By Aimee YEGHIAYAN
He wanted to be the very best, like no one ever was. Now, after getting third place in the Pokémon national championship, CV graduate Demitri Campero will travel across the land to the invitation only Pokémon Video Game World Championships Aug. 9 to Aug. 11 at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Canada to try to catch them all.
“I was lucky to have a free trip to nationals from my good friend Kamran Jahadi, who won first place at a regional tournament and let me be his legal guardian,” Camperos, 19, said of his trip to Indianapolis July 5-7. “It would not have been financially possible for me otherwise.
“The two of us came into the tournament building a team at the last second, and it turns out that I had accidentally brought a Pokémon with gigantic mistakes on it after our teams were locked in. I basically went through nationals with a team of 5 Pokémon instead of six, which is similar to starting a game of chess with your queen missing!”
Pokémon is actually a bit like chess and other mind games. It is necessary for the players to be able to think on their feet to defeat their opponent. In this competition, the players were required to play using only the black and white versions of the game on the Nintendo DS system, which was limiting for them.
“I’m sure that most people expect Pokémon players to be pale, pasty, socially awkward nerds, but most people are down-to-earth college students looking for a fun, challenging, inexpensive hobby,” Camperos said. “It takes a great deal of confidence and maturity to be able to stand tall and be proud of a hobby that society tries to deems ‘childish,’ and because of that, some of the most incredible people you can think of play it with me!”
Getting people to play it with him is one of Camperos’ favorite things about Pokémon, he added. So are the reactions he gets when he shares his pastime.
“It can range from ‘Wow, there are professional Pokémon players?’ to ‘Isn’t that game for kids?’ which always makes me laugh,” he said.
Camperos has been a long time Pokémon fan. Since he was 6 years old, Pokémon has taught him about setting out on a personal journey, making friends, overcoming adversity, and having adventures, things that shaped who he is. He began competing seriously in 2008, the first year they started having an annual video game season for Pokémon. Ever since, he has not stopped trying to get to the top, despite just having finished his freshman year at UCLA as a psychology major.
“I try my best to practice weeks and months ahead of time, but with college classes taking priority, that has been difficult to do lately,” Camperos said. “I actually went into nationals having not played the game for over four months!”
The world competition draws in players from around the globe, which is Camperos’ favorite part.
“I have played games during the world championships where my opponent was from a foreign country,” he recalled, “the two of us unable to speak a single word to the other, but still able to communicate through this common language. It is really quite a trip, and it gives you an appreciation for the diversity that exists in the world.”
”Because The Pokémon Company International is paying for my hotel and flight, I’m sharing my room with my French and German friends, and I would never dream of charging them for it,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to win a free trip and I know that traveling to Vancouver is not easy financially, especially coming from Europe, so I want to make sure that I can get my friends out to the world championships to see them again.”
Camperos will face others in the masters division, those born in 1997 and earlier. Although the top 16 places receive prizes, first place receives a Pokémon World Champion trophy, an invitation to the 2014 world championship, a $3,500 scholarship, plus many, many cards.
For more information, visit http://www.pokemon.com/us/play-pokemon/championship-series/video/.