Bang “JJoNak” Sung-hyeon was in the audience when an old friend of his, Moon “Gido” Gi-do, won the OGN Overwatch Apex in season three. Gido lifted the trophy, crying, and JJoNak felt both happy and jealous. He wanted to be up on that stage with him.
Before New York Excelsior and the Overwatch League, JJoNak was just another kid who was really good at video games. Now he’s a professional gamer playing with one of the best teams in the world. JJoNak signed to LW Blue—the roster that makes up much of the Excelsior squad—in 2017, but never got to play in South Korea’s prestigious Overwatch Apex tournament. (The team dropped out of the last season in preparation for the Overwatch League.)
It took a long airplane ride and Overwatch’s largest stage to date to make his pro-gaming debut—a journey JJoNak describes in a new NYXL Origins video posted to YouTube.
“At first I was nervous,” JJoNak told Dot Esports. “I wasn’t used to the crowd cheering and all the different sounds on stage. Now my mindset is to enjoy the competition which helps calm my nerves and give the best performance that I can.”
“It’s still unreal to me, playing with my idol as a competitor,” JJoNak said in the Origins video. JJoNak has looked up to Ryu “ryujehong” Je-hong since he first saw him play—from there, JJoNak looked to mimic ryujehong’s playstyle, down to the in-game setting he used.
Now, JJoNak rivals ryujehong as one of the best Zenyatta players in the league. JJoNak has consistently been an important part of the Excelsior roster with the sheer amount of healing and damage he produces while playing support.
“It feels really, really good,” JJoNak told Dot Esports. “I’m glad the hard work is paying off.”
JJoNak is now living in Los Angeles with his team to compete weekly in the Overwatch League, representing the city of New York. “The flight from Korea to Los Angeles was my first time on an airplane in a long time,” JJoNak said. “I couldn’t get any sleep, which made the first few days difficult.”
Plus there’s the stuff he misses from home—his dog Cho-Rong is what he misses the most.
But Los Angeles isn’t bad: JJoNak said his favorite thing about the Californian city is the trash laws. “I don’t have to throw away trash separately,” JJoNak said. “In Korea, you have to throw away regular trash, food waste, paper, plastic, metals, etc., into their separate containers, by law.”
Of course, the Overwatch League and NYXL aren’t bad either. “Skill-wise, we’re really good,” JJoNak said. “I also think that the chemistry we have built as a team is a big part of our success.”
They’re not in the clear, though: “The other teams in the league are great so we must continue to improve each and every day,” JJoNak said.