BURBANK, California -- Kim "Pine" Do-hyeon has played only two maps in the Overwatch League so far this regular season, but the New York Excelsior star has already become one of the most popular figures in the league.
Over the course of the XL's two wins in the opening week of the Overwatch League, Pine came out in both contests on the control map Ilios, showcasing his aiming prowess with signature heroes McCree and Widowmaker. When Pine was on the field, the camera didn't budge from his first-person perspective, following him as he nailed headshot after headshot in succession against his opponents on the Boston Uprising and Houston Outlaws.
Each time, Pine would hard-carry his team, the crowd would rise to their feet, and the XL would take home a dominant victory, demoralizing its opponents. After getting the fans' favor, Pine would smile, dab to the crowd, walk off with his gear and be replaced by starting DPS player Kim "Libero" Hye-sung. In only two short appearances, Pine has established himself as the "Final Boss" of the XL thus far, appearing from the bench to take over a series before vanishing into the shadows once more until called upon again to destroy the enemy team.
"I'm really happy right now," Pine said following his team's 3-1 victory over the Outlaws on Saturday to keep XL's perfect record intact. "I'm really happy the fans in America are cheering for me."
Relegated to a flex support role in the preseason due to starting member Bang "JJoNak" Seung-hyeon's not turning 18 until right before the regular season, Pine exhibited his true strength in his accuracy as a DPS player during the opening week. A player with one of the wider hero pools in the league, Pine can be a roller coaster in terms of consistency at times, but it can't be denied that he is one of the best players in the league when it comes to landing his shots.
Like a basketball player who gets hot in a game shooting 3-pointers, Pine is a heat-check player. When he's in the zone, as he was facing the Uprising and Outlaws, the long-range bombs and headshots come in overwhelming waves.
In and out of the game, Pine has a style all his own, a mop of dyed pink hair on his head and thick-rimmed glasses. He fits in the rest of XL, many of whom have their hair styled and colored in unique ways, and the team breaks the old stereotype of what a South Korean esports team should look and act like. Instead of being gracious in victory and saying thank you to the fans with every answer given at an interview, New York has a brazen attitude that fits the city the players compete for, boisterous and loud, celebrating after won rounds and playing to the crowd's cheers for the team.
If Pine's antics make him the star performer of the motley crew in New York, then the team's captain, Park "Saebyeolbe" Jong-yeol, is the conductor of the madness.
"Saebyeolbe has a lot to do with [our team's personality] because he is the leader," he said. "He is the one who is the craziest. He dabs. He is the most outgoing, so [we] just follow him. Also, the fans cheering for us has a lot to do with it."
In Los Angeles less than two months, Pine has already made it his stage. He loves the Mexican food -- "I love tacos," he told me repeatedly in English -- and inside the Burbank studios where TV shows are shot daily, Pine has made himself the main character of the Overwatch League so far.
But he has played only as a control map specialist so far. Pine could conceivably make his way into other game formats with his stellar play so far, but the DPS didn't want to leak any possible future plans.
"Of course I'm confident," he said, "but I can't say anything else because of team strategy."
So far, that strategy is working, and so is the XL's eccentric style. After making the crowd go wild for him the second night in three days and helping his team stay atop the Atlantic division with fellow all-South Korean roster and rival London Spitfire, there was only one way for Pine to celebrate his newfound fame in the city where stars are born.
"I have one plan: play 'Just Dance' with my teammates."