An interview with KariV — The Heart of the People
On a crisp May morning, it was scheduled to be just another day of OGN’s Overwatch APEX Season 3. The French powerhouse versus the up and coming South Korean team was to be the second match of the day. I remember it fairly vividly; I rolled out of bed literally at the crack of dawn (APEX starts at around 6 AM EST). I grabbed my coffee and got comfortable. Little did we know it would mark the origin story of one of the fastest rising icons in Overwatch to date. On that spring morning, the world was introduced to Park “KariV” Young Seo.
I spoke with him previously about the day he booked his ticket into the hearts and minds of the western APEX fans as he made the trek from South Korea to Los Angeles. His team at the time, Mighty AOD, was set to be the weakest team in what was called the ‘group of death’ in APEX Season 3. This group was home to the defending champions, Lunatic-Hai, the incredibly aggressive KongDoo Panthera, and the French super team, Rogue. To open their first season of APEX, Mighty AOD squared off against Rogue and to the masses’ surprise, held their own.
It would be on the map Watchpoint: Gibraltar where KariV would flex off of his usual picks and take a gamble on Widowmaker at the begin of their attack round. “I wanted to win, so I picked Widowmaker, and Rogue just wasn’t able to suppress [me]. Their heads just got in the way of my shots. I didn’t really think too much of it.” Once their Manager, Joshua “dzMins” Kim, heard the answer, he chuckled and translated his answer into English, I knew exactly who I was speaking with. KariV’s answer was short, sharp, and spoke volumes about who he was. He was definitely a character, but an honest one, something to the degree of a loyal friend whom you might confide a secret in or even ask for advice. I knew I had to speak with KariV again, even if through email.
I tried to open him up a bit, trying to get into the mind of KariV. Just who was he, what did he enjoy? What did he do for fun? “I play Overwatch ranked games [...]” Even if it was through text, I wanted to establish some form of a bond, maybe even break down the walls a bit. “ [...] sometimes I listen to Korean Hip Hop. I love Korean fried chicken.” I sat and wondered for a moment after jotting down the question if KFC stood up to Korean fried chicken, but this wouldn’t be much of an Overwatch interview if we sat and analyzed food now would it?
Something that is constant throughout esports is exactly how a young man or woman is supposed to approach their parents about pursuing a career playing video games professionally. Some people have horror stories of screaming matches with their loved ones, others’ families could be a bit more accepting. “I became interested [in Overwatch] during [the] open beta. My family supported me all the way through it!” It was a breath of fresh air that KariV’s family slotted into the latter half of the two examples.
There is a lot to be said about a person based on what they do when it comes to Overwatch, it depends on what position they play on a team. For some, the position kind of calls to them. Maybe they played other games where they had previous success in a specific role–the possibilities are endless, but for KariV, it was off of a simple suggestion. “I played DPS/Flex on Mighty AOD, my old team. That team told me to try support and it turned out I was quite good and really enjoyed [it myself]. So, I stuck to it and I’m where I am today!”
There is a concept that is more prevalent in South Korean team-centric esports that talks about having a “team color” or a team style. Speaking of his previous team, Mighty AOD, I wondered what the transition was like now that KariV had been on the team for quite some time now. “Mighty AOD was so aggressive. [The LA] Valiant feels slower, more defensive and methodical.” Something else KariV mentioned also made complete sense. “Learning a new language was probably the hardest [thing], but the team was very supportive and helped me learn quickly.” As a South Korean native, just communicating with his English and French teammates would have to be one of, if not the, biggest hurdles to climb over, but it seems like KariV has conquered the language barrier with flying colors.
Recall when KariV broke into the scene with his performance against the French team, Rogue during APEX Season 3. Fate would have it that two of the members of Rogue now has joined the LA Valiants to play in the Overwatch League. KariV and his new French teammate, Benjamin "uNKOE" Chevasson share the same role. I wondered what it was like playing alongside a former competitor, did they swap any tricks or tips? As both of them are stellar flex support players in their own right, was there any advice shared either way?
“[I had] learned that he was going to be a good friend, but in game, we’re on an equal level right now. We will develop together and teach [each other] more things when we can.” Building a good team starts with trusting your teammates and creating a solid foundation. As just one of the members of the LA Valiant, I wondered; what did KariV think of his teammates? How would he describe them or their play style to someone? “Good” was his response, just one word, “Good.” His answer made me laugh. KariV means what he says and says what he means - literally. The more I questioned him about his team, the more it was clear; this was becoming more than just “business”, the LA Valiant was more of a fraternity of brothers.
At a young age, KariV has been given a vehicle to travel the words and pursue his passion for games. A vehicle that has drastically evolved over time, but nonetheless consistently was there, growing and evolving with him. Whether he was floating around the amateur scene during late into 2016, it didn’t matter to KariV, his dedication to his craft drove his passion to immeasurable heights. “I want to work towards being the number one team and the number one support player in the world!” His adamance was not only infectious but inspiring. Even within his few words, his messages were crystal clear and they spoke more to the human condition.
In a way, I think KariV embodies the quiet innocence of following your dreams, wherever they might take you (in KariV’s case, halfway across the world). In that same light, his story is one of the rising underdog, who by the pursuit of mastery, has now ended up representing Los Angeles, California at the grandest stage in Overwatch–the Overwatch League. KariV’s commitment to his dream and his goals were proudly on display when I asked him about what it felt like to finally start competing in the Overwatch League Preseason. His response was quiet but compelling; “It’s good because of [its] solid competition.” That’s it. He just wants to compete against strong opponents and grow. A simple goal, nothing outlandish. That being said, I’ve hoped you learned a bit more about the bed stealing, stoic, goofy, silly, and an incredibly handsome young man known to some as KariV and to others as Park, Young Seo.
Continue fighting and growing KariV, we’ll all be cheering for you! Because how can you not cheer for the “heart of the people?”
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLG’s of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment, Immortals/LA Valiant, and OGN.