Yuko "Chocoblanka" Momochi is one of the best-known women in the fighting game community. She has competed in many local and regional events in Japan, as well as some international events such as CEO and EVO. She has also made appearances at exhibitions, taking on Capcom developers, and spent time working on Shinobism, a company aimed at training up and coming members of the FGC.
In our continuing series on women in esports, we got to chat with Chocoblanka about the state of the sport, how she got into gaming and teaching, and why she chose Street Fighter as her game.
You are one of the most well-known women in esports. Can you tell us a bit about
your history in gaming? What game did you start with?
My love for games started with my very first game — Super Mario 2. In fact, I grew up playing games such as Mario and Pokémon. I really didn’t play any fighting games during those early years, but when I finally got my hands on my first fighting game, Street Fighter 4, that was history.
How did you get involved in esports?
Due to the popularity of Street Fighter in Japan, that was how I got involved in the tournament scene. My first step into esports was with Street Fighter 4 and I have played ever since.
What was it about Street Fighter that drew you in? Why is Blanka your character?
Street Fighter has always been such a popular game in Japan. Everyone is always playing whether it’s in arcades or at home, so I decided to give it a shot. I chose Blanka because he is so cute.
Street Fighter’s popularity has changed over the years. Where do you think we are now?
I used to think I could just play Street Fighter in terms of competitions, but now there is a lot of money involved as well as structured teams. It is easier for me to make a living within this industry now that people and the community take this job seriously.
You’re married to another pro-gamer [Yusuke Momochi]. What’s a typical day like in terms of gaming, and how do you guys support one another?
We don’t really play too many games together because we are both very busy with work. While he is playing, I am also busy practicing, but while we are both busy, we support each other by listening to each other’s problems and issues.
You have a school to train young players of Street Fighter. Can you talk about how that came about, and what sort of students you have?
Momochi has an interest in teaching so we sought out students who were interested in learning how to better themselves in fighting games. We held interviews and we found some of the best students, which is how we found the three students that we have at the moment.
Age is definitely a factor in esports, though a lot of casual gamers don’t know that. Can you talk about why?
In esports, it is easier for younger players to travel to tournaments and stay up later to practice and train. The older you get, the harder it is on your body and your mind. You get exhausted very easily.
You’re obviously very well-known, but for younger female players of the game, what has the reception been like in the community?
The community reception has been a mixture of good and bad, as with most things. There will always be negative people. There are still people who cheer for me though, and that makes me happy and grateful.
Can you talk about some of the challenges of esports?
One of the main challenges within esports is that in Japan, video games and esports itself is not considered a sport yet, so it is hard to make a living, and it’s very expensive. There is not much of a market for it yet, so we have to make it on our own.
What are the differences between Japan and America’s esports business models?
There are quite a few differences. For one, Japan is behind America in the esports market. As I mentioned earlier, Japan does not recognize esports as a sport like America does, and in Japan, licenses are needed to have prize money for professional players.
Where do you see the future of esports?
At this point in time, the American esports market is better, and I want that kind of growth for Japan. I want the future of Japanese esports to get bigger and more exciting because many more people will feel included and have more fun. Overall, things within the esports industry are going to get bigger and better.