Heart of a Lion

There is no one path to becoming a pro gamer, but along the way there are some common, difficult choices to be made.

Because their desired profession is part of a still-developing industry, many young players must decide between attending school or taking a chance on playing video games competitively. For Aaron “Bischu” Kim, the Overwatch League was his last chance at chasing his dream, and now he’s making the most of it as the flex tank for the Los Angeles Gladiators.

Not too long ago, Bischu was just a popular Twitch streamer living in Vancouver, Canada, trying to make his dream happen in another global esports title. Born in South Korea, he went to high school in Vancouver and briefly attended college in California, and he’s fluent in both English and Korean. He was spirited, passionate, and jovial, but it was not enough. His positive spirit was met with negative results, and his dream began to fade.

Then, Overwatch came into the picture.

“I didn’t really plan on [being an Overwatch pro] at the start,” Bischu said. “I just finished with my last game, and I was thinking, ‘Do I go back to college? Do I go back to Korea?’ I really didn’t want to do either. I was just spending time with my friends, trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”

Overwatch was officially released in May 2016 and took the gaming world by storm, piquing Bischu’s interest. It was a class-based shooter, but featured cooldown elements, ultimates, and team fights that hearkened back to a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) style of gameplay.

“When Overwatch came out, I guessed that people weren’t going to be used to that kind of gameplay,” he explained. “I felt like I had an edge because I was trying to go pro in another game, and [because] MOBAs and Overwatch had similar mechanics. After I hit rank 81 in Season 1, I thought, ‘I have a pretty good chance of doing this.’”

Bischu quickly put his nose to the grindstone and found a place on Team Kungarna, where he competed alongside his now-teammate on the Gladiators, Luis “iRemiix” Galarza Figueroa. Suddenly, he was drawn to the esports dream yet again, like a moth to a flame. 

“I started seriously going for it, playing in the amateur scene,” Bischu said. “Kungarna was my first team, and it was pretty spicy. [Starting] then, I doubled down and wanted to get into Overwatch League.”

Getting into the newest esports league, one that would feature the best Overwatch players in the world, was not going to be easy—but at that point, it was do or die for Bischu. He was either going to get in by the skin of his teeth or kiss it all goodbye and return to normal life. Driven by his passion, he pushed himself to the limit.

“I was going back to Korea for sure if I didn’t make it,” Bischu said. “The month that I made it into the Overwatch League was the last month I had rent. I was getting ready to move out and go back to Korea or college. It was cutting it really close.”

When Bischu was finally rewarded for all his ladder and tournament grinding with a call and an offer from the Los Angeles Gladiators, he was as relieved as he was excited.

“The Gladiators’ director of esports, Charlie Lipsie, was the first person to contact me,” Bischu said. “They asked if I was interested in making a team with them, and it all began from there. I was all calm during the call, but afterwards I was just like, f--- yes!’”

Bischu’s dream was coming true at last, and on the biggest stage—the newest professional gaming league. He’d had a taste of live competition in the past, but this was the real deal.

“Overwatch League was my first debut as a pro because I don’t really consider any of my past stage experience as professional,” he said. “I was playing a role I didn’t like, and my passion wasn’t there. When I was sitting on the Overwatch League stage, in front of the crowd, all the emotions just started rushing in.”

After a few seconds, he added, with a peaceful air: “I made it.”

Not only has Bischu made it, he has totally enveloped himself in the Gladiators’ team identity, wearing it proudly. He says he loves how “nutty” Gladiators supporters are—they can always be seen in team jerseys, holding signs and plastic shields as they cheer on their team at Blizzard Arena Los Angeles. The deep connection he shares with both the team and the fans likely stems from the affinity he has always felt with the City of Angels. It was just meant to be.

“[I moved here] two and a half years ago,” Bischu explained. “I’ve been in this area for a while. I really like LA. Even when I was in Vancouver, I thought about living here. I had no reason to believe it, but I just thought I would end up here someday.”

When asked what he liked the most about Los Angeles, he gave a simple answer.

“The food is the best thing here,” he said, before chuckling. “I wish there were more trees, but it’s OK.”

Naturally, he recommends Korean food to anyone visiting the city for an Overwatch League match.

Bischu Loves K-Town

“I love these places so much. I want to give them a shoutout for sinking my savings.”

“It has Chinese and Korean fusion dishes and is pretty cheap.”

Jinsol Gukbap
“They do pork stew. The soup is made from bone and pretty cloudy. It is definitely my favorite. I went at least twice a week.”

Biryani Kabob House
“I spent way too much money there. After six months of going there, they got really nice chairs, and I’d like to think I contributed to that.”

El Flamin Taco
“I had a really bad schedule, so I would eat dinner here at 2 a.m. Their burrito is the best thing ever. I had a burrito there every single day.”

Park’s BBQ
“Really good, but it’s a little bit expensive. I definitely couldn’t go before I got into the Overwatch League.”

“When I was living in Koreatown for a year and a half, I just ate everything around K-Town,” he said. “There are a lot of good Korean places. The one thing I’d recommend doesn’t translate very well, but it’s like a seafood pancake (“haemul pajeon”). I’m not sure if it’s classified as a pancake, but I assure you that it’s very good! Trust me, it goes really well with the sauce, too.”

The Gladiators are currently knocking around the middle of the Overwatch League standings, but they’ve improved since the league began. Recently, the team bolstered its lineup with the transfer of star tank player Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek from the London Spitfire. As a result, Bischu has become the glue of his team’s in-game communication.

“It’s a little bit rough,” he admitted. “I have to translate quite a bit with Fissure on the team, and I can’t focus on the game as much. I’m only having a little bit of trouble right now because I’m not used to translating. I think as long as the communications get into order, he really will make the team a lot better.”

Bischu battled tooth and nail to wear Gladiator purple, and now his esports dream is a reality. No one is going to take that away from him, but he’s still motivated to keep proving himself.

“I’m going to continue training even harder, and I’m excited for the future,” he said. “We will have better results and make the fans proud.”

Then he pumped his arms.

“Shields up!”

Follow Bischu on Twitter and Twitch.