Making Waves is a weekly column series highlighting the best rising League of Legends talent in North America.
For as long as he can remember, Immortals Academy jungler Michael “Concept” Su said he has always been able to excel at whatever put his mind to.
The 22 year-old Chicago native was a stellar student who poured his efforts into his schoolwork, and eventually went on to study computer science at the University of Chicago. His hard work set him up to become successful in whatever he decided to pursue, but although he completed his degree, he was never really passionate about a particular field or career path.
“I didn’t ever really plan on becoming a software engineer,” Concept said. “I think, for most of my life, up until college, I kind of lived in the present, mostly just following the responsibilities that were kind of naturally given to me.”
Growing up in a fairly strict household, Concept had the importance of academic success instilled in him at an early age. Through the stress of academics and extracurriculars, League of Legends provided a much-needed escape. He loved the game and was improving at a rapid pace; it was a unique opportunity for him to invest time and energy into something he actually enjoyed.
Despite hitting Challenger for the first time at 16 years old, Concept said he never imagined he’d play League of Legends professionally; it just wasn’t practical. Now, after competing in amateur for a year, Concept finds himself in that very position with Immortals Academy, and he’s taking it just as seriously as he did his studies.
Growing up in a boring suburb, gaming was pretty much the main way Concept spent his free time. He first started playing League regularly in the seventh grade after coming home from vacation with his family and discovering his friends had picked up the game while he was gone.
That was back in Season 2. By the time Season 3 rolled around, Concept was already significantly better than his friends at the game. That year, he started trying his hand at ranked and peaked at Diamond 1 by the end of the season.
“I’d say I was always naturally good at the game,” Concept said. “It’s always been what I do for fun outside of socializing and my various activities related to school.”
From the very start of his journey with the game, he loved playing top lane. Because he typically played fighter-type classes in other games, like Runescape, it was easy for him to gravitate towards the role filled with bruisers and juggernauts.
“What I enjoy most about top lane is I think it’s a very good balance of having that 1v1 element of play,” Concept said. “I enjoy that kind of style of being like a big dude that runs at your opponents. In League of Legends, when you’re doing that style very well, it’s extremely oppressive.”
Concept said he has always enjoyed a playstyle that frustrated his opponents, which is one of the reasons why his favorite champion is Singed. After he hit Challenger for the first time in high school when he was 16, he continued playing League at a high level as a hobby throughout his school years until something eventually clicked.
In his senior year of college in 2020, Concept started to burn out from the monotony of preparing for job interviews and looking for post-grad internships. League became more and more of a necessary distraction, and in turn, he started improving at a faster pace. He ended Season 10 in the North American ladder’s top 20, and for the first time, Concept considered taking a shot at going pro.
“I had a hard time doing all the job preparation stuff,” said Concept. “I had the skill in League and the passion for it that I really didn’t feel like I was ever able to find during school. I think everything worked out, because I’ve been really happy in the past year working on League.”
Once he’d fully set his mind on going pro, Concept put in the legwork up front to ensure his parents would buy in. Since he first picked up the game in Season 2, the life of a League of Legends pro has become more lucrative and more sustainable, with more opportunities than ever to compete at the highest level. His parents knew how good he was at the game, according to Concept, and after he explained to them the various possibilities and opportunities that a successful pro career could open up for him, he had their attention.
“They sensed that I didn’t have the same kind of long-term drive and ambition to pursue something even though I was a naturally gifted student,” said Concept. “They could see that I had thought it through, and that there was potentially a career in it, and that it was something that I cared about, so they both were on board.”
He and his parents agreed that if he didn’t find any opportunities after competing for a year in 2021, he’d switch gears and put his computer science degree to use. Now, after playing in amateur for a year, he’s just finished settling into a new apartment in Los Angeles after signing with Immortals for the 2022 season.
One step at a time
It was easy for Concept to adjust to his new lifestyle as a pro because of the experiences he’s gained in developing good habits and collaborating with others through school and his time playing with Revival and Area of Effect Esports in 2021. He said he believes that a high level of emotional and social maturity are necessary factors in becoming a great player and teammate.
“Understanding how to communicate with different types of people was something I thought I learned well throughout my years of school,” said Concept. “When you become professional, if you really want to optimize how you’re performing at the game, you need to understand very well how to listen to your emotions and how to control them.”
His mindset is shared by his teammates on Immortals Academy, he said, and it’s contributed to a positive culture built around respect and communication within the team. Playing with veterans like bot laner Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon and other experienced players, like mid laner Prodromos “Pretty” Kevezitidis, made it easier for him to find his footing as a new player.
“We have very good veterans,” Concept said. “I think they’re really good at being on the same page as far as what we’re trying to do as a team and trying to make sure that we all can learn to play as a team together.”
The efforts made to connect with his teammates and other members of Immortals outside of the game have been equally important to Concept. In the short month he’s been in LA, he’s enjoyed hotpot with his coach and League Championship Series counterpart Mohamed “Revenge” Kaddoura, gone to the gym with his Academy teammates and even had a small New Years gathering.
“After a whole year of COVID and grinding League and just being on my own, I was happy with that,” Concept said. “I think I’m very self-sufficient naturally, but it was nice to be able to see more people and get to know my teammates and my coach and start to connect with other people in the organization.”
Concept’s first year in Academy is already off to a great start. After two weeks of play, Immortals Academy remains undefeated with a 4-0 record. With the fruits of his labor already paying off in the best way possible, Concept remains focused on taking things day by day. Rather than fixating too much on the future, his goals are oriented towards showing up as the best version of himself as a person, player and teammate every day for Immortals Academy.
“Anyone in Academy should want to make it to the LCS, because that’s the whole point of Academy,” Concept said. “What I think about is ‘how can I be the best teammate possible? How can I be someone my opponents hate to face?’… Maybe I won’t be Faker, but as long as I’m paying attention to myself and I’m happy with the present, and I’m happy to work hard on the game and improve myself, then I think I’ll be happy with the results, wherever that ends up taking me.”
Throughout his life, Concept said he hasn’t found anything that he’s more passionate about than playing and competing in League of Legends. His inherent love for the game pushes him to take great care in how he approaches his growth. Now that he’s been given the chance to live out his newfound dream, he wants to make every second count.
“I don’t like to think about things like, ‘what is my legacy going to be?’ I think that’s the result of what you achieve,” said Concept. “I just want to be a teammate that my teammates love to play with.”