Last season, Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee was the ultimate clutch player in the Overwatch League. Whenever the Philadelphia Fusion needed to get something done, it seemed like he always had a spark of magic to make it happen. This ability doesn’t come from nowhere, though—it’s a reflection of the mindset that Carpe has adopted since the start of his career.
Whether it’s trading in Widow’s Kiss for Zarya’s Particle Cannon or learning a new language in a foreign country, Carpe has lived up to his gamer tag, seizing any opportunity to get to the top. That tireless work ethic is how he has maintained his competitive composure and risen to become one of the Overwatch League’s most impressive stars.
“I just tried my best for my team and my fans,” Carpe said. “Every game, I just kept trying hard and practicing a lot.”
Carpe’s Overwatch career began in South Korea with BK Stars, a relatively modest team in OGN’s APEX tournament. He played two seasons with BK Stars, but never made it out of the initial group stages. He seemed hardly destined for greatness at the time, but that changed when BK Stars disbanded after APEX Season 3 and he joined Selfless Gaming in the summer of 2017.
“I was looking for a team at the time and Selfless was looking to replace Dafran,” Carpe explained of his move to the United States. “Xepher was on Cloud9 in America and was helping them find a Korean player... so he introduced me, and I joined them [on trial].”
Carpe only played a few matches with Selfless, but he considers it a turning point, where the next chapter of his Overwatch career began to take shape. Shortly after his trial with Selfless, Carpe joined FaZe Gaming, where he competed in Overwatch Contenders Season 1. There, he became a star hitscan player—and more importantly, learned how to be a star teammate.
Despite taking up residence in a foreign country at a young age, Carpe was hardly concerned about the differences of playing on a Western team as opposed to a Korean team. He claims that every team has “their own style” and so it was just a matter of adapting. Still, he had to get used to the language and communicating with his teammates. As evidenced by his full-English answers and seldom use of his translator, he spared no effort there either.
“When I first came here and played the game, I really didn’t understand much English, so it was really difficult to communicate with the team,” Carpe explained. “I tried to be closer with Western players and coaches so I could speak English well. I just tried to be closer with my team, and that helped me a lot.”
Moving abroad and diving headfirst into immersion strikes fear into the hearts of many. For a competitor like Carpe, though, it was par for the course and another stepping stone toward his next challenge: the Overwatch League.
Philadelphia wasn’t projected as a top-tier team going into the Overwatch League last year, but they performed well during the regular season, consistently vying for a stage playoff seed. After they nearly beat the New York Excelsior in the Stage 2 Finals, the Fusion began to turn heads, and when they had a chance exact revenge in the season playoffs, they ran away with it.
Philadelphia ousted the nearly indomitable NYXL from the postseason, but Carpe considered the feat just another win. Despite New York’s accomplishments and prestige, he never felt like the match was out of their grasp. They were just another team the Fusion had to respect while they chased victory.
“I think, in Overwatch, there is actually no unbeatable team,” Carpe mused. “Last-place guys can beat first-place guys anytime. That’s my opinion. There are a lot of variables and situations in Overwatch. We think we can beat everyone, while thinking that everyone can beat us. We just try hard every match.”
Even on the biggest stage of his career—last summer’s Grand Finals against the London Spitfire at Barclays Center in New York City—Carpe was unfazed. And even though Philadelphia lost in the end, Carpe relished the moment.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said in his understated way. “I didn’t get any nerves and I was really hyped to play. It was a very good experience.”
This season, the Fusion haven’t exactly been stellar, amassing a 9-8 record thus far and barely holding onto a spot in the top half of the standings. Still, Carpe knows from experience that Philadelphia might be struggling now, but there’s no reason to think they’re out of it yet.
“Even last year, who thought we would make finals?” he pointed out. “Even we didn’t think that we would make [it to the final]. It’s the same situation this season. We know how to figure out our problems and we’re just slowly fixing our issues after every match to make the final again.”
For Carpe, it comes down to the team atmosphere and execution. Philadelphia has the talent, but in the current tank- and support-focused meta, talent can only take you so far. For Carpe, it would be nice to be able to play DPS heroes like his trusty Widowmaker again, but that’s not what is going to win at the end of the day. As a professional, he doesn’t blame the meta—he only believes, as he always has, in adaptation.
“If I could play DPS, it would be very happy for me, but this is meta and we are pro players,” Carpe said, a hint of sternness creeping into his voice. “We have to adapt to the meta.”
No matter what the road looks like, the end goal for Carpe is the same: to return to the Grand Finals. Not only for a chance at redemption and the sweet taste of victory, but for the sensation he felt in New York last year. It’ll be different this year—even better, because the Grand Finals will be hosted in Philadelphia, where the Fusion will play starting next year.
“When we played in New York, there were a lot of Philly fans because it was a very close city,” Carpe said. “I felt like a lot of my fans [went there]. I imagined playing on the Philly home stage someday was going to be really amazing… a big stage with thousands of people cheering.”