The average 14-year-old faces adversity in the transition to high school. The average 14-year-old enjoys partying, hanging out with friends, and playing sports. Eugene Park was not the average 14-year-old. Rather, on top of all the aforementioned actions, Park became one of the first in a wave of young, hungry, and ambitious talent that would then pave the way for competitive League of Legends.
Discovering League of Legends
2010 was the year that 14 year-old Eugene Park entered League of Legends. Playing Maple Story and DoTA at the time, Park saw League of Legends as a “DoTA” knockoff- as did most of the community.
“ At the time I was sort of into DoTA, but was playing on a private European server and had a lot of latency, because as a 14 year old I didn’t have the money to buy Warcraft III and didn’t want to ask my parents to buy me it (sorry Blizzard) because they were already concerned with the time I spent playing video games. So hearing about this “DoTA-ripoff” as it was called in its beta days was actually really enticing to me. “
– Eugene “Pobelter” Park in an interview with Evil Geniuses
Going by the username Pobelter, Park instantly began spamming games of LoL. Pobelter quickly became known as a top player throughout the beta and Season 1 through his AP Sion mid play. The teenager’s rise towards the top of the ladder was fueled by Pobelter’s admiration of bigfatlp, midlaner of CLG.
“There was no particular reason I mained mid in the competitive scene. I first started getting well known because I would just spam AP Sion every game, and then that started to get banned once players realized I was a one trick pony, and so I branched out into other champions. I actually really looked up to bigfatlp back in Season 1, because he was the best player in the world. So I learned champions like AP Alistar, Kassadin, Orianna, and other champions from there to try and compete against him.”
A New Challenger Approaches
Park joined unRestricted eSports during Season 1, a team that was quickly acquired by Team Curse. Curse’s initial roster sent now 15 year-old Pobelter to the toplane, with Lapaka in the jungle, Nyjacky mid, DontMashMe as ADC, and LiQuiD112 on support. Taking home 4th place at MLG Raleigh 2011, Pobelter was replaced on Curse’s main roster by Jonathan “Westrice” Nguyen due to Park’s young age. At 15, Pobelter was ineligible to participate in major tournaments sponsored by Riot Games or ESL. Despite the teenager’s talent and strong performances, Pobelter would be benched and officially released from the Team Curse roster halfway through Season 2.
Pobelter returns to midlane in 2013 with Curse Academy
Heading to the Academy
After a stint on Meat Playground through the second half of Season 2, Pobelter rejoined the Curse organization under a new team. Curse Academy was formed as a secondary team to Team Curse, with Rhux in the toplane, IWillDominate in the jungle, Pobelter mid, Altec as ADC, and YoDa on support. With Riot’s new League Championship Series kicking off in North America and Europe, competition in the challenger scene began heating up: forcing players such as Park to compete for the top spots.
Curse Academy would steamroll through early challenger tournaments. The team would take home first place in the CLG Premier Series, NESL Premier League V, and the “We Will Do It Ourselves” Cup. In addition to their tournament wins, CA would finish 2nd in SoloMid’s IPL6 Qualifier.
Pobelter and Altec would become stars as members of Curse Academy. While both players were too young to participate in the LCS, the duo’s mechanical ability in solo-queue and in competitive games impressed fans of the professional scene.
Eugene’s performance, however, was not perfect. Pobelter’s nerves seemed to become a factor in meaningful games. Curse Academy threw multiple leads in major events that could have been won, partially due to Park’s shaky performance at times. This can be seen in CA’s shortcomings during the WellPlayed Cup, ESL Pro Series VI, and most notably in their loss to FXOpen e-Sports during the MLG Spring Championship Promotion Tournament.
After a devastating loss to FXOpen that would hamper Curse Academy’s chances at qualifying for the LCS, all five players would leave the team. For Pobelter, this meant trying his hand with new challenger teams. Initially playing for a challenger team ran by ex-MRN toplaner Nick Wu, Park also spent time on Infinite Odds before Season 3 would come to a close.
Breaking the Age Barrier
Although Pobelter stayed in the challenger scene throughout Season 3, Eugene would finally be old enough to play competitively for the 2014 League of Legends season. Upon the news that Pobelter would be turning 17 in time for the Spring Split, Team Curse announced that Park would return to the team in midlane.
The new Team Curse roster would only resist change for days, however, as Pobelter and Aphromoo would be released from the roster shortly after joining. The reasoning behind the kick, again, was due to Park’s young age. Still in high school, players of the team were “concerned” about the time that Eugene would have to spend focusing on school.
“No longer part of Curse. Because of my attending school, some players were concerned with our amount of practice / analysis, so I was kicked”
–Tweet by @Pobelter shortly after being released from Team Curse
Pobelter’s quick departure from Team Curse highlighted issues that would persist in Park’s career, regardless of the fact that he would now be old enough to play in the LCS. School would have to stay as first priority for Eugene, regardless of his ambitions to play League of Legends.
The announcement that European team, Evil Geniuses, would be moving to North America gave Pobelter a new chance at going pro. Joining the team alongside toplaner Tyson “InnoX” Kapler, the team would have to win a best-of-five against Determined Gaming to qualify for the 2014 NA LCS Spring Split. In a series that would go only 3 games, Evil Geniuses would qualify over DTG with a score of 3 – 0.
Searching For Success
Pobelter’s Spring was underwhelming, as the team would finish with a disappointing record of 8 wins and 20 losses. While Park’s play was strong with playmaking champions, Yellowpete, Snoopeh, and InnoX all appeared to lack in performance throughout the first half of the 2014 season. The team would finish 7th after the conclusion of the 2014 NA Spring Split regular season. Placing 7th would require EG to return to the promotion tournament, against a more formidable opponent.
Evil Geniuses would have to compete against Cloud 9 Tempest in the 2014 NA Summer Promotion tournament: a team spearheaded by Pobelter’s ex-teammate, Johnny “Altec” Ru. Featuring Korean midlaner Aaron “Bischu” Kim, EG would have to step up in order to stay in the LCS for another split.
Again, EG would rise to the occasion in high-pressure situations to overcome C9T 3 – 1 in their promotion tournament set. Pobelter would impress with a KDA of 17 with his play of Orianna, Nidalee, and LeBlanc over the four game set. Support Mitch “Krepo” Voorspoels would also perform in their promotion set with his play on Morgana and Karma. Park’s growth was apparent, as a player who once struggled in high pressure situations now was able to perform.
While EG’s summer split essentially mirrored their spring (taking seventh place and re qualifying for the LCS in the promotion tournament), roster moves provided hope for Pobelter’s struggling team. The acquisition of Don-jin “Helios” Shin in the jungle, and Altec to replace Yellowpete at AD Carry improved the team’s mechanical skill as a whole. Evil Geniuses also surprised the community with a 5-0 super week at the end of the Summer Split.
Pobelter goes 4/3/9 on Twisted Fate in a Week 11 Victory Over Cloud 9
Coming off a strong Week 11 in the Summer Split, Evil Geniuses would be forced to re-brand for the upcoming split. Now named “Winterfox” the team also brought in Korean players Jang “Imagine” Hyeonsu and Deongyheon “Avalon” Shin to fill the support and toplane roles. The team, now with four Korean speakers, would show new signs of life within the team.
While bootcamping in Korea, Pobelter proved to fans that his skill has only improved throughout the years. Taking a spot in Challenger, Park was able to go head-to-head with the world’s top talent in SoloQ. Playing Fizz and Lissandra to 80% winrates, WFX’s midlaner was able to matchup with top talent including SKT T1 star player, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok.
Now entering the 2015 LCS season, fans are looking for Pobelter to finally make a splash in the North American scene. While his performance has been consistent during his tenure in the LCS, fans are looking for WFX to have a big spring due to roster improvements and Pobelter’s recent success in SoloQ. Holding three accounts in the Top 10 NA Challenger rankings, a player that once struggled under pressure and faced barriers due to age might finally find success in competitive play.
[Photo Credit: Riot Games, Gosu Gamers, Cameron Carson]