It's a common dream to play the game you love and get paid for it, but when the rewards are few it's difficult to draw the line between addiction to a game and dedication to a craft. It's a grim career for many and the right choice for few because sacrifices have to be made in a sport of such blistering pace: everyone plays as fast as they can as hard as they can for as long as they can. Maybe you become a champion and earn 6 figures; maybe you become a forgettable squad player and earn a pittance. Perhaps you become league MVP and play televised matches each week; perhaps the camera passes you briefly as you sit on the bench as a B-teamer. You do this for 6, 8, 10 years, until your bones begin to ache. You play the game until you burn out or run out of time to do your military service—whichever comes first. Two years later you come back to society with few skills, little education, and a faint hope of finding something in eSports. At best you become a commentator or analyst; at worst, no one ever hears from you again as you distance yourself from your past life.
Winrate65% vs. Terran67% vs. Protoss65% vs. Zerg
Earnings$57,954 USD in 2014
"Studying is studying, games are games, they are separate so it doesn’t give me any added pressure. But I know that a lot of people recognize this fact and other students also cheer for me, so that becomes a great deal of strength for me. "By anyone's estimation, Polt is an old man of Starcraft—he is the third oldest player at Blizzcon at 26—yet the game remains a dream come true. Unlike many of his peers, he started late, debuting as a pro in GSL Open Season 1 when he was already a 22 year old student of Seoul National University. He was studying "Animal Bio Technology" and English, and many believed that this would be a disadvantage against more "dedicated" youngsters. But Polt has never let it to hold him back. His relative maturity and foresight has allowed him to make the best of his progaming years without pawning his future.
As a member of Prime at the time of Wings of Liberty's launch, he was a part of the team's strong terran line along with Maka (of Maka Rax fame, and.. nothing else), MarineKing, and BitByBit. MKP became the team's headliner when he reached three GSL finals, but three defeats later, no one had claimed the title of OptimusPrime—a reference to the Transformers character given to the Prime champion. Many believed that MKP would eventually transform into a champion, but it was Polt that ascended to the Prime throne. He unexpectedly won the Super Tournament, a single elimination tournament with a huge first place prize. Though he admitted that he had to take a break from school in order to concentrate on his play, he emphasized that his tournament winnings would be invested into paying for his own tuition. Not even the bright lights and big checks could sway him from his priorities: earn enough, finish studying, become a scientist.
It was an astute goal that seemed attainable due to the discipline that he had exhibited in his day job, but everything changed once he decided to leave Prime for TSL in September 2011. He became the team's star along with PuMa, and his new found fame allowed him to attend foreign tournaments. His first was MLG Orlando where he finished 10th, and he spent the next year touring the world. He won ASUS ROG Winter in his first 2012 foreign tournament, while he attended 8 other off shore events. He had left behind his studies to have his year of wonder, and though he was only able to claim one title during this time, it gave him a new perspective that could have destabilized the future that he had laid out beforehand.
He had developed a taste for travel, and by the end of 2012 he had been on and off from school for over a year. Though he would eventually graduate, it appeared unlikely that he was going to give up the booth for a science lab. Then, as the calendar turned, Polt left TSL to move to the USA to study English. His time on The SCV Life had shown him the spectacle of foreign tournaments, and his interaction with fans in English had shown him the importance of connecting with ones fans. Instead of choosing the comfortable path in Korea, he decided to uproot his life, his studies and his career from its steady base for the uncertainty of life overseas. It was a bizarre career decision at a time when everyone wanted to be in Korea, and his Code S forfeiture looked like the end of his career near the top. But once again he proved to be smarter than us all when Blizzard announced the revamped WCS system at the start of April 2013. Just when it seemed like Polt was willingly throwing his life into chaos, things somehow fell into place.
Within a year, he had made the United States his home. He became the only player to win two WCS regional events in the same year, and he dominated headlines in his adoptive country. Without a championship contender to call their own, the union dubbed him Captain America for his exploits and his English degree. He was finally able to meld his studies with his career as he swept us off our feet with the remarkably improved command of his second language. No longer did he have to rely on a translator to interpret his thoughts; he spoke clearly and concisely directly to his audience. It was a year that was supposed to be one of upheaval and transition, yet it became the year when Polt perfected the double life that he often struggled to keep whole.
Though 2014 has not been as successful as the last year, it has been far from a disappointment. He remains one of the elites of WCS America, consistently reaching the final stages of the tournament. He scored his only gold of the year at Red Bull Detroit and placed second in IEM Cologne, MLG Anaheim, and Red Bull Atlanta. America's love affair with their Captain, and he engaged them like few Koreans ever have. He guest starred as a caster in WCS America—on his birthday, no less!—, charming us with his insight and charisma, and featured in a short CNN news segment. Unfortunately, it could be the last time we ever get to see him live in English if he decides to return to Korea. The impending WCS changes threaten to turn next year into one of turmoil for Koreans living abroad. Polt's penchant for finding stability, no matter the crisis, assures us that Captain America won't be repatriated any time soon—his Athlete's Visa certainly helps.
This philosophy of creating balance permeates the way he approaches the game. He is not a macro monster like Bomber, a micro machine like INnoVation, or a skillful savant like Taeja. He doesn't have the most creative build orders or the most unorthodox timing attacks. Instead he combines a competence in all the basic mechanical and strategic aspects of the game with a tactical genius that frolics in chaos. In a way he is similar to his former Prime pals Maru and MarineKing: they all prefer MMM in most of their matchups and attempt to tear their opponents to shreds with drops and runbys. However, unlike Maru, Polt often sticks to using conventional builds that don't rely on an element of surprise to succeed. And unlike MarineKing, Polt actually knows what to do when things don't go according to plan. He is the base trade virtuoso who shines in circumstances rarely encountered.
One of the best examples of Polt's cleverness in dire situations is his game against Rain from IEM Cologne. It didn't take long for the game to descend into madness, and for 20 minutes each player tried to eliminate the other. It looked like Rain had an unbeatable force despite having no mining, but Polt still had floating buildings and CCs. Realizing that his only hope of victory was to resume mining and build more units, he floated to the gold and walled off completely. Rain could not find a way to ram the doors down in time, and Polt eventually crawled his way to a win. It was a game that epitomized what Polt does best: win by staying composed and control unmapped situations with his speed of thought.
It's this ability to harmonize the disparate elements in front of him that makes Polt unique in a sport of rigid nearsightedness. Polt's career is a masterpiece, not because of his innumerable titles or his inimitable fame; he has served as a lesson to the many aspiring progamers that all-in isn't always the answer, and that results can be found with an ideology of moderation. He is the proof of concept of the student professional, of the academic competitor, and his is a rare success story in a myopic trade. He has shown us that balance is not about standing on stable ground; it is about building a bridge worth standing on. Polt has reached the pinnacle of the sport at Blizzcon while prospering in two lives. His story is a young boy's dream, a young man's hope, and an old man's fulfillment.