Riki Sameshima had one ubiquitous ambition when he traveled to South Korea: to become a world-class esports professional representing his native Japan. Since arriving in September, he has only slept a few hours a day and trained for hours.
The 22-year-old native of Osaka Prefecture takes part in the popular online combat arena game “League of Legends” as part of a training program launched between the most famous esports team of South Korea, T1, and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks baseball team in Japan.
“I was so excited to come here and watch (how South Korean T1 players are performing) because they are playing at such a high level,” Sameshima said.
T1, formerly known as SK Telecom CS T1 Co., is an esports team funded by SK Telecom Co., South Korea’s largest mobile operator, and account Lee Sang-hyuk, known as Faker’s name in gaming and one of the most talented League of Legends players in the world – as one of its members.
Taiki Shimazaki came to South Korea with Sameshima and the 24-year-old Yokohama native also has immense respect for Faker and his team’s training schedule as T1 has won multiple world championships.
Four Japanese players have traveled to Seoul for training, while a teammate is participating in the program remotely from Japan.
Their day begins when they wake up around noon. Training begins at 1 p.m. and lasts eight to nine hours, or even longer, depending on the mood of the players.
A T1 official said team members typically train late at night to easily adjust their biorhythms to account for jet lag when playing in international competitions.
The T1 facility has rooms filled with computers, a gym, cafeteria, and several lounges, all for the sole purpose of providing players with everything they need to excel.
“There is probably no esports team in Japan that offers facilities like a gym where you can work out and a cafeteria,” Sameshima said. “I think South Korea are really ahead of their time when it comes to player management.”
The Japanese pair agree that the best part of training in South Korea is learning how to control their mental state to keep nerves from ruining their performance.
According to Sameshima, a League of Legends game lasts around 30 minutes on average but can stretch for up to an hour, which means players need to be able to maintain a high level of focus.
Esports gained ground in South Korea after the strategy game StarCraft became a huge hit in 1998. The sport subsequently received strong support from the government, which was looking for ways to boost the economy at home. following the Asian financial crisis of 1997.
In August, the government signaled it was ready to be more gamer-friendly by removing a ten-year-old ban on under-16s from playing online PC games from midnight to 6 a.m. one shortcoming was that it did not apply to applications on mobile phones, an increasingly popular means of play among young people.
Esports recently gained media attention after it was first chosen as the official medal-winning sport at the 2022 Asian Games, which will be held in Hangzhou, China.
Sameshima said that compared to esports globally, he believes that knowledge of esports in Japan is still relatively limited.
“When they hear the word esports, many Japanese people ask, ‘Is this really a sport? ” “, did he declare. “I hope I can help more Japanese understand this industry.”
Although the joint training program with the Hawks is slated to end this month, T1 looks forward to working with Japanese esports teams in the future.
“Japan is home to console game makers and is one of the best gaming markets in the world,” said a representative from T1, adding that the company hopes to continue to play a role in improving the industry by cooperation with several Japanese esports teams.
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