From Artist to Pokémon Champion – Interview with Zoe Lou, Queen of the Oceania International Championship

The Pokémon Oceania International Championship was successfully held in Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open, from March 10th to 12th, 2017. Hundreds of contestants from Australia, the Asia Pacific region and other parts of the world competed for the six championship titles in both the video game and the trading card game.

The Oceania International Championship, one of the four prestigious competitions in the newly inaugurated tournament structure, was also part of the race to the Pokémon World Championships, held in Anaheim, California. Zoe Lou, an Australian player that hails from Sydney, successfully defended her nation, defeating Italian player Nico Davide Cognetta in the finals. I, Edward Cheung, sat down with her before the final match to discuss her background as a player.

Edward will be represented by
Zoe will be represented by

: How did you get involved with VGC?

: That’s interesting. I started VGC because I am an artist, I like drawing stuff. I think in 2013, I was googling some Pokémon art. I came across an article from Nuggetbridge, which was Wolfey’s 2013 Worlds’ team report. It had really nice art, I started reading the article. At that time I knew nothing about competitive Pokémon. I was fascinated about how people played Pokémon at a competitive level and that sounded like fun, and I said to myself — I’ll do it.

: What was your early career like as a player?

: I was so bad in my first year. I don’t think I have ever top-cut [a major event]. I always missed out or bubbled. Say, like, if the top cut was top 8, I came 10th. Last year in the Australia Nationals, I was in 32nd and it didn’t have Top 32. So [this is] the first time I’ve been in top cut in a major event.

: How do you view your performance today up to this point?

: I think I’m still in shock. I didn’t really think I was going to get this far… It feels like I’m dreaming. I’m just very lucky today. In Top 8, Sebastian (Escalante) forfeited because he had to catch a flight home. Even so, I still wanted to play him. I would love to battle him. Battling Ben (Kyriakou) was also very lucky. I battled Ben so many times. I lost to him twice, day 1 and day 2, and both times we went through 3 games. By then, after 6 games, I knew how he was going to play. I wanted to get into the finals, so I thought I really needed to make hard reads. I don’t know anything about my next opponent. I know some of his team. He has 5 Pokémon, and it’d be very embarrassing if I got stopped by a 5-Pokemon team!

: Do you have any current plans to attend the remaining international events or the World Championships?

: I don’t want to go [laughing]. It’s too stressful — I just can’t handle it. I totally want to go to the mainland US as I have only been to Hawaii before, but it is so stressful for me. I will get like grey hairs… I will think about it later. [Worlds] is also problematic because there will be an anime exhibition called SMASH! held in Sydney in August, and I would really love to go because I sold some of my art last year. It was pretty successful and I would really love to do it again.

: What do you think of Australia as a region?

: I think Australia has a really strong playing field. I think the rest of the world is only just starting to realize that Australia has some really powerful players here. When VGC started we weren’t part of the circuit, so Australia isn’t on most peoples’ radar. But now we’re kind of making some achievements. I’m very proud of my fellow Australians.

: What role do you think gender plays in VGC?

: I don’t think being a female player is an attribute. I don’t really think so. I do get comments, but I don’t think it affects anything in the end. I think we were all serious players, I’m pretty sure they will treat me the same as if I were a guy. Maybe in casual play the boys would be joking with their friends and say ‘You can’t lose to a girl.’ In more competitive and serious play, people definitely wouldn’t think that way.

: What’s your favorite Pokémon?

: There’re favourites in every generation. I particularly lean toward grass types. Like, pretty much when I started my first game of every generation, I picked the grass type starter. For first generation, Dragonair. I don’t like Dragonite — it’s too fat. For the latest generation, I’d say…maybe Torricat and Decidueye.”

: Do you ever draw your Pokémon?

: I actually used to draw art for Nugget Bridge. Since Nugget Bridge closed down, I would love to do some of the art for Trainer Tower.”

Thank you to  Zoe for being interviewed and Phil Nguyen (@Boomguy_Pokemon) for the arrangement it. Kindly follow Zoe’s Twitter @SilverThowra, and here is her Deviantart page if you’d like to check out her awesome artwork:

The author of this interview article is Edward Cheung (@harbingeraegis), one of the Top-16 players in Worlds 2016, who comes from Hong Kong.

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