Faker: “Living as a pro gamer is like a rollercoaster”

Faker opened up about his personal life in a recent interview.

Photo via Riot Games

If you watch Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s stream, you’ll notice he often wears a white T-shirt while playing. It’s become a de facto part of his wardrobe, like his round Harry Potter-style glasses and slightly unkept hair.

Now we know why he’s stuck to plain white tees. His choice in clothing reflects his practical nature rather than his fashion sense, according to an interview with Korean news site The Chosun Ilbo, which was translated by Reddit user sailorpetite.

“I don’t care about my clothes,” Faker said. “If clothes have patterns or colors, it’s confusing which one’s clothes are [in the gaming house]. I recently realized all of the white shirts look like mine, so they’re easy to find.”

Throughout the piece, Faker talked about his life as a pro gamer in a more personal sense than you typically get in post-match interviews. It was reminiscent of last year’s OGN series on SKT where cameras followed Faker home to a birthday party. Both are glimpses into what it’s actually like to be the most popular League of Legends pro in the world.

Born like this

Screengrab via OGN

A lot has been written about Faker’s start as the best League player ever. We know about how his grandma would cheer him on as he practiced into the early morning light, as well as the time when he reached the top of the Korean ladder and SKT signed him as just a teenager. For Faker, that was the easy part.

“I didn’t put a lot of effort in League of Legends,” he said. “But I got rank one. I suppose I’m suited for being a professional gamer. I don’t get mad easily. Everybody asks me, ‘How do you manage your’ mental? I said, ‘I was just born like this.’ At a recent personality test, they said I am a robot.”

But he understands that not everyone’s like that. He agrees that gaming can be an addiction. His solution is for parents and children to talk honestly about why children like to play games, and that games can be valuable tools for play and learning. But he admits he’s been “lucky” with how far his own gaming talent took him.

Faker’s rise to the top of the League universe was meteoric—he won Worlds in his first year with SKT. But his career as a professional gamer has definitely tested him. In interviews, you can sense the pressure that he feels and how that weighs on him. In recent years, the championships haven’t come so easily, and more people are bold enough to criticize his play.

In addition, pro gamers don’t get that much time off—just 30 days a year, according to Faker. There are no such things as nights and weekends for LCK pros. “It’s not a simple matter” to be a pro gamer, Faker says. He said that if his kids don’t have the right temperament for the gaming life, he’d encourage them to do something else.

Korean hype train

Photo via Riot Games

It’s that temperament that Faker believes has historically set Korean esports athletes apart. Until last year, Korea had won Worlds five straight times.

But he also acknowledges that things like fast internet and a competitive player pool that helped Korea in the past are less of an advantage now. Everyone has gaming houses and teams are better at scouting Korean players than they used to be.

Korea won some of their regional pride back by beating China at Rift Rivals last week. Faker has some unique history with LPL teams—they’ve recruited him before, but he’s always chosen his lifestyle back home, remaining loyal to SKT and his country. And he thinks he has work left to do with his team.

“Living as a pro gamer is like a roller coaster,” Faker said. “I think I’m definitely worse than my best season. I will do my best and get better.”

Faker may not be the most talented player anymore. But he’s still seen worldwide as an icon, a role model for what a professional gamer should be. And he takes that seriously—he understands he’s judged by more than the quality of his gameplay and the speed of his mechanics.

“Lots of fans have loved me as this image of Faker,” he said. “Many young people look up to me so I have to look gentle and well-mannered. If I do some bad thing, they would be influenced. And I have some rules for me which are: ‘Be modest, be honest, be nice, and don’t swear at all.'”