Striding forward - A candid interview with Fissure
The newest member of the Los Angeles Gladiators Overwatch League franchise, Chan-hyung "Fissure" Baek, is widely considered to be one of the best main tank players in Overwatch. His reputation persisted through his time as a member of his previous teams, KongDoo Panthera and London Spitfire. However, his lack of gold medals and trophies has left him hungry for a first-place title.
He knows he is championship material.
Fissure joined the Gladiators after the London Spitfire defeated the New York Excelsior in the Stage One playoffs of Overwatch League. Following their victory, the Spitfire re-evaluated their roster and put two players on the market. Fissure was one of them. After careful deliberation,, the decision was made to transfer him to the Los Angeles Gladiators.
With his transfer complete, it’s tempting to see Fissure simply as a star member of the Los Angeles Gladiators. But behind the name is a 19-year-old whose honesty, frankness and passion allows him to speak without reserve about who he is as a person, and not just a player.
No matter the field, competitors are driven by the insistent urge to conquer challenges placed in front of them, and Fissure is no exception to this law. “I used to play a lot of physical sports,” Fissure says. He was especially fond of skiing. “But I was interested in esports since middle school, such as League of Legends…Sometimes I was a casual gamer, but [eventually] I actually tried hard to become a progamer.”
His parents initially supported his goal, but as time went on, they grew increasingly concerned for his future. “They always told me to study while playing games so [that] even if I failed at becoming a [pro gamer], I would have a backup plan. However, I never listened to them and always went to PC cafes to play games. I didn't even go there to practice, though…thinking back about it now, my head spins.” He pauses for a moment, reminiscing. “I was living without any plans.”
Fissure’s first foray into esports was in League of Legends, where he achieved Challenger status, but was unable to launch his pro career. “After I failed to become a [progamer] in League of Legends, one of my friends recommended that I try becoming a [progamer] in Heroes of the Storm,” Fissure says. “I got lucky enough to get into a team and that built a foundation for my career.”
In Heroes of the Storm, Fissure went by the handle “minepang.” Early in 2016, he joined a team called “1.4” and qualified with them to compete in the Heroes of the Storm Super League Season 1 put on by OGN. 1.4 did not win a single map in the group stages and exited the tournament at 7-8th place. Fissure’s next tournament would be the GIGABYTE Heroes of the Storm Power League Season 1 organized by Inven. 1.4 improved on their record by managing to take one map away from a team called “Supreme Mixtape”, but it was a pyrrhic victory. They achieved only 5-8th place. Fissure’s crowning achievement in Heroes of the Storm was a 4th place finish during the Heroes of the Storm Super League’s second season with his new team, Mighty.
When Blizzard’s latest game, Overwatch, grew in popularity as an esport in South Korea via APEX, Fissure decided to make the switch from Heroes of the Storm. Notwithstanding the difference in genre between Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm, Fissure would not squander away his precious time in the PC cafes. He approached this new opportunity how he should have approached the latter: by pursuing absolute mastery. “Despite the other teammates' disagreement, the coach at KongDoo Panthera picked me up for the team,” Fissure says. “I practiced like a maniac to prove myself.”
Prove himself he did. Fissure put on a performance that would cement his legacy as a star main tank player in the APEX Season 3 grand finals—to the degree that Lunatic-Hai all agreed that Fissure was one of their biggest problems throughout the entire match. Although KongDoo Panthera—later renamed Cloud9 KongDoo—never won an APEX title, every iteration of the team was always a contender. Fissure was key to their strong performances. That being said, how did Fissure think of his own performance thus far in his career?
“If a lot of people consider me as the best, then I am the best,” Fissure answers frankly. “If people think I'm bad, then I'm bad…Even if I show them my best and if they still think I'm not the best [sic], then I'm not the best.”
His words are sharp, but they reflect how far he has come since the days he played in PC bangs to avoid studying. He values what people think of him, almost to a fault. He is also his own harshest critic, never resting on his laurels. His performance with the Gladiators in their dominant victory against the San Francisco Shock was a statement; Fissure needed a bit more time to synergize with the team and vice versa, but their combined potential was clear. However, he adds a blunt asterisk: “I don't really put much meaning into that match because there are still much tougher opponents to beat.” It is this mentality of pursuing excellence that has driven him to where he is today, and it will underscore his efforts to continue integrating into the Gladiators.
Taking the Watchpoint mini interview with Fissure into consideration, it was clear that there was some adjustment for him and the team. Fissure mentioned in the interview that he wasn’t too happy with the transfer in the beginning, but that he has slowly grown fonder of the team overall. “I'm still getting to know Bischu,” Fissure says. “He helps me by translating my strategies and orders to the rest of the team.” Were there were any specific changes he could put his finger on? “It feels like LA Gladiators is a much more flexible team after I joined.” With a strong front line led by Fissure’s role as main tank, his presence on the team relieves specific pressure off of the rest of the roster. This allows them to play with more flexibility. At this point, the integration of Fissure is still being established, but the potential is there for the LA Gladiators to make some serious waves in the later stages of the first season.
Overwatch League has changed Fissure’s life. He is no longer a teenager paying by the hour to play in a PC bang. He is a young man who left his home behind to seek a long-awaited victory in Los Angeles. When I ask him why he competes—why all the risk, practice, hard work and dedication is worth it to him—he gives a firm, confident answer: “I talked about this in the past, but I don't play professionally for money. If money was my main goal, then I would have chosen other occupations. My goal is to be the best player in the best team and beat [my] opponents.”
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs 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 and OGN