AD carry Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk has lived several esports lifetimes in his nearly four-year professional career.
He attended the League of Legends World Championship with Samsung Galaxy in his rookie season and won the title the next year and was the finals MVP. He was on the cusp of being crowned one of the best players in the world as Samsung Galaxy was purchased by KSV Esports and rebranded as Gen.G.
Despite his squad not making worlds this season and missing the cutoff for the knockout round in 2018, Ruler has been a bright spot on the roster for nearly four years. Now, he's being rewarded for his success.
Gen.G Esports announced Sunday that they had signed Ruler to a three-year guaranteed contract. Ruler will be the player around which Gen.G will build what they hope will return the franchise formerly known as Samsung Galaxy to the championship stage in South Korea's League Champions Korea and internationally.
Ruler's goals with Gen.G are simple.
"I want to win LCK and make it to all the international tournaments with the goal of winning it all," he said. "I want to become the most renowned ADC in Korea."
He is well on his way to becoming the latter, already recognized as one of the best players in his position. For the former, Ruler's fierce desire to win will become the core of Gen.G's team going forward.
"Honestly, I haven't thought or considered myself to have great leadership, but the head coach and assistant coaches have said that I have the leadership skills," Ruler said. "I always help my teammates practice harder and encourage them when things do not go as smooth during matches or scrims. I think this helps us to believe in each other and become a stronger team."
Ruler will need to exhibit and improve those skills as Gen.G rebuilds. The team, which had made three straight worlds appearances, missed out on even qualifying for the LCK regional gauntlet, let alone contending for a domestic title this season.
Ruler is the cornerstone of whatever comes next for Gen.G, COO Arnold Hur said, and the organization feels good about its chances with the bot laner at the helm.
"The biggest thing is that he's always the guy putting in the work," Hur said. "I know this sounds like a broken record, but he is."
Hur cited a conversation during the LCK summer playoffs as an example. Ruler told Hur that his stomach hurt just watching another team play in the knockout tournament, which Gen.G narrowly missed qualifying for.
Above all else, Hur said, Ruler is a grinder, the kind of player whose ambition and tremendous work ethic can lead a team purely by example.
"He's not the super aggressive guy," Hur said. "He's not going to do a great coaches' speech from a movie."
Instead, Hur said, Ruler is a player that can attract those kinds of players to a team just by being present. If Ruler's solo queue habits are any indication, Hur will be right. Ruler is known as a social butterfly in solo queue specifically and was already transitioning towards having a louder voice on Gen.G.
"Usually, other players add me on to the friend list in the game, but there wasn't anyone who came to me first in real life," Ruler said. "In terms of my personality outside of the game, I tend to match and adapt to my surroundings rather than taking the lead. However, in the game, I am very competitive and above all else hate losing in tournaments. So in the game, I tend to take the lead or express my opinion strongly in the games.
"At times like the Asian Games and often when I think we lost because I didn't play well, I have cried because I felt sorry for disappointing my teammates. When I was a rookie, I only thought about myself when I played, but now I'm playing for the team, and I think I've matured not only in-game but in general."
The AD carry has come a long way from the sheepish rookie tapping away at his phone as teammates led him through the Madison Square Garden hallways at worlds in 2016. The multi-year transition, he said, was a credit to the support his family has given him despite early misgivings about professional League of Legends.
"My parents come to the games often, so whenever I see them, I get a boost of extra energy and motivation," Ruler said. "My parents also often bring food for my teammates and me before matches. Honestly, I thank them so much for caring not only me but also my teammates throughout my entire career. I think I've only been able to come this far because of them. Their trust and support means a ton to me, so I'm going to make sure that I make them proud by taking Gen.G to worlds."