Ray Rizzo isn't just a Pokemon collector.
Pokemon champ Ray Rizzo (Pokemon Company)
For the second year in a row, the 18 year-old from New Jersey has been named the Pokemon video game world champion, topping competitors from around the world in the Pokemon World Championships, an invitation-only event that wrapped up this weekend in San Diego.
Rizzo, the first two-time winner in the organization's four-year history, took the Masters division (for players born in 1995 or earlier) in the video game category. For his efforts, he'll take home an assortment of prizes, including an all-expense paid trip to New York, Japan or Hawaii and plenty of Poke-shwag.
"I played against the best players in the world and I played a lot of really good friends, so it was tough beating them since they're such good friends," said Rizzo. "All of my games were really close."
Plenty of competitors have duked it out virtually in games like Halo, StarCraft and Call of Duty, with some earning a decent living at it through tournaments held by companies like Major League Gaming. Competitive Pokemon is a bit less intense -- which makes sense, seeing as it's a game frequently played by kids.
The prizes aren't oversized checks with lots of zeros on them. Winners of the trading card portion of the tournament can land scholarships (given in varying amounts to anyone who places 16th or above) in addition to game gear and the occasional free vacation. And instead of filling tournament halls with energy-drink chugging, hubris-filled players, the games are more family-friendly. In fact, both the video game and trading card divisions have brackets for players 11 and under.
More than 400 players from over 27 countries took part in this year's event (which is sanctioned by The Pokemon Company International). The spectator stands were filled with thousands of parents, friends and onlookers.
To make it to the three-day finals, players had to advance through a series of regional and national tournaments that took place in the preceding 12 months.
Here's a look at the winners in all categories:
2011 Pokémon Trading Card Game World Finalists - Junior Division (born in 2000 or later)
World Champion: Gustavo Wada (Brazil)
2011 Pokémon Trading Card Game World Finalists - Senior Division (born in 1996-1999)
World Champion: Christopher Kan (Australia)
2011 Pokémon Trading Card Game World Finalists - Masters Division (born in 1995 or earlier)
World Champion: David Cohen (USA)
2011 Pokémon Video Game World Finalists - Junior Division (born in 2000 or later)
World Champion: Brian Hough (USA)
2011 Pokémon Video Game World Finalists - Senior Division (born in 1996-1999)
World Champion: Kamran Jahadi (USA)
2011 Pokémon Video Game World Finalists - Masters Division (born in 1995 or earlier)
World Champion: Ray Rizzo (USA)
-- Play Staries on Yahoo! Games --