Razer’s Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee has been one of the most recognizable figures in professional fighting games for the last few years. He needs hardly any introduction as a four-time Evolution champion, the winner of the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary event in two titles, as well as winning more majors than you can count on your fingers and toes.
Not only is he world-renowned for his skills on the stick, but also very vocal and personable, and always has a lot to say when given the chance. Thus, when I sat down with him at Canada Cup to talk about Capcom Cup and his life in gaming, we had plenty to talk about.
Missing Person: It’s been quite a while since we met. How has your life been since Evolution?
Infiltration: Actually, after Evo, I wanted to take a break. In terms of training, my focus was to try out different characters because I knew for sure that after Evo, everyone would be hitting the lab to learn the Nash match-up. Therefore, I knew for a fact that the tier lists would change a lot prior to Capcom Cup. Right now, I’m just preparing for Capcom Cup.
Missing Person: Do you feel like the break has helped you, or do you think you might have taken too long a break?
Infiltration: It has actually helped me quite a bit. Also, since October, I started going to events again, and I expected to lose a lot. Of course, losing isn’t always fun, but I expected it to happen. It’s neither positive nor negative for me at this point; I’m just sticking to my plan leading up to Capcom Cup.
Missing Person: With the losses combined with the break, do you feel like the meta has changed to the point where you are now having to catch up to the meta, on top of learning new characters and maintaining a strong Nash?
Infiltration: True on all counts. The meta has definitely changed. A lot of the trending playstyles have evolved since Evo. As far as defensive play, it has evolved into baiting for throws or shimmies or jump throw techs. It has become very simplistic. So characters that are really strong and neutral, have good walk speeds, or are able to back away from wake-up situations are very common in the top 8s of many events, so it’s something I have to prepare for now.
Missing Person: There are some reports that you may not be able to win Capcom Cup due to this break. What do you have to say to them?
Infiltration: I’ll have to agree somewhat with the naysayers because it’s becoming harder and harder to stay competitive. Further, it’s inevitable that I’m a huge target due to how much I’ve won, including my Evo win. I knew for sure that everyone would have me in their sights after that to scout out my weaknesses, my characters’ weaknesses, and things of that sort. That was definitely inevitable. If you look at the current standings for Capcom Cup, based on the 32-player bracket format, I would have to face Sako first. That’s a rough start for me. There’s a lot of hurdles for me to win, but I have to face them.
Missing Person: Let’s focus on something more positive. We’ve seen you in a new role as coach for the Korean players that are making their way to events. As one of the best players in the world, in a smaller upstart scene, what responsibility do you feel to coach up the rest of Korea to your level?
Infiltration: I feel a deep responsibility to do this. As a lot of people know, Korea has not always had a strong Street Fighter scene, and most of the fighting game attention has been focused on Tekken. But with Street Fighter V, it’s a new game, and a new community is forming around it. There’s a lot of new players who are trying to get stronger, and I want to be able to help them because I have the ability to teach them faster than they could learn on their own.
Missing Person: Do you also believe that building up a stronger scene will also benefit you and your training in the long run?
Infiltration: Absolutely. The character choices in Korea are very diverse, so being able to make the Korean scene stronger will also help me in some of my match-up deficiencies that I currently face. Further, it will help keep me sharp when I’m not traveling.
Missing Person: Currently, we’ve only seen you traveling with NL, Verloren, Poongko, and XYZZY. I know there’s other killers emerging within Korea. Are there other Koreans that you would like to bring along to events?
Infiltration: There’s a lot of players that I would love to. But at the time, I’m bringing these guys out because they have expressed their interest in going out to more events and dedicating themselves to the game. The other players that I have in mind that would be great to bring haven’t expressed the same level of commitment yet, so I have focused on these guys first.
Missing Person: And another thing that we have seen you doing lately is commentary. I saw that you had provided commentary for the last two Spirit Zero events since Evo. You also provided commentary at ArcadeStream’s Road to Evo tournament. What are your thoughts in doing this?
Infiltration: I had no clue how hard commentary was until I started doing this myself! The people that dedicate themselves to it are in another league. But being able to watch all the matches and comment on them allows me to take a step back, and understand the game from a different perspective. In particular, for my students, it allows me to view their matches and see their mistakes more clearly so that I can work with them better.
Missing Person: Let’s jump to the past for a second. Did you play fighting games before you started playing Street Fighter IV?
Infiltration: I actually did. I played some Street Fighter II, like most people. In Korea, of course I played my share of Tekken and The King of Fighters. But it wasn’t until Street Fighter IV, and most notably, the console release of the game, that I really started to dig deeper and get into them as a competitive thing.
Missing Person: So I remember your early beginnings in the game a bit, and you probably don’t remember this. I actually ran into you at an arcade at Isu station in Seoul in 2010. I remember you beating me every time, and everyone else that was in there didn’t stand a chance. When I came back to America, I heard that you were going to Evo, and immediately called you going top 3. What were your thoughts when you reached that level in Evo 2010?
Infiltration: Quite frankly, when I entered Evo that year, I had zero expectations of doing that well. I just went because I heard of the event, and didn’t even know that type of thing existed until then, and wanted to see it for myself. So when I got to top 8, I had actually shocked myself. I feel like the fact that I was unknown to nearly everyone worked to my benefit, because no one knew how I played. I could play to my strengths and most people weren’t aware of them at that point.
Missing Person: At what point did you decide that this was what you wanted to do, and dedicated yourself to traveling for events?
Infiltration: Probably right after Evolution 2010. I didn’t get started on that right away, and it took me until NorCal Regionals the next year to really start traveling. But I think when I did so well at Evo, I realized that this is what I am passionate about, and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Missing Person: So you’ve experienced playing side-by-side and playing head-to-head in arcades. Which do you prefer?
Infiltration: I actually prefer to play side-by-side. A lot of people don’t realize this, but just like in American arcades, a lot of Korean cabinets were setup for side-by-side play. I actually enjoy being right next to my opponent, and feeling their movement, and feeling the tension from being that close to each other during competition.
Missing Person: Do you have any final thoughts or shout-outs to give to your fans?
Infiltration: First off, I want to apologize to my fans. After Evo, I promised to start streaming again, and due to other obligations, I was unable to do so. I still want to start streaming again, but it will probably be sometime after Capcom Cup. Also, I want to thank everyone who has supported all my friends from Korea who are making their way to events. Whether they’re doing so financially or just coming up to them and giving them emotional support as fans, it’s all greatly appreciated.
Special thanks to Kevin “Burnout” Kim for his assistance in the Korean and English translation of the interview.