We sat down to speak to Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim after NYXL just defeated Toronto Defiant, 3-0. These type of post-game interviews aren’t new for Mano — he seemed completely at ease answering our questions while wearing what was undoubtedly a very expensive pair of PUMA shoes. All smiles and all talent, our conversation revealed something we didn’t expect from Mano.
The main tank for one of the best teams in the league has a surprising sensitivity towards the public perception of his skill and maintains an almost comedic rejection of his team-agreed role as the leader of NYXL.
Last week you tweeted that you made a lot of mistakes after you played against LA Valiant, what mistakes were they and how did you fix them heading into Toronto Defiant?
I could have used my ultimate more precisely right after we broke the enemy Reinhardt shield, but sometimes he beat me to it. Then, sometimes I would gamble on my ults without thinking too carefully about it. I would also use ults before I already lost the fight. I’m just aware of them and I fixed them before this match.
How did these mistakes affect your mental state on stage?
The first match against Valiant — I didn’t use my ults well and then I would die. The first match it took a toll on me mentally. After that match, though, I was perfectly fine.
How do your teammates respond when they notice you have made a mistake in-game?
Against Valiant last game, between the 1st and 2nd round, my teammates probably didn’t know I was taking so stressed mentality. But if I say something like, “I’m not doing well”, my teammates will always lessen it and say something like, “It’s ok, don’t worry about it.” During a game, if I make a mistake, my teammates don’t say anything about it — they only mention it if I bring it up.
Do you think you are the most critically aware player on your team? Or is there someone else who is more aware of their own mistakes?
If any of our players make a mistake in-game, they rarely say anything during the game. But after the game, they all acknowledge it. Even if we win, they acknowledge it. Then, we all tell them it’s ok and not to worry about it.
In a previous interview, JJoNak mentioned you as a leader — do you think of yourself as a leader?
I never tried to be a leader, I am just trying to do what I can to help the team. I know all of my teammates consider me a good leader, but I never try to be so.
If your team says you are a good leader, it must be so. What qualities do you think you have that explains your teams understanding of you as their leader?
I’m not sure what the specific reasons are. It might be because I am older than most other players. Maybe it is that or maybe it’s because I don’t ever act like I am the older one — I just act the same age as everyone else. Maybe that is why they respect me as their leader?
Is it fair to say that you have no idea why your team thinks you are a leader?
Yes, that is fair to say.
I have no idea why my team thinks I’m a leader and I don’t really think I’m a good leader.
Does this leader role ever stress you out?
I don’t feel any pressure about being a leader — I am the main tank and that is the most important position on the team nowadays. I just try to do my best.
“The teams that really need feedback need to have someone be direct to them — no sugar coating.”
If the main tank is the most important position on the team, what is the least important position?
Obviously, every position is important.
But if I had to pick one, it would be Zenyatta or flex support. Zenyatta’s tasks are pretty simple — just use ultimate when the enemy uses their ultimate. One thing Zenyatta might be able to do proactively is to get a kill out of nowhere like JJoNak; but in general, Zenyatta is pretty simple to play.
Do you shot call what targets the Zenyatta should Discord and what targets should be healed?
Most of the time, it is just JJoNak doing whatever he wants with Discord. However, during specific situations, I have to be the one to call for specific Discords or heals.
What is an example of one of those specific situations?
When both teams are waiting for their moment. When both teams are not going but just scoping it out. During these situations, I am calling the shots and when we should move in or back out.
You have been in the Overwatch League spotlight for a while now — what is the one thing people still seem to get wrong about you?
I feel like that sometimes I am underrated — whenever I see someone underrating me, I get even more motivated to do well.
Who specifically underrates you the most?
No one in particular. Not like a public figure or something. But mostly Twitch chat, Reddit, the Overwatch fan community. It feels like half of the community underrates me, and the other half thinks I’m good.
How do you think you can prove to the other half you are the real deal?
By not making any mistakes in game!
Do you think the community is particularly hard on you whenever you make a mistake?
Yes, correct. People watching see those mistakes and they always bring it up.
Who do you think gets away with the most mistakes in the Overwatch league? It’s clear you think you don’t get any wiggle room from fans.
I’m not sure because I only watch myself.
Is that a common thing? For players to only watch themselves?
I am not sure. If I had to guess, I would assume that other players review their own plays primarily.
Do you ask other players, management, or staff to give you feedback on your play as well?
Yes, coaches give me individual feedback and if things don’t go well, sometimes players themselves will give each other feedback.
Is it ever difficult to give feedback to your friends on the team?
I try not to say anything negative because someone might take it personally. That is why we only give feedback when things are really, really bad.
I can imagine NYXL rarely has critical issues that require player-to-player feedback because of your team’s skill level. What advice would you give a struggling team with regards to player feedback?
Tips to struggling teams?
The teams that really need feedback need to have someone be direct to them — no sugar coating. I believe mistakes should be fixed or at least mentioned the moment it happens. I would give feedback to those teams and those players directly.
“I don’t want the meta to change too suddenly like what happened during the finals last seasons.”
What about the worry that critical feedback might you into arguments with your teammates?
It is very possible — other players from other teams might go into arguments. I have been on many teams before and from my experience, it can happen all the time.
What is the worst argument you’ve seen that stemmed from just player feedback?
It is always the worst when players exchange feedback and they both have different ideas and opinions. They give feedback and each player hears it, but they still refuse to change.
Do you have any specific examples of players that have been like this?
Let’s just say I’ve either seen it or I’ve experienced it myself.
If you had total control and could change the Overwatch league or Overwatch in any way, what would you do?
The old prize pool amount for the regular season has disappeared — I want the prize pool back!
I also wish the meta doesn’t stay the same for too long. I don’t want one meta dominating for too long, but at the same time, I don’t want the meta to change too suddenly like what happened during the finals last seasons.
What type of advice would you give the rest of the teams trying to get on the level of teamwork and execution as NYXL?
There are two things that I really like about NYXL.
One is our players have a really strong mentality and attitude — even when things don’t go well, we all have a positive attitude. Secondly, our coaches put us in the right mindset. The coaches give us good advice. Those two things are important. Even when things don’t go well, players don’t argue and maintain a positive mentality.
What has been your favorite fan experience so far in the OWL? What do you want to say to your fans reading this?
When we lost to Philadelphia Fusion in the last playoffs, there were a couple of fans in NYXL jerseys in the front rows. When we lost, they looked really sad. That was a good experience for me because I never want to see that again — it makes me want to work harder.
I want to tell my fans thank you for always cheering for us — we are doing well now, but we will always remember we can lose any day. If we do end up losing, I want fans to understand that we tried our best. Thank you.