As esports moves into the mainstream, more and more players deal with the leap from general obscurity to instant internet fame. Some players take bigger steps than others, though, whether it’s from the competitive ladder or a modest amateur team. In the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, few players made a greater leap than Seoul Dynasty star Byung-Sun “Fleta” Kim.
Fleta’s ascent wasn’t instant. His first and only prior team, Flash Lux, managed just one win in four seasons of Korea’s APEX tournament—and none while Fleta was on the roster. For Fleta, joining a Lunatic-Hai core—the original rockstars of professional Overwatch—under the black-and-gold banner of the Seoul Dynasty meant crossing a canyon of popularity.
Although things were tough for Fleta in the early days of his career, he appreciates where he came from.
“Of course there were some difficulties because we weren’t winning,” he said. “But they were players that wanted to get better and discuss their problems with me so we could get better together. That was the motivation that kept me playing with [Flash Lux].”
Fleta is one of those no-nonsense types of players, putting work and improvement before all else. Despite immediately finding himself on the only Overwatch League team to represent South Korea, wearing a logo emblazoned with the glory of a championship-caliber roster, Fleta never paused to consider the weight of his newfound prestige.
“Back then, Lunatic-Hai was the team that every player wanted to be on,” Fleta explained. “Everyone wanted to learn from them and respected them. There was some level of pressure, but I didn’t really put it together that I was coming to this big international league. I didn’t think of it too seriously back then.”
Fleta was immediately thrust into a new spotlight on Seoul, becoming the focal point as an excellent player on both projectile and hitscan heroes.
“I appreciate that people thought of me and my play as being star-level,” he said, but it didn’t matter as Seoul still struggled for most of the inaugural season. Despite shuffling through numerous roster changes, nothing stuck; Seoul missed all four stage playoffs, in addition to the overall playoffs, marking an uneventful season for a team that the entire world had its eyes on.
In 2019, Seoul is a completely different team, and Fleta says the new coaching staff has a lot to do with it.
“I think even [at the start of the season] we still had issues with our mentality,” Fleta said with a slight grin. “But then afterwards, the coaching staff was really trying to help us to look at the game from a more outside point of view.”
It isn’t just Seoul that’s more focused—Fleta himself is fully engaged. “You can say that I’m more motivated,” he agreed. “I want to win more, I have more of that competitive side than last year. More than that, I really just want to improve.”
The coaching staff and player roster for the Seoul Dynasty looks significantly different this year, with much of the original Lunatic-Hai core taking a step back. Nowadays, it’s been newer, younger talent making the difference for Seoul, in combination with creative roster swaps that get the best out of their talent.
Fleta credits one of Seoul’s newest players, Dong-Eon “Fits” Kim, for his proficiency and flexibility across a number of damage heroes, which has impacted the team’s overall improvement. While Fits’ rise means Fleta himself has taken a step back from being an automatic starter, his significance is still high as a role specialist.
“Because Munchkin left [after Stage 3], someone had to take over his role of main hitscan,” Fleta explained. “Currently, I am the one who is doing it, because snipers are used more during maps three and four.”
Fleta has less of the spotlight than last year, but that hardly matters to him—team success is the name of the game. His Hanzo and Widowmaker are still among the best in the league, and he’s had the opportunity to show it consistently on maps like Hollywood, Route 66, and Junkertown, where those heroes benefit from long sightlines. Seoul are the best they’ve ever been, and Fleta has played a big role in that process.
Being part of a functional two-roster system allows Fleta to focus more on specific practice while also balancing playing time between the players more efficiently. This season, with the overall match load shortened from 40 to 28 for each team, Fleta has been afforded more relaxation time.
“There is not that much of a difference compared to last year,” Fleta said, adding that he rarely goes out. “But this year, because of the schedule, that makes me more comfortable living here.”
Fleta still spends a lot of his free time playing Overwatch, but he does have a few notable pastimes when he’s not smacking away at his keyboard and flicking his mouse.
“Other than Overwatch, I usually go out to eat delicious food or watch Youtube on my bed and relax,” he said with a small chuckle.
Food-wise, Fleta mostly sticks with what he knows: chicken and Korean BBQ. He also enjoys a Korean street karaoke program, where regular people sing on the streets for a chance at a prize. For someone like Fleta, it must be a nice role reversal to watch other people perform with the knowledge that everyone is watching carefully. When asked if he was good at karaoke himself, the answer came swiftly.
“I’m not good at it,” he said quickly with another chuckle.
He might not be good at karaoke, but Seoul only needs him to be good at Overwatch. The team is solidly in a play-in position, with an outside chance of making the top six, and with ten players on board, the Dynasty are hoping to hit their peak soon. Anything feels possible, but Fleta still thinks the league is too contentious to make any solid statements on future performances.
“It’s really hard to identify or even predict what’s going to happen because the difference between the top teams and middle-of-the pack is very different,” he explained. “Even between us and other middling teams, there are a lot of differences. So right now, I don’t think it’s easy to say. We’re just telling ourselves, ‘Just make the best out of yourselves. This is it.’”
It’s something Fleta can say from experience: everything starts with believing in yourself.