We caught up with Evil Geniuses’ mid lane prodigy, Joseph ‘Jojopyun’ Joonpyun, to discuss his origins in Fortnite, the LCS’s mid lane pool, and how a growth mindset propelled him through the ranks of NA’s competitive scene.
At 17 years of age, Jojopyun is the youngest player currently playing in the LCS.
He made his competitive debut a little over a year ago as the mid laner for the now-disbanded Noble Esports. That tenure only lasted a month, before he left to briefly join Zenith Esports, another NA amateur team, where he was a substitute.
Evil Geniuses picked him up in 2021, and that’s when his meteoric rise truly began. He played on the org’s academy team for only ten months before receiving his call up to the LCS.
During his tenure with Evil Geniuses Academy, the team posted underwhelming results, with an outlier second-placed finish in the 2021 Spring Giant Slayer Gauntlet their only result higher than fifth place.
— Evil Geniuses (@EvilGeniuses) November 16, 2021
But clearly, EG saw promise in Jojopyun despite the team’s results. He was called up to the LCS roster on November 15th, a mere six weeks and three days after he had turned 17, the minimum eligible age to compete on an LCS roster.
He made it to the finals of the LCS Lock In in his first-ever tier 1 tournament, and he’s not planning on stopping there.
Starting from the bottom
Jojopyun hasn’t always been a League player. The start of his career in pro gaming is perhaps a perfect explanation for the player he has become, and it comes from none other than the world of Fortnite, the hugely popular battle royale released in 2017.
As a highly-rated Fortnite player, Jojopyun would stream snipe pro players and challenge them to 1v1 duels. Most famously, he challenged Fortnite pro and popular content creator Tanner ‘Tfue’ Tenney to a 1v1 after encountering him in a public game.
It’s this self-confidence that’s instantly recognizable when talking to Jojopyun. He’s a player who knows exactly how good he is. Some might call it cockiness, but it’s also an undoubtedly powerful asset to have that level of self-belief at such a young age, and in such a competitive environment.
He never initially planned to be a professional gamer. “I just competed in it for fun,” he reminisced of his Fortnite career, “because I knew you could make money if you played well. I thought I was pretty good and I knew I could make some money, so I just kind of played whenever.”
He got into League after being recommended the game by a friend. Similarly to his experience with Fortnite, he never planned on playing it competitively. All he knew was that he enjoyed it, and was good at it: he went from reaching Diamond in 2019 to hitting 1,000+ LP challenger in 2020 and 2021.
He didn’t climb the ladder with the intent of going pro. “The most important thing for me when I start playing a game is how fun it is,” he explained, “and then eventually I got good and thought, ‘okay, maybe I can go pro.’”
The grind commences
But the process for making it in competitive League isn’t quite as simple as one day deciding to go pro. Jojopyun knew he was “good enough to get scouted”, but the chances of that happening increase exponentially with the number of games played. So the grind began.
However, he’s not the only aspiring pro to have spent countless hours grinding solo queue. There are thousands of highly-ranked players on the NA ladder, but very few of them make it to the LCS within their first year of competitive play.
Jojopyun attributes a lot of his success to his mindset. “I feel like a lot of people, and not just in gaming, struggle with improving and they just kind of… plateau” he said. “I think you need a good mindset: you need to understand that improvement comes from small steps.”
“If I learn one small thing tomorrow, then that’s fine, but it doesn’t feel like much. But if I keep learning these small things, eventually I’ll see real improvement.”
And he hasn’t lost that solo queue drive, even if he’s now got scrims to contend with and official matches to focus on. As of February 23rd, he was the highest-rated player on the North American Champion’s queue ladder.
The system was set up to allow professional players from the NA and LATAM ecosystems a chance to grind solo queue in a more structured environment. It’s a restricted access server that requires an application to enter and is populated by some of the most talented players North America has to offer.
Now we’re here
Small improvements quickly led to incredible results, but he says he still hasn’t lost that drive for constant improvement that propelled him so quickly up the NA ladder. The stakes are the highest they’ve ever been, but outwardly he remains unfazed by the pressure of NA audiences and the LCS stage.
“I like playing on stage,” he said. “ Everything feels more intense, and it really feels like the games are more important.”
And he’s not letting his youth hold him back, either. He’s playing on a team with some incredibly experienced players, including former world champion top laner Jeong ‘Impact’ Eonyoung.
But he’s confident he can make his voice heard even when communicating with such seasoned veterans. In fact, he admits that he’s never been a shy communicator in his pro career – “it’s actually the opposite- I think a lot of people would say I’m pretty loud.”
The confidence trick
He’s not one to mince his words outside of the scrim room, either. When asked about his opinion on his opponents in the NA mid lane talent pool, he admitted that he was “pretty confident” that he was one of the league’s best. Top three? Top five? He’s got higher expectations than that.
“If I say top one, I know I’ll sound cocky,” he said.“ I mean, I think I’m top one, but maybe I sound delusional. I’ve still got to prove it.”
- Read more: LCS 2022 Spring standings
He’s not content with just proving he’s NA’s best mid laner, though. As is the case for so many young players entering NA’s pro scene, he has his eyes on the World Championship.
But it’ll be a long road to get there, with EG currently sitting in eighth place in the LCS after a surprising 2-4 start to the Spring Split. Jojopyun has looked much more reserved than the standout performances we saw from him in the Lock In, lacking some of the explosiveness that’s become a standout part of his playstyle.
His rank on the Champion’s queue shows that his drive hasn’t wavered. In the words of EG’s head coach Peter Dun, he “has a ton of talent, and works harder than anyone else for it”.
I know champions queue isn't everything, but he has more games than almost anyone else, at almost the highest win rate. This is alongside all the vods he studies, and other grinding he does.
I'm not going to tell him to stop being who he is.
— Peter Dun (@pcdv8r) February 21, 2022
That hard work might not be paying off right now, but he’s proven he has the dedication and the mindset to blossom into one of NA’s best players. Even if he’s not immediately showing the results people had hoped for.
For all his self-assured confidence, he’s still a kid. He’ll slip up, but he’ll be right back the next day, grinding out games to chase that elusive goal of being the undisputed best mid laner in NA.