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They should have named him "Tommy" [Jul. 29th, 2005|10:40 am]
[Current Mood |impressedimpressed]

Blind Teen Amazes With Video-Game Skills

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jul 27,10:01 PM ET

LINCOLN, Neb. - Brice Mellen is a whiz at video games such as "Mortal Kombat." In that regard, the 17-year-old isn't much different from so many others his age. Except for one thing: He's blind.

And as he easily dispatched foes who took him on recently at a Lincoln gaming center, the affable and smiling Mellen remained humble.

"I can't say that I'm a superpro," he said, working the controller like an extension of his body. "I can be beat."

Those bold enough to challenge him weren't so lucky. One by one, while playing "Soul Caliber 2," their video characters were decapitated, eviscerated and gutted without mercy by Mellen's on-screen alter ego.

"I'm getting bored," Mellen said in jest as he won game after game.

Blind since birth when his optic nerve didn't connect because of Leber's disease, Mellen honed his video game skills over the years through patient and not-so-patient playing, memorizing key joystick operations and moves in certain games, asking lots of questions and paying particular attention to audio cues. He worked his way up from games such as "Space Invaders" and "Asteroid," onto the modern combat games.

"I guess I don't know how I do it, really," Mellen said, as he continued playing while facing away from the screen. "It's beyond me."

Mellen knows this much: He started playing at home when he was about 7.

"He enjoyed trying to play, but he wasn't very good at first," said his father, Larry Mellen. "But he just kept on trying. ... He's broken a lot of controllers."

When the question of broken controllers comes up, Mellen flashes a smile and just shrugs.

"I used to have quite a temper," he said. "Me and controllers didn't get along very well."

Now they get along just fine.

While playing "Soul Caliber 2," Mellen worked his way through the introductory screens with ease, knowing exactly what to click to start the game he wanted.

He rarely asked for help. Once the game started he didn't need any help.

"How do I move?" an exasperated opponent, Ryan O'Banion, asked during a battle in which his character is frozen in place.

"You can't," Mellen answered before finishing him off.

"That's what happens. It's why I don't play him," O'Banion said after his blood-spattered character's corpse vanishes from the screen.

How Mellen became so good is a mystery to his father.

"He just sat there and he tried and tried until he got it right," Larry Mellen said. "He didn't ever complain to me or anyone about how hard it was."

Mellen hangs out any chance he gets at the DogTags Gaming Center in Lincoln, which opened last month. Every now and then someone will come in and think he can easily beat the blind kid.

That attitude doesn't faze Mellen.

"I'll challenge them, maybe. If I feel like a challenge," he said, displaying an infectious confidence. "I freak people out by playing facing backwards."

There's nothing he likes better than playing video games, Mellen said.

He will be a senior in high school next year. After graduation, he plans to take a year off because he wants a break from school.

When he does go to college, Mellen wants to study — what else? — video-game design.

[User Picture]From: stone_
2005-07-29 02:47 pm (UTC)
Wow. That's crazy... That's... so beyond me.
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[User Picture]From: sandman74
2005-07-29 02:48 pm (UTC)
I read about this and found it amazing. But then again the children next door can whip my butt on Halo 2. It's depressing but a reality.
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[User Picture]From: alexmegami
2005-07-29 02:52 pm (UTC)
Aw, now I feel even more lame.
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[User Picture]From: tevriel
2005-07-29 04:10 pm (UTC)

Now I have Pinball Wizard stuck in my head and I'm about to go to bed.

He stands like a statue,
Becomes part of the machine.
Feeling all the bumpers
Always playing clean.
He plays by intuition,
The digit counters fall...

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[User Picture]From: calamity
2005-07-29 04:32 pm (UTC)

Yeah, umm....yeah.
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[User Picture]From: blackcoat
2005-07-29 06:17 pm (UTC)
Duh. He plays by sense of smell. Sheesh, what are they teaching reporters these days?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-07-29 06:37 pm (UTC)
I especially like the part where he freaks out opponents by turning around.
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[User Picture]From: blackcoat
2005-07-29 06:44 pm (UTC)
yeah. I mean, I do that from time to time, but I can see just fine. :)
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From: genericrick
2005-07-29 08:26 pm (UTC)
...Which is why only the sweatiest of geeks have the will to dethrone him!
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From: genericrick
2005-07-29 08:30 pm (UTC)
Aw, what a bummer. It's not like beating him would bring any sort of joy! Imagine:

"Ha! Take that, you walking Who record!"

"Dude, he's blind. Take it easy."
"Seriously. How insensitive!"
"Okay, jeeze. You Win. Congrats, Rick- you've beaten a blind kid; you're so omnipotent."

"Aw. *Re-evaluates existence*"
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-07-29 08:49 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: bleiweiss
2005-07-29 08:41 pm (UTC)

There has to be a twist.

I bet he has such a supple wrist.
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[User Picture]From: kythsharrie
2005-07-29 09:23 pm (UTC)
Oh wow... that's amazing! Definitely an inspiring story of overcoming any obstacle.
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