Korean Soloqueue: The Best or the Worst?
posted by Matsudeus, 2 years agoMany people believe that Korea's outstanding results in the pro scene means that the everyday players on the Korean server are also a step above the rest. Well, wonder no more for I am here to take you on a wonderful journey through Korean solo-queue.
For the past year or so, since Korean teams emerged onto the professional League of Legends scene, they have been a dominant force. Regardless of which team was competing, they have rarely been toppled by international teams. For example the former Azubu teams, now CJ Entus Blaze and CJ Entus Frost came to many international tournaments and proceeded to clean house. Whatever the tournament regardless of the opposition, the Korean teams just seemed on a whole other level of gameplay and understanding. The general perception of why this is comes down to practice regiment. Any venture into Korean culture shows that they take schooling and education very, very seriously. After kids finish their normal day at school they are then subject to more learning activities at private academies until well into the evening. It should therefore be no surprise that this dedication and heavy workload mentality would translate over to pro gaming practice routines. In addition to the strict practice regime schedule; as an English teacher in Korea I’ve noticed that even from a young age, Koreans are VERY competitive and absolutely hate to lose. When these two ingredients are combined, they create a recipe for domination within e-Sports.
Of course like every server one must start at the beginning, which means getting started on that harrowing account grind to level 30. As we all know, the other servers are polluted with smurfs at low levels, set out to make life miserable for any and all newcomers. Let me tell you, Korea is no different. When I began my adventure I was confronted with many a smurf Vayne. Now anyone who has ever played against a skilled Vayne understands how truly horrifying they can be after a delicious feed from bot lane. Needless to say, things were not off to a great start. The usual bickering over lanes and afk-ers still existed too, although with an enormous language barrier in the way, it became difficult to tell who was trolling and who was “breaking the meta”. After not so long, through sheer perseverance and wavering willpower I made it to level 30. Considering the state of pre-30 games on other servers I decided not to make any judgements based on this experience, instead saving my patience for the joys of ranked.
The Abuse Cometh: Korean Soloqueue
To be fair, I started playing at a very awkward time. I arrived in Korea just as the overhaul patch for Season 3 was released. All the items were new, stats had been changed and everyone was figuring things out. Slowly. This meant I had to change my client to English in order to know what the buggery I was doing. Unfortunately when the KR client is changed to English, you lose the ability to view or type any Korean characters, which in turn made champion select an absolute treat. At first I would say nothing and take whatever role was left, but as I climbed the ranks, moving further up the pick order made this difficult. It was when I decided to try speaking English that I was truly brought into the belly of the beast.
I remember it like it was yesterday: The birds were singing, the sun was shining, and I had Kimchi running through my veins. I was ready to take on whatever and whomever Summoners Rift might throw at me. The champion select music began and my fire was ignited. Ready to get my carry on, I type in the chat: “Jungle or Support please” eager to please my team-mates. Then it happened. My welcoming statement into the Korean leagues: “Go home yankee”… All of a sudden the birds were screeching, the sun was glaring on my monitor and the spicy Kimchi was unsettling my stomach. Then I saw it again, this time from multiple sources: “Go home yankee” shortly followed by tormenting statements like “fu1ck” and “moth.er fIuIc!k”. What kind of world had I entered? Who had I wronged? So many questions, only to be met with nothing but a stream of broken profanities. “But I’m not even American...!” I told myself. None of this mattered. I was simply fresh, foreign meat to be insulted and trolled at great length.
My ranked partners offer a warm welcome
Ok, so I may have taken some liberties in my meagre storytelling, but for the most part these events actually happened. It didn’t take long for me to discover how toxic even the Korean ranked community could be. Every second game I would be insulted in some form or another purely for speaking English. There is two sides to this coin though. Coming from EU-West, I know that the exact same behaviour is present to those who don’t speak English. They are ridiculed, flamed and chastised until they either: cave in and assimilate, shrink into silence, or simply rage right back at their aggressors. It is difficult to take a stance on this as Europe West and East has such an enormous multicultural player-base and with no official ruling on English being the only language to be used, periodic spouts of abuse are almost to be expected. Korea is an altogether different kettle of fish though. As far as I’m aware, the Korean server is exclusively for Koreans, therefore again, abuse for not adhering to the regions language could almost be expected in this kind of online environment.
At first I was quite confused about why they spelled their profane words wrong constantly, or just wrote them in ridiculous ways until I discovered that interestingly, Korean accounts must be made with a Korean SSN: the users social security number, thus linking all online activity to a real ID. Many kids/teenagers actually borrow their parents ID’s as there are restrictions on their own. For a start, young persons' accounts are unable to play games after 10.30pm. Also, from what I can tell, they also have a severe profanity filter. Either that, or they are terrified of using bad language, just incase. Hilariously enough, this almost turns the once soul destroying champion select and in-game chat into a more fun game: “spot the kid playing on his parents ID”. I actually believe this is a good feature to have as it makes it easier to deal with toxic players on the server. However, I have no idea how strictly the Korean "ban-team" take these offenses.
With all that being said, I am perhaps being too critical of Korean players as I have also met many, many friendly Koreans who are very eager to befriend native English speakers and it’s gotten to the point where I play duo ranked mostly with a Korean online friend. I am also now making a conscious effort to learn the Korean phrases for role-calling along with general team-talk and will be changing my client back to Korean. At the very least, this will stop every name and chat entry showing up as nonsensical boxes!
The Standard of Play
Even though the playing environment can be very toxic at times, I have actually found that 90% of the time, the level of play is better than other servers I have played on. I am currently Gold, having worked my way up the ranks. It's taken me a few months to get there, and my promotion best of 5 series from Silver to Gold was without doubt the most difficult set of games I've played in 2 years of League of Legends. It's hard to explain why the players are better. You will generally see much more aggression over the map, objective prioritization and understanding of when to fight and when to back off. The most impressive element to me thus far has been the great coordination of teamfights. The teams seem to understand their roles of peeling, engaging, target priority and positioning in a much more fluid way. Not every game is a stellar example of this of course, but I've certainly found myself having to really step up my own play to keep up.
However, in a sad counter-balance to these great player traits, Korea also has the single worst player mentality when they start to lose. I have lost count of how many times a player has given first blood and proceeded to AFK. It is incredibly frustrating to play from behind in Korean ranked because players are so prone to giving up or trolling to get the game over faster. Just yesterday I had a game where this scenario came about. I was jungling and by 6 minutes had gotten our mid-lane 2 kills, starting a fantastic snowball. But, because I didn't gank top in this time, our toplaner died in a 1v1 and played the rest of the game by stealing my jungle camps and buying nothing but Rejuvenation Beads. There has been very little sense of player responsibility that I've seen so far. This happens in all servers of course, but once you are revealed as a foreigner, you automatically become the centre of all blame, ending up right back at that toxic environment.
The Truly Awful Adherence to the Pro Scene
Now that the player mentality and ability has been established, it's time to talk about what champions they love to play, or "The Meta". Let me start by saying, This is by far the worst part about playing ranked in Korea. There are jokes about how it happens in EU and NA too, but Korea lives and breathes what the pro players decide to play at any given time. Should you watch OGN one night and something unorthodox is played to any level of success, you can be damn sure when you log on to play that night it's 100% picked or banned. At present I have SKT T1 Reapered to thank for bringing back Vladimir with the relatively unconventional build of Spirit of the Spectral Wraith. I see it nearly every single game with varying degrees of success. There's also the standard tournament picks and bans that appear, with the likes of Kha'Zix, Jayce and Thresh being prime examples. While this isn't unique to Korea, it becomes irritating when you discover that there is very little ingenuity to be found within the player pool, and should you want to play something that condradicts the flavour of the month, you will probably be in for another round of abuse or mockery.
Taking stock of each of these factors, as much as I love living in Korea and having to increase my skill level in League of Legends because of the higher standard of play, I almost long for the days of playing back on EU West, even if it is a case of "The grass is always greener on the other side". At least on EU West, I could read and understand the torrents of abuse hurled in my direction.