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Letters for the Future Fan – iDK

Volamel 2019-11-20 09:51:03

Dear fan of the future, I am unsure who is dominating the Overwatch esports ecosystem when you read this, or who is quickly climbing the rungs of the competitive ladder, but I write to you today about a team, player, or organization that is long past your time. Something that is timeless in their story and their purpose. Something that dared you to challenge your perception of the current landscape of Overwatch. These are my letters from the past to help educate people on where the community has come from and to act as a Rolodex of info on just who these teams were so that their legacy might continue to live on through you, the reader.
Modern Overwatch is a strange place.  Like most esports titles, the constant churn of updates and patches means that little can remain constant and with Overwatch 2 on the horizon, this feeling has never been more present. However, the one thing that has historically remained evergreen has been Overwatch’s leaders. To have a guiding hand in almost anything means that some level of confidence is needed. It’s this symbiotic relationship between confidence and intelligence, both academically and socially, that fosters good leaders. And one Overwatch League player who has no shortage of confidence is Park "iDK" Ho-jin, support player and shot caller for the Hangzhou Spark. Not only is iDK a charismatic personality and leader, but he also boasts a fairly interesting and extensive history that reveals more about who he is as a person behind the keyboard. His first major outing would be on the South Korean team, Afreeca Freecs Blue. Read More: Letters for the Future Fan - GC Busan Slotting in iDK was one of the many improvements the Afreeca Freecs Blue did as they shuffled about in their postseason following OGN’s Overwatch APEX Season 2. They also added experienced support Yoo "Lucid" Jun-seo, someone iDK would be very familiar with later in his career, as well as moving their former support player Kim "Mano" Dong-gyu to main tank. Afreeca Freecs Blue were put into Group B with rookie team X6-Gaming, RunAway, and KongDoo Uncia. iDK and company, easily coasted past the competition and advanced as first in the group, winning each match without dropping a single map. iDK and Afreeca would mimic that same confident swagger in the next phase of group play. The Freecs were put into Group A where they would quickly dispatch Meta Athena and the aforementioned X6-Gaming without dropping a single map. iDK and Mano stood out as bright spots as the team quickly advanced into the playoffs with something to prove. Unfortunately, that 15 map win streak would be put to a screeching halt when the team entered the semifinals.     On the opposite side of the bracket sat two contenders; KongDoo Panthera and Lunatic-Hai. With the later team dropping a set early on in the second phase of group play, it ultimately set the stage early on for a match between the rough and tumble Afreeca Freecs with the reigning champions, Lunatic-Hai. Sadly, even with Mano making a career-defining role swap to main tank, Afreeca still could not best the would-be champions.  iDK and his team would exit the event with a respectable 3rd place finish after beating a despondent Team EnVyUs, 4-1. After such a strong showing, you’d expect that iDK and Afreeca to ride off into the beautiful South Korean sunset and return just as strong in season four, right? Wrong. Following a strong regular season, Afreeca Freecs Blue saw massive returns in the public stock exchange and in turn, iDK’s public perception rose as well. People swore by Arhan’s flashy plays and with Mano’s incredibly successful role swap to main tank, there was room to consider that Afreeca could meet these lofty expectations in season four. However, two rookie teams planted their feet in defiance in Group C.  The first being the sister team to one of the perennial dark horses in the league, LW Red and behind them sat the eventual champions, GC Busan.      It was assumed that with veteran leadership and Afreeca’s strong individual performers, they would certainly be able to, at the very least, compete with the rising tide of rookie talent coming into the league from APEX Challengers. Unfortunately, fate had other plans for iDK and the Afreeca Freecs.  iDK and Afreeca won a single match.  Yes, you read that correctly. The team that triumphantly reinvigorated themselves with intelligent acquisitions and role swaps, and were synonymous with the word “undefeated” were stomped into the glossy ebony epoxy that covered the floor at OGN’s Giga Arena.  Irony is a fickle mistress and she proudly pulled the strings during APEX Season 4. The old veteran team with some of South Korea’s biggest names would unceremoniously be devoured by the impressive rookie talent sat right behind them.  However sad or worrisome, iDK’s individual performance and leadership on Afreeca Freecs positioned him well moving forward into his next venture.  Read More: Letters for the Future fan - OGN Apex “iDK was the captain of the team and sat in the captain's chair,” resident historian and current Overwatch League commentator, Wolf "Wolf" Schröder lovingly recalled. The booths at OGN’s Giga Arena had a strange but endearing quirk where the sixth chair was raised up and placed behind the rest of the team to allow the shot-caller a clear view of the five other screens. What was a quick amendment to soundproof booths used for other games, quickly became not only a staple of the era but an iconic image for early competitive Overwatch. It was upon this classic perch where iDK spent the majority of his time. “The rest of his team always spoke volumes about iDK’s leadership, even as early as when he joined in APEX Season 3,” Wolf said. “There was always a funny vibe around him in the trash talk videos, and everyone always jokingly referred to him as ‘Kong’ or ‘콩’ which means small pea or bean.” “His Lucio play was definitely top-notch, with great sound barriers in particular. The funny thing is, at first, he didn't stand out to most people because Arhan, Lucid, and Recry were by far the most notable players on the roster.” “That was until he started playing Torbjörn,” Wolf continued. “Afreeca Freecs Blue helped popularize the Orisa/Torbjörn strategies we still sometimes see today, notably on Numbani. iDK was a safe Torbjorn who knew how to play around Molten Core, making sure he was both building it quickly but playing safe enough not to die, as that meant the risky defense would be over.” Wolf affectionately called back to fond memories of the talented main support in contrast to his peers at the time, not only with his gameplay but how he carries himself. Wolf explained that through the handful of appearances he made during OGN’s trash talk videos, iDK quickly became a crowd-pleaser for the more global audience. He continued, “I think eventually iDK got the same respect that the legends he was leading had garnered.”  

“iDK is always an interesting person for me. He looks really humble and low key, but actually, he is really confident and I think he enjoyed the feeling of being on the stage.”

- Gai "Alan" Yandahan

  Following his departure from Afreeca Freecs Blue, iDK joined Lunatic-Hai’s new roster after they promoted a majority of their players into the Overwatch League as the Seoul Dynasty. However, iDK’s stint on the legendary organization would not last long as his only recorded tournament with the team was the Nexus Cup 2017 Annual Finals where he and Lunatic-Hai ended with a disappointing, but respectable 4th place finish. The following month, Lunatic-Hai would step away from Overwatch, dissolve its roster, and release all their players as free agents. iDK would next find himself submerged with a sudden uprooting as he transitioned from South Korea to China and joined the Chinese organization Lucky Future as a part of their South Korean sister team, Lucky Future Zenith. Joining him would be his fellow support from Afreeca Freecs, Lucid, along with a slew of names that now grace the Overwatch League stage. Names like Bae "diem" Min-seong, Jeong "Erster" Joon, and Choi "Michelle" Min-hyuk all stood beside him and formed what we now consider to be a legendary team in Chinese Overwatch history. iDK and Lucky Future Zenith would go on to dominate the region, claiming two of the three Overwatch Contenders titles in 2018. Read: Letters for the Future Fan - Meta Athena Overwatch Contenders China Season 1 would be iDK’s first foray into Chinese Overwatch with Lucky Future Zenith and things went about as good as they could have. They confidently blew past the group stage, facing very little opposition on their way to the top. And to that point, their only true competition came by way of T1w Esports in the semifinals. However, Lucky Future Zenith clenched their teeth and marched forward, defeating the promising T1w squad, 4-2.  This put Lucky Future Zenith in the grand finals against the ironmen of Overwatch Contenders China, LGD Gaming. This series would go the distance and feature all seven maps. Each team traded wins back and forth, blow for blow until Lucky Future Zenith broke LGD Gaming’s serve in the twenty-third hour and would be crowned the season one champions.  Season two wasn’t too much of a departure from that same script. iDK and Lucky Future Zenith dominated group play and roared into the playoffs as hands-down favorites. But this is where some surprising improvement came into play. Again, Lucky Future Zenith’s only real competition was T1w Esports, whom they faced in the semifinals once more. After besting their shortlived rivals, iDK and Lucky Future would once again meet LGD Gaming in the grand finals. This time, Lucky Future Zenith limited LGD Gaming to a single map and walked away not only defending their previous title but also sending a message. Overwatch League’s expansion teams for the 2019 season were put on notice.  The only thing to stop iDK and Lucky Future Zenith from dominating the final Overwatch Contenders season that year was their eventual promotion into the Overwatch League. However, the team would fracture and go their separate ways for undisclosed reasons. Lucky Future Zenith’s tank line would end up with the Seoul Dynasty, Erster would go to Atlanta, diem would find success in Shanghai, and iDK found himself as a part of the Hangzhou Spark.      “I think iDK meant a lot to Lucky Future Zenith,” Overwatch commentator and Chinese Overwatch expert, Gai "Alan" Yandahan explained. “Since we all know he is the shot-caller, I believe his leadership is the reason that Lucky Future Zenith could win most team fights so cleanly and even more, lose team fights wisely.  “iDK is always an interesting person for me. He looks really humble and low key, but actually, he is really confident and I think he enjoyed the feeling of being on the stage.” “One really interesting memory happened back in Overwatch Contenders Season 2 in 2018,” Alan explained. “At the grand finals, Lucky Future Zenith faced LGD Gaming and there was an interview before the match. Eileen was both giving really high praise to Lucky Future Zenith adding maybe a little bit of sarcasm.” “Eileen said that Lucky Future Zenith would be the Overwatch League Season 2 Champion.” “And then iDK said; ‘Yeah, of course, we will be.’” Alan laughed, “This memory actually drives me crazy.” With the Hangzhou Spark’s fourth-place finish in the 2019 Overwatch League season, iDK was nearly right in predicting a 2019 title run nearly a year prior. Something even the most bullish Chinese analysts would scoff at when doing preseason evaluations. However, I’m sure that didn’t phase iDK. If anything, I think that measured doubt probably fueled him. Confidence is the feeling and aspect of iDK, the person that sits in the driver’s seat and permits him the mineral not only to be a leader in-game but to make game-saving plays. It’s the cornerstone on which the Hangzhou Spark, a multi-lingual team, is built. Not many players can call themselves leaders and shot callers, and fewer can say that they’ve successfully led a multinational team. iDK heads that shortlist, boasting titles and championships in two different regions and on a handful of different teams. He’s flashy when he needs to be but usually stays consistent and at the end of the day, he is your quintessential leader.  Confidence and charisma, in this case, are key and iDK knows that all too well.
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.

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