When he burst onto the professional scene in 2014 coming out of the Xenics organization, the first word usually accompanied by watching his play was "Wow." A highly skilled and overwhelming marksmen, Oh "Ohq" Gyu-min was seen as the heir apparent to the likes of SKT T1's Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin and Samsung White's Gu "imp" Seung-bin when it came to being the next great AD carry out of South Korea.
Present day, here he sits in the press box of the NA League Championship Series arena with NRG Esports team manager Barry Lee on hand to serve as interpreter for him. Tiny in stature, Ohq sits down to be interviewed, coming off a close defeat to the undefeated Immortals. NRG sits at the opposite end of the spectrum of 0-3, and former heir apparent is learning that North America isn't going to be so easy to conquer.
"I'm disappointed because even though we won one game, in the end it's the total match result that matters," said Ohq, describing his feelings post-match on how well he thought he preformed. "I'm disappointed."
For a lot of young South Koreans who jump from the domestic league to compete in foreign competition, a lot of them are seen as doing it for the money. A nice vacation. A sizable check to put in your bank account when you head back home. Ohq, on the other hand, isn't happy with his situation -- he wants to win. Even after a hard-fought match against the reigning regular-season champions where he played extremely well, he's sullen, desperately wanting to turn around a season going in the wrong direction.
"At first, we didn't mesh very well," he said on his bot-lane partnership with veteran North American support Alan "Kiwikid" Nguyen. "But after practicing for a little while, I think we're more in sync. We're fitting together."
He continued on when asked about how he was adjusting to his new surroundings in the United States. "There is a lot of food that doesn't match well with my taste. The air actually is cleaner [here] than Korea, and in general I think it's pretty good."
NRG Esports hasn't come exactly come together in the first three matches of the season. Ohq has ranged from getting caught out and making mistakes to looking like one of the best AD carries in the western region; the rest of NRG has followed suit in being incredibly inconsistent. Lee "GBM" Chang-suk changes masks from unimpressive mid laner to carrying maestro on a dime, and Lucas "Santorin" Tao Kilmer Larsen had a rocky first week before being NRG's best player in the series for Immortals. The only player that hasn't really performed above average at least once this split has been the team's starting top laner, Diego "Quas" Ruiz, who has had difficulty returning to pro play after a six-month break.
"There's definitely a language barrier between me and a lot of my teammates," he said. "But we use short [English] words with each other to communicate, and they meet me halfway. On top of that, we laugh, smile, and joke around with each other. It's pretty good."
Compared to his Korean teammate GBM, Ohq seems to come from a different world. Shy and reserved in his speech and greetings, NRG's starting mid laner is the complete opposite. He is upfront and outgoing, not the most proficient when it comes to the English language but having no fear trying to converse in it. As a duo, however, when they're actually clicking as a unit, they can beat the likes of Immortals with their skill and play level. In the first game of the series in which NRG steamrolled over Immortals, it was the carrying tag-team of Ohq and GBM, along with Santorin's sleek setups, that paved the way to victory.
"It's tough to answer that right now," he said when asked what he saw for himself in the future. "I haven't been in America that long, and we just started the season. I kinda want to see how things progress, and at that end point, that's where I think I'll make the decision to go back to Korea or stay in America."
Living away from home and making good money while living in a nice city might seem like a dream to some, but it can be difficult. We saw how hard it was for Piglet to assimilate himself with the Team Liquid organization in his first few months in America, and just recently, Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim, left the NA LCS runner-up Team SoloMid to return home to EU LCS' Fnatic because he was more comfortable in his home continent. What we see on Summoner's Rift is usually what we take away from the players, but we can't forget the distinct environments they have to live in and the mindsets they have about their surroundings can affect them inside and outside of the game.
"[My former team] Najin, I think our biggest problem was that we had top class talent -- top class individual talent, but our shotcalling was very lacking," he said. "When we made our shotcalling it was very shortsighted most times, so because of that we weren't able to bring out our full potential when we played games."
Ohq's stint on Najin was the breakout his career needed, and also a warning to whichever team signed him next. An all-star level talent, Ohq would be unstoppable when he got a few kills behind him; however, even when his scoreline was something otherworldly like 11/0/3, there were times when he would flash forward into a team of five and give up a silly kill for no apparent reason. There was no question about Ohq's technical ability, but the question was if his game knowledge and patience would ever allow his talent to fully be utilized.
"Our biggest problem right now on NRG is that we have decent shotcalling bit we're lacking a lot in the strategy department," he admitted. "So we could definitely use work on both shotcalling and strategy. I think we're lacking in [both of those areas right now], and if we're able to shore that up, I think we can definitely be a top four team."
Communication barriers. Inconsistent coordination. A lack of strategic diversity. At the moment, Ohq and NRG Esports are not where they want to be. But for how shy he can seem outwardly, NRG's AD carry doesn't seem defeated or crestfallen. Determined to get better and unsatisfied with the results, yes. Ready to pack things in three games into the season? Not even close.
NRG has gone to three games versus two of the current top teams in the league. For a team with so many blatant issues across the roster, taking games off the top teams shouldn't be overlooked. As with Ohq himself, what could NRG be if it could fix those issues and reach its full potential?
So the former heir of South Korea's marksmen throne will continue on in America, working to make his dreams come true across the Pacific Ocean. Piglet is still in his way to be the best AD carry of the region he plays in. It might not be where Ohq thought his career would go two years ago, yet, he's here -- and be it South Korea, North America, or somewhere like Brazil or Turkey, his mentality is the same.
No moral victories. Just win.