Luka “Perkz” Perković and Steven “Hans sama” Liv differ quite a bit as people. Mid laner Perkz, one of the most-decorated players in League of Legends history, overflows with confidence and doesn’t mince his words. Bot laner Hans sama, whose skills have been celebrated for a while, won his first LEC title this year and is a much quieter person. He takes his time before sharing his thoughts.
But the one thing they have in common: they’ve been playing League of Legends for a long, long time.
Perkz made his debut in the EU LCS, which later rebranded to the LEC, in 2016 with G2 Esports. Hans sama joined just one year later, donning the jersey of Misfits. The two have walked completely different paths in the League of Legends esports scene. They’ve failed and they’ve prevailed. They’ve played countless games against hundreds of opponents through every meta imaginable.
What is it that keeps them going after such a long time?
Born to compete
“Whenever I see my friend’s grandmother, my neighbor in Croatia, she says that I always wanted to beat them in board games,” Perkz reminisced. “I was competitive for sure. I have three older brothers and an older sister, so I felt that I had to fight.
Perkz’s love for competition quickly expressed itself through games. The first video game that gave him a faint taste of esports was Call of Duty 4. Though Perkz hadn’t set his mind on making a living from playing games, he absorbed everything that pro players published in terms of guides and videos. At twelve years old, he played in online Call of Duty tournaments. Without a mic—his teammates couldn’t find out that he was still so young.
“I wanted to smash my opponents and I wanted to be better than anyone else.”— Perkz
“I was always about being the best,” said Perkz. “I wanted to smash my opponents and I wanted to be better than anyone else. It was just pure ego. Nothing else really mattered.”
Hans sama loved video games too, but listed something else as being the first clear indicator that he had an insatiable thirst for being the best at something.
“I competed in tennis from when I was seven years old until I was fourteen,” the bot laner explained. “I had the goal of being the best tennis player, but I was just not good enough. I’m definitely a competitor. I feel pretty bad when I lose.”
Neither Perkz nor Hans sama thought early on that they would be able to make a living from playing video games. They were passionate kids, but at that age didn’t consider going pro as a viable career option. Both players initially thought that they would finish their studies and gradually discover a career that would be more in line with their upbringing.
The Rift calls
The two players first realized that there was more to playing League of Legends for fun when they hit Challenger. Coincidentally, both reached the highest rank when they were just fourteen years old. It gave them the opportunity to compete directly against pro players.
“Playing against other pro players was always a special feeling because they actually did it for a living,” Hans sama said. I was in the top ten, I played with a for-fun French team, and I just loved the game. I loved winning. Hearing you could make a living playing the game, and show that you’re the best, was the best thing I could hear as a teenager.”
“I still remember my first competitions. It was full of stress, I was scared to lose. Now, I have developed some skills to adapt to it.”— Hans sama
Hans sama said he received a lot of support from the community. They called him a prodigy. Hans sama didn’t want to disappoint them. More than that, he wanted to prove them right.
Perkz tried to explain to his parents how impressive it was that he had become part of such an elite club at a young age. With their support, he committed more and more resources and time to his pursuit of greatness. He hung out with pros in TeamSpeak to discuss the game and started following the professional scene loyally.
“Looking back at it, I was trying really hard to go pro,” Perkz said. “I was doing everything in my power. I was grinding high-ranked games, I was playing on teams, making connections… In season 4 I went to LANs. I went to Sweden. I tried to push my way through.”
Both players worked hard to make it into the spotlight. It was only the start of their long journey, but they were determined to walk the road ahead.
In good times and bad
When the dream of being a pro player became reality, Perkz and Hans sama got a reality check. Being a pro isn’t just playing League of Legends with friends. It’s a full-time job with a lot on the line.
“A lot of stress is involved,” Hans sama said. “I still remember my first competitions. It was full of stress, I was scared to lose. Now, I have developed some skills to adapt to it. I still feel anxious sometimes, but it’s natural. You have to adapt to it.”
Feeling that pressure wasn’t as big of a hurdle to overcome for Perkz. His initial challenges lay elsewhere: his personality. Perkz readily admitted that he initially was a difficult teammate because of his brazen attitude. He had to live up to the expectations that came with being a pro player, from practicing diligently with the team to taking care of himself.
“I’ve been winning my whole career. So now, the years where I don’t win seem like a complete failure to everyone.”— Perkz
“There are so many small things I had to know,” the mid laner said. “Like controlling social media, for example. But the most important part is understanding what it means to be a team. You are irrelevant compared to the group. I had to overcome my ego and selfishness.”
Perkz and Hans sama learned their lessons and it paid dividends. For Perkz, it meant winning more EU LCS and LEC trophies than any other pro before him. Even when he role-swapped to ADC, he was part of the first-ever European team to win the Mid-Season Invitational. He made it to the world championship final that same year and reached the semifinal one year later. Most players dream of winning a title once. For Perkz, all that success has an inverse effect.
“I’ve been winning my whole career. So now, the years where I don’t win seem like a complete failure to everyone,” Perkz noted. “I don’t think those years are a failure per se. Like, last year, with Vitality, we didn’t make Worlds, but I still thought I could be the best. Many people take a step back to take two steps forward. Maybe that year was a bit of a failure, but I think I played well.”
Hans sama is proud of his development as a player, even though he doesn’t have the same number of tangible achievements that Perkz has. He recalled several times when he thought his career could be over. In the 2019 LEC Spring Split, his team flopped entirely. When he joined Team Liquid in the LCS for the 2022 season, he had many eyes on him, but the year ended in disappointment. Still, he saw no reason to give up.
“I’m down to suffer if I learn a lot”— Hans sama
“In 2019, I played a lot of solo queue and I got to rank 2. I had to show the team that I could come back. Otherwise, I think it’s possible that I was gone,” Hans sama said. “In 2022, I remember not treating myself well mentally. I forced myself to compete but I wasn’t doing well. I fell hard, that year. It felt like the whole community hated me and it just snowballed. But after that, I showed that I was really motivated. I climbed to rank 1 in EU and then went to Korea, where I got to rank 20. I grinded close to 1000 games in the offseason.”
Perkz and Hans sama are married to competing in League of Legends. Their minds are tethered to the competition. It’s something they can’t let go of yet, no matter how hard it gets.
“I’m down to suffer if I learn a lot,” Hans sama explained.
Same passion, new goals
After so many years of competing in League of Legends that still what keeps them going, then? The intrinsic need to constantly improve and to make sure you dominate your opponent in every possible situation?
The answer: partially.
“I want to show good performances on the LEC stage and on the international stage,” Hans sama said. “I want to go far to prove myself. But there is more that keeps me going. It’s the thought of being able to improve with this team. Seeing this team improve excites me. I want to see how far we can go.”
“As long as I can keep grinding and I love the game, and as long as I can be the best, I will keep going.”— Perkz
Perkz echoed the same sentiments. The fierce desire of a teenager to stand head and shoulders above the rest as an individual has made way for the desire to take his teammates to the international stage.
“I want to try to make all my teams play internationally,” Perkz said. “That’s what keeps pushing me. I don’t think about winning the LEC anymore, even though it would be nice. I think, ‘Guys, if we play this badly against MAD Lions, how can we ever beat T1, or Gen.G, or JDG?’ I just really want to play internationally. That’s by far the most fun experience. It’s where you get to make history.”
“I saw Bjergsen retire, which made me think for a second. How long can I keep going? But I still have the same mindset: as long as I can keep grinding and I love the game, and as long as I can be the best, I will keep going.”
Images via Riot Games