teammates during his era in Brood War. Neither had any individual achievements of note, but both contributed in the team league. KT Zergs is a joke about how KT Zergs never showed up until the playoffs of team league.

The one who reminded God of himself

Q: Stories about Life?

A: His nickname in KT was “Little Flash.” He played the same game I did. He would look at me and he was the best at replicating my style. He understood my thinking of all my moves.

Context: Lee Life Seung Hyun was the greatest Zerg player to have ever touched the game of Starcraft 2 and will likely ever be. He was a prodigy level talent that started playing SC2 as a hobby in 2011. He didn’t take the game seriously until he joined StarTale. Within three months he had gone from a B-teamer to the best player in the world. A brilliant player whose peaks were almost directly correlated to how much interest he had in the game at any time.

He was on track to being the greatest player in SC2’s history, but he was caught match fixing and has since been permanently banned from competitive play. Even with the abrupt end of his career, the totality of his achievements puts him as the second greatest player in SC2’s history below Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun.

Even a God has a God

Q: Stories about NaDa?

A: He’s a very soft personality but he’s the biggest genius in a game sense. I can sum it up like that. He’s a genius. I saw him play right next to him. I almost quit. He would always play Sudden Attack but go to finals, and I almost quit. He always played that game. He didn’t even play all that often when I was around. But he kept winning. I got goosebumps. Another thing that makes him amazing is when he plays with me, he sees my build once and copies it and I feel he’s even better at it. Something I worked really hard on, and I felt he was better than me at it.

Context: When people talk about the greatest players of all time in any game, in any esport, Lee “NaDa” Yoon Yeol’s name must come up in the conversation. He had an insane longevity in Brood War, having started the game in 2001 and went on until the prime of Jaedong and Flash in 2010. Because of how Brood War has ended, no one can ever match the longevity he had. He also broke and made all of the records which would eventually be broken by Flash himself.

Many of the most famous players make their names because of their personal story or their charisma or personality. In NaDa’s case he won so hard and for so long that no one could deny his greatness or ignore it. In Starcraft 2 he had a surprisingly successful career as he should have been burned out after his years of pro play in Brood War. He still got top placings in GSL and got 4th at MLG Raleigh. Famously, after defeating Lee “PuMa” Ho Joon in an extended series, NaDa was overcome by the hype of the crowd and yelled “I am NaDa.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXXzsjI4Bj0

Flash’s last BW OSL appearance

Q: About TVing Star League

A: I’ll tell you the facts. After dropping in semis, head coach Lee Ji-Hoon and I had some drinks and said, ‘It’s SC2 now,’ and that was the end of it. It was OK because now I had to play SC2. if I kept playing SC1, it would have been a bigger deal. It could have been a major stop in my SC1 career, but SC2 was around the corner and I practiced for it before the semis. So that was it. I was all about SC2.

Context: One of the great tragedies of Starcraft was the forceful dissolution of competitive Brood War in favor of Starcraft 2 in 2012. I’d have preferred it to have both scenes coincide side by side, but sadly that never happened. As it turned out Starcraft 2 was never as popular as Brood War was in Korea. Despite Flash only practicing SC2 and losing to FanTaSy 0-3 in that set, i was a competitive series.

Real recognize real, a bonjwa recognizes a bonjwa

Q: Stories about iloveoov

A: A lot of people don’t like him, KT fans especially, but I was ok with him because this happened at the NATE finals. He did an an interview — he was a coach at the time — and he said he’s been in a situation like me, and if he were me, he would only prepare for five one-barrack-double strats because I was doing at my best, and with confidence no matter who I face, JD or anyone else, that I would play to win. At the time I was really preparing that exact strategy and I got creeped out because he completely read me. Rather than saying he’s an amazing strategist, he just went through my shoes. That’s why he could say that. He would criticize everyone but me, so it was proof positive that I was being acknowledged by him. He did a really long form interview with Fomos about me and my mindset, and that was exactly how everything was going through my head at the time. So this person was someone who was almost identical in thought process with me.

Context: Choi “iloveoov” Yun Sung is considered one of the all-time great players of Brood War. He was a brilliant player that had much weaker mechanics relative to the competition but dominated him with his superior strategy and understanding of builds, economics and timings. He was known as the Cheater Terran because it felt like he must have been cheating as he got more units than other players did faster.

He is also the protege of BoxeR and in a famous OSL finals was forced to kill his mentor in ritual combat. It is the most miserable you will ever see a player look after winning the biggest tournament of their scene. Iloveoov also said this about Flash: “I think Flash has the ideal mindset as a pro gamer that I’ve been thinking about. There aren’t many players who set strategic moves, and in the case of Flash, I think he’s looking about 10 games ahead.”

After his playing days, Iloveoov became a coach for SKT and it was speculated that a lot of FanTaSy’s builds were built by him. Later, he took on the head coach position of SKT’s SC2 team after BoxeR left. He struggled with it in his first year before revamping the entire system. His work paid off as he won Proleague in 2015. In 2016, Proleague was ended and iloveoov’s future is uncertain.

Cover photo by Patrick Strack/ESL, eslgaming.com

Slingshot senior columnist. StarCraft and CS:GO expert who pushes narratives over numbers. You can reach him at Stephen@Slingshotesports.com

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