Article. Yoon Haein
Photo Credit. SOURCE MUSIC

SAKURA’s well known for all the games she’s played over the years. Whether she’s showing the other LE SSERAFIM members how to game in LENIVERSE, the group’s original series, or adjusting all the settings on a public PC the moment she sits down in an Internet cafe, SAKURA has been a big hit with other gamers. Not surprisingly, she was one of the best Overwatch 2 players at BlizzCon 2023 when LE SSERAFIM headed over in November. From her Tamagotchi days to her mastery of Overwatch, let’s take a look at SAKURA the gamer. 

Overwatch 2 collaboration and BlizzCon 2023

SAKURA: It was a unique honor working with Overwatch 2 since it was the first time they ever collaborated with a music group. EUNCHAE and I played it every day after work. I think that explains why we did such a good job at BlizzCon 2023. (laughs) Whenever I play with EUNCHAE, she’s usually a healer, and I’ve never played against her, so I wasn’t actually sure what her play style was like. I was really surprised by how good she was when we played at BlizzCon.


SAKURA’s Overwatch 2 hero? Sombra

SAKURA: I think what makes Overwatch 2 so great is how many different characters there are and that you can keep switching between them. With other games, I usually get good with one character and stick with them, but with Overwatch 2, I try to get good with several characters. When I first tried playing with Bastion, somebody else picked Sombra and she was so strong. I started playing with her too because I thought that even I could be good given how strong she is. (laughs) I always watch what characters the players on the opposing team are using because I want to be as annoyingly good as they are with that character. I should note Sombra’s kind of OP, since she turns invisible. I liked her overall because her design’s really pretty and I love her hacking ability. I started out playing Overwatch with the other group members, and since I’m the gamer, I started out as the damage dealer. I think it’s fun to be the one attacking. (laughs) I’m good enough to play Unranked  for now, but I’m not nearly good enough to win at Competitive Play, so that’s my new goal.

Playing with a keyboard and mouse

SAKURA: Japan has places called net cafes, and while they do have PCs, most people don’t play games—they read manga. I always watched e-sports when I was in Japan, and the Korean team was amazing. I was like, “How are they so good?” But then I saw a Korean Internet cafe, and I realized, “Oh, so that’s why.” (laughs) It was like gaming’s a part of everyday life for Koreans. I like playing games on PC because something about it’s just more liberating and immersive. I also like having two monitors: one for gaming and one for Discord or YouTube. I’ll watch tutorials on characters or something during load times.


From Tamagotchi to FPS

SAKURA: The first thing I ever got into was Tamagotchi, when I was in kindergarten, and that’s all I played with. Then, when I was in elementary school, my mom bought me a Nintendo DS, and that’s when I tried all the different Nintendo games. At first I was only playing cute games like Tamagotchi and Animal Crossing, but then the new Super Mario series came out and I actually enjoyed that it was hard. I’ve been playing different Mario games since I was a kid, so I really liked the movie, and the music brought back a lot of memories. Then I picked up Splatoon 2 on Nintendo Switch, but it was hard to play on that small screen, so I got a monitor, and that’s when I found out about PC games. I played Fortnite, which is really hard, but having so many different moves was all-new to me, and I liked that. FPSes [first-person shooters] make you more competitive because you’re playing with other people, and I think that makes me more serious. Even if you’re not good at a game, it’s still fun to see yourself improving a little. I don’t say anything in chat, but that part’s fun, too. It gives you a sense of just how serious people are, and they tell you about the game. It makes you feel more connected to the game world.

Let’s play Animal Crossing

SAKURA: When I do something, I do it right (laughs) so I got serious about the Animal Crossing series. I have an Animal Crossing group chat with my friends, and we all ask, “How much are turnips going for today?” Then we go to whoever’s island has the best price and do business there. We’re pretty serious about it. And there’s a way in the game to get popular villagers to your island through the campground, which is how I have mostly popular ones. When I first started playing Animal Crossing, I thought of it as a one-player game, but it’s fun to play with friends too.  You used to only be able to decorate your house, but there’s so much more you can do now—you can even make rivers and roads. I love it. But you need a lot of [in-game] money to do that. (laughs)


The Legend of Zelda and open-world games

SAKURA: The idea of open-world games was completely new to me at first. I like having freedom in games, and it felt like I didn’t have to stick to any one path. It was like I was really a part of the worlds. The Legend of Zelda was a particularly new experience to me, and a really fun one. Your health is shown as hearts in Zelda, and I try to do every side quest first to max out my hearts before progressing through the main story. And the weapons can be really strong or really weak—it’s totally random. I just kept killing enemies for three or four hours until I got something good. Oh—while watching walkthroughs, of course. (laughs) If I start a hobby or something in real life, I get everything together first before starting, and I think I’m the same way in games.


Games with good stories

SAKURA: I like when games have a lot of different endings, and where your destiny is determined by the decisions you make, like in Undertale. When a game has a good story, it makes me feel like I am that character. I used to play all the way through without looking anything up, but nowadays YouTube’s got everything (laughs) so I look up videos of the alternate endings. I like the Little Nightmares series, too, because I don’t like happy endings as much as when things are dark. Little Nightmares 2 picks up where the first game leaves off, and it’s really well made. It’s got a real twist ending. It’s really interesting how your character does things you wouldn’t expect from a protagonist. I was almost shocked. I think it’d make a good movie. Games that incorporate elements of horror are a bit like going to a theme park: The fact that it’s scary and exhilarating in a way that everyday life isn’t is what makes it fun. Even though they scare me, I push myself through it, and once I finish, it makes me feel like I’m not afraid of anything. (laughs)

SAKURA’s play style

SAKURA: I have my own rules, like, I can’t go to sleep until I win, and, It’s not over until I’m the winner. (laughs) Just one more! Just one more! I need a win so I can quit feeling happy. I can’t play anything too hard, of course, but I like to play something that’s a little difficult. I like something that’s just hard enough that it doesn’t look too easy and I think I can probably beat it after two or three tries. My approach is to just test the waters by playing one game a bit and then switching to another, so if I play something to the end, it means I really like it. I’ve played a ton of games, but probably finished less than 10 of them. And I have to collect every item. I have a P in my MBTI, but when I’m gaming, I’m a total J. I need to do every single thing in order. If I’m playing Pikmin 4 on Nintendo and it tells me I’m only at 88% progress in some area, I can’t move on until I 100% it. That’s why I have over 100 hours of playtime [on some games]. (laughs)


Sometimes it’s fun to just watch

SAKURA: When I’m done for the day, I watch game videos on YouTube, and if I find out about a new, fun-looking one, I give it a try. I like people who are more about having fun than being good, and people who play a wide variety of games. I also watch videos of games I probably wouldn’t play myself. And, as someone who loves gaming, I’m really proud of how far esports have come. Every esports player has their story, and it’s interesting to see how they got to where they are today. I don’t do it anymore, but I used to watch players when they streamed together to practice before competitions.


What if you did nothing but game for a week straight?

SAKURA: I’d stream Overwatch 2 and spend all week going for Gold. (laughs) I think it’s fun the way people give you tips while you stream. When I stream, it’s like I have my friends there watching me. When I streamed horror games before, for example, I wouldn’t have been able to get through it alone because I would’ve been too scared. But when I stream, it feels like we’re all together, and I like that.

Recommendations for the other LE SSERAFIM members

SAKURA: I want YUNJIN to play Zelda. It’s famous for its beautiful backdrops, and YUNJIN likes nature, so I think it would be a good fit for her. EUNCHAE already plays Overwatch with me, so I’d recommend some FPSes for her. For Zuha, it would be Animal Crossing, no question. (laughs) CHAEWON would probably enjoy something therapeutic, so maybe a cute game like Fall Guys where there’s no guns. There’s also this Nintendo game called Super Mario Party that I’d like all of us to play when we’re hanging out together, especially now that we’re approaching the end of the year.


To FEARNOT looking to get into gaming

SAKURA: There’s a really popular game in Japan right now called Suika Game. It’s sort of a puzzle, but it’s a lot harder than it looks. Some people play it for five or six hours at a time. I recommend it if you’re looking for something fun to do when you get together with people for the end of the year. There’s also Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which just came out. I haven’t played it yet, but I saw videos and it’s a completely new take on Mario. You can become an elephant, and a blob of slime. (laughs) I want to recommend that one to FEARNOT. It’s simple enough even if you haven’t really done much gaming before. I think you need to allow yourself to be immersed in a game’s world to really enjoy it. You can’t say it’s just a game—you need to feel like, if you die in the game, you die in real life. (laughs) I think that’s how you get complete satisfaction out of a game: total immersion.