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Families Supporting Esports — And Esports Supporting Families

The end of the year is a time when family comes to mind, and family support has long been a sensitive topic in esports. For many pioneering pros of the past, the reaction from parents and other relatives has been confusion or even hostility. We saw the tides change in this old narrative in 2019, with more and more relatives embracing the esports stardom of those near and dear to them.

For esports journalist Emily Rand, witnessing the story of another esports professional’s relationship with his mother helped heal her own wounded one. In a personal column for ESPN, Rand recounts her visit to South Korea during the 2018 League of Legends World Championship, including her experience at a restaurant called  Yumine. Yumine’s proprietor is  Kim Yoon-mi, the mother of legendary League of Legends jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-Ho, and she had built the establishment into a veritable shrine to her son, with photos and memorabilia on every wall. Rand traced the evolution of Mrs. Kim’s perspective on her son’s career from ire and disapproval to wholehearted support, paralleled by her relationship with her own mother and, perhaps, those of many others in esports. 

Commemorative posters and memorabilia dedicated to League of Legends jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho hang in his family’s restaurant, Yumine, in Chang Dong, South Korea. Source: ESPN. Photo by Emily Rand.

Reflecting on her piece after its publication, Rand wrote to The Story Mob that this was a story she had been wanting to tell for a while.

“I was surprised when [Kim Yoon-mi] expressed regret that she had drilled into Peanut to always be first in everything, and her honesty was incredibly emotionally-affecting. It mirrored similar things I had heard from my own mother growing up … I wanted to try to express that fine line between well-meaning love and what could also be regarded as a hyper-competitive, overbearing nature,” she said. “I was honestly blown away by the response.”

Overwatch League team Washington Justice played host to another family story when DPS player Ethan “Stratus” Yankel’s mom, Christine, spoke with The Washington Post about encouraging Stratus on his path to becoming a pro gamer. While her son’s profession still feels “surreal” to Christine, as she told The Post:

“If you don’t know anything about the technology or what your kids are doing, then of course that’s going to stir up fear. That’s understandable. But the more you’re exposed to it and the more you’re familiar with it, the less scary it becomes.”

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