The <Player Spotlight> is a series of articles presented by our contributor Ryan Loh, who will be interviewing the local players who have made the VGC community what it is today. In the first of this series, Ryan interviews Theron Ho, who made it to the final of the 2015 Australia National Championships, the first Singaporean to achieve such a milestone.
Sunday afternoon, and I met up with Theron at Somerset MRT. Having known him for 5 years, it was like catching up with an old friend. If not for the TMI interview I had to do, of course. He recently made news in the Asia Pacific region for taking the 2nd placing at the Australia VGC Nationals in Melbourne!
Friendly chit-chat aside, the interview had to go on. We sat down at a fast food restaurant, and got it started.
Ryan: So, Theron, what are you doing in real life now?
Theron: I’m currently serving my National Service obligation as a clerk. I enlisted back in September 2014, and I’m just counting down the days to ORD.
Ryan: Who isn’t?
(Theron laughs.) Very true, Ry. Everyone is.
Ryan: Before we get too derailed, let’s switch to something else — How did you first get introduced to the world of Pokémon?
Theron: Simply put, Ash Ketchum. I got into the TV show showing on Kids Central, back in the early 2000s. I would wake up every Saturday morning to catch the show at 10.30 am.
That was how I first got hooked onto the franchise as a whole, and for a while after that, I would collect figurines like a madman. The figurines cost only a dollar for 3-4 pieces. I would scour shops hoping to collect all 151 of the original Pokédex.
Ryan: Did you manage to complete your collection?
Theron: You bet I did! For the longest time, I was missing Golbat. That missing hole was so infuriating. Then came one day, my Aunt gave me a Golbat figurine out of the blue, and that was it.
Ryan: Man, that must have been satisfying.
Theron: It was, definitely! (laughs)
Ryan: Did you play the games?
Theron: Yes! Of course, my Dad bought my my first Gameboy, a Pocket. I spent so many hours on my Red, and I started with a Charmander.
Ryan: And you had trouble with Brock?
(Theron gives a deadpan expression.) I had to grind it to a Charmeleon to ember him to death.
Ryan: Then did you continue to GSC?
Theron: I actually skipped GSC. I think I was into something else at that time, so I actually skipped GSC and forgot all about Pokémon.
Ryan: What brought you back to the franchise?
“Theron, ASH AND GARY SHOWDOWN. AGAIN!”
Theron: I dropped everything, and went to catch up. Then I fell in love with Hoenn.
Ryan: What did you love about Hoenn?
Theron: Only the Hoe(nn) of it!
(I groan and just stare at him.)
Theron: Well. I loved the world for example. The fact that it just… felt new. Mind you, I only got back when Emerald was released.
Ryan: Moving on… It has been 4 years since we first became Singapore’s Elite Four with Shawn Tang and Matthew Hui. How did you start competitive battling, and what led you to that tournament in 2011?
Theron: It all started at Christmas at Tampines Mall, the tournament held before the Elite Four 2011 Tournament. I got into breeding and EV-Training in Gen IV, but I didn’t IV-‘breed’. I only went for nature, and then I did the rest by EV-Training.
EV-Training was a pain, because I didn’t have Pokérus, but I pushed through anyway. I didn’t finish too well at Tampines Mall, but it sparked my personal interest. Then, when the Team Robo Video Games group was created on Facebook, I started getting more competitive.
Pokémon Black & White was a fresh start not just for me, but for everyone else. They made VGC 2011 a ‘locked’ metagame with the Unova-Only Dex. I then developed a team based around Zoroark and its Illusion mechanic, and managed to nab the Top 4 in the Elite 4 Tournament.
(and beating me down to the 4th placing..)
(Theron just smirks.)
Ryan: So, how did you prepare for Australia’s Nationals?
Theron: Australia’s Nationals was something I was very psyched for. I went to Malaysia for the Regionals tournament a week before Nationals, and I did terribly. So when I returned to Singapore, I immediately went to work–WHY did I do so badly?
Was it myself? My team?
Or was it strong opponents or hax?
I went onto Showdown, and I did some play-testing. I started absolutely THRASHING people. I was doing my usual plays, and I was just on a win streak that night. So I figured, it probably wasn’t the team.
With those 4 factors, the only thing I could control was myself, and that was what I worked on–how my thought processes worked within a battle.
On the way to the tournament, Wai Yin told me not to take the tournament so seriously. She’s an experienced battler, and she has noticed that I work much better when I’m just having fun in the game.
Ryan: In what sense?
Theron: When I pretend that I have nothing to lose, and that helped me through the tournament.
Ryan: How so? How was that experience like?
Theron: The Bo3 Swiss was interesting. I thought it to be a bane at first, because it seemed daunting and mentally draining. Then as it went on, it became more of a boon. I was adapting to their meta, and with more time for battles, I managed to learn how they tend to think.
Ryan: Then how were the rest of Team Pyroar like after the tournament?
Theron: All of us were drained. I think I was one of the fresher ones, but Kenny, Eugene, Justin and Wai looked terribly worn out. Reuven was blitzed.
Ryan: Damn, that sounds like hell.
Theron: It was.
Ryan: Do you have a personal mantra you live by when you play Pokémon?
Theron: “Press Buttons, Kill Stuff First, Don’t Die First!”
Ryan: So essentially, what every Monster Hunter lives by?
(Theron chuckles.) Yeah, pretty much!
Ryan: What are your Top 3 Pokémon?
- Sceptile and Mega Sceptile. Due largely to the fact that it has a DRILL on its tail.
- Bisharp. In Bisharp, I trust.
- A tossup between Gengar and Blaziken. Gengar for being my new signature, and Blaziken for being a fried chicken.
Ryan: Alright, we’re nearly done…Any last tips for your fans out there?
(Theron gives me a shocked face.) WHAT FANS?!
- Be Willing to learn from anything.
I like to reflect, and watch battle videos of my defeats and victories. Especially the close matches. There’ll eventually be a turning point in every battle, and that ‘turning point’ is important to finding out where you could have played better.
- Never give up, Never surrender.
I don’t think I need to explain this one.
- Find a rival.
I say that finding a rival who recognises you as such is the best way to really improve. If you find someone you want to battle and get better than, I think you’re halfway there.
By having someone like that around, the both of you never stop growing.
This serves as one of the strongest forms of motivation I can think of, and having a rival/friend like that makes me want to always remain strong.
That’s really what Pokémon is all about!