im37: “Now it’s time to actually prove myself as a player”
At the start of 2019, no one in the Overwatch scene had Jin “im37” Hong on their radar. On March 14th, he was announced as a DPS player for Wave Check, an Open Division team at the time. Ten days later, he leveled up, joining Second Wind to play in Contenders. This stop lasted all of a week before he again took a massive leap forward, this time to the Toronto Defiant and the Overwatch League. Im37’s speedrun of the Path to Pro system made him an instant sensation but also threw him straight in the deep end of professional Overwatch.
After his meteoric rise to the OWL, im37 returned to Contenders, working to improve his game and return to the OWL stage. Now, he’s made it back, landing a spot with the Boston Uprising. Ahead of the 2021 season, we discussed his trial by fire in 2019, what he’s learned in Contenders and his expectations for his new team.
Hotspawn: Your rise into the OWL came very suddenly in 2019. Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew back then? What would be your advice for yourself as a rookie?
im37: Basically, when I first joined Overwatch League, I was not prepared well as a player, whether it was my mechanical skills or how to play as a team player. I would tell myself to learn more about using your teammates when you’re playing. Back then, I only cared about my mechanical skills as a main DPS player, but Overwatch is a team-based game 6v6, so using your teammates to get better is really important.
Hotspawn: Looking back now, is there any part of you that thinks it came too fast? Do you think you would have been better off spending a little longer developing in Contenders?
im37: I definitely think I could have developed myself as a player playing more in Contenders. Going into the league, that escalated really quickly, but I was really happy that I had the opportunity to play against the best players in the world. That also helped me to improve as a player and motivated me so hard.
Hotspawn: You didn’t really get much of a chance to display your skills as a DPS player with Toronto. Do you feel you have something to prove now that you’re back in the league?
im37: If I think I’m good enough, I’ll be able to show my skills and how good I am. Now it’s time to actually prove myself as a player and how much I improved.
Hotspawn: That Defiant team seemed to have issues properly managing a mixed language roster. What were some of the problems you faced, and how can they be fixed or avoided altogether in Boston?
im37: Basically, when I was in Toronto, it wasn’t a mixed roster when I first joined, so we communicated in Korean. When it became a mixed roster, the Koreans had a really hard time communicating in-game since they don’t speak English.
With Boston right now, since our roster is half English speakers and half Korean speakers, whenever our roster is five Korean speakers plus Punk, for example, like in the SteelSeries matches, we have some Korean words we decide to use in particular situations. For example, “JJook Ga,” which means keep going and dive for Echo. We were playing Sombra-Echo comps. We made those words, so Punk can easily understand, and we can keep playing.
Hotspawn: Speaking of Boston, what are your first impressions of your new team? What stands out about your new teammates?
im37: I think the thing that stands out most is professionalism. Obviously, we are all pro players, but we have to work hard to get good results and get the most out of what we are doing. As I’m staying here in Boston and playing for the Uprising, everyone here is hard working. For example, when we have feedback, it’s obvious how much they prepare. Our head coach goes over the comp and understanding of how to play as a team. Other coaches do the individual feedback and the micro things. We also have stats from our scrims to compare different teams we play against in scrims.
Hotspawn: You’ve worked with Coach Lori both with WGS in Contenders and now with the Uprising. Could you describe his coaching style and how he’s shaping the team?
im37: His coaching style is very strict in one word. If you make a mistake, he wants to point it out, and he tells me until I fix it. What I mean by strict, he doesn’t care about being nice or anything. If I make a mistake, I have to fix it. Besides when we’re scrimming, he’s really friendly, but when we’re working or screaming or giving feedback, he’s very strict.
It makes the team very close in terms of giving feedback to each other in a good way. We are very open about saying things like “We should do this” or “If you had used this, then we could have won.”
Hotspawn: How was your experience playing with WGS? What was it like playing in Contenders Korea and the Gauntlet versus your previous experience in North America?
im37: Playing in Korea, I learned more about team play than just mechanical skills, even though I only played hitscans. A player called Ace played Tracer and Sombra. As I spectated his POV, I learned more about how to use teammates and teamwork. When I played for Uprising Academy before WGS, I was focusing on mechanical skill rather than teamwork.
Hotspawn: Two players most OWL fans might not be super aware of are your WGS teammates, Faith and Valentine. Could you tell me a little about them and what they bring to the Uprising?
im37: Many NA players don’t know Valentine, but he plays really smart when he plays Echo and Tracer. His mechanical skills are very good. The flex DPS is not usually the one who talks a lot, but he’s so mechanically gifted. Faith, he talks a lot and ult checks everything. He ult plans for the team a lot. If a teammate who has an ult cannot ult plan well, he does it for him too.
Hotspawn: We’re still a little over a month from the start of the season. What things is the team focusing on right now, and how does that differ from in-season practice?
im37: Right now, we are focusing hard on our communication rather than using teammates and teamwork. Obviously, that is important in Overwatch, but we are a mixed roster where we have to use English in-game. Obviously, the Koreans don’t speak English, but they’re working hard. They have English lessons. So, we are focusing on communication first.
Hotspawn: Individually, what are you looking to accomplish this season? What are your goals?
im37: My goals are to prove to the audience how much I improved as a player. I can show that by getting good results, maybe getting into the playoffs.
Hotspawn: Finally, what constitutes a successful season for Boston this year, and where do you see the ceiling of this team?
im37: I think since we are a mixed roster, the ceiling is something we can break. Individually, I think the players are good enough to have a really high potential. That means we have to work really hard and break the language barrier. When we are playing dive comp or any other comps, communication is the issue. Between fights, you have limited time, but doing that in English is challenging for my team. We are working on that, but if we work hard, I think we can get into the playoffs at least.
The Overwatch League returns to action on Friday, April 16th. The Uprising plays its first match in Week 2 as they take on the Los Angeles Gladiators on April 24th. All matches can be viewed on the Overwatch League Youtube channel.