Esports isn’t the place to look if you’re searching for certainty – it’s an industry with more moving parts than anyone can count, where players and coaches and teams come and go without warning. Still, if you’d asked me a year ago for something I knew to be an absolute truth in Overwatch Esports, it would have been this: “Fleta deserves better.”
Even the most casual of Overwatch League viewers will be familiar with Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim as the Seoul Dynasty’s breakout player. When the pre-season kicked off in December 2017, Fleta’s mastery of heroes such as Genji, Pharah, and Widowmaker immediately captured the attention of fans. The conversation around “best player in the Overwatch League” flared up as soon as the season began, and Fleta’s name has perennially been mentioned in some capacity, as the star player on a team full of star players. Even though Seoul Dynasty has a habit of stumbling in the later half of each stage, Fleta continues to deliver consistent performances.
Ho-cheol “Hocury” Lee, one of the coaches of the Seoul Dynasty, spoke to Fleta’s prodigious skill before the Overwatch League began: “Watching Fleta play, I often found myself thinking: ‘How on earth did he even think of that play?’ … When I finally got to work with him, I couldn’t help but be awed at his drive. He’s only 19, but he’s so serious, so determined to improve. It’s amazing.”
People unfamiliar with the Korean Overwatch scene prior to the Overwatch League may see Fleta as someone who was always successful, a member of the old guard along with the likes of Je-hong “ryujehong” Ryu and Jin-hyuk “Miro” Gong, two of his current teammates who achieved notoriety in the early days of Overwatch Esports. However, followers of OGN APEX will know that the story is quite different.
For just about a year before joining Seoul Dynasty, Fleta played in a bottom-tier, worst-of-the-best team named Flash Lux that inexplicably made it back into APEX every season but rarely managed to win maps, much less series’. Underdogs were always given the benefit of the doubt in APEX, but even with the most generous of analysts, Flash Lux was always dismissed as a lost cause.
It wasn’t without basis; the team only achieved one series win in APEX Season 1, before falling flat completely and only managing one singular map win in the next three seasons combined. “Unimpressive” would probably be too kind of a descriptor when applied to this team.
And yet, despite it all, there was Fleta. A popular joke in the Korean Overwatch community was something along the lines of “when Fleta plays, he’s playing 1v11”. It was plain to see why this was the case in any Flash Lux outing, where Fleta proved himself a player worthy of attention every single time he played, despite his team’s significant issues. Not enough people fully appreciate how difficult it is to seem like a top-tier player on a bottom-tier team, but Fleta managed it, time and time again.
Not only was Fleta known for being outrageously talented on a team that would never give him what he deserved, but he was also an exceptionally good sport, never blaming anyone else for performing poorly, both in ladder play and professional play. Even after a series of messy Inven posts by former Flash Lux members exposed the ugly inner workings of the team, the only player who came out untouched by the scandal was Fleta.
Fleta himself doesn’t seem to have many qualms with having been stuck in a perpetually losing team for so long. In a video introducing the Seoul Dynasty members, he simply said, wearing his trademark deadpan: “In most of my career as an Overwatch pro, I didn’t win much. But right after I joined Seoul Dynasty, we won the Seoul Cup.” (The Seoul Cup was Lunatic-Hai’s final tournament appearance before they became the Seoul Dynasty, and Fleta’s first appearance with his future teammates.)
He added, still monotonously: “I’ve never felt that much joy in my entire life.”
It’s a funny and apt encapsulation of who Fleta is: someone able to remain modest and unbothered by both failure and success, taking every result as a chance to improve himself. Though he’s making waves in the Overwatch League now and cementing his place among the greats, his origins can’t be ignored, and watching him shine now feels a little like vindication for every APEX fan who hoped that some day Fleta would get his dues.