On Passion and the North American Challenger Series: DanDy and GBM

Lee “GBM” Chang-seok with NRG eSports during the 2016 NA LCS Spring playoffs (Riot Games/lolesports)

Lee “GBM” Chang-seok enters the interview giggling. His bright and loud “Hello!” is echoed by a softer “Hello.” in the background.

The echo is GBM’s latest partner-in-crime, Choi “DanDy” In-kyu, who has a shyer demeanor but continues to laugh softly. We quickly exchange pleasantries before the start of the interview.

“I’m good!” GBM immediately says, without provocation. “How about you DanDy?”

There’s a long pause before a quiet, “Me too!” chimes in.

I first met GBM in Seoul. He was fresh off of a disappointing stint with NRG e-Sports in North America and had begun advertising himself as a jungler. He stood on a small, grassy patch by the gate of Namdaemun, declaring to us that he would be a World Championship jungler by the end of 2017.

As it is with most GBM witticisms, these words contained his honest determination to improve with no small amount of cheek and jest. Afterwards, he treated our group to dinner at a nearby family restaurant in Myeongdong, where he stated that he just wanted us to have fun while we were in Korea.

Now he’s a mid laner on North American Challenger Series team EUnited, with DanDy, the greatest jungler in the history of League of Legends, at his side.

GBM asks if I have a translator. I don’t.

“It’s okay, I will translate,” GBM says proudly, in the same tone as that day in Namdaemun.

“If possible, uh, give me easier English,” he says. I tell him that his English is good, far better than my Korean.

“I know!” GBM says. DanDy laughs at him.

I ask my first question to GBM: Why return to the mid lane? GBM pauses and DanDy laughs again, asking GBM if he’s alright.

GBM loudly yells, “Kris!” calling presumably for a translator like a child calling for their parent. DanDy continues to giggle in the background.

“Last year I had bad performances at mid,” GBM finally says once their laughter dies down. “I always had a mind to jungle and that’s why I changed. When I was playing jungle it was really good for me. I learned so much from the jungle position so I thought that I could use this knowledge to go back to mid lane.”

I ask GBM if DanDy has seen his jungling, and what he thinks about it. Without asking DanDy, GBM immediately says, “Impressive. Fantastic! And gorgeous!”

“It’s not true,” DanDy immediately chimes in.

Choi “DanDy” In-kyu while on Samsung Galaxy White at the 2014 World Championship (Riot Games/lolesports)

One of the more surprising mid-season roster moves in North America came not from a League of Legends Championship Series squad, but challenger team EUnited. In filling their two import slots — previously occupied by German jungler Erberk “Gilius” Demir and Swedish mid laner Hampus “Fox” Myhre — with DanDy and GBM. With franchising on the horizon, it’s EUnited’s best, and possibly final, chance to prove their value as a possible permanent partner for the new league.

“The weather is best,” GBM says, when asked why he chose to come to North America. “For me anyway. Also I like summer. My strong point is that I can speak English in game. That’s why I didn’t go to China. I didn’t want to learn another language again. Language is very important for the team and I thought that speaking English was a strong point, so I chose to come to NA.”

“NA people are more comfortable in a team environment,” GBM continues. “The team atmosphere is more comfortable.”

Perhaps this atmosphere is why EUnited have seen so much success in the 2017 NACS Summer. They currently sit atop the standings, undefeated in series with an 80 percent overall winrate.

“We have about a 90 percent win rate in scrims,” GBM says. “Because our mid laner is GBM.”

DanDy begins laughing again.

“Sometimes DanDy starts inting, but I still carry.”

The jungler starts speaking rapidly in Korean.

“He says the house is good, and there’s no…” he trails off and asks DanDy again in Korean, struggling to find the words to translate what DanDy says in the best way.

“You know, in Korea, everything is so strict about age differences, elders, younger. In NA culture there is no class. Who is better who is worse, there’s nothing to separate them. Everyone is a friend, the owner, our teammates, anyone. DanDy really likes that.”

Throughout his career, DanDy has been under no small amount of pressure. While in China on Vici Gaming, this pressure became insurmountable, eventually leading to a break from competitive League of Legends entirely during the 2017 spring season.

“[DanDy] feels like we’re improving a lot. We’re better than he thought,” GBM says.

Although both GBM and DanDy have been jovial throughout the afternoon, their tone turns more serious as the two discuss DanDy’s competitive break.

“In China he lost his passion to be a pro gamer,” GBM finally says in English. “So that’s why he took a break for a bit.”

He translates as DanDy speaks, with DanDy correcting and prodding him at times.

“The reason why—” DanDy says.

“The reason why I came to NA,” GBM says slowly. He changes to third person. “When he was on a break, he was just worrying about his life. So he got his passion again.”

DanDy agrees with this translation but bursts out laughing again. Having one’s inner thoughts laid out so succinctly can be embarrassing.

There’s little doubt that DanDy and GBM are happy. They both seem wholly comfortable with one another and their environment, and it reflects in their gameplay.

“Communication is better than I thought,” GBM says. “Our NA teammates are the best in the Challenger Series. I’m sure we can get first place in NACS. [DanDy’s] English is better than I thought. He needs to talk more. He is too shy.”

GBM turns to ask DanDy if he’s shy.

DanDy just laughs.

Emily Rand’s love of the 2013 KT Rolster Bullets will never die. You can follow her on Twitter