Jun-Su "Kris" Choi is well-acquainted with the importance of patience. A cursory glance at his Overwatch career doesn't reveal anything particularly impressive—he's never been part of a squad that placed higher than fourth place in any major tournament, after all, and he currently plays for an underwhelming Florida Mayhem squad.
What raw results can't show, however, is that in 2017, Kris was touted as one of the best main support players in the world. It was the year that his first professional team, Meta Athena, was at its peak. Fielding some current Overwatch League mainstays like Kris, New York's Hae-Seong "Libero" Kim and London's Jong-Seok "Nus" Kim, Meta Athena tore through OGN APEX Season 2 qualifiers and the APEX tournament itself on the back of their unorthodox playstyle, making it all the way to semifinals before being felled by eventual champions Lunatic-Hai.
"Honestly, playing in APEX didn't feel real to me," Kris recalled. "I just wanted to play and compete at the highest level so much that I couldn't even think about it that much."
Following that dominant regular season and fourth-place finish, Meta Athena never again reached those same heights and quickly stagnated. Libero and Nus departed for roster spots on Overwatch League teams just before the inaugural season began, while star hitscan DPS Jeong-Woo "Sayaplayer" Ha joined the Florida Mayhem as a midseason pickup.
Kris, on the other hand, remained with Meta Athena all through 2018, competing in Overwatch Contenders with little success. He's seen his fair share of teammates come and go—there are currently more than 15 players in the Overwatch League who have been through the Meta organization at some point, and Kris was there through all of it.
"There were two times that people left Meta [for the Overwatch League], once before season one, and once during the season," he explained. "The first time, I was genuinely happy for my teammates because being a pro in Korea at that time didn't pay very much, so I was glad that their financial situation would be better and more secure. The second time, though, I thought... when will it be my turn?"
Kris stayed with Meta for almost two years. During this time, the team went through highs and lows, but he continued on with the organization as one of its oldest and most reliable players. Just prior to the 2019 Overwatch League season, however, he finally received the offer he'd been waiting for all this time: an invitation from the Mayhem to be part of their 2019 squad. He accepted, joining many of his former teammates in the Overwatch League.
Having lived in close proximity for so long, the bonds between Meta alumni run deep, and Kris enjoys being able to see his old friends so frequently and easily.
"I do keep in touch with other Meta players," he said. "Often we'll go have meals together on off-days. We really just run into each other all the time, so it's not that hard to keep up with each other."
There are few groups of former teammates who have gone on to other teams and still remain so tight-knit. Much of it can be attributed to Kris himself, who is sociable by nature and has always done his best to be a figure that others can feel comfortable around.
"Most of the players on the [Mayhem] approach me as a nice older brother figure, and I like to keep that relationship with the team, especially with so many new players coming in," he explained. "That's my goal: to keep being that approachable older brother figure. I don't ever want to get upset—I just want to keep being friendly and work well with the team."
Strong leaders can help the team maintain their morale as well as their composure, even in seemingly hopeless situations. It’s not a role that Kris would say he's been thrust into, but rather one that he's chosen for himself.
"Since I was part of Meta Athena for so long, I was the oldest for a long time, so I initially felt like there was a responsibility on me to be like an older brother," he explained. "But then I realized I just don't want to give anyone the impression that I don't work well with my teammates. The older brother figure feels kind of like the persona that I always want to adopt, no matter which team I'm in."
안녕하세요. #MetaGaming 입니다.— MetaGaming (@TheMetaGaming) May 17, 2018
스크림하다 배고플 땐 맛있는 Kris표 계란후라이!
Kris(@Meta_Kris ) made sunny side up egg for Innovation(@innovation_ow ). Yummy#메타게이밍 #메타아테나 #메타벨리움 #metaathena #metabellum #overwatch pic.twitter.com/TFJYteUGvZ
With the Mayhem going through major roster and staff changes during the 2019 season, Kris' steady guidance and leadership skills are invaluable in helping the team finally find its footing after struggling with it for so long—even if it means his place on the starting lineup is under threat.
"The number one thing that comes with having new players on the team is the reality that you have to compete for a spot," he mused. "I think I know what to do, I know what my strengths and weaknesses are, so when it comes to competing for that spot, I feel confident that I can make the decision difficult, at the very least."
Kris may strive to be the ultimate support in and out of game, and he in turn is supported by his family when it comes to his career.
"Initially, my parents were very against the idea of me being a pro gamer, because I was at the age that most people go to military service," he explained. "They thought gaming was a risk. After a while they agreed to let me try pro gaming because it was something that I really wanted to pursue, but they gave me a time limit. They said they would support me in this, but if I didn't make it to where I wanted to be by a certain time, I would quit and take a safer, more traditional route. Now that I made it to the Overwatch League, my parents are much less concerned and have put their full support behind me."
He paused, a bashful look of realization coming over his face.
"Actually, I haven't contacted my parents recently," he said, smiling sheepishly. "After this, I think I'm going to call them and see how they're doing."