Fred Doughty's passion for video games pays off

August 24, 1994|By Howard Henry Chen | Howard Henry Chen,Sun Staff Writer

Among the millions of American children who melt their minds staring blankly at 16-bit video game screens, there's one lad whose obsession with scoring a hat trick, running with Sonic the Hedgehog or mortally wounding Goro the half-dragon man-beast has given him national renown.

The ability to manipulate the little plastic controls on his Sega Genesis game system has earned Fred Doughty, 17, of Baltimore, the title of World Champion in Blockbuster Video's 1994 World Video Game Challenge. The international competition, sponsored by Blockbuster Video, took place last weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"I had a lot of competition from the beginning, and it feels good to be the winner," he said yesterday. "During the tournament, I was nervous. I was shaking like a leaf, although everyone said I looked calm. I guess I hid it."

During the two-day championship, Fred competed against 230 other young Sega and Nintendomeisters in amassing points in sports, car racing and fighting games. The competitor with the highest point totals in all the games was declared the winner, and the competition also included head-to-head matches.

"It's a true decathlon of video game competition," said Don Simons, director of national promotions for Blockbuster. "It's not enough to be good at just one game."

In the local competition, Fred took home a color television and a trophy, and his grand prizes will include a trip to San Francisco, where he will tour video game production companies, guest review new games for a video game magazine, and have his image digitized into an upcoming game. His achievement also got him a morning chat with Bryant Gumbel on NBC's "Today" show yesterday.

In addition, a network television news magazine program will fly Fred to South Carolina at a future date to have him compete against a real race car driver in a video race car game.

Who'll win?

"I know I'll win," said Fred.

The tournament was open to players 20 and younger, and drew more than 226,000 hopefuls from the United States, the United Kingdom, Chile, Canada and Australia, according to Mr. Simons. Each Blockbuster video store sponsored small store tournaments through June and July, and the champions from each store went on to compete in local competitions. Fred started his quest at the Blockbuster store on Merritt Boulevard in Dundalk.

He practiced between seven and nine hours a day for the tournament, usually all through the night. That may seem like a lot of hours, but look at it this way: at least he wasn't just watching TV for those seven hours.

His playing time will be cut short when he starts his senior year this fall at Edmondson Senior High School, for which he wrestles and plays the trumpet.

Fred's passion for video games was cultivated by his mother, Cleo Christopher, who says she "bought video games to play myself. Then Fred started playing with them, and he developed his own skills."

That was when Fred was 4. Thirteen years later, his interest has transcended merely wanting to play them to a desire to design and program them. But for now, he says he is happy just knocking opponents' heads in "Super Street Fighter."

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