Overwatch

LA Gladiators Bischu on chronic illness and Overwatch League

Usually, when we hear about a player missing games, it falls into two categories: disciplinary reasons or injury. But for the LA Gladiator’s flex tank player Aaron “Bischu” Kim, missing the first week of Season 2 of the Overwatch League had nothing to do with either. Instead, Bischu would miss his team’s first two games because of his chronic illness – ulcerative colitis (UC). Bischu had tweeted out that he was having a UC flare up on February 4th.

GINX Esports TV’s Amanda Stevens, who also has ulcerative colitis, met with Bischu in LA to talk about his illness and how it affects him as a pro gamer in the Overwatch League, as well as his insight into the GOATs meta.

Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

So, your season’s not off to a super great start. You tweeted out a couple of weeks ago that you were having an ulcerative colitis flare-up. As someone who also has UC, I know that being in stressful environments can be pretty bad for the illness. You’ve been a professional gamer for a pretty long time; how have you been able to manage your illness alongside being a gamer?

First of all, I just wanna say that ulcerative colitis isn’t just colitis. It’s a lot worse than what most people might think. Just because the name says “colitis”… it’s really not the same. When I’m in remission and not in a flare, I can pretty much say that I’m perfectly fine. I just have to manage my diet a little bit, but when in remission I’m feeling really good.

But obviously at the moment, I’m still going under [through] a flare and it’s pretty annoying for a professional gamer. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion; stress gives you a really good motivation to push that extra mile. But it turns out that one of the main triggers of ulcerative colitis is stress so that is extremely unfortunate for my occupation. It sucks, but it’s [gaming] something that I really love, so I’m not going to give it up just like that.

Managing ulcerative colitis is pretty annoying. Everything about ulcerative colitis is just really annoying, but the flare hasn’t really hit, I guess, for a while? I’ve had UC for like four years now, but the flares only really started getting bad two years ago. Even during last year’s preseason – fortunately, it was a preseason, unlike this year – I was a little bit stressed out and I got a flare. It took quite a lot of time out of me.

Last year was particularly bad, and I was out for about a month. The cramps were insanely painful. This year, thankfully, it’s a little bit more manageable. I still have lethargy (low energy) and a lot of pain, and there’s a lot of bathroom trips… I’m sure you’d know. I know it’s a little gross, but that’s just how it is.

Right now, you’re not able to play. How does it feel to be on the sidelines for something like this? It’s not like a normal gamer thing – you don’t have a wrist injury or a hand injury; it’s something that’s fully beyond your control.

I’m not gonna lie, it sucks a lot. Void did a killer job last night, he really did; he was playing so well. I was really proud of him. Unfortunately, things didn’t go the way we wanted them to but that makes me a little more motivated. As soon as I get better, I’m just gonna practice with SilvaraS so I can really contribute to our team. It’s a little bit frustrating, but like I said, it’s a good motivator at the same time, I think.

Since you can’t actively practice, have you taken more of a supportive role on the team, such as helping them with VOD reviews? Or are you more focused on getting better now – or a balance of the two?

So that’s actually been a little difficult for me, just because I’m a player. I get paid to play, and I’m on leave right now so it feels personally bad for me to just rest. I mean, I’m supposed to, but it just feels like I’m not contributing enough to the team and that I’m falling behind. Trying to balance that has been pretty hard for me, because even though I might want some time to practice, I just get a cramp and it’s like, “Oh, sorry guys, never mind. I can’t do whatever we were going to do. I guess I’ll just watch or something.”

Right now, after this interview, I’m going to try to go to the office just so I can watch better and pay attention a little bit more. Staying home is nice because there’s a bathroom right next to me. That’s actually a really big plus. I don’t know, I think there’s some mental thing going on too. If there’s a bathroom near me, it just seems like it [my stomach] hurts less.

That’s why in my apartment, I picked the room closest to the bathroom. It’s like actually the worst room in the apartment.

*Laughs* But it’s worth for us.

I remember my roommates asking, “Why did you pick the worst room?” and I was like, “It’s next to the bathroom.”

Yeah, that’s very true. I’m very glad there’s a bathroom next to me. As soon as I’m outside, I get… I’m not sure if this is a little bit of anxiety, but my stomach just hurts more. I don’t understand why. In some ways it just sounds like an excuse, but our stomachs are really weird things. I don’t think we 100% exactly understand how our gut works, in fact. Your stomach controls quite a bit of your mental state, in terms of your mood and things like that. I definitely notice it as a player.

Hopefully you get well soon and you get to start playing. Looking ahead this season; there’s a bunch of expansion teams and new talent being brought in from the Contenders scene. Is there anybody who you would be dying to be up against on stage right now?

To be honest, that opponent was Seoul Dynasty for me. So that was actually a really… extra painful game to watch because I couldn’t help; it was kinda helpless but I really want to play against them. It would have been really fun, in my opinion. But other than that… I’m not going to say (San Francisco) Shock as well because I’m probably going to miss that too. So the two matches that I was easily looking forward to [the most] were the first two matches. It’s just unfortunate, but I also want to play against Hangzhou as well, because they’re like everyone’s upcoming favourite right now.

Yeah, you wanna say like, “Oh man, they’re nothing.”

Ah, nah, they seem like they’re good! They had some interesting comps when we practised against them a long time ago. It’s been a while. It’ll be pretty interesting to see how far they’ve progressed, because they seem like a very good team.

Yeah, I’m pretty happy that Spark are fully embracing the anime too. When they were coming out from the press room, I thought, “If they don’t have the weebiest entrance ever, I’m gonna be so mad.”

I think I missed their entrance. What was it?

It was pretty casual but they were doing finger guns. They had foam fingers as well.

The big ones, yeah.

Otherwise, it was a pretty low-key entrance. I was a little disappointed.

I understand. It was their first time; they might be a little bit shy.

Speaking of entrances, have you ever thought of upping your entrance persona a bit more?

No, we all thought about this, but it’s one of those things where everyone needs to get into it or it just looks bad. All six people need to be in on this or it just doesn’t turn out good, and then at that point, people are like, “Oh, we might as well not do it then.”  

We’ve talked a lot about this, and I think that our media team especially wanted us to do this a lot, but we never came to a conclusion.

As you’re getting flamed for it right now… So, I feel like I can’t talk to a tank player and not bring up our loved triple tank meta right now. How ready are you for the meta to shift?

I don’t know. Personally, I actually don’t mind GOATS just because it’s really hard to play it perfectly, in my opinion. GOATS is just about making fewer mistakes than your opponent, so at the professional level there’s so many little things that I appreciate as a player.

Sometimes it’s messy. To be honest, sometimes we have no idea what’s going on, just like you guys. In-game, we’re just like, shooting things. There’s so many lights in a fight that I don’t know what’s going on, and so we’re just shooting things. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. But sometimes when we play that GOATS comp perfectly, it does feel really good. I feel like most of the pro players would agree; when you execute a GOATS perfectly, it does feel really good. But it has been a while, so I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing some new comps. This season, actually, more than 20 heroes were played just in one day. That’s pretty crazy.

I think that people are satisfied with how often GOATS appears. It does appear, but not always. I feel like if casters do a good job explaining the intricacies of GOATS, then people will appreciate the little things more, because at this point everyone’s just dismissing it all as “Oh, it’s just another GOATS,” and then they don’t really pay attention. There are a lot of small things to catch, in my opinion.

Last question: Is there anything that you want to say to your fans, or potentially to any other fans who may also have ulcerative colitis?

First of all, to everyone with ulcerative colitis out there, I understand. I understand the shit that you go through, no pun intended. I know how rough it is, and maybe I’m just talking out of frustration at myself, but I know sometimes that people don’t understand because it’s not just a stomach ache to us. But the best we can do is just to not let this be a crutch and to just try to improve ourselves more when we’re healthy.

Thank you for always supporting us and supporting me, even though I’m not playing right now. Thank you for telling me to get better. I really do appreciate it, so thank you, guys.

The LA Gladiators’ next match will be on Saturday, February 23rd, and hopefully Bischu will be able to join his team on the stage again soon. 

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