The story of the 2016 League of Legends offseason was the reverse exodus, but Shin “Coco” Jin-yeong defied that narrative. While some of the LPL’s biggest-name Korean players returned home to the LCK, Coco was one of just a handful of Korean players that made the jump from Korea to China in search of something new.
Coco has been playing professional League of Legends for a long time, dating back to his time on Xenics Storm in 2013 before moving to the CJ Entus organization and then Longzhu Gaming. It’s hard to argue that Coco wasn’t at his best while with with CJ Entus. In his almost two years with the organization, he helped them reach the LCK playoffs twice, captured a third place finish at the 2015 Regional Finals and second place in the 2015 LoL KeSPA Cup.
It’s been a rougher road for Coco since leaving CJ Entus at the tail end of 2015. Incredible Miracle was often at risk of relegation before Coco joined them in December 2015, and he wasn’t able to right their course. IM, which later became Longzhu, was a bottom of the barrel team and Coco only helped Longzhu bring the embattled squad up to a seventh and eighth place finish during the two splits that he was with them. Looking back on his time with Coco says he struggled at the time and knew that he needed a fresh start.
“I was a pro gamer for a long time in Korea but it was hard for me to get motivated,” Coco said. “So I wanted to try something new and experience new things so I decided to come to a Chinese team.”
While Newbee only barely slipped into the playoffs with a fourth place finish in their group, the team did manage to stave off relegation after a hitting a rough patch between weeks four and six, where they only one a single match out of the five they played. Coco says that while he believes that the individual skill on the team is solid, they still need to improve their coordination. As for his growth,, the veteran mid laner is doing what he can to work on his communication and mental state.
“I know how to say some of the basic things related to the game like checking for summoner spells or champion names,” Coco said. “However, it’s still difficult for me to give direct orders so Swift translates what I say and that’s how we’ve been communicating.
“Rather than pressure from the team I had a lot of expectations for myself and I feel like I struggled mentally because I felt like, compared to last season, my individual play hasn’t been up to par. So I’ve been talking a lot with Frozen and spectating a lot of matches even in solo queue.”
Moving to China isn’t all work though. Coco says he was mostly concerned about things outside of the game before his big move, namely the food. Luckily, that part worked out for him.
“I’m adjusting well,” Coco said. “I was most worried about food but all the food in China is really delicious. The hard part is that the practice environment is different than in Korea so I’m still adjusting to that. The food is good and there’s a place to work out and it’s located in the middle of Shanghai so I can take a car and travel a bit outward and there’s a lot to see so I’m very satisfied.”
Coco noted that Chinese teams tend to experiment more with picks than Korean teams do, in his experience, which could contribute to why the practice environment is a little different. Something that isn’t taking up his time though is streaming.
Some people might find it surprising, but Coco has chosen not to stream while in China, and he says that that decision was solely his. While many assume that Chinese LoL contracts come with big money incumbent on the players streaming, Coco says that Newbee isn’t requiring him to stream.
“In Korea I did it based on the orders of the team but I don’t think it’s like that here on a Chinese team so I haven’t streamed yet,” he said.
Coco says the the other major difference is in the skill level. He doesn’t feel that it’s too different from Korea, but China has struggled to find consistent international success over the past few years, despite the fact that LPL teams featured a number of top tier Korean imports. Coco says that the difference simply comes from experience and the infrastructure that comes with it.
“If I had to compare it, Korean teams have more practice and the coaches have a lot more experience,” he said. “Which I think gives them an advantage.”
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.