Sim “NL” Gun: "It’s necessary to pick a strong character"
Published on August 1st, 2018
Cammy is undeniably one of the S tier characters in Street Fighter V right now, and UYU’s Sim “NL” Gun is one of the best Cammys in the world. But unlike some of the other top players on the Capcom Pro Tour, NL doesn’t hail from Japan or the US. Rather, Gun is part of a small contingent of strong players coming out of South Korea. With Evo just around the corner, we talked to NL about the Korean Street Fighter scene versus Tekken’s apparent dominance, his origins as a professional gamer, and just what is a ‘NL.’ GINX TV: Western fans are pretty aware of what the Japanese Street Fighter scene is like but are less familiar about the Korean scene. What are some things you’d want the fans in the West to know about your scene? NL: In Korea’s case, there are four Street Fighter pro gamers: Infiltration, Verloren, Poongko, and myself. In Japan, Street Fighter’s popularity has endured for quite a long period of time, and thus there is a well-established user base and famous pro players. However, in Korea, most of the popularity came from Street Fighter 5, which means that the player base is relatively shallow aside from Infiltration and Poongko. Most people started the game with Street Fighter 5, so there’s not much to speak of in terms of career. But even in these difficult circumstances, there are talented players emerging one by one, so we would be grateful for any attention that they receive. Compared to Tekken, Street Fighter doesn’t seem to be as popular in Korea. Why is that? This is something that stems from Korean arcades (oraksil); in Korea, KOF and Tekken were always more popular than Street FIghter. The neighborhood where I lived, the arcade had Street Fighter 2, but it was a hack rom version [he calls it the “kangryong version”, which I believe is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese bootleg version]. You could almost believe that this hack rom version was the official version, that’s how pervasive it was. It was honestly difficult to even see Street Fighter in Korean arcades. Moreover, when KOF98 and Tekken Tag Tournament 1 came out, right around then was when the Starcraft boom in Korean PC bangs began, and this meant that interest in arcade games dwindled even further. Starting with KOF99 and Tekken 4, the popularity of KOF and Tekken also fell, but Tekken had a revival with Tekken 5, which was really only possible because Tekken had been so enduringly popular. This was also aided by TV broadcast content such as Knee’s “Where to tomorrow?” and “Tekken Crash” [Note: both of these were programs broadcast on MBC Game, a gaming-focused TV channel that was shut down in 2012]. Alongside you, there’s Poongko, Verloren, and Infiltration as top ranking Street Fighter players. How much do you all play together and how would you describe their play? In Korea, we don’t really get together offline to game together. Other than Verloren, we don’t really meet up outside of attending tournaments. But sometimes, we do see each other out of necessity to practice. We’re going to do that a bit before Evo this year. Poongko generally shows a very tight, systematic playstyle as long as he doesn’t use ANGRY NOW. I want to tell him “No more ANGRY NOW.” Infiltration, as everyone knows, is a fearsome player when it comes to dominating space by using ranged fights. I think he’s a god at space control. Verloren I think is the player who has the best sense of Cammy’s fundamentals. I think of him as the most fundamental Cammy. How did you get into being a professional Street Fighter player? I actually wasn’t interested in Street Fighter in Korea, but then I got interested with Street Fighter 5. Even then I didn’t think I would go pro, I was basically earning money from streaming so it didn’t seem feasible for me to participate in competitions. But my streaming content for KOF was basically about showing a growth arc through match ups with KOF gosu players, and in order to show that kind of arc in Street Fighter, I had to participate in overseas tournaments. In Korea, there was also Spiritzero’s “Road to” series, which gave the winners opportunities to participate in overseas competitions. There were also stream viewers who supported players financially to travel overseas, and all of those things allowed me to dream of becoming a pro player. In 2016, I attended a number of tournaments and I despaired. I really thought hard about my future – I basically abandoned Street Fighter and concentrated on streaming exclusively until mid-2017. But thanks to people who continued to support me and those who wanted to see me in pro play, I was able to try again at participating in pro tournaments. That time I fell just a few points shy of the Capcom Cup, which was disappointing and led me to think further about my future. I was thinking of trying again in 2018 as an amateur, but most fortunately UYU contacted me and I was able to join a great team and get good results. Since we’re on the topic of origin stories, where did your handle come from? There was an old gaming platform called GGPO, I needed an alt account because I did well on my main account, and someone gave me the ID NNNNNLLLL. I used that nickname to play, but then that account became more famous than I expected, so I abbreviated it to NL. There’s no real meaning. Later, fans gave it meaning: “No limit”, “never lose” etc. You’re on UYU, which has become a force to be reckoned with. What’s it like being under their banner? To play under the UYU banner means that you’re working with great teammates, a great CEO. They’re very attentive compared to other teams, and it feels like you’re gaming in a real family-like atmosphere. Moreover, my teammates are all doing well individually, so it’s possible to compete with them as friendly rivals, it’s a good team for staying motivated. You’ve been really on the grind this season and seeing a lot of success. How are you able to perform at such a high level while traveling so much? Are there any difficulties you’ve faced while traveling whether physically or emotionally? To be honest, during the early competitions in March, I was under a lot of pressure to perform as a pro player and I feel that I did not show a good performance. I worked hard not to collapse entirely. Actually, during my KOF days, I became a high-level player through processes of growth, despair, overcoming that, growth, etc, so I felt that enjoying these experiences of failure was important for my growth. I think I’ve become a stronger player thanks to my failure in March, and I credit my team and my teammates for my growth. Traveling is honestly not a comfortable experience. Every country I visit, I have to get used to the timezone, the food, etc., and then just as I feel like I’m getting used to it, I have to come back home, and then leave for another country after a few days. It might seem cool but it isn’t always all cool. But even so, I think there’s no greater happiness than receiving fan support and love for playing a game that I love, for doing something I love, so I’m working hard and I’m going to work even harder. Speaking of your success, a lot of the community attributes it to the strength of your character, Cammy. Do you have anything you want to say on that subject? I started Cammy during Season 2 of Street Fighter 5 and completed my playstyle gradually. Cammy was buffed in Season 3, and I think those buffs synergized well with my playstyle. I think Cammy is quite strong right now. But from an objective pro player perspective, or from the POV where you absolutely have to win, it’s necessary to pick a strong character. And all the players who are ranked high on CPT use top tier characters.