This was the biggest year ever for esports. Competitive gaming has more players, a bigger audience, and a brighter future than ever before. Over a period of 10 days, the Daily Dot will profile people who’ve fueled this unprecedented growth, from top players to industry visionaries.
In earlier pieces, we looked at Cosmo Wright, the king of speedrunnning, and Erik Johnson, Valve’s esports mastermind. Today, we’re introducing you to Lee Sang-hyeok, the Leage of Legends star also known as simply “God.”
Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is the best player on the world championship squad in the biggest eSport on the planet.
Playing for South Korea’s storied SK Telecom T1 franchise, first a top StarCraft: Brood War squad and now the class of League of Legends, Lee has been called the Lionel Messi and Michael Jordan of his game. A mere 17 years old, he’s the sort of player that fans worship and other professionals admire.
Lee’s style is made for the spotlight. Aggressive, flashy, exciting, and fast, it’s the type of play that goes viral and keeps people talking for days after a match is through. Of course, all that chatter has provoked the occasional skeptic. Is Faker imore hype than substance? Is he really the best player in the world?
This year Faker silenced critics with authority.
After most of the on-site analysts predicted a Chinese world championship in October 2013, Faker appropriately shed first blood in the finals and his Korean national championship team sprinted to a 3-0 victory over Chinese champions Royal Club, earning them the unquestioned title of best in the world.
Lee obviously knows League of Legends as well as or better than anyone else. He has the potential to outthink anyone. But his most distinctive quality is physical: speed. He can move faster, smarter, and with greater purpose than anyone on the other side of the game.
There are other great players. Even on Lee’s own team, his mate Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin earned much deserved praise for his role in the team’s championship run, especially for his top play in the grand finals. But when you take the year in totality, there’s no one who can compare to Faker.
Lee has earned a few nicknames in his time: “The Unkillable Demon King” is a memorable one. Probably the most appropriate, however, is simply “God,” obviously an honor and a callback to another one of the greatest players in esports history, the StarCraft: Brood War legend Lee “Flash” Young Ho.
That’s about the highest compliment you can pay an esports player.