For Contenders fans, it’s easy to miss the person behind the username. You’ll hardly ever see a Contenders player’s face on a broadcast, and relatively few stream with a face cam or post selfies on Twitter, for a number of reasons that are their own. What’s important to remember, though, is that each of these players has a unique story – and some are starting their journey in different ways than others.
Rene “K1ng” Rangel is one such player. He has no Liquidpedia page, no high-quality headshots done by Robert Paul on a stage at Blizzard Arena. His Twitter profile picture is a Minecraft chicken for goodness’ sake. It’s dyed blue and standing on a snowy mountain ledge, staring unblinkingly into the middle distance. For someone who understands what it takes to build a personal brand, this seems self-destructive. Why not get your face out there? How are we supposed to get to know this player?
One small, very important piece of information makes K1ng’s thought process crystal clear. Minimal social media presence, Minecraft pictures… oh, wait. This kid is 14 years old. That changes things, right? This suddenly makes a little more sense. With that in mind, it made a lot of sense for us to do an interview. He’s been one of the more consistent pieces of the Skyfoxes roster, and balances that consistency with all the things 14 year olds have to balance – high school, homework, parents, and so on. I talked about all of that with him below. Enjoy!
So start us off with an introduction. Who are you, what’s your story? How long have you been playing Overwatch?
Hey, so my name’s K1ng, I’m currently the flex DPS for Skyfoxes for this season of Contenders. I’m also 14 years old. As for how long I’ve been playing Overwatch? I’ve been around since open beta, which was like… two years ago, now?
About two and a half years, now.
(K1ng laughs.) Wow, was it that long ago?
Right? That’s what I’m saying!
So you’ve been doing this for some time now, we can say. Is this your first experience on a pro team, or did you go through the standard Open Division grind? You don’t have a Liquidpedia page yet, so researching you has been more difficult than usual.
Yeah, I’ve played in Open Division a lot – I think I’ve played in every season since it started. I’ve played with three teams in OD, but I’ve also been scrimming and playing competitively for quite a while.
I wanted to talk about your game last week against NRG. It didn’t really go the way you wanted it to, obviously – what happened there?
For me, at least, it was definitely nerves. Playing in front of that many people for the first time was pretty scary for me. It was pretty mixed between everyone; some people were nervous and some people were trying to keep calm, but almost too calm, to the point where they weren’t talking. It was like that for me, towards the end, especially. NRG also played like extremely well that game, and we had our share of mistakes. That’s basically what it came down to.
So what do you think you and the team needs to work on most to get through this season alive? All of your opponents are pretty tough.
I think the nerves part has really been taking control in these big matches. If we can just get over that, maybe? That would definitely help. But it’ll come with time.
Right, it’s something you just need to put the time into. The only way to improve on that front is to stay right in the thick of things – that’ll be what busts you guys out of this slump, I’m sure.
So I just recently interviewed your teammate Felty, and I asked him the same question I’m about to ask you, which has to do with Skyfoxes’s staff. It’s become a bit of a meme at this point that the Skyfoxes have a billion people on the team. Do you feel that the structure provided by this extensive staff has been helpful?
I think it has been, yeah. First of all, it’s kind of obvious, but we don’t actually have 90 people or whatever. I think Liquidpedia says 28, but a couple people have left, and literally only four of them are coaches, and maybe four or five more are managers.That’s not even counting media people, too, right?
So it’s not like there are 18 different people in your ear at once, basically.
Yeah! I’m pretty sure Felty mentioned this, but the positional coaches really help the DPS, tanks, and so on. I’d say having as many people as we do, I think that’s pretty helpful. If I’m being honest, though, I don’t always know what all the managers are doing. I’m sure each of them helps with scrims and our structure, but I don’t keep an eye on everything they do every day, you know? I let them do their thing. And then the media people obviously do their thing, which is totally separate.
Got it. You’re not in constant contact with absolutely everyone, every day.
Do any of the staff approach working with you differently than other members of the team on account of your age? Do your parents have to be involved in that process, or are you able to do your own thing?
My parents are involved, but I’d say my age doesn’t really effect anything when it comes to coaching. If I screw up or something, they’re not super hard on me. Even then, though, they’ll tell me straight up – “Here’s what you should have done here, or there.” I don’t think my age is affects any part of that process.
So they don’t coddle you or anything – that’s definitely good. What about your fellow players? Do they ever give you a hard time because you’re young, or treat you like the little brother? Or even the reverse – do they have more respect for you, since you’re out here grinding at such a young age?
I’m not hated or messed with because of my age, but I think there is like some effect. I think they respect me because of my age – when we’re playing, they’ll treat me the same as anyone else. I feel like there’s definitely some respect for me because of my age and how I play. Given that, I wouldn’t say I’m looked down on by the team or anything because of my age.
Well that’s good. And all this is happening while you’re balancing high school, right? What’s that like?
Honestly, it’s not really a crazy thing to balance it. I just get out of school and I have to run home, because scrims start the second school gets out for me. After that, I’m left with five hours to do homework and other school stuff. Right now it’s definitely not bad. It’s not a huge issue, I’d say.
Getting back to your parents – do they understand what’s going on at all? Are they supporting you actively, or do they just assume that you’re running off to play more video games with your friends all the time?
They definitely, know what’s going on. They get that this is, like, a huge deal – they share it around to the rest of my family, and talk about how big this is.
Oh, so they’re talking about you to people! Like, “Oh, look at our boy! He’s a professional gamer now!”
(K1ng laughs) Yeah, like, they definitely know it’s a big thing. Even my freakin’ grandma stalks my Twitter and stuff like that.
NICE. That means you have to watch how you’re tweeting, though…
Yeah, that’s definitely a thing too!
Well that’s good! At least they get what’s going on. Do they watch all your matches? Are they rushing to the couch when your game gets underway?
Oh, that’s literally what they do. For the NRG match, they all saw our team get dumpstered. They definitely know what’s going on.
Alright, so which of your teammates would you say you’re closest with?
I’d probably have to say Moopey, mostly because I’ve known him the longest, having played with him in trials. I’d probably also say Felty, because when I first started playing in Open Division, he was one of the first players I played with. I played on an Open team for almost a year with him. That team was really bad, but I still enjoyed my time with them. It’s crazy how long it’s been.
And what was that team called?
It was called “Is Pepsi Okay?”
Oh, right! Felty mentioned playing with them on WatchHaus, too.
Which player would you say you look up to the most right now? Someone that’s made you say, “I wanna be able to do that!”
I’ve looked up to players in the Overwatch League like ShaDowBurn, but that was a while ago. I don’t really have one right now, but it used to always be ShaDowBurn and Haksal. I’d analyze how they played and stuff, but right now there isn’t anyone I really watch closely.
So there’s a fairly small group of players around your age that are pushing into the high-level Overwatch scene right now – either on the ladder or in OD and Contenders. Do you guys keep an eye on each other, or watch each other’s backs? Or are they just other random gamers to you?
We’re definitely friends. We have a separate Discord where we talk to each other, even. Even playing versus Second Wind, it’s kind of hard because of how many people I know on that team. I wouldn’t say that we look out for each other, but we’re definitely friends.
Are you going to try for an Overwatch League contract as soon as you’re of age, or do you want to go to college and do normal-person stuff first?
If I can, honestly I want to push for the Overwatch League right away. That’s my goal right now – to look good, so that in the future I can have more opportunities to show off that I’m one of the best.
And finally, to any fans – present or future – what message would you send to them here and now?
Stick around! I know our showing with NRG wasn’t the best, but I think there are definitely gonna be better showings from me in the future. Just stick around for them.
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Featured Image Courtesy of @SkyfoxesOW