Proving to the world that the esports scene can be wholesome, this year’s incredibly young winner of the Pokémon Oceania International Championship’s Junior Division has shown everyone that pro players can be as adorable as they are skilled. Simone Lim of Singapore is one of the youngest champions in her league’s history, and her excellent sportsmanship and perseverance suggest that her esports career is just beginning.

This week, professional Fortnite player and streaming sensation Ninja spurred a fairly divided conversation about anger’s role in competitive gaming that likely further imprinted the stereotypical image of the irritable, toxic gamer into onlookers’ minds. After all, what does it say to the unitiated guardians of young esports fans when one of the medium’s foremost idols (who skyrocketed to fame on the back of a kid-friendly game, no less) claims self-deprecation and negativity to be inseparable from gaming? The latest entries in another series primarily directed at children, Pokémon Sword and Shield, were also unsafe from a recent dose of gamer vitriol. When many pokémon were found to be absent from the games, furious fans speculated that missing pokémon would be added in later as DLC, with some of them issuing worrying threats to the game’s developers.

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It suffices to say that adults in the gaming industry haven’t done the best job of providing positive role models for young esports fans and prospective competitors, but perhaps they can look to one of their own for a better example. Seven-year-old Simone Lim defeated Justin Miranda-Radbord, a formidable player almost twice her age, to become the Junior Division champion of the 2020 Pokémon Oceania International Championship. After taking the first set against Miranda-Radbord and gracefully losing the second due to his skillful Gygantamax play, Lim shocked the audience when making a clutch read in the tie-breaker round, knocking out both of her competitor’s remaining pokémon with her sole-surviving Tyranitar.

Without a hint of the salt or arrogance that dominates a few esports leagues, Lim took the stage as the newly crowned victor with a shy smile and an adorable Eevee plush. In an impromptu interview, she admitted that she had been “nervous” after losing the second round, but when asked how she had read Miranda-Radbord’s moves so well in the third, she got hearty laughs when she plainly but politely stated, “Because I knew that he was gonna Protect the Rhyperior.” Lim says she has her friends, family, and coach to thank for her big win. It’s uplifting that both Miranda-Radbord and Lim handled their respective failures and successes with such admirable decorum, and it can be hoped that these young esports players help to lead the future of professional gaming in a positive direction as their budding careers grow.

Much like the growing pokédex in Pokémon: Sword and Shield, the sky’s the limit for Simone Lim as she decides where to go next after becoming the real-world equivalent of a Pokémon Champion at the age of seven. Whether she continues to hone her game in the world of esports or moves toward other pursuits, Lim and children everywhere should approach their endeavors and hobbies alike not with a toxic mindset of overly harsh self-judgement, but with kindness and patience for themselves and others.

Next: Pokemon Sword & Shield: All Current Mystery Gift Codes (& How To Redeem Them)

Source: Pokémon/YouTube, jasonthinks/Twitter

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